Monday, December 28, 2009

Yes, you are seeing double. Happy New Year!

If you’re you’re reading this on New Year’s Eve, don’t worry. You are seeing double, but it’s not alcohol related. It’s an example of the same cover art being used for two different men’s adventure magazines.

The action-filled cover painting above, by artist George Gross, was first used for the cover of the March 1957 issue of Man’s World (published by Medallion from 1955 to 1977). Gross’s painting was reused on the cover of the January 1961 issue of Action For Men (published from 1958 to 1977, by Hillman in it’s first year, and then by Vista, a Magazine Management Atlas/Diamond offshoot).

From the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, over 150 different men’s adventure magazine titles were published.

Some were published by major publishing houses, lasted for years and had relatively large circulations. Others were published by semi-legitimate publishers on shoestring budgets, lasted for only a few issues and had minimal distribution.

Of course, every publisher liked to save a buck. One of the easy ways to hold down costs was to recycle stories and artwork that had previously been published in other magazines, since reprint rights were cheaper than original rights. (I suspect that some shoestring publishers may have “forgotten” to pay the original publishers, writers or artists anything at all.)

Below are more examples of cover art that was used on two different men’s adventure magazines: a great diamondback rattlesnake painting on Men magazine and A-OK for Men, and a Nazi scene used on both Stag and Action for Men.

And, here’s wishing you an adventurous but safe New Year! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas – Men’s Adventure Magazine Style


The December issues of men’s adventure magazines rarely featured Christmas-themed covers. I suppose it was hard to mix rugged manliness with sentimental seasonal cheer.

But there are some that managed this combination beautifully.

One example is the cover of the December 1948 issue of True magazine.

True, published by Fawcett Publications for most of its long run, was one of the more upscale and mainstream men’s adventure magazines, along with Argosy and Saga. It was first published in 1937 and continued until 1975.

The superb cover painting on the December 1948 issue is by Tom Lovell (1909-1997). Lovell was a New York artist who particularly liked Western subjects. Eventually, he focused primarily on Western-themed paintings and moved to New Mexico.

The cowboy bunkhouse Christmas scene he painted for the cover of the December ‘48 issue of True manages to be sentimental and manly at the same time.

But lest you get any funny Brokeback Mountain type ideas, note that the subtitle of True at the time was “The Man’s Magazine.” Which didn’t mean “girly man,” bub. No, siree.

This subtitle was changed to the “#1 Man’s Magazine” in the 1960s. And, indeed, in its heyday, True’s circulation exceeded one million copies.

Bruce Jay Friedman, the former editor of Male magazine who later became a famed novelist and playwright, explained the hierarchy of men’s adventure magazines this way in his book, Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos:

“High above all others, at a lonely, nosebleed-producing altitude, stood the mighty True, which had achieved its status through newsbreaking revelations about hanky-panky in the conduct of World War II. Several notches below, but sturdy nonetheless, was a slick-looking Western cuspidor of a magazine called Argosy. There followed, at least in terms of ‘classiness’ — if not circulation — Saga; and then, after a bit of a leap and a bound, one reached the nether world of the Goodman books* (as our magazines were referred to at the time), Male, Stag, For Men Only, Man's World, Action for Men, True Action, and so on. By no means did Magazine Management represent the end of the line. There were legions of other titles that generally featured Gestapo women prancing around captive Yanks in leg shackles. When the men’s field met local opposition, the broom used was generally a large one and we were miffed at being swept off the newsstands along with the leg schacklers.”

     *Referring to Martin Goodman, owner of the Magazine Management publishing house.

As Friedman notes, Argosy — like True — was a top-tier men’s adventure magazine. It began as a classic digest-sized pulp mag in 1882, more as a boy’s magazine than a man’s. Over the decades, it “grew up,” both in size and content. It went to normal magazine size in 1941, and focused on an adult male audience that liked adventure, action, war stories and hunting topics.

Argosy used painted covers until the 1960s, then switched to photos. The two Argosy covers below are from December 1963 and December 1964. They each feature a highly creative, painterly Christmas-theme photo taken by photographer Arie De Zanger.

At the risk of seeming unmanly, and politically correct and incorrect all at the same time, I wish those of you who are reading this blog Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Robert F. Dorr’s unusual “Ghost Bear” story – plus some manly bear attack art


Man vs. beast was a common theme in the stories and art in men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. And, the bigger the beast, the better when it came to the perceived manliness of fighting or killing them.

So, bears were a popular topic.

Personally, I am not a fan of Ernest Hemingway-style “big game hunting,” since it often seems more like big game slaughter to me.

But I am a huge fan of the animal attack paintings that were common on men’s adventure magazines. No animals were harmed in the making of the paintings — and they are just damn cool!

I’ve done some previous entries here about other animal-related subgenres, like the “snake menace subgenre”.

For this first entry about the “bear attack subgenre,” I’m including an exclusive reprint of my favorite killer bear story from a men’s adventure magazine.

The story is titled “‘GHOST’ BEAR THAT TERRORIZED A TOWN.” It’s a rogue polar bear tale written by Robert F. Dorr and first published in the February 1975 issue of Male magazine.

As you may know if you’re a reader of this blog, Bob Dorr is now a popular and highly regarded military historian.

His latest book is the critically acclaimed Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht — which he co-wrote with former U.S. astronaut Thomas D. Jones. 

But in his younger days, Bob was one of many writers who honed their craft — and made ends meet — by writing stories for men’s adventure magazines.

When I asked Bob for permission to reprint his “Ghost Bear” story, he said: “Did I really write about a ghost bear?”

He chuckled when I sent him a copy to “prove” it and noted that, in those days, he wrote many types of stories for many different magazines.

Bob even wrote stories for True Confessions-style magazines in the late 1950s and 1960s — in the first person, using women’s names as pseudonyms. (The legendary author, editor and screenwriter Harlan Ellison recently told me he did, too.)

Like most stories in the vintage confession magazines and many of the “true stories” in men’s adventure magazines, Bob’s “Ghost Bear” yarn is fictional.

But, unlike other animal attack stories from the men’s adventure genre, Bob’s shows unusual respect for the bear involved — which is one of the reasons I particularly like it.

I won’t spoil the plot for you. I’ll let you read it yourself, by clicking on this link and downloading it in PDF format.

Bob’s bear story is illustrated with photos rather than artwork. So, to give you the flavor of the bear attack cover paintings from men’s adventure magazines, I’ve posted a few of my favorites in this entry.

At the upper left of this post is a cover with a bear variation on the famed “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” headline.

It’s the June 1957 issue of True Men Stories magazine. The great bear attack painting, by an uncredited artist, is for the story “A Kodiak Bear Ripped My Flesh.” (Yes, “Ripped My Flesh” was a popular headline phrase in men’s adventure magazines.)

Below are some more rip-snorting bear attack covers, from Adventure magazine, Peril, True Adventures and Wildcat Adventures.

The True Adventures cover painting is by artist Frank Cozzorelli. The others are uncredited.

Thanks again to Bob Dorr for his permission to reprint his copyrighted “Ghost Bear” story. I hope to post more of Bob’s stories here in the near future, as well as some more bear attack art.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Looking for artist Will Hulsey, creator of “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” and much more...

I am a great admirer of the cover paintings and illustrations artist Will Hulsey did for men’s adventure magazines in the Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies.

The cover with the vicious flying squirrels in the header of my blog and the one with the killer turtles are both by Hulsey.

He was the grandmaster of killer creature covers, which I have nicknamed the “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” subgenre, after the famed cover painting Hulsey did for the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life magazine. (The headline for the story that painting goes with is where Frank Zappa got the title of his 1970 album.)

In addition to his great animal attack covers, Hulsey also painted many other types of action-filled scenes for the covers of men’s postwar pulp magazines.

For example, below is a superb World War Two war scene Hulsey created for the February 1960 issue of True Men Stories, to go with the story “INCREDIBLE ESCAPE from the NAZI NIGHTMARE.”

At the left is a photo of the original cover painting.

Next to that is the magazine cover, showing how well Hulsey planned for the placement of the title and cover headlines.

If you’re wondering about the color difference, what I’ve heard is that the reds were enhanced on covers like this to make to make them more eye-catching. (Though I don’t really know if that’s true.)

Hulsey’s original artwork for this cover is a 26½ inch by x 20½ inch oil painting on illustration board. According to the Heritage Auction Galleries website (which is a great place to look for original magazine art, among other things), this Hulsey painting sold for $8,962.50 in an auction a few years ago.

There are already quite a few Hulsey covers on this blog and there will be more in the future. I really love his work.

But I recently realized that I don’t know much about him. So, I started doing some research to find out more.

The excellent book Men’s Adventure Magazines by Rich Oberg, Max Allan Collins and George Hagenauer does have a brief bio that says:

“Hulsey painted covers and interiors for a number of publishers – most notably for Man's Life –  before assisting art editor Milton Louis and editor Harold Straubing at True Men Stories (the first series of True Men, before Stanley bought it and dropped the “Stories”), home of such classics as the rabid flying squirrel cover.”

I googled “Will Hulsey” in combination with various other words, but didn’t find much additional information.

Then, today, a fellow men’s adventure magazine fan told me that Hulsey’s full first name is William — and that he generally used Wil for short, rather than Will.

This led to a number of other discoveries.

For example, I found out that Wil is still alive, in his eighties and living in California.

I also found out that his daughter, Lindalee Hulsey, is an artist herself, whose work has recently been showing at the Art Gallery de Placencia in Santa Barbara.

Now that I’ve stumbled upon those facts, I am hoping to contact Wil Hulsey for an interview.

I’ll let you know if I succeed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Men’s adventure magazines and PTSD – plus another early Harlan Ellison story


There’s an interesting chapter in the new book All Man! Hemingway, 1950s Men’s Magazines, and the Masculine Persona, by David M. Earle, that discusses how the post-WWII men’s adventure magazines helped American military veterans cope with what is now called “post traumatic stress disorder,” or PTSD.

PTSD — known as “battle fatigue” or “shell shock” in previous decades — is discussed and dealt with more openly and directly today than in the more restrained 1940s and 1950s. And, there is now more recognition of how important and therapeutic it is for veterans to talk about their traumatic wartime experiences, especially with other veterans.

In their time, men’s adventure magazines provided one way for vets to have such “conversations.” They published non-fiction and fiction stories about the gut-wrenching, bloody realities of war, about what it was like to be a GI, to see friends killed, to be wounded, to be a prisoner of war, to survive hell.

The men’s adventure magazines also had what we might now call “interactive” forums, where veterans could “post” notes and letters, and communicate with former war buddies.

The August 1957 issue of Battle Cry is a good example. Its moving cover painting was done by the talented artist Mal Singer (1911-1974), who created covers and illustrations for many pre-WWII and postwar magazines and books.

Like most cover paintings on men’s adventure magazines, Singer’s tells a story. We see two GIs in a foxhole. One has the “thousand yard stare.” The other is reaching out to try to save a lost puppy who wandered onto the battlefield. It’s a brilliant glimpse of soldierly compassion and vulnerability in the midst of war.

Inside the August 1957 issue of Battle Cry, there are several monthly “departments” that show how some of the men’s adventure magazines helped war vets interact with each other — almost like an online forum does today for people who share certain interests or problems.

In Battle Cry’s “Whatever happened to...” section, veterans could post notices “to find that joker who shared your foxhole” and “find out when an where your old outfit is having a reunion.”

Vets were also invited to send in brief articles to the magazine’s “Service Record” department, to “tell us about your reunions, your publications, your picnics, etc.”

In future entries on this blog, I’ll discuss some of the feature stories from the August ‘57 issue of Battle Cry. It’s one of my favorite issues — especially because it contains a rare find: an early Harlan Ellison story, titled “I RAPED FREEDOM IN BUDAPEST!”

To my great surprise and pleasure, Harlan recently contacted me about my blog and said he’d tell me some anecdotes about that story and his noir-like “Death Climb” tale, which I mentioned in a previous post.

I’m definitely looking forward to that conversation!

In the meantime, I’ll let you enjoy this “cheesecake” photo spread from the same issue of Battle Cry. It features the lovely Doreen Lord, who appeared in several men’s magazines back in the day. (Hey Harlan, did you know her?)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gays in the military? American Manhood magazine may have been ahead of its time...


American Manhood magazine was an unusual men’s adventure magazine published by Weider Periodicals Inc.

The Weider company did publish several magazines that were representative of the genre, such as Fury, Outdoor Adventures and Safari.

But American Manhood was different.

It was kind of a cross between a bodybuilder magazine and a men’s adventure magazine.

That probably reflects the fact that the owners of the Weider publishing firm were the famed bodybuilder guru Joe Weider and his brother Ben.

In addition to men’s adventure magazines, the Weider brothers also published several popular bodybuilding and fitness magazines, including Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Men’s Fitness and Shape.

If you read vintage men’s magazines or comic books, you may know Joe Weider best from the ubiquitous Weider bodybuilding ads that ran in men’s adventure and bachelor mags and comics in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

My favorite is the Seventies ad at right that featured a young Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Now, I admit, I know nothing about the world of bodybuilding.

And, guys like Joe Weider and Arnold Schwarzenegger seem like manly men to me.

But looking at the covers of American Manhood — which was published for about two years in the early 1950s — does make me wonder if it was ahead of it’s time when it comes to gays in the military.

Adam Parfrey’s excellent book about men’s adventure magazines, It's a Man's World, says that the wild underwater cover painting for the December 1952 issue of American Manhood was done by Peter Poulton. The other cover paintings shown here are uncredited, though they look like they may have been done by the same artist.

I was unable to find a bio of Poulton. He does appear to have painted covers for some of the prewar pulp magazines. If anyone has more info about Peter Poulton or the American Manhood covers, please let me know by sending me an email or leaving a post on the the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

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

Related reading…

Friday, December 4, 2009

“Men’s adventure magazines” – or “Sweats” – or “Men’s pulp magazines”?

There’s a debate going on among members of the new Facebook Group associated with this blog about the terminology used for the magazine genre featured here.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, these magazines were categorized simply as “Men’s Magazines” in the annual Writer’s Market books published in those decades.

They used that term to apply to two genres of magazines targeted to men: those that were printed on pulp paper and those that were printed on slick paper.

The men’s magazines printed on pulp paper, which are the main subject of this blog, had painted covers (printed on slick paper) and were somewhat similar to or, in some cases, directly descended from some of the pre-WWII pulp magazines.

The men’s “slicks” of the Fifties and Sixties, also called "bachelor" or "girlie" magazines, typically had photos of pretty girls on the covers rather than painted scenes. And, unlike most of their pulpy relatives, which typically had fairly mild “cheesecake” photos, the girlie magazines featured nude photos (though sans any visible “dark triangles” until around 1970).

Some vintage men’s magazines were printed partially on pulp and partially on slick paper and some featured both painted illustrations and photos on their covers. In addition, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, some men’s magazines changed from a pulp adventure style format to a slicker girlie mag format – making it even harder to pigeonhole them with a specific term.

Starting in the 1980s or thereabouts, magazine collectors began using the terms “men’s sweats” and “sweat magazines” to describe the vintage men’s magazines printed on pulp paper. But today, those terms seem to be used primarily by people who don’t really like the genre much, or by people who hear those names and simply think they are the “correct” terminology.

However, as noted by Robert F. Dorr, an esteemed military historian who wrote hundreds of articles for men’s magazines from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, neither of those “sweat” terms was in common use at that time. In the discussion thread on the Facebook Group I mentioned, Bob said: “I never heard the word ‘sweats’ used to describe any of these magazines during the years they were in existence.”

Bob prefers the term “men’s adventure magazines.” And, I agree.

For example, consider the cover of Man’s Magazine below, with the painting by Mel Crair — done for Bob’s own World War II story “Yank Ace Who Saved the Anzio Invasion.” Compare it to the Man's Book magazine cover from the same year, with the Nazi bondage and torture scene painted by John Duillo. Yes, both covers have World War II scenes. But, to me, only one fits the image associated with the somewhat derogatory term “men’s sweats.”

Rich Oberg — the biggest and most knowledgeable collector of the magazines and original art from the genre — has also weighed in on the terminology issue in the Facebook Group discussion thread.

“The worst part about calling them ‘sweats’ is it leaves off the vast majority of titles (many running well over a decade) clearly falling within this genre,” he said. Richs dislikes the term “sweats” and feels that, if used at all, it should only be used to describe “the most extremely lurid subset” of the genre, like those that focused on sex-laden bondage and torture scenes. As Rich points out, those are really a subgenre and not representative of the broad range of magazines in the genre, many of which primarily featured war scenes, animal attacks, and historic and exotic adventure scenes on their covers.

The great book Rich helped create, which features covers and original artwork from his awe-inspiring collection, helped popularize the term “men’s adventure magazines” as the most commonly heard name for the genre today. The full title of that book is Men's Adventure Magazines in Postwar America.

The other excellent book about the genre, Adam Parfrey’s It's a Man's World, is subtitled Men’s Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps.

I primarily use term “men’s adventure magazines.” But I also use “men’s pulp magazines,” since I see some clear links between the prewar pulps and the postwar men’s adventure mags.

Mike Harwood, another aficionado of the genre who joined in the terminology discussion on the Facebook Group, has countered: “I personally prefer the term ‘sweat magazine’ which, to me, has a certain poetry to it because it makes me think of the sweat that appears when one is either attacked by killer turtles or enticed by nympho teenage belly dancers...or perhaps even the sweat that appeared on the brow of people approaching the counter with a magazine that they shouldn’t have been buying.”

That’s definitely a well-written and smile-inducing point of view. And, I’d bet that most people who enjoy vintage men’s adventure magazines have a fondness for those wild, campy “sweat magazines” — even if they use that term for a subgenre rather the genre as a whole. I certainly do.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Talking with Rich Oberg: the Dean of Men’s Adventure Magazines

Recently, I had the good fortune of talking with Rich Oberg, who is literally the world’s greatest collector of men’s adventure magazines and the original artwork created for them.

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

Rich told me he started down the road to putting together the world’s biggest collection of men’s adventure magazines and art after making a spur of the moment decision to attend a Pulpcon at Bowling Green in 1994. (Pulpcon is a popular convention for fans of pre-WWII pulp magazines.)

“I’m 55 and missed most of the men’s adventure magazines when I was a kid.” Rich said. “But I remember being fascinated with some of their wild covers as a teenager when I saw them on the store shelves. I also remember I found one my dad had in our attic, Man’s Book January 1966, which I quietly confiscated hoping he wouldn’t notice. He didn’t.”

Many years after “collecting” that first magazine, Rich recalled his fascination with men’s adventure magazines and thought it might be fun to collect them.

“In the 1980s, I found a guy who sold mostly adult photo mags from the ‘60s who also had some nice men’s adventure magazines,” Rich said. “I bought some from him and other sellers and had a fledgling collection, and then the pipeline stopped. This was in the days before eBay, and I just couldn’t find many high quality copies.”

“Then came the Bowling Green Pulpcon. Robert Lesser[the premier collector of prewar pulp art] had an exhibit of original pulp art from his collection there. I heard the stories of how Lesser was once considered a ‘nut’ for investing in pulp artwork. Of course, later, when examples of original prewar pulp art were going for tens of thousands of dollars each, no one was laughing anymore.”

“Then, I thought, what about the men’s adventure magazines? I like the postwar men’s adventure art even better, stylistically and as examples of American realism art. But where is it? And, does it even exist? After a lot of phone calls and trips to see dealers and artists, I found out it did exist. I went nuts! I decided I wanted to be the ‘Bob Lesser of men’s adventure art’ and guess by most accounts I’ve succeeded.”

Luckily for fans of the men’s adventure magazines, Rich Oberg succeeded in a big way. His incredible collection of men’s adventure magazines is the largest and most complete in existence. So is his collection of original art from the genre, which he put together not only by finding dealers with rare stashes of men’s adventure magazine art, but also by tracking down and buying directly from some of the great artists themselves, like Norm Eastman and Mort Kunstler.

The Taschen book that the Rich Oberg’s collection made possible — now in its 25th edition — is largely responsible for the recent interest in the these great vintage magazines and the art created for them, along with Adam Parfrey’s book It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps.

Together, those books also helped popularize the term “men’s adventure magazines” — as opposed to the older, somewhat derogatory term “men’s sweats.”

Rich and I both feel that “men’s sweats” should probably only be used to refer to the subgenre that focuses on bondage and torture artwork and stories (if at all).

The term “men’s adventure magazines” is more comprehensive and includes other common subgenres, like the artwork and stories that focus on war, exotic adventure and animal attacks.

I also use the term “men’s pulp magazines” interchangeably with “men’s adventure magazines.” And, the Parfrey book uses the term “men’s postwar pulps.” (There’s a discussion thread about this terminology debate in the new Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group associated with this blog.)

In future posts here, I’ll pass along some more interesting facts and great anecdotes I’ve heard from Rich Oberg, the Dean of the men’s adventure magazine realm. Thanks, Rich!