Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gorillas on the Cover of Weird Tales

There were gorillas in my recent posting, "Conan on the Cover of Weird Tales," and there are gorillas here, on two covers of Weird Tales. I expected more before beginning my search, but then Weird Tales didn't survive very long into what one website calls "The Gorilla Age of Comics," when images of simians proliferated on the covers of the nation's comic magazines. I'm not sure why gorillas were so popular in those days, especially in DC comics. In any case, Weird Tales beat them all to the punch with the images shown here.

Weird Tales, June 1923. Cover story: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe. Cover art by William F. Heitman. That's not actually supposed to be a gorilla but an orangutan. Oh, well, at least it's a passable drawing of a simian. The figure of the woman on the other hand is pretty poorly handled, no pun intended. The only thing I can think is that the artist was in a hurry on the day he drew this picture.

Weird Tales, September 1929. Cover story: "The White Wizard" by Sophie Wenzel Ellis. Cover art by Curtis C. Senf. Before there was King Kong, there was this cover for Weird Tales.

Here are two gorilla covers out of millions. Above, Strange Adventures #45 from June 1954 with cover art by Murphy Anderson. I wanted to show this one because the concept of civilized apes--from a place called "Gorilla World" no less--is so much like that in Planet of the Apes. Everybody remembers the movie from 1968. What is less well known is that the movie was based on a French novel, Pierre Boulle's La Planète des Singes, from 1963, nearly a decade, I might add, after this comic book came out. Below, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #10 from January 1956 with cover art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley.

You never want to pass up on a chance to show Dave Stevens' art. Here is his cover for King Kong #1 from 1991, evidence that the age of gorilla covers extended into later decades . . .

Even as recently as 2013 when I drew this picture for the back cover of our self-published comic book Five Star Comics. So gorillas were popular on the covers of comic books from the 1950s and '60s. Well, so were atomic bomb explosions and infinity covers. What you're seeing here is--I think--the world's first and only gorilla/A-bomb/infinity cover. (There is also an element of time travel.) It illustrates my story "A-Bombs into Infinity." The only thing it's missing is a flying saucer. Image copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Terence,
    In the old RBCC fanzine back in the seventies, Don Rosa did a recurring feature that he labeled "The Great DC Gorilla Fetish", which was comprised of a cover gallery of DC comics like this. Over the years he displayed dozens and dozens of such images from the 50s and 60s. I wonder what their fascination with simians was? (The premise may have peaked with Angel and the Ape in 1968.)
    I'm not surprised to see gorilla covers on issues of Weird Tales that predate the movie King Kong; there were numerous films in the silent era that featured gorillas as menaces. What does surprise me is the fact that only two Weird Tales covers featured apes, and none of those came after 1929. I guess the authors of of the pulp weren't inspired to write about apes and left that -- very visual -- menace to the silver screen in the 30s and 40s.

    1. Mike,

      You're right about the proliferation of apes in the movies and TV, from the 1930s, through the 1950s, and into the 1970s. Maybe the fascination with Bigfoot is related to the (inexplicable) fascination with apes.

      You and I were both surprised by the lack of gorilla covers in Weird Tales. I should say that there was one more cover with a primate. I'll show it when I write about Tam, Son of Tiger, on the Cover of Weird Tales.