Friday, November 27, 2009

“Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos”

When I bought the August 1954 issue of Male magazine shown at left, with the superb cover painting of a rhino attack by artist Robert G. Doares, it reminded me of the book Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos, by a former editor of Male magazine, Bruce Jay Friedman.

Today, Friedman is known as a critically acclaimed novelist, playwright and screenwriter. He’s the author of bestselling novels, such as Stern and A Mother's Kisses, popular plays such as Scuba Duba and Steambath, and screenplays for hit movies like Splash and Stir Crazy.

Friedman’s book Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos is a collection of his non-fiction articles. The title story is a witty account of his pre-fame years as a men’s magazine editor in the 1950s and 1960s.

Around 1955, Friedman was hired as an editor of Swank by the legendary men’s magazine and early Marvel comics publisher, Martin Goodman, owner of the Magazine Management company.

After a short stint at Swank, Friedman was moved over to edit the men’s adventure magazine Male, one of the most popular titles published as part of Magazine Management’s Atlas/Diamond Group of men’s magazines.

At the time, the circulation of Male exceeded a million copies per month. It had talented staff writers like Mario Puzo (who later gained fame as the author of The Godfather) and used painted cover and interior art by some of the best illustrators of the day.

A staple of Male in the 1950s was what Friedman calls “animal nibblers” — the “stories about people who had been nibbled half to death by ferocious little animals.” (They’re what I call the “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” subgenre.)

Other regular features of Male included: true, faux and fiction war stories (Puzo was a master at writing believable but fake “true” war stories, usually under the pen name Mario Cleri); exotic adventure yarns; true crime stories; sexposés about “Sintowns”; and, fairly mild “cheesecake photos”, retouched to remove any glimpse of nipples or “dark triangles.”

The formula used by Male was similar to that of other Atlas/Diamond Group men’s adventure magazines, like Action for Men, For Men Only, Men, Man’s World, Ken for Men and Stag.

In his Nymphos book, Friedman says of these magazines:

“Although Magazine Management had the reputation of being somewhat of a ‘sin pit,’ the Goodman magazines, at root, were outrageously pristine, almost conventlike. Never before has there been a case in which the name triumphed so resoundingly over the game. Although ‘nymphos’ abounded in the pages of Male and Stag (even the rhinos were nymphos) and girls were mentioned frequently who would ‘do anything and everything,’ one would have to look elsewhere to discover exactly what that anything and everything was.’”

The August 1954 issue of Male has an “animal nibbler” story that is fishy in more ways than one. It’s about a diver’s fight with a shark titled “GIVE ME BACK MY HAND.” The shark is a nurse shark, a generally docile bottom dweller that only bites if harassed – as the one in the story is by the diver.

There’s also a classic “Sintown” sex expose – “NEWARK: poor man’s Paris.” (Little did you know, eh?) Another “true” story in this issue, about a hotel security “detective”, has the snigger-inducing title “I am a HOUSE DICK.”

There are two stories of special note from an pulp art and pulp fiction perspective. One, titled “Limpo’s in Town,” is by James Kalshoven, a top-tier magazine writer published by many other popular magazines of the era, such as The Saturday Evening Post. The Kalshoven story features a nice, noir-style painted illustration credited to Bob Schultz. (I think the artist may actually be Bob Schulz, a talented artist and prolific whose work appears on and in many men’s adventure magazines.)

The other notable fiction story is “Kovac’s Boy,” a touching Korean War tale by C.A. Rogers, illustrated by Vic Prezio.

Prezio was a frequent contributor of covers and interior art to men’s adventure magazines. He’s also among the men’s pulp mag artists who also provided art for Warren Publishing’s classic monster fan magazines, Creepy, Eerie and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

You can read more about connections between the horror genre and men’s pulp magazines in my post for the Boris Karloff Blogathon, sponsored by the terrific Frankensteinia blog.)

And, here are some more books by Bruce Jay Friedman…

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Connecting the dots between horror films and men’s pulp magazines (Boris Karloff Blogathon)

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On this blog, I regularly feature some of the great cover paintings and interior art from men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. I’m a big fan of horror magazines and films, too. So, as my contribution to the Frankensteinia blog’s very cool “Boris Karloff Blogathon”, today’s post provides a look at some connections between men’s adventure magazines and the horror genre.

A number of artists who provided artwork for men’s adventure magazines are also known for their horror-related artwork, such as Basil Gogos, James Bama and Norman Saunders.

As horror fans know, Basil Gogos created many of the most popular and visually striking covers for Warren Publishing’s magazines, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy and Eerie. His paintings of Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster are among his most famous. He also painted Karloff portraying other horror film characters, including The Mummy and The Ghoul.

In the 1960s, Gogos also did cover paintings and interior art for men’s adventure magazines. Two of my favorite examples are the “cave men” covers shown below, from the February 1960 issue of Man’s Action and the June 1960 issue of Wildcat Adventures.

These Gogos covers definitely have a horror film feel. Indeed, they look like they could have been posters for an old Grade-B horror-style caveman movie, like Eegah! (a 1962 film that starred Richard “Jaws” Kiel as a giant caveman).

James Bama is another talented artist whose work is familiar to both horror fans and collectors of men’s pulp magazines.

Bama is widely known for the covers he painted for Bantam’s Doc Savage paperback reprint series. But horror fans will also recognize the cover art he did for the boxes used for Aurora’s plastic monster models in the 1960s.

The Aurora model series featured almost all of Universal Studio’s classic monsters, including Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, Karloff’s Mummy, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Lon Chaney, Jr. as The Wolf Man. Like Basil Gogos, Bama also provided cover art for some of the Warren magazines.

I also recently stumbled across a connection between one of the greatest pulp artists of all time – Norman Saunders – and the Frankenstein monster.

In addition to providing artwork for pre-WWII pulp magazines, postwar men’s adventure magazines and the wild Mars Attacks trading cards of the 1960s, Saunders painted covers for many comics – including the cover of the 1969 Classics Illustrated version of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Of course, in terms of horror, Saunders’ Frankenstein painting pales in comparison to some of the cover paintings he created for the prewar pulps and postwar men’s adventure magazines.

Saunders painted a number of “weird menace” covers for pre-WWII pulp magazines. He was also a master of the Nazi bondage and torture art common on covers of men’s pulp magazines in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The scenes depicted in those bondage and torture covers – and on the bloody “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” style “killer creature” covers that were popular on vintage men’s adventure magazines – include key elements that are shared by the horror genre: evil people, bloodthirsty creatures, plenty of gore, scantily clad damsels in distress and a bit of sex.

I think these elements are in both genres for same reasons. They provide titillating, vicarious thrills, scares and fun. But they’re not real, illegal or dangerous. So, they are scary but “safe.” We can view them as interesting and cool, rather than as truly horrific – such as the things we see all too often on the nightly news.

Works for me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

“Lizards from Hell”, killer crabs, Harlan Ellison and more...


There’s no official artist credit given for the incredible killer lizard painting on the cover of True Men Stories, Vol. 1, No. 3, February 1957. But if you’re a fan of men’s adventure magazines, you may know who painted it.

It’s by Will Hulsey, the Rembrandt of killer creature art and the creator of the famed “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” cover painting on the cover of the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life. (He also painted two of the covers in the banner at the top of this blog, giving an indication of how much I like his work.)

True Men Stories was published from 1956 to 1973. It’s a classic and relatively classy example of the genre (by men’s pulp mag standards).

Most issues feature excellent cover paintings and interior art by some of the best pulp artists, like Hulsey, Clarence Doore, Norm Eastman and others, though unfortunately the artists are often uncredited.

True Men Stories also has a nice spicy, “manly” mix of pulp fiction and non-fiction stories that are great fun to read.

In fact, the headlines and concepts of some of the stories are entertaining in themselves.

For example, the February 1957 issue had several classic “killer creature” stories. The one Hulsey did the cover art for is titled “LIZARDS FROM HELL.” In Hulsey’s painting, they look like small iguanas, which are generally vegetarians.

On the inside, the story features a stock photo of a different lizard that looks like one of the slow-moving desert species that would probably be hard-pressed to attack anyone.

There’s also a killer elk story, with the enticing title “GET HIS HORNS OUT OF MY BELLY” and a rip-snorting, uncredited illustration. And, there are two other animal attack stories: one featuring killer crabs (“HALF EATEN and HALF DEAD”); and, one featuring an animal that actually could be dangerous, a leopard (“Come On You Bastard—KILL ME!).”

This issue has a good example of a men’s pulp style sexposé (a sex expose story), titled “San Diego: PASSION PORT of the Pacific”, and a “true crime” style article, “Baby Sitters—BAIT FOR MURDER.”

And, of special interest, there’s a noir-style story by the legendary author Harlan Ellison. Titled “DEATH CLIMB”, it features cool, noir pulp illustrations (uncredited).

Though best known for his award winning science fiction stories and books, Ellison wrote many non-science fiction stories for men’s adventure magazines, like True Men Stories, and for bachelor, or “girlie”, magazines, like Rogue and Playboy. (He even edited Rogue for a while.)

UPDATE – Harlan sold us reprint rights to his “Death Climb” story!!!

It’s one of the classic men’s adventure magazine stories we included in our WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH! anthology.

In future posts, I’ll talk more about some of the writers who provided fiction and non-fiction stories for men’s adventure magazines.

One of those writers that I had the honor to communicate with recently is the great Robert F. Dorr, who authored literally hundreds of stories for men’s magazines.

Dorr has also written many books – including the recent and highly recommended Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht.

More about Dorr and his work coming soon…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

“All Man” magazine – and the new “All Man: Hemingway” book by David M. Earle

In my previous post, I showed some of over-the-top male prisoner of war torture covers from issues of All Man magazine.

The covers on All Man weren’t always as quite as OTT as the one in that post that shows a lampshade made from human skin. But, in general, they were pretty far out there.

The editors and readers of All Man seemed to have a fondness for “creative” bondage and torture scenes, like the cover at left from the August 1964 issue.

As you can see, it features two prototypical damsels in distress (scantily clad, of course) tied to floating mines by evil Nazis, who are seen pulling away in a boat in the background.

All Man was published in the men’s adventure style format, with wild cover paintings and pulpy stories, from March 1959 until the summer of 1967.

After that, like several other vintage men’s pulp mags, it changed to a girlie magazine format to stay competitive in the changing men’s magazine market.

All Man continued to be published as a girlie mag, dominated by nude photos, until around 1975.

The men’s adventure style issues of All Man in my collection say the magazine was published bi-monthly. The publishing house was Stanley Publications, one of the most prolific publishers of men’s adventure magazines.

In addition to All Man, Stanley’s titles included: Battle Cry, Champion for Men, Man’s Adventure, Man’s Best, Man's Look, Man’s Prime, Men in Combat, Men in Conflict. Real Action (second series), Real Men, Real War, Rugged, Rugged Men, Spur, True Battles of World War II, True Men Stories, War Criminals and Women in War.

I’ll be posting more about those other men’s adventure magazines here in the future.

In the meantime, while we’re on the subject of All Man, I’ll mention an interesting new book that was just published, titled All Man! Hemingway, 1950s Men’s Magazines, and the Masculine Persona.

The author is David M. Earle, an assistant professor in the Department of English and Foreign Languages at University of West Florida in Pensacola.

The book’s focus is on Ernest Hemingway as seen through articles published in men’s pulp magazines.

I recently ordered my copy and will post a review here after I read it.

I’ve also added it to my Men’s Pulp Adventure Store.

Monday, November 16, 2009

About those male prisoner of war torture covers on men’s adventure magazines...


Let me start with some clear disclaimers…

I am a NOT a “fan” of Nazis. I do NOT “enjoy” Nazi torture and bondage art.

I also fully realize why the implied story told by the cover shown at left in this post – from my copy of the September 1961 issue of All Man magazine – would be seen as offensive. (By the way, the origins of stories about Nazi lampshades made from human skin is discussed in detail on the great Straight Dope website.)

I am intrigued, though, by the phenomenon of Nazi bondage and torture art in vintage men’s adventure magazines from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

World War II veterans like my father were a core demographic target of these magazines when the genre was first developed in the late 1940s.

I understand why those vets might relate to artwork and stories that portrayed the Nazis as evil, especially vets who served in Europe.

And, the covers that show-scantily clad damsels in distress being tortured didn’t really pave new ground in the pulp magazine realm.

They were basically descendants of the “weird menace” or “shudder pulp” school of cover art that was popular on pulp magazines in the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s.

But the postwar men’s adventure, or “sweat,” magazines did create some new cover categories. One of those is comprised of covers that feature paintings of male prisoners of war being tortured.

Most of the time, the torturers are Nazis. And, since the victims are male POWs, they are usually being tortured by sexy female Nazis. Instead of damsels in distress, it’s dominatrix sadists causing distress. Here are some more examples from All Man magazine…

There are also men’s pulp magazine covers and illustrations showing American prisoners of war being tortured by “evil Japs,” including Geisha girls.

And, during the Cold War years, covers often featured evil Commies as the torturers – Communist Chinese in Korea, the Viet Cong and Cuban Commies. But Nazi bondage and torture covers remained a favorite of editors and readers in the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s, and of collectors today.

Why would American veterans, especially WWII vets, be attracted to covers that shows American soldiers being tortured – by Nazis or anyone else?

As the son of a WWII vet, and a fan of men’s adventure magazines, I’ve pondered this question. So far, I haven’t come up with a definitive answer.

However, like many collectors of men’s adventure magazines, I do admire the wartime bondage and torture covers that were done for the genre by great pulp artists like Norm Eastman and Norman Saunders.

As weird and over-the-top as they are, they are often also incredibly good and interesting examples of vintage illustration art.

Friday, November 13, 2009

“Fidel Castro’s Sex Secret” – from a 1965 issue of Adventure magazine

It’s often hard to sort out the truly true stories from the phony ones in men’s adventure magazines.

The authors and editors of men’s adventure mag stories were masters of creating plausible “true stories” that put real facts and photos into yarns that were otherwise pulp fiction.

There’s a great example in the December 1965 issue of Adventure magazine about Fidel Castro.

It’s promoted as “FIDEL CASTRO’S SEX SECRET” in a headline on the cover, which features a nice noir-flavored painting by artist Vic Prezio.

Inside, the story is titled “Castro’s BEST-KEPT Secret.”

It’s written by an American who says he was a student at the University of Havana in 1948.

The story includes a couple of UPI photos of Castro and enough real facts about him and Cuba to make it sound pretty darn believable.

The “sex secret” that gets revealed at the end is almost certainly not true, but it is a bit of true pulp writing genius.

It supposedly explains why Castro became a megalomaniacal “madman” – and how his Cuban Revolution might never have happened, had it not been for one sex-related event in 1948.

I won’t give away the big “sex secret” here. I’ll let you read the story for yourself, by clicking on this link to download it in PDF format.

My home is near Key West, which is only 90 miles from Cuba. And, despite the long-standing America trade embargo, it’s not unusual to find some contraband Cuban cigars down here.

I’m willing to bet a Cuban cigar that, if you’re into the kind of stuff I post on this blog, you’ll enjoy reading about “Fidel Castro’s Sex Secret.”

And, speaking of pulpy sex and fiction, I have a new book to recommend for fans of such stuff.

It’s titled The Dames, Dolls and Delinquents: A Collector's Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction Paperbacks. It was published a few months ago by Krause Publications.

The author is Gary Lovisi, who has written some other interesting non-fiction and fiction books that have high appeal for pulp fans.

Happy reading…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wildcat Adventures, Part II – William Burroughs, weird menace, wild women

My previous entry here provided a look at a classic issue of the men’s adventure magazine Wildcat Adventures from 1960, the second year of the magazine’s run.

Wildcat Adventures was published bimonthly for five years, from the summer of 1959 to the summer of 1964, by Candar Publishing.

Candar also published several other men’s adventure mags from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, including Daring, Man’s Action, Man’s Daring, Man’s True Danger and True Danger. (The two best sources of publishing information about men’s adventure genre are the books It's a Man's World and Men's Adventure Magazines.)

The first issue of Wildcat Adventures, dated June 1959, was actually called Man’s Wildcat Adventures.

It is particularly cool because it includes an excerpt from William Burroughs's famed pulp novel Junkie. (It also has a rip-snorting “Arab peril” style cover painting.)

The novel had been published six years earlier, so it wasn’t exactly a timely excerpt. But it did add a little touch of literary “class” to the debut issue.

Below are some cover scans of issues from the following years. As usual in Wildcat Adventures the artists are uncredited, which is really too bad because some of the cover paintings are pulp masterpieces. It would nice to know who painted them.

The cover of the March 1960 issue has a gonzo scene of a plane that has crashed in the ocean – apparently in the middle of a hijacking and a party (both of which seem to be continuing).

On the cover of the December 1961 issue, a group of scantily clad babes are performing some exotic bondage and torture ritual on a hapless guy who doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself – though it’s pretty clear that readers of Wildcat Adventures enjoyed this kind of stuff.

On the July 1962 cover, it’s a woman who is in danger, from wild boars that appear to be the trained killer pets of some odd looking “natives.” The July 1963 issue has a bizarre Nazi bondage and torture cover that provides a glimpse of the “NAZI TORTURE THEATRE.”

The June 1964 cover of Wildcat Adventures shows some nude, Rafaelesque damsels in distress being hunted, in “The Most Dangerous Game” style. It also has an intriguing math equation as a headline: “HALLUCINOGENIC DRUGS + COEDS = CAMPUS ORGIES.” 

The August 1964 cover is another over-the-top wonder, a rape scene in a library, illustrating the story “BLACK LEATHER LIBRARY LUST RAID.”

I wonder what the Dewey Decimal System number is for that category of pulp fiction.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sheiks, harems and occasional Nazis: The “Arab Peril” subgenre in men’s adventure magazines

Today, fairly or not, many Americans primarily associate the word “Arab” with terrorists and religious extremism.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, we had somewhat different stereotypical mental images of Arabs.

In those days, the word tended to conjure up images of sheiks, harems and desert adventure in the Lawrence of Arabia style.

This was reflected in the men’s adventure magazines of the era.

Some of the Arab-related stories and art published in men’s pulp mags were straight ahead Arabian adventure tales or Middle East war stories.

For example, at left is a bloody battle adventure cover from the June 1963 issue of Real magazine.

The cover painting, by artist George Gross, is for a story titled “THE AMERICAN GUERILLA WHO SLAUGHTERED YEMEN'S REBELS.” (The American was a mercenary who was the “hero” of the story.)

Next, at right, is the cover of the July 1960 issue of Men magazine, which has an Arab adventure action cover by the great pulp and horror artist Jim Bama.

As I mentioned in a previous post, you may notice that it has the flavor of a Doc Savage paperback cover – which is not surprising when you know that Bama also painted most of the cool covers for Bantam’s Doc Savage reprint series.

The editors and readers of men’s pulp magazines of the Fifties and Sixties had a special fondness for stories about endangered damsels in distress and “sex slaves.”

So, naturally, Arab slavers and harems were a perfect fit. And, they were often mixed with other common themes in the men’s “sweat mags”, like bondage and torture or evil Nazis.

As a group, I call these kinds of covers and stories the “Arab peril” subgenre.

Here are two Arab peril examples in the harem and DID mode, from Adventure magazine and Man’s Illustrated...

Even more creatively gonzo are the Arab peril covers that managed to mix together Arab slavery, bondage, torture and evil Nazis – like these examples from World of Men and Man’s Story magazine...

Of course, these examples are politically incorrect, sexist and racist.

But somehow their images seem less scary than things we tend to associate with “Arabs” today – like terrorist attacks and suicide bombers.

Monday, November 2, 2009

When Famous Artists Rubbed Shoulders with Homicidal Nymphos

In my previous entry here, I showed cover scans from the five known issues of the men’s adventure magazine A-OK for Men, a hard-to-find men’s pulp mag published by Jalart House from October 1962 to October 1963.

Those covers do include one torture and bondage scene, but most of the A-OK for Men cover paintings lean more toward the adventure mode than the S&M menace mode.

In fact, many of the stories inside seem wilder than the cover art. Here are some of the OTT story titles from issues of A-OK for Men – in the “nymphos” subgenre:

“The Nympho Who Beheaded 26 Lovers”
“Moscow Has a Nympho Street!”
“Sadist Nympho of the Sahara Sands.”
“The Nympho Doctor Who Bought a Bordello!”
“Nympho Mary Anne and Her Pirate Ship.”

Yes, “nymphos” were a popular topic and title word in A-OK for Men, as they were in other vintage men’s adventure magazines. However, as is also true of many other men’s adventure mags, some of the artists who provided cover paintings and interior illustrations to A-OK for Men were top notch illustrators of the day.

For example, several issues of A-OK for Men have artwork by Howell Dodd. He was an American artist who first became widely known for illustrations he did for the Associated Press news service in the 1930s and during World War II.

Dodd also did covers and interior art for prewar pulp magazines in the 1940s and for men’s adventure magazines and more mainstream publications in the 1950s and 1960s.

But Dodd may have been most widely known as one of the instructors, editors and eventual directors of The Famous Artists School, which has been teaching generations of budding artists how to draw and paint through mail order courses and books since 1948.

In the Fifties and Sixties, the Famous Artists School approach to art was generally in the Norman Rockwell style. Indeed, Rockwell was one of the school’s most illustrious faculty members and was commonly featured in its familiar “We’re Looking for People Who Like to Draw” ads.

Some of Howell Dodd’s art for men’s adventure magazines looks more like art done by Norman Saunders and Norm Eastman (two famous pulp artists) than Norman Rockwell. (Like the “Nympho Mary Anne” interior art shown here.)

The best place to see more cool art by Howell Dodd is on the excellent American Art Archives website. If you haven’t seen that site, you should check it out. It has a wealth of great examples of vintage magazine illustrations along with biographical info on many of the artists.

I also have a new book recommendation for you – War Stories: A Graphic History.

It’s not one of the graphic novels in the War Stories series by Garth Ennis (though they’re great, too).

This book is written by Mike Conroy, an author who has previously written some other interesting books about comics history.

As you probably know if you’re reading this blog, vintage comic art was closely related to pulp art and many great illustrators created art for both comics and pulp magazines. So, if you like pulp magazines and pulp art, I suspect you’ll like Conroy’s book.

It’s available in my Men’s Pulp Adventure Bookstore.