Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Vikings and Medieval Subjects on the Cover of Weird Tales

When I was in college the first time around, I took a class in medieval history. Then as now, I liked cartoons and comic strips, so I pointed out to my professor, Dr. James Divita, that there were at the time at least three popular newspaper comics about the Middle Ages, H├Ągar the Horrible by Dik Browne, The Wizard of Id by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart, and Prince Valiant by John Cullen Murphy (originally by Hal Foster). There have been others. I would hazard a guess, though, that there may not be anymore new ones in the future, at least as we know newspaper comics. Anyway, I have found four covers of Weird Tales in which there are Vikings or other medieval subjects. Note that almost everybody has red hair. Red garments, too.

Weird Tales, January 1925. Cover story: "Invaders from Outside: A Tale of the Twelve Worlds" by J. Schlossel. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. I don't think this story is set in the Middle Ages, but it sure looks that way, judging from the costumes. However, there are three dead, pointy-eared, three-legged aliens on the ground between the two main characters, so probably not. Anyway, I don't know about you, but pictures of people pointing at things are generally not very interesting to me.

Weird Tales, December 1928, ninety years ago this month. Cover story: "The Chapel of Mystic Horror" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. I'll have to check, but this might be the only cover of "The Unique Magazine" to include any kind of Christian imagery, in this case, the crosses on the shields and surcoats of the knights on the left. However, the crosses seem to be inverted, signifying what exactly?

Weird Tales, January 1941. Cover story: "Dragon Moon" by Henry Kuttner. Cover art by Harold S. De Lay. This is a "novelette of drowned Atlantis," not of the Middle Ages, but the artist has depicted the setting and characters in a conventional medieval sort of way. So here it goes.

Weird Tales, March 1943. Cover story: "Flight into Destiny" by Verne Chute. Cover art by Edgar Franklin Wittmack. There weren't any airplanes or aviators in the Middle Ages, but there were big, strong, spear-toting guys and beautiful women wearing breastplates, at least in our imaginations. We'll probably see this cover again.

I guess in summary that there is something wrong and not quite medieval in every one of these images. For whatever reason, though, more than one teller of weird tales drew on the Middle Ages for inspiration and imagery.

Text and captions copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley


  1. The only Medieval WT story that comes to mind is Moore;s "Black God's Kiss", and you would never know that from the cover illustration.

    I should guess that "Flight into Destiny" is one of those aviator-meets-the-Norse-gods stories. Certainly the 'norse' guy and gal look like they just stepped off the stage of Wagner's Die Walkuere.

    1. Thanks, Carrington,

      I had forgotten that all of the Jirel stories are set in the Middle Ages in the fictional land of Joiry, located somewhere in France. Like you say, though, you can't tell it by the cover illustration for "Black God's Kiss." There are other medieval-looking covers for Weird Tales, but none as obvious as the four I have here.

      Is there more than one "aviator-meets-the-Norse-gods" story?


    2. As a matter of fact, there is at least another "aviator-meets-the-Norse-gods" story. It's "A Yank at Valhalla" by Edmond Hamilton, from Startling Stories 1941. Aviator encounters the Norse gods, and all Ragnarok breaks loose! Available on Kindle -

      Andy Bow

    3. That's the story I was thinking of. Hamilton has another Norse Gods story in WT, but I no longer remember if it had an aviator or not. Ralph Milne Farley had a couple of aviator-meets-lost-viking-colony stories in "Argosy" sometime in the 1930s.

    4. Hi, Carrington and Andy,

      As you can see, I have written more about Vikings. I hope I have all of your points covered now. Thanks for writing and for the inspiration. I wouldn't have taken on this topic without your prompting.


  2. Carrington, the Norse story in WT that you might remember was "Twilight Of The Gods" by Edmond Hamilton (WT, 07/1948). I personally just finished reading it. However, there is no aviator in it. The story tells of an amnesiac man who gets involved with Odin and company.

    So, in addition to "A Yank At Valhalla" (mentioned above) and "Twilight Of The Gods", Hamilton wrote at least one more "modern-man-confronts-Norse-gods tale, "The Daughter Of Thor" (Fantastic Adventures, 8/1942). The American aviator in this story is captured by Nazis in WWII Norway. He then finds himself trying to convince Thor's daughter to battle the Nazis.

    I wonder if there was another pulp writer who had written three or more stories about a modern-day man encountering the Norse gods, as Edmond Hamilton did.