Monday, September 1, 2008

Pulp Fantasy Gallery: Conan's First Cover

If Jeff Rients can have Shatnerday, I'll take the Pulp Fantasy Gallery. I'll try and post the cover art to a pulp fantasy magazine, collection, or novel here each week, as part of my ongoing investigation into what makes art "old school." To kick it off, I could think of nothing better the first cover of Weird Tales to feature Conan. Painted by Margaret Brundage, the cover appeared in May 1934 and illustrates one of the most famous of all the Cimmerian's adventures, "Queen of the Black Coast."

15 comments:

  1. Kind of looks a bit like Harry Houdini & Betty Boop...but in a good way!

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  2. I just read this! Very good story: A pirate queen shanghais Conan. Falls in love with the Cimmerian and leads her crew and Conan up an enchanted river to a lost city... I'll spare the details, but this is a grognard's story with origins of gods and devils, and cursed treasures.

    The cover does not do the story justice, though emphatic of the era.

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  3. Recently I red crictical article (Sword Of Conan - "Amra" articles anthology from 1979 y.) about Weird Tales (and novels'c covers) art of those years. Since sixties - seventies most of them was viewed as awful and immature.

    Thanks to Frazzeta and other REAL artists, we can forget such pictures.

    Reasonable rule: newer can't be always better than older, but older can be huge crap too. Vide most of the Weird Tales covers.

    No offense, James, but it's crap. From historican view - yes, it's somewhat value. From aethetical - it's ultra kitsch.

    And the story... It's only second to Red Nails. A canon without question.

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  4. I agree the cover lacks something; it's certainly no match for Frazetta's incomparable pieces. Still, I'm very interested in the ways that each generation views the same source material. I think it's pretty clear that Conan was never accurately illustrated until many decades after Howard wrote the stories. I have several more early images of the Cimmerian I'll post in the future and it's very fascinating.

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  5. Am I correct that REH praised Brundage’s work?

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  6. I have several more early images of the Cimmerian I'll post in the future and it's very fascinating.

    I really, really hope you didn't thought about b/w cover of "Phoenix On The Sword" from WT. ;)

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  7. Am I correct that REH praised Brundage’s work?

    It's possible, but I don't remember that specifically. I do recall that Brundage said she liked doing illustrations for REH's stories above all others in Weird Tales.

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  8. I really, really hope you didn't thought about b/w cover of "Phoenix On The Sword" from WT. ;)

    You mean this one?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=8330993

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  9. Am I correct that REH praised Brundage’s work?

    That's what I've read in the commentary/postscript sections of the two-volume Gollancz collection.

    BTW, I seem to recall, from the same essays, that another Conan story got cover billing first. Hm, after digging around a bit, I find that "Black Colossus" was published, with a cover illustration, in June 1933. But the picture doesn't show Conan himself. At least one other Conan story got top billing before QotBC, but that does seem to be the first one showing the Cimmerian himself.

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  10. Yes, "Black Colossus" is the first cover derived from a Conan story, but "Queen of the Black Coast" is the first to feature Conan himself. Of course, Margaret Brundage specialized in, to be charitable, "damsel in distress" illustrations, so most of her cover art features female characters rather than males.

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  11. The articles mention that Weird Tales got a lot of angry mails over her provocative illustrations of naked and diaphanously-draped females--but the editor (publisher?) also noticed that the issues with her covers sold more.

    That in itself might be something worth thinking about a bit more, in relation to how the audience and culture changed over time.

    BTW, I've got a copy of the Ace Double with Conan Conqueror--there he looks kind of like Van Johnson or Alan Hale.

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  12. The articles mention that Weird Tales got a lot of angry mails over her provocative illustrations of naked and diaphanously-draped females--but the editor (publisher?) also noticed that the issues with her covers sold more.

    This is true. Farnsworth Wright was the editor of WT and he knew Brundage's covers sold well, so he kept her on the payroll as often as possible. After his death in 1940, his successor, Dorthy McIlwraith, did not share the same opinion of Brundage and she ceased being employed for cover art.

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  13. @James
    You mean this one?

    Yes... Conan Rommanian... A Horror (but still - it's valuable from historical point of view).

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