Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Aaron's Magazine of the Week :: Weird Tales December 1935

Weird Tales December 1931The Magazine of the Week is the December 1935 issue of Weird Tales, with cover art by Margaret Brundage.

First published in 1923, Weird Tales consisted mostly of fantasy and horror, along with a smattering of science fiction. By my reckoning, Weird Tales was thus the very first magazine of fantastic literature. Weird Tales struggled for its first two years, and was on the verge of collapse in 1924 when it printed a story called "The Loved Dead," involving necrophilia. Some outraged readers tried to get the magazine banned and ironically, this controversy is said to have boosted circulation enough to allow the magazine to survive its initial financial trouble. Farnsworth Wright then took over as editor in November 1924, and under his direction the magazine became a great success, printing remarkably high quality fiction. Tennessee Williams made his first sale to Weird Tales, and the magazine started the careers of many other authors who remain widely read to this day.

Among those authors was Robert E. Howard, one of the most successful of all the pulp writers and the creator of many popular characters, including Conan the Barbarian. The cover story of the Magazine of the Week is the first installment of The Hour of the Dragon, a novel-length Conan story (later retitled Conan the Conqueror). If you're thinking that this wimpy guy on the cover doesn't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, this is a rare instance where Hollywood's rendition is more faithful to the author's intentions -- the Governor is much closer to Howard's description of Conan as a swaggering muscleman. But then, as you can see from this cover, artist Margaret Brundage was always better with sexy women than men. Indeed, one of the secrets to the success of Weird Tales was Brundage's covers featuring half-naked women, or sometimes even fully naked women, as you will see in next week's Magazine of the Week.

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