Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fiends and Murderers of the 1930s

The fiendishness and murderous continued into the 1930s in Weird Tales. I count five covers with this theme from that decade. Fiends and murderers seem to prefer knives, but there is hypodermic needle in the first picture and a snake, seemingly from a bottle, in the fourth.

Weird Tales, May 1930. Cover story: "The Brain-Thief" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf.

Weird Tales, October 1932. Cover story: "The Heart of Siva" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, March 1932. Cover story: "The Black Gargoyle" by Hugh B. Cave. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, February 1936. Cover story: "Coils of the Silver Serpent" by Forbes Parkhill. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, May 1937. Cover story: "The Mark of the Monster" by Jack Williamson. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

To be concluded . . . 

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Hands can be so expressive, can say more than even faces in artwork. The four hands shown on the first cover here form a diagonal narrative, flowing upward from left to right, each with a different yet interrelated purpose; entrapping, protecting, threatening and defending. Even the angles of the upraised scimitar and threatening syringe maintain the same narrative diagonal. Really wonderful visual storytelling here.

    Regarding that fourth cover: Perhaps the bottle contains a pheromone or some other chemical attractant that is used to draw the giant snake to its intended victim, such as was used in the 1940 film The Devil Bat. I'd love to read "Coils of the Silver Serpent" and find out if this story introduced that premise, and thus may have been the inspiration for the Lugosi film.

    1. Mike,

      That's a nice analysis of the visual elements of the picture. I haven't done much of that in this series, as I have been concentrating on themes.

      I have been thinking that a nice series would be to quote the exact passage used to create the illustration for each cover story. Then we would know what these things mean, such as the bottle you mentioned. Unfortunately, I have only a few issues of weird tales and no access to most of the cover stories. Even if I did, I wouldn't have the time for such an endeavor.