First Conan, Cthulhu and Earliest Weird Tales, Up for Auction

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There are very few series in American periodical publishing history that have been more important to the shape of science fiction, fantasy, and horror than Weird Tales.  The March 1923 debut issue explained, "Weird Tales offers such fiction as you can find in no other magazine — fantastic stories, extraordinary stories, grotesque stories of strange and bizarre adventure — the sort of stories, in brief, that will startle and amaze you. Every story in this issue of Weird Tales is an odd and remarkable flight of man's imagination… A sensational departure from the beaten track — that is the reason for Weird Tales."

Interest in key pulps has been on the rise in recent months, and issue for issue, Weird Tales is one of the definitive publications of the format and its era. There's a near-complete run of this foundationally important pulp series available in ComicConnect's current Amazing Pulp Auction, with sessions ending August 3-5.

Title page illustration for "The Phoenix on the Sword" in the December 1932 Weird Tales featuring the first appearance of Conan. Artwork by J.M. Wilcox.
Title page illustration for "The Phoenix on the Sword" in the December 1932 Weird Tales featuring the first appearance of Conan. Artwork by J.M. Wilcox.

The debut of the series with Weird Tales volume 1, #1 March 1923 is one of the highlights of the auction.  The "First State copy (as opposed to Second State variant)" notation in the auction lot description is worth elaborating upon here.  If you compare this First State copy with a Second State copy, you will see that the Second State corrects what was clearly a color separations error on the central artwork and text of the cover in the First State, which makes those colors appear reversed or inverted from their proper state.  By most accounts, there are more First State than Second State copies. That said, both versions are of course tough to get, and this is an issue that should be on every serious pulp collector's list.

Weird Tales December 1932 is another stand-out key, as it includes the story "The Phoenix on the Sword" by Robert E. Howard, the first appearance of Conan the Barbarian.  The February 1928 issue features the legendary "The Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft, which introduced the Cthulhu mythos to the world.  As a 1928 correspondent to the Brattleboro Reformer said about Weird Tales shortly after this issue hit the newsstands:

[Lovecraft] has been writing for a good many years but it was only a few years ago that a magazine was stared which gave him a chance to publish much of his material. This periodical was Weird Tales, and while for many years stories from Lovecraft's pen went without achieving the dignity of print, all because the regular magazines would have nothing to do with the weird, Weird Tales has printed a story of his in about every issue and would like to print more. But Lovecraft sees to that by not writing any more often than he feels like writing. The readers of this magazine, who number into many thousands, are kept in a state of unsatisfied hunger for his stuff.

Of course, Weird Tales satisfied the audience's hunger for this type of material as well or better than any publication of its era, and there are countless issues in this near-complete run of this foundationally important pulp series that are worthy of your attention in ComicConnect's current Amazing Pulp Auction, with sessions ending August 3-5.

Weird Tales volume 1, #1 March 1923, First State copy.
Weird Tales volume 1, #1 March 1923, First State copy.

March, 1923. First issue of historic Weird Tales pulp. First State copy (as opposed to Second State variant). "Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud and "The Thing of a Thousand Shapes" by Otis Adelbert Kline

The first issue of the legendary series Weird Tales, which debuted in March, 1923. This series ran for over 30 years, through 1954, and inspired countless revivals and knock-offs. The cover story, "Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud features an octopus-like giant amoeba terrifying onlookers. This cover is a very early illustration of both tentacle horror and survival horror.
Subtitled 'The Unique Magazine', Weird Tales went on to feature great writers like HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Tennessee Williams, Robert Bloch, Seabury Quinn, and August Derleth. Extremely influential and terrifying characters and concepts premiere in Weird Tales, including Conan the Barbarian, Cthulhu and the Old Gods, King Kull, Solomon Kane, metaphysical detective Jules de Grandin, and the Necronomicon.

Weird Tales also highlighted the best in fantasy and horror art, both on front covers and in interior illustrations. Great artists like Margaret Brundage and Virgil Finlay created countless horrifying, strange images. These covers often featured lurid, violent, sequences with damsels in distress, both partially-clothed and nude, as well as strange aliens and monsters. All modern fantasy, science-fiction, horror and pulp fiction owes an indelible debt to Weird Tales.

All 1923 issues of Weird Tales are extremely rare, including this first issue. This issue will only become more important and more expensive over time.

This is a beautiful copy of the first issue of Weird Tales. The cover appears so crisp and clear, unusual for any pulp, let alone such a key issue. The slight hints of red in the title logo, cover copy, and the cover image outline all pop. There are minor blemishes along the edges of the copy, but they do not distract from the haunting cover. The pages range from slightly yellowed to cream and almost off-white, an unusual level of preservation for any pulp. Pulps were printed so cheaply that the vast majority of them will have degraded naturally to a state much worse than this. There is very slight chipping and splitting on the top and bottom of the spine, another rare condition for an almost hundred-year-old pulp. The spines were created so weakly that they often fell apart over time, but that is not the case here. What an amazing rare find.

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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