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Friday, October 30, 2009

A-OK for Men – a spicy mix of OTT stories and T&A

A-OK for Men was another men’s adventure magazine that didn’t last long. Apparently, only five issues were published between October 1962 and the fall of 1963.

The cover of the first issue has a terrific snake menace painting. And, the titles of the articles featured on it range from enticing to over-the-top. They include:

“Hitler's Call-Girl Temple”
“How to Warm Up A Frigid Woman”
“War and Women are the Only Things I Care About”
“French Village of Offbeat Women!”

The first issue A-OK for Men also includes the article “How President Kennedy Won the Navy Medal.” Articles about John F. Kennedy’s military experience and famous PT 109 survival story were still popular in 1962, two years after he was elected President.

A year later, in November 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Of course, that sparked another trend in Kennedy stories – those speculating on who assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was working for and whether he really was “the lone gunman.”

A-OK for Men was published by Jalart House. Jalart published several other men’s pulp magazines in the Sixties, including Adventure True Story, Adventures for Men, Men in Danger and Thrilling Adventure, as well as pulpy true crime and detective magazines.

Jalart House also published some books with intriguing titles, like The American Handbook of Sex and Marriage, Hammering Hank, Memoirs of a Psychic and Astrologer and The Top 10 Book of Pro Wrestling's Outrageous Performers, Punishing Piledrivers, and Other Oddities.

A-OK for Men was fairly racy for it’s time. It wasn’t one of the “leg shackler” style men’s pulp mags (the ones that had bloody bondage and torture scenes on almost every cover). But there was one Commie bondage and torture cover in the magazine’s brief run (the April 1963 issue). And, the other covers were a bit more risqué than covers on the more mainstream men’s adventure magazines of the early 1960s, like True and Saga.

In my next post, we’ll take a peek between the covers of A-OK for Men. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of vintage men’s magazines, pulp art and pulp fiction, be sure to check out my new Men’s Pulp Adventure Store.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Action Magazine, Part 2 - Manly adventures and anxieties in 1953

My previous post about Action magazine showed some of the great painted covers used for this short-lived men’s adventure mag (touted as “THE BEST IN LUSTY ADVENTURE”). Now let’s take a look between the covers…

Action, published by Picture Magazines, Inc., only lasted for six issues in 1953. But the stories and ads inside are fairly typical of the men’s postwar pulp magazines in the early 1950s.

For example, the debut issue of Action has several war stories, including two set in The Korean War (which was still going on at the time). There’s a sexposé about “Singapore, the City of Sin.” And, there are several “true adventure” type stories.

The wildest one is a rip-snorting exotic adventure yarn about a group of Western scientists who run into headhunters in the Amazon jungle.

It has a gruesome photo of a headless body (possibly made headless with the pre-Photoshop hand-painted photo retouching techniques of the time). It also has a memorable Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome-style opening: “Nineteen men entered the jungle. One came back.”

Some of the other articles and ads in March 1953 issue of Action shed light on the anxieties of red-blooded American men in the Fifties – like sperm counts.

The “Male Body” column discusses how diet affected men’s virility. Another article – titled “Will Your Marriage Be Fertile?” – provides an overview of what doctors knew about factors affecting male and female fertility in 1953. It opened with this anxiety-stoking paragraph:

“One of the most disturbing questions confronting every couple approaching the threshold of matrimony is: Will our marriage be blessed with children? Or will we be doomed to a life of childlessness?”

Many ads in Action also address perennial male anxieties, such as job insecurities, baldness and body image issues. For example, there’s one of the classic Charles Atlas ads, in which Charles uses his famed “97-lb weakling” phrase:

“I myself used to be a 97-lb. weakling. Fellows called me ‘Skinny.’ Girls snickered and made fun of me behind my back.”

For those men concerned about being too fat, there’s an ad explaining how to “APPEAR SLIMMER INSTANTLY! With the Amazing TUMMY FLATTENING COMMANDER.”

My favorite ad from Action deals with another anxiety of the Cold War era. It blared: “What Is This World Coming To? ATOMIC WAR!”

That’s right, folks: Nostradamus predicted it! So, start practicing how to “duck and cover” and restock your fallout shelter. His prediction could still come true.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ACTION – the men’s adventure magazine with “the best in lusty adventure”

From time to time, I’ll post entries here that I plan to use for an eBook, tentatively titled A Field Guide to Men’s Adventure Magazines. It will show cover scans and provide key information about each of the postwar men’s pulp, or “sweat,” magazine titles published in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

I’ll start with Action magazine, a short-lived men’s adventure mag published in 1953 by Picture Magazines, Inc.

Action was a bi-monthly magazine that Picture Magazines alternated with Battle Attack, another men’s adventure magazine the company published.

The first issue of Action was published in March of 1953. It ceased publication in December 1953 after only six issues. So today, copies of Action are fairly rare.

Picture Magazines, Inc. was based in New York City, like most of the men’s adventure magazine publishers.

In addition to Action and Battle Attack, the company published a number of entertainment and men’s magazines, such as Picture Show, Zowie, Jackpot and the long-lasting men’s magazine Man to Man, which ran from 1950 to 1973. Man to Man started out as a men’s adventure mag, then switched to the girlie mag format around 1965.

I have a couple of issues of Action magazine in my collection, including Vol. 1, No. 1.

The World War II beach landing scene on the cover of this debut issue was painted by Mark Schneider. A note in the artist credits on the contents page says it’s based on his actual combat experience.

Prior to World War II, Schneider was one of the artists who illustrated the classic Whiz Comics series. Those were classic “Golden Age” comics published by Fawcett that starred the original Captain Marvel (later known as “Shazam!” due to trademark issues).

After World War II, Schneider went back to art and, in the ‘50s, he provided cover paintings and interior illustrations for Action, Escape to Adventure, Man to Man, Showdown for Men, South Sea Stories and other men’s adventure and girlie magazines.

The headlines on the cover of the first issue of Action and those on the covers below give an indication of the types of stories the editors liked.

Common topics included war stories, action and adventure tales, sex advice and “sexposes” (sex-related travel and expose stories) and – since it was the Cold War era – stories about nefarious things Communists were up to.

Unlike the first issue of Action, later issues had a subhead under the title that said “THE BEST IN LUSTY ADVENTURE.”

Apparently, they weren’t lusty or adventurous enough to compete with other men’s magazines of the era and generate enough readers to keep Action in print after 1953.

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In addition to information found on various websites through online searches, key sources for this entry include:

“Devine's Guide to Men's Adventure Magazines,” published in It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulpsby Adam Parfrey

Men's Adventure Magazines: In Postwar America by Max Allan Collins and George Hagenauer

Popular Fiction Periodicals: A Collectors' Guide to Vintage Pulps, Digests, and Magazinesby Jeff Canja

Friday, October 23, 2009

“Chewed to Bits by Giant Turtles!” – Man’s Life magazine, May 1957

One of the men’s adventure magazine covers that’s a personal favorite of mine (as you can see from the header of this blog) is the May 1957 issue of Man’s Life.

The painting on its cover is the epitome of a classic men’s pulp mag formula: vicious killer creatures attacking a manly man and a gorgeous DID (“damsel in distress”).

The coverline that goes with the painting is “CHEWED TO BITS BY GIANT TURTLES.”

This fits in what I call the “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” subgenre.

That’s because the most famous example is the cover of the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life. It features the headline “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” and a cover painting of a bleeding, barechested man being attacked by vicious weasels.

“Weasels Ripped My Flesh” was immortalized by Frank Zappa when he made it the title of a 1970 album.

Artist Will Hulsey did both the killer turtles and the killer weasels cover paintings and many other great ones like those.

Interestingly, in the May ’57 issue, the cover painting credit is listed as “American Art Agency.”

That was an agency that pulp artist Milton Luros started in 1955 to sell cover paintings and illustrations by his pulp artist buddies, like Hulsey and Norman Saunders. A few years later, Luros became art director of the men’s magazines, Adam and Knight (which were early “girlie magazines,” not men’s adventure mags.)

The attacking turtle story that goes with Hulsey’s painting was written by Vic Pate. I suspect that’s a pen name for one of the staff writers or freelancers who wrote stories for Man’s Life and other magazines published by Crestwood Publishing (aka Feature Publications).

It’s written in the first person as a “true story.” (Though if someone can prove to me it’s really true, I’ll eat my adventure-style pith helmet – which, amazingly, can still be found in an assortment of styles on Amazon.com).

The cover paintings used for many men’s adventure magazines were often bloodier than the stories they were painted for.

But Pate’s attacking turtles tale is actually bloodier and more gruesome than Hulsey’s cover painting. The subhead used inside under the story’s title gives a hint of what’s to come (and stretches it a little):

“Steel-like jaws clacked away, each bite slashing flesh from my body — I used my knife and my hands, and when they were gone, my bloody stumps —  and yet the turtles came — ”

The yarn is written in a cool, noir-like style. It starts out in Shreveport, Louisiana then moves to the scene of the attack: a muck-bottomed backwater bayou.

As the subhead suggests, the story doesn’t end well for our DID and manly man. You can find out what happens by reading it yourself. Just click this link to download it in PDF format.

Monday, October 19, 2009

“The Hippies Raped Him And Then They Told Him How Much It Was Going to Cost!”

Say what?

Yep, I said - “The Hippies Raped Him And Then They Told Him How Much It Was Going to Cost!”

That’s an actual headline from a men's adventure magazine. It’s featured on the cover of the December 1969 issue of Man's Combat.

The December issue is one of the few issues of this magazine that were published.

According to both “Devine's Guide to Men's Adventure Magazines” (in the great book about the genre It’s a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, by Adam Parfey) and the excellent “Galactic Central” magazine index, approximately three issues of Man’s Combat were published, apparently all in 1969.

By that time, American society had changed greatly since the men’s pulp magazine genre was first developed in the latter half of the 1940s.

In 1969, the World War II veterans who were the initial core audience for men’s adventure mags were much older. They also had new entertainment options, like TV. In addition, men’s adventure publications faced increasingly overwhelming competition from the more sexually explicit girlie magazines, like Playboy and Penthouse.

By the mid-1970s, the combination of these factors caused the men’s pulp magazines to either go out of business or adapt and change to survive. Apparently, the adaptations embodied in Man’s Combat were not a successful Darwinian adaptation.

I guess it was a bit hard to find a huge readership for stories like “The Hippies Raped Him And Then They Told Him How Much It Was Going to Cost!” Personally, I think that headline itself would’ve been worth the 35 cent price. And, it would have been a sound investment, since a good-quality copy of Man’s Combat can now go for a thousand times that price on eBay.

The December issue of Man's Combat also includes a pulp sleaze gem about a captured U.S. flyboy in World War II who gets whipped by Geisha girls – and then “raped.” (You just can’t trust those evil Hippies and Geishas.) It’s a supposedly first person account subtly titled "S-E-X! I Was the Love Slave of the Geisha!"

On the contents page of the magazine, there’s also a warm and fuzzy subtitle for the story: “They whipped him. tortured him, and almost loved him to death!”

In case you’re wondering what other pieces of fine literature were included in the issue, a scan of the table of contents is shown at left.

It’s divided into helpful sections:

“Exclusive Exposes” (sex on campus and in women's prisons);

“Man's Combat” (sex in combat – hetero only, of course);

“Strange Sensations” (where our rape-happy hippies were located); and

“Action in the News” (mostly cheesy “cheesecake” photos).

Last and perhaps least came the “Humor” section, which consisted of a page of really lame, badly drawn cartoons. This was apparently the Man’s Combat Grade-Z version of the “Good Girl Art” (GGA) cartoons that artists like Bill Wenzel did for men’s magazines.

Of course, despite it all, as a fan of men’s adventure magazines, I am happy to have one of the few issues of Man’s Combat in my collection.

A man’s gotta have a hobby.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It would be a great George Romero zombie movie...

In addition to being a big fan of men’s adventure magazines, I am also a big fan of zombie movies. 

So, when I saw the July 1962 issue of MAN’S LIFE magazine on eBay, I had to have it.

In the cover painting, bodies that look like decaying green zombies are coming out of the water near an island made of strange, towering outcrops of rock.

On the shore, looking alarmed but ready to kick ass, is a pistol-packing babe who has conveniently popped all the buttons on her blouse.

Next to her is a square-jawed blonde hero toting what appears to be an M-14 rifle.

When I got the mag, I looked to see if there was a credit for the cover painting.

There wasn’t.

But I was pretty sure it was done by the great illustration artist Earl Norem.

That ID was later confirmed for me by Rich Oberg — the world’s foremost collector of art from men’s adventure magazines. (It’s his collection of magazines and original artwork that’s featured in the Taschen book book MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES.)

From the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, Earl Norem created hundreds of cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure mags.

He also did cover art for paperbacks and illustrations for for many general interest magazines. But he’s probably best known for his comic book cover art, especially the covers he did for Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan series.

Norem’s cover painting for the July 1962 issue of MAN’S LIFE goes with a story that’s promoted on the cover as “JOURNEY TO DAMAR: PACIFIC PARADISE-HELL ISLE OF THE EVERLASTING DEAD.”

The title used inside (along with a wild exotic bondage and torture illustration that also looks like Norem artwork) is “ORDEAL ON THE ISLE OF THE EVERLASTING DEAD.”

Those definitely sound like titles for a zombie story. But in fact the “the everlasting dead” in the story are not “living dead.”

They’re dead dead.

They’re the bodies of unfortunate victims of a South Seas tribe that likes to preserve bodies of the sacrificial victims they use in their tribal ceremonies.

Like many stories in men’s adventure magazines, this one is portrayed as a true, first-person account. The byline says “BY JAMES LANG as told to GENE CHANNING.”

Of course, it’s actually a piece of creative fiction written by Channing — who penned many pulpy stories for men’s magazines in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even though it isn’t a zombie story, whenever I look at Earl Norem’s cover painting for that issue I still imagine it as a scene from a George Romero movie.

In my mind, it would be a great one.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Essential reading for fans of vintage men’s magazines and illustration art…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“The First Time I Died” – plus another raging croc attack cover

A reader on Reddit asked me to post the story that goes with the great croc attack cover I recently posted from the January 1958 issue of Man’s Conquest magazine.

So, here it is…

The story is titled “The First Time I Died” and you can click this link to download it in PDF format.

It’s just one of the over-the-top stories from that issue of Man’s Conquest. I posted a couple of others – about “C-girls” and thorium prospecting – in a previous post.

The illustration for the croc attack story is basically a duotone version of the cover painting, which was done by the talented magazine and book illustrator George Gross.

I have another men’s adventure magazine in my collection that has a cool crocodile attack cover. It’s the August 1957 issue of Rage for Men.

The painting is for an article titled “I Ran the Rapids of Hell” by Arthur J. Burks. Unfortunately, the artist is not credited.

As a magazine title, Rage for Men has always intrigued me.

Even in the testosterone-filled world of men’s pulp magazines, it stands out. What was the target of the rage? Everything?

Was it aimed at readers who were just damn angry at the world?

If so, I guess there weren't quite enough raging dudes, because relatively few copies of the magazine were published.

The first series, which amounted to less than a dozen issues, was published by Arnold Magazines in 1956 and 1957.

A second series of more than a dozen issues was published by Natlus, Inc. (using the shortened title Rage) from late 1961 to mid-1964.

So, there aren’t many issues of Rage for Men/Rage floating around nowadays, making my August ‘57 copy one of my prized mags (even if the cover is a bit faded and torn).

Where do I get the info about dates and publishers of men’s adventure magazines?

My two primary sources are books I’ve mentioned and recommended here before: It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, the Postwar Pulps by Adam Parfrey and Men's Adventure Magazines: In Postwar America by Max Allan Collins and George Hagenauer.

If you’re a fan of men’s adventure magazines, you’ll enjoy both of them immensely.

A great site for browsing cover browsing - www.CoverBrowser.com

I recently stumbled across a terrific site for fans of pulp magazine and comic artwork called Cover Browser – at www.CoverBrowser.com.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed it before, because it’s truly amazing. It contains thousands of vintage comic and pulp mag covers.

The largest number come from comics, but the “Pulp” section has plenty to offer. It includes good quality scans of covers from many prewar pulp magazines as well as from some of the classic men’s adventure magazines. For example, here are a few Cover Browser scans from the postwar men’s pulp magazine, All Man

All Man was one of the Stanley Publications magazines. It was published from 1959 to 1967.

As you can see from the May ‘64 and July ‘64 issues above, All Man’s editors and readers liked Nazi bondage and torture covers. They were especially common on the magazine from 1963 through 1967.

The March 1961 cover is a wild example of what I call the Commie bondage and torture subgenre. In those, the bad guys are Communists – Russians, Red Chinese, Cubans, etc.

The January 1964 shown above is a babe-filled entry in the survival at sea subgenre.

The Cover Browser site was created in 2006 by a German guy named Philipp Lenssen. His site currently has over 450,000 searchable covers. There’s also an artist index page. My hat is off to him!

Philipp notes on the “About” page of his site that: “the covers are presented here ‘as-is’ – some are cool, and some are only of interest as historical artifacts; e.g. some pulp covers contain ridiculous racist stereotypes.”

It’s interesting that his disclaimer doesn’t mention the politically incorrect bondage and torture covers on his site from the prewar pulps and and postwar men’s adventure magazines.

Maybe those aren’t considered as un-PC in Germany as they are here in the US. Hmmm…

Saturday, October 10, 2009

“C-girls,” thorium prospecting and killer crocs

In my previous post, I featured the cover of the January 1958 issue of Man’s Conquest magazine, which has a great crocodile attack cover painting.

Several people who read the coverlines (cover headlines) on it said they’d like to know more about two of the articles mentioned: the sexpose about “C-girls” and the article about thorium prospecting.

The first one is touted on the cover with the headline: “A REPORT ON “C-GIRLS” AT MEN’S CONVENTIONS.” In the table of contents, it’s promoted with the sly line: “The coming invasion of the ‘C-girls.’”

Inside, the article itself uses the title “Will C.O.D. SIN Smash Your Next Convention?”

What are “C-girls?” Apparently, a 1950s variation of “B-girls” – which stands for “bar girls,” a term dating back at least to the 1930s. B-girls were woman that bars paid to hang out, flirt with men and get them to buy more drinks. B-girls weren’t necessarily prostitutes, though many were.

“C-girls” were women hotels paid to make sure men at conventions had a good time and spent freely. I’d never heard the term before I saw the 1958 article in Man’s Conquest, but it seems to suggest the term was in common use back then.

To learn more about these intriguing ladies click this link to download the “C-girls” article as a PDF.

The thorium prospecting article is an interesting relic of “the atomic age” of the late 1950s. Prospecting for uranium deposits for use in A-bombs or nuclear power plants was already a legendary “get rich quick” hobby for some adventurous men of that era.

The Man’s Conquest article says that thorium prospecting was the next big thing. It’s titled “Treasure by the Ton” and has an enticing subhead that says:

“Want to be a millionaire? It’s not as hard as it sounds – if you’re willing to invest $20 and a little time. All the dope is given to you here: How and where to look for thorium – new nuclear age bonanza.”

So, get your dope here and find out how to get rich, by clicking on this link to read the thorium article for yourself.

And, since some people said they liked the chest-hair-growing killer croc cover in my last post, here’s another one of my favorite croc attack covers from a men’s adventure magazine…

This one is from the October 1959 issue of the men’s pulp magazine that was simply titled Real.

The cover painting is a great action scene that tells a mini-story in itself when you study what’s going on in the foreground and background.

It was done by American illustrator Maurice Thomas, who also seems to have done some cool movie poster art.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Exploring Man’s Conquest, January 1958

Last night I got my men’s adventure magazine fix by reading my water-stained but treasured copy of the January 1958 issue of Man’s Conquest.

In the 1957 edition of Writer’s Market, the entry for Man’s Conquest says it wanted “man-appealing first and third person true adventure, ‘man-against’ articles dealing with aspects of everyday life.”

Looking at the wild crocodile attack cover on the cover of the January 1958 issue, I do wonder about how many people had everyday encounters with killer crocs.

And, the story it goes with – about a guy who gets grabbed by a huge crocodile and taken to it’s underground den, but lives to tell the tale – did make me wonder about the definition of “true adventure.” But the tale and the cover are certainly adventurous and entertaining.

The rip-roaring croc attack cover painting was done by American artist George Gross (1909-2003).

Gross did covers and illustrations for both pre-war pulp magazines and postwar men’s pulp magazines, as well as books. There’s a good bio of him on the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists website, which I believe is the best source of info on pulp artists available online.

In addition to having some excellent “true adventure” stories, the January ‘58 issue of Man’s Conquest has a couple of interesting examples of “sexposes” – i.e., exposes about sex-related issues, hotspots or scandals.

Sexposes were a common topic in men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. This issue of Man’s Conquest has three interesting examples.

One is about the ongoing slave trade in Arab countries, titled “ONE MILLION SLAVE-GIRLS FOR SALE!” Another one is about “C-girls” – prostitutes who specialize in serving guys at conventions. There’s also a sexpose about Naples, Italy – “Europe’s joy-town.” (Little did I know what a hotspot Naples was!)

And, of course, this Man’s Conquest also has some great vintage ads for manly things like stag movies, sexy travel locations, faux color TV options and bed wetting cures.

Like these...

Here are some books with covers or illustrations by George Gross…

Friday, October 2, 2009

Snakes in Men’s Pulp Mags: scarier than Snakes on a Plane

There’s a subgenre of pre-World War II pulp magazines called “weird menace” which features good-looking women and men being menaced (and often tortured) by evil villains and freaks.

There’s a subgenre of the postwar men’s adventure magazines that features good-looking women and men being attacked by vicious animals (including vicious rodents, turtles and aardvarks).

Within that animal attack subgenre is a sub-subgenre that I’m hereby dubbing “snake menace” – to describe the many cover paintings and stories that featured scary, menacing snakes.

In my previous post, I included some classic snake menace artwork by renowned magazine and comics artist Syd Shores.

Will Hulsey – who did the famed “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” cover painting for the September 1956 issue of Man's Life – also created some outstanding snake menace covers for Man’s Life.

The example at left is from the July 1958 issue.

The chesty, snake-battling man in it actually bears a resemblance to the beleaguered guy on Hulsey’s “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” cover.

Of course, Hulsey’s snake menace cover also has the added attraction of a chesty damsel. And, I’m guessing it was a good-selling issue back in 1958.

The year before, Hulsey did another snake cover for Man’s Life. That one features a blonde babe who seems to have been shopping at the same red torn-bodice boutique as the brunette in the July ‘58 issue.

Hulsey’s 1957 snake menace cover is shown below. Next to it, is another cool snake cover on the April 1961 issue of Adventure magazine. That one was painted by another prolific men’s pulp mag artist, Vic Prezio. Interestingly, it looks like Prezio copied Hulsey’s snake – or used the same snake model. And, one of his babes also apparently shopped at the red torn-bodice boutique.

Unfortunately, many issues of the vintage men’s adventure magazines didn’t name the cover artists.

Below are two more great snake menace covers illustrators. First is my tattered but treasured copy of the January 1963 issue of Bluebook, with cover art by George H. Mayers. Next to that is the cover of Peril magazine’s September 1958 issue (artist uncredited).

Peril’s rip-roaring image of the Amazon-like tough chick preparing to cut off the head a huge snake is a little bit of men’s pulp mag heaven – if you’re into that kind of stuff. (Like me.)

Do I think there’s anything phallic about these big scary snakes? Naw, sometimes a snake is just a snake, Sigmund.