Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why'd it have to be snakes, Indy? ‘Cause they’re frakkin’ scary!

Remember that snake scene in the original Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)?

Indiana (Harrison Ford) looks down at the slithering mass in the “Well of Souls” and says: “Snakes! Why'd it have to be snakes?”

His native sidekick Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) has a great reply.

“Asps,” he says to Indy. “Very dangerous. You go first.”

(Watch it again on YouTube if you haven’t seen it lately.)

Of course, that’s exactly why snakes were a popular subject in men’s adventure magazines. They’re always frakkin’ scary and dangerous! At least, in the men’s postwar pulp zone.

I have a number mags in my collection with snake cover paintings and stories that could provide the basis for some great Indiana Jones sequels.

The March 1958 issue of Man’s Adventure at left is one I particularly like, even though it’s a bit tattered.

It has three classic men’s adventure magazine elements.

It has killer creatures from the Weasels Ripped My Flesh genre of art. (With the added plus of a similar headline on the cover: “HARD BULLETS FOR SOFT FLESH!”)

It also has a studly, Dudley Do-Right hero. And, of course, there’s a gorgeous babe in peril with only a few shreds of clothing left on her curvy body. (Though her lipstick still looks perfect!)

In addition, it has some snakelicious interior artwork by the renowned comics and magazine artist Syd Shores (1913-1973), a.k.a. Sydney or Sid Shores. He probably painted the cover, too, but it’s uncredited in the magazine.

Here are a couple examples of the interior illustrations Syd did for the snake story...

Shores may be best known for his work on the “Golden Age” Captain America comics in the 1940s. But he continued to do much-admired penciling and inking for Marvel Comics through the 1960s, as well as many illustrations for men’s adventure mags.

The title of the story that goes with Shores’ artwork for the March 1958 issue of Man’s Adventure is “Crawling Death.”

It’s an exotic jungle adventure tale set in New Guinea, with a corpse and Ophidian-filled pit.

You can read this gonzo story for yourself in PDF format by clicking this link.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds would’ve loved “The Virgins from Hell”

Recently, I bought a copy of the January 1961 issue of Male magazine online, largely because it had a cover painting by Mort Kunstler, one of the greatest and most famous artists who provided artwork for men’s adventure magazines.

Kunstler’s cover painting is for the story “Corporal Kovak’s ‘Virgins from Hell’ Girls.” An enticing explanatory subtitle under the cover headline adds: “Their sex-and-stiletto raids drove the Germans from the Yugoslav hills.”

It’s a clearly untrue “true story” about an American G.I. on a secret mission behind German lines in Yugoslavia during World War II. The Yank hooks up with a group of hot, Nazi-hating female freedom fighters who enjoy killing Krauts. (Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds would have loved “The Virgins from Hell.” Corporal Kovak sure did.)

When I read this new addition to my men’s pulp mag collection, I discovered that it’s even more of a treasure than I knew when I bought it.

For example, the contents page notes that the Editorial Director of Male when this issue was published was Bruce Jay Friedman.

Friedman is now known as an award-winning novelist, screenwriter and playwright. But back in the 1960s, he was an editor of men’s adventure magazines. He worked for Martin Goodman, the legendary publisher of the “Diamond Group” of men’s adventure magazines, which included Male, Men, Man’s World, Ken for Men and For Men Only – as well as Stag, which started out as a men’s adventure pulp style mag but eventually morphed into a men’s girlie mag. (They’re related, but different genres.)

As I noted here in another recent post, Friedman wrote a book that has very interesting and funny anecdotes about his years as a men’s adventure mag editor, titled Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos(published in 2000).

The January 1961 issue of Male also has excellent interior artwork by several renowned illustrators.

In addition to the cover painting, Mort Kunstler provided a luscious blue-and-black duotone illustration for another WWII story inside. This one is about a Yank soldier who meets up with “a never-say-no British nymph and a beautiful Manila pom-pom girl” in the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

There’s also an exotic adventure duotone by artist Charles Copeland, for the story “Matthew Ryan: The White Emperor of Tononga Island.”

And, there’s the rip-snorting illustration shown below, by Jim Bama, who is probably most famous for the cover paintings he did for the Doc Savage paperbacks published by Bantam.

There are plenty of other great things in this issue, but that’s enough for one blog post. I’ll get to some of those other things in a future post. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Monster Master Basil Gogos Does Men’s Adventure

Artist Basil Gogos has been called “a bizarro-world Norman Rockwell.” He’s best known for the legendary monster paintings he did for horror magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland, created by monster and sci-fi superfan, Forrest Ackerman (1916-2008) and Warren Publishing.

In the 1960s, Gogos also created great cover art for men’s adventure magazines, like the example at left from the February 1960 issue of Man’s Action magazine.

Gogos is of Greek descent, but was born in Egypt. (His official bios don’t give a birth date, though I’d guess he’s in his 80s.)

After his family immigrated to the United States, Gogos studied at various art schools and started his professional career as an artist and illustrator in the late ‛50s.

His club-wielding, babe-stealing cavemen scene on my prized copy of Man’s Action is one of the men’s pulp mag covers he did that looks like poster art for a Grade B horror movie.

The title of the cover story it goes with is “TRUE REPORT: STONE AGE SAVAGES KILL SCIENTISTS!”

It’s about an adventuresome guy and gal who tag along on an African trip with an anthropologist who’s searching for a lost race of proto-humans.

They find the lost race. And, they turn out to be extremely hostile 600-pound cannibalistic ape-men.

It’s a totally over-the-top story that could only be a “true report” if it took place in an alternate universe. (Like the universe of men’s adventure magazines.)

You can read this bloody, ripping yarn yourself by clicking on this link and downloading it as a PDF.

I’ll come back to other wild stuff in this classic issue of Man’s Action and to the art of Basil Gogos in future posts.

In the meantime, in case you had a deprived childhood and never saw any of Basil’s incredible monster paintings, below are some examples for your viewing pleasure. If you like them, be sure to check out the gorgeously illustrated book Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mort Kunstler – plus Survival at Sea: Part Deux.

My previous “survival at sea” post showed some great men’s adventure magazine covers.

Since tales of survival in lifeboats and life rafts were a popular subcategory of stories in men’s pulp mags, there are many other great ones.

For example, the cover at left, from the January 1959 issue of True Action magazine, has a terrific cover by the illustrious American artist, Mort Kunstler (b. 1931).

The headline for the story it goes with suggests the, um, thrust of the story: THE GORGEOUS CASTAWAYS: SURVIVOR CARMODY’S TWO GIRL PARADISE.

For the record, I know Kunstler’s name has a German umlaut accent above the “u” – like this: Künstler.

However, umlauts are not common in English language searches on search engines. So, I’m using a regular old American “u.” (Sorry, Mort.)

Kunstler has been so prolific and his body of work so diverse, that the biography on his official web page doesn’t mention his fame among aficionados of men’s pulp mags.

But if you search for men’s adventure magazines on eBay or vintage magazine sites, you’ll see that sellers who know their stuff note in descriptions when a magazine has a Kunstler cover. His name will automatically increase interest and the price.

Nowadays, Kunstler has wider fame for his historical paintings. He is especially renowned for his paintings of Civil War events.

Here’s an example…

I’m a fan of Kunstler’s Civil War stuff, too. But I’m an even bigger fan of the action-filled, hyper-realistic artwork he did for men’s adventure magazines.

And, although Kunstler set a very high standard, many other talented illustrators did equally cool cover paintings for the men’s postwar pulp mags of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

Below are some more examples in the “survival at sea” subcategory, by some other great artists who did covers for men’s adventure magazines: George Gross, Lou Marchetti, George Mayers and Rafael DeSoto. 

These are from the classic men’s pulp mags Action for Men, O.K. for Men, Real and Men in Adventure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stranded on "women-ridden" beaches and deadly desert isles

My previous post showcased some men’s adventure magazine covers in the survival at sea subcategory – manly men and womanly women in lifeboats and rafts.

A related subgenre involves shipwreck survivors who make it to land. Typically, they are stranded on exotic tropical shores. And, as usual in men’s pulp mags, the stories and covers almost always include hunky he-men and scantily clad you-know-whats.

The cover at left is a top notch example. It’s from the January 1961 issue of Man's Life. It has a great but uncredited cover painting, showing two shipwrecked men being chased by gorgeous but unwelcoming Amazon-like women.

You can see the grounded ship under the magazine’s title, in the background behind the man who’s being arm-twisted and headlocked by two of the, er, natives.

Bad luck, guys. You just happened to have hit a reef on the “THE WOMEN-RIDDEN ISLAND OF LAST RESORT.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d never heard the phrase “women-ridden” before. I guess it might almost sound like a good thing – until you see the cover painting and read the story it goes with.

The women are Javanese killer babes who want the heads of the “white devils” who landed on their isle. I mean the big heads, in this case – which the gals want to make small, as in shrunken.

Another wild shipwreck tale is in the July 1960 issue of Action for Men (one of the covers featured in my previous survival at sea post). In this story, a group of three men and two women (yep, gorgeous ones) wash up on a deserted tropical island in the Indian ocean.

That math just doesn’t work. And, one of the men is a very bad dude. He kills the other two men and one of the women before he gets his skull bashed in with a rock by the surviving tough chick, who is eventually rescued. Hence the title of the story: “Last Girl off Shipwreck Island.”

I love the lush 2-page duotone illustration artist Vic Prezio created for the story (shown below).

Prezio was a popular illustrator who painted covers and illustrations for many men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s and 1960s. He also did classic covers for comics and horror magazines like Creepy and Eerie. Here are just a couple of examples...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Man the lifeboats! Woman them, too!

In addition to staples like stories about war, killer animals and sex-related topics, survival stories were a common subject in men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

A popular subcategory involved stories about survival at sea –harrowing tales of shipwrecks and survival on lifeboats and rafts.

These stories tended to combine things that had special appeal to the readers of men’s pulp mags. Things like battles, danger, adventure, deadly situations – and, of course, barely clothed babes in distress.

This mix also made for some great covers.

Several of my favorite covers in the survival-at-sea niche were painted by Clarence Doore (1913-1988).

Doore was a versatile and prolific illustrator who provided cover art and illustrations for many men’s adventure magazines in the ‘50s and ‘60s, including All Man, Battle Cry, Champion For Men, Fury, Male, Man’s Adventure, Man’s Exploits, Rage For Men, Real Men and Rugged Men.

Doore also did covers and illustrations for prewar pulp magazines, postwar science fiction and mystery digest magazines, various types of books and comics. He was in the top echelon of pulp artists, along with other greats, like Norman Saunders (1907-1989), Virgil Finlay (1914-1971), Margaret Brundage (1900-1976), Rafael DeSoto (1904-1992) and Norm Eastman (b. 1931).

To find out more about Doore and other pulp artists, be sure to visit the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists site. It’s written by David Saunders, Norman son. David is also an artist, with work in many fine galleries and museums. In 2008, he published the definitive book on his father’s legendary artwork.

And, now, sit back and marvel at some more shipwreck, life raft and lifeboat cover paintings from men’s pulp mags…

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire

Not long ago, I stumbled across a post about men’s adventure magazines on another blog that is now among my favorites.

It’s the blog Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire, an exploration of things: “Lurid. Weird. Fantastique.”

The author, Tenebrous Kate, writes very witty and interesting posts about new and vintage movies, magazines and other things that strike her fantastique fancy or suit her tenebrous tastes.

Tenebrous is not a word you see much nowadays. It’s an old word that means “dark and gloomy.” It shows up, among other places, in the works of classic horror writers like H.P. Lovecraft. I’m also a fan of Lovecraft and other such tenebrous stuff. So, when I saw the name of Kate’s blog, I figured I might love it – and I do.

It was especially cool to see her posts about two of my personal favorite subjects – men's adventure magazines and the bizarre story of Count von Cosel and Elena Hoyos, a legendary tale of necro-love from my local town, Key West. (There are a couple of good books about this VERY strange but true story, Undying Love: The True Story Of A Passion That Defied Death by Ben Harrison and Von Cosel by Tom Swicegood.)

Kate’s post on men's pulp mags talks about Adam Parfrey’s book, It's a Man's World – an excellent overview of the men’s adventure magazine genre that I've mentioned here in previous posts.

Kate also posted these classic covers from the spicy men's pulp mag, Wildcat Adventures...

Wildcat was published from 1959 to 1964 by Candar Publishing, which also published several other men's adventure magazines, including Daring, Man's Action, Man's Daring, and Man's True Danger.

As Tenebrous Kate put it in her post, “Wildcat Adventures appear to be the best KIND of adventures, just brimming with boobs and bondage.” (Agreed, Kate.)

If you like my Men's Pulp Mags blog, I think you'll like Kate’s blog Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire.

I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rugged Men and Rugged Weasels

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, finding out Frank Zappa got the name for his 1970 Weasels Ripped My Flesh album from a headline on a vintage men's adventure magazine is what first sparked my interest in the genre.

The headline was featured on the cover of the September 1956 issue of Man's Life, one of the classic men's pulp mags.

The wild killer weasel cover painting on that issue was done by artist Will Hulsey, who painted many covers and illustrations for Man's Life in the 1950s and 1960s and was a master at gonzo killer creature covers.

Man's Life magazine was one of the longest running men’s adventure mags. It was published from 1952 to 1974, first by Crestwood Publishing, then by Stanley Publications/Normandy Associates.

Crestwood had one other men’s pulp mag I know of, True Men Stories. Both Man’s Life and True Men Stories were eventually bought by the Stanley Pubs firm, which put out a long list of other men’s pulp mags, including:

• All Man • Battle Cry • Champion for Men • Man’s Adventure • Man’s Best • Men in Combat • Men in Conflict • Real Action • Real Men • Rugged • Rugged Men – and several others.

Below are some examples of covers from the Stanley Pubs line of men’s pulp mags….

 

In case you didn’t notice, Stanley Pubs magazines were for MEN – real rugged men, men who liked war and adventure and manly stuff like that (plus a bit of bondage and torture and cheesecake, of course).

By the way, the September 1956 issue of Man's Life really does have a story inside with the title "Weasels Ripped My Flesh," which claims to be a true tale about flesh-ripping killer weasels.

Maybe even the weasels were more rugged back then.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The war you couldn’t give away.


The cover and cover story for the November 1967 issue of Man’s Epic magazine is unusual for the men’s adventure magazine genre.

Its cover painting, by artist Basil Gogos, features a Vietnam War scene. (Special thanks to Rich Oberg, the Dean of men’s adventure magazine collectors, for letting me know Gogos did the cover on this one.***)

The non-fiction article it was painted for – titled “VIETNAM BLOODBATH: THE GLORY AND THE DESPAIR” – is a highly negative critique of how badly the war was being run by the powers that be.

The Vietnam war was controversial. But usually, if a men’s adventure magazine did mention the Vietnam, it had a pro-war slant (like the article mentioned in my recent post “GIRLS GIVE IN TO MEN WHO GO IN”).

There weren’t a lot of covers and articles related to Vietnam in the men’s adventure mags.

They were really created for and more targeted to an older generation of military vets – those who fought in WWII and Korea.

Most grunts who fought in Vietnam were probably not reading men’s adventure mags. More likely, they were reading racier mags like Playboy and Hustler and the other explicit “slick” girlie magazines that eventually led to the demise of men’s adventure pulp mags in the 1970s.

For all those reasons, you don’t see many men’s adventure magazines that feature ‛Nam-related covers. And, it’s rare to find an article in one that is highly critical of the war.

But the article in the November 1967 issue of Man’s Epic is blistering. It tells of American and South Vietnamese soldiers being forced to fight with obsolete equipment, bungled strategies by the military brass, and efforts to prevent the public from hearing the true facts about the Vietnam War.

“Our strategy has failed,” says author Kurt Vaughn. “The war is being lost in Vietnam.”

There’s a telling anecdote about Vietnam and men’s adventure magazines in Bruce Jay Friedman’s book Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos: Best Nonfiction.

In the 1960s, Friedman was a men’s pulp mag editor for Martin Goodman, publisher of a long list of men’s adventure magazines, including Male, Men, Man’s World and For Men Only.

As recounted in Rhinos, Goodman told Friedman he wanted to avoid stories about the Vietnam war in his magazines because you couldn’t “give Vietnam, away.”

Friedman noted in his book that it was a prescient observation.

*** NOTE: Examples from Rich Oberg’s collection are what you see in the beautifully illustrated book Men's Adventure Magazines, which Rich helped create for the Taschen publishing company with writers Max Allan Collins and George Hagenauer.