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Our books on Amazon: the MEN'S ADVENTURE LIBRARY series...
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Friday, December 31, 2010

It’ OK to see double on New Year’s Eve – if it’s on the covers of men’s adventure magazines


In my New Year’s Eve post last year, I showed some examples of cover paintings that appeared on the covers of two different men’s adventure magazines.

I thought about that post this morning as I was transcribing a recent phone interview I did with Gil Cohen — one of the top artists who created the artwork for those magazines.

Today, Cohen is renowned for his aviation art.

In addition to being sold by art galleries in the U.S. and the U.K., his paintings of historic planes, pilots and crews in wartime and at rest are included in many private and public collections, such as those of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, Georgia, the National Guard Image Gallery and the Pentagon.

They’re also the focus of the excellent book Gil Cohen: Aviation Artist.

But from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, before he became the country’s premier aviation artist, Cohen did hundreds of cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure magazines.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be doing a series of posts that feature Gil’s artwork and excerpts from my interview with him. He graciously answered many questions I had about his days as a men’s adventure artist.

Among other things, he explained how second uses of an artist’s paintings and illustrations were typically dealt with.

One example of a second use I had noticed involves a cool Gil Cohen painting that was first used on the cover of the May 1967 issue of Male magazine. It goes with a “Book Bonus” story inside titled “The Ravishers,” written by James Hadley Chase.

Chase was a British writer who authored dozens of noirish mystery, detective and gangster novels between the late 1930s and his death in 1985. (His books are still popular and available on Amazon.com.)

The original Gil Cohen cover painting used on the May ‘67 issue of Male happens to be owned by my friend Rich Oberg, the world’s foremost expert on and collector of men’s adventure magazine art.

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

Further reading about some of the great artists who once worked for men’s adventure magazines…

During the course of an email exchange with Rich, I found out that a cropped version of that painting was also used on the cover of the May 1968 issue of True Action magazine. So, when I interviewed Gil, I asked him if he normally received a second payment when his work was used twice like that. He explained that he and other artists typically sold first reproduction rights for a painting or illustration and usually did get another payment if their work was reused. At least, they did if it was reused by a reputable company like Magazine Management, which published Male, True Action, Stag, Action for Men, For Men Only and many other classic men’s adventure mags.

“Of course, I did more work for Magazine Management than any other men’s adventure magazine publisher,” Gil told me. “I had a stamp I used for their purchase orders that said ‘For first reproduction rights only.’ If they wanted to reproduce the painting again, as they sometimes did, I got another fee.

Let’s say they had me do an illustration, like an elephant tramping through a jungle. They’d pay me a fee for the first reproduction rights and it would appear in the magazine. If they later decided that same illustration would also be appropriate for another story, the art director at Magazine Management would contact me and say, ‘Hey, we’d like second reproduction rights for that illustration.’ Then they’d pay me again, though only a fraction of what I got the first time.”

I greatly appreciate the time Gil took to talk with me and I’ll relay some more of the facts and anecdotes he told me soon.

In the meantime, have Happy New Year! Stay safe and avoid seeing double — unless it’s on the covers of men’s adventure magazines.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas – Men’s Adventure Magazine style…


The holiday season got me thinking about what it might have been like if some of the pulpier men’s adventure magazines had used Christmas-themed cover paintings on their December issues.

In my mind’s eye I can envision a men’s pulp mag cover showing a bare-chested Santa fighting off a pack of killer weasels, or perhaps a scantily-clad Mrs. Claus being tortured by a leering Grinch dressed in a Nazi uniform, or maybe a panoramic battle scene showing a well-armed squad of elves facing a Banzai charge by Japanese soldiers, or...

It’s funny to think about. But, of course, actually trying to combine Christmas themes with the typical cover images most men’s adventure magazines used wouldn’t have worked.

That’s why most didn’t even try.

A few of the milder, high-circulation men’s adventure magazines, like True and Argosy, had Christmasy cover paintings on their December issues. But they were much more mainstream than most men’s adventure periodicals, so their cover paintings often looked more like what you’d see on The Saturday Evening Post than on a men’s pulp mag.

For example, the December 1955 issue of True magazine features a painting of three cowboys riding herd on some doggies at night, looking up at an unusually bright star. It’s a semi-manly variation on the Christmas story about the Three Wise Men.

Yeah, cowboys are manly. But the cover is only semi-manly because the scene is also kind of sweet, serene and sentimental — three words that do not apply to most men’s adventure magazine covers.

This December ‘55 True cover was painted by Fred Ludekens, an artist whose work actually did appear on The Saturday Evening Post and other mainstream magazines, including American Magazine, The Country Gentleman and even Good Housekeeping.

Some of the scenes he painted for those mainstream magazines were manlier than their usual Norman Rockwell-style fare, like his painting of a logger on the cover of the December 11, 1943 issue of the Post. I’ve also seen a couple of Western gunfight illos that Ludekens did for the Post on Leif Peng’s excellent illustration art blog, Today's Inspiration.

But Ludekens work isn’t quite in the same wild, pulpy ballpark as the cover paintings used on most men’s adventure magazines. Compare his serene cowboy cover on True to the cover painting used that same month on Stag.

The cover painting on the December 1955 issue of Stag, by an uncredited artist, is in the animal attack subgenre of men’s pulp mag art. It shows one bloodied, limping hunter being held up by his buddy, as a snarling mountain lion glares at them in the foreground.

Like many men’s adventure cover paintings, this one tells a story. It visually suggests that the bleeding man has been attacked by the big cat. But you can’t blame the cat, or at least I don’t. Because as you look at the cover you notice the cat has been shot in the neck, presumably by one of the “brave” hunters.

The December 1955 issue of Sport Life has an even wilder and more absurd animal attack scene. It shows a vicious “mad Wapiti” elk going after a guy in sleeping bag in the middle of the night. (I’m guessing he deserved it, too.)

I don’t own that issue of Sport Life (yet), but I’m pretty sure the cover painting is by an artist I featured here in another recent post, the legendary Mort Kunstler. Kunstler did hundreds, probably thousands, of cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure mags in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. After that, the men’s pulp mag genre essentially disappeared and Kunstler went on to become much more famous for his historical paintings (especially his Civil War art).

That same December in 1955, the cover of Man’s Magazine featured a painting of two beefy lumberjacks arm-wrestling. It was done by John Leone, who also did many covers and interior illos for men’s pulp magazines (though not as many as Kunstler). Like quite a few men’s adventure magazine artists, Leone later became known for his Western paintings and prints.

The cover of the December 1955 issue of the men’s adventure pulp magazine Fury shows a fierce image of  “the Mongol Monster” Tamerlane raising a bloody sword, painted by Tom Beecham.

Like John Leone, Beecham later became more widely known for his Western art, as well as his excellent wildlife art. In fact, the bio for Beecham on AskArt.com describes him as a Western and wildlife artist. It also notes that he did paintings and illustrations for Reader's Digest, Bantam Books, National Geographic, Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and the popular Remington Arms calendars. All that’s true, but I (of course) am especially fond of Beecham’s work for the men’s adventure mags.

The back covers of Fury magazine often featured photos of popular pinup models, actresses and other glamour girls. The back of the December ‘55 issue has a full-page Christmas cheesecake photo of the once very popular model and actress Gloria Pall.

It’s an understatement to say that Gloria had a colorful life. In addition to being one of the top pinup models of the Fifties and hanging out with many celebrities, she has cult status for her racy 1954 TV show and persona Voluptua and her appearance as a burlesque queen in Elvis Presley's movie Jailhouse Rock (1957).

Pall now has her own website and line of merchandise, which includes a fascinating series of books she’s written about her career and life. Her photos are still popular collectors’ items on eBay, as are vintage magazines that feature her.

Gloria Pall’s photo on Fury is one of my two favorite Christmas cheesecake pics from 1955.

The other one is not from a men’s adventure magazine.

It’s the Christmas photo of Bettie Page in the January 1955 issue of Playboy (which was actually published in December).

This photo is one of the many shots of Bettie taken by Bunny Yeager, the pinup model who became a fabulously successful pinup photographer.

Of course, Bettie Page is one of the most legendary cheesecake and fetish photo models of all time. Unlike most mid-century pin-up models, she’s even more famous now than she was in the Fifties and Sixties.

By the way, this is second annual Christmas post on MensPulpMags.com, the Men’s Adventure Magazines blog.

The first one was posted about this same time last year, reminding me that I have now been writing this blog for about a year and a half. Time flies…

As I said last year, at the risk of seeming, um, unmanly (and politically correct and incorrect all at the same time) I wish all of you who enjoy the cover art, illustrations, photos and background information I post here Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!

Yours truly,

SubtropicBob

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

Buy yourself or a friend something cool for Christmas. Here are some of my recommendations…

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More “Good Girl Art” by Basil Gogos


Today’s post features more vintage “Good Girl Art” by the great illustrator Basil Gogos. But first a little history about that term…

From the 1930s to the early 1950s, before the prudish Comics Code of 1954 was adopted, many comic books had cover and interior images showing buxom women in tight, skimpy or otherwise revealing clothing.

Some were heroines with special powers, like Sheena, Firehair and Wonder Woman. Others were iconic damsels in distress or female villains.

The Comics Code put the kibosh on overtly sexy or violent images in comic books until the 1970s. (On the serendipitous upside, it also pushed comic book publishers like Stanley Morse, Everett M. “Busy” Arnold and Martin Goodman to focus on publishing men’s adventure magazines.) During the 1960s, as the modern market for vintage comics began developing, pre-Code comics with cover art or interior panels showing hot, busty babes became highly collectible.

In the early 1970s, the pioneering comic book dealer David T. Alexander coined the term “Good Girl Art” to refer to comics that featured such artwork. He used that term and the shorthand abbreviation GGA as a category on lists of comics he sold.

In 1976, Carl Macek — who later gained fame as the creator of the Robotech animated cartoon series — managed Alexander’s American Comic Book Company store in Westwood, California. That year, Macek wrote an article for Volume #6 of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide titled “Good Girl Art — An Introduction: Why It Was and What It Was.”

Alexander’s use and Macek’s article firmly planted “Good Girl Art” into the lingo of comic book collectors. It was also soon applied to the babe-filled artwork on the covers of vintage pulp fiction paperbacks, the sexy/sexist cartoons in men’s bachelor and adventure magazines created by artists like Bill Ward, and to men’s adventure magazine cover paintings and interior illustrations that show beautiful women in various stages of undress.

I featured a few wild GGA cover paintings by Basil Gogos in my previous post. Those were from the very politically incorrect bondage and torture subgenre. At the top of this post and below are examples of what I call the “exotic Good Girl Art” subgenre of men’s pulp mag artwork — images of scantily-clad babes in exotic locales.

One of my faves (shown above) is the cover of the October 1965 issue of Adventure magazine. It goes with a story inside about a man who was “SEDUCED BY A JUNGLE SEX GODDESS.”

Below are some more of my favorite exotic GGA covers by Basil Gogos.

The one at left is for another seductive goddess story. This time it’s a volcanically hot “fire goddess,” on the cover of the December 1965 issue of True Adventures.
At right is the August 1965 issue of True Adventures. It shows an incredibly enticing Eskimo babe caring for a pilot who crashed in Alaska, near her cozy igloo. (And, boys — don’t even consider making that snortworthy joke about a bush pilot. Too juvenile. Really.)

Adventure and True Adventures were two of the men’s pulp magazines that Basil Gogos worked for regularly in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Adventure magazine started out as a classic fiction story pulp magazine in 1910.

In the early 1950s, as the market for traditional all-fiction pulps faded away, Adventure transitioned to the postwar men’s adventure pulp format and continued to be published until 1971.

True Adventures also descended from an earlier all-fiction pulp, New Detective Magazine, which was first published in 1941.

New Detective Stories went through several title and format changes in the 1950s, finally becoming the men’s adventure mag True Adventures in 1956. In that incarnation, it was published until late 1970. 

Basil Gogos created many superb Good Girl Art cover paintings for Adventure, True Adventures and other men’s adventure magazines. He also created many equally great GGA interior illustrations.

Below are two examples reprinted in Kerry Gammill’s excellent book about Gogos and his work.

Naturally, Gammill’s book focuses on the famous movie monster art Gogos is best known for. But it also includes a terrific chapter on the work Gogos did for men’s adventure magazines.

If you like Gogos’ monster or men’s adventure mag artwork, or if you’re interested in vintage illustration art in general, you definitely want to buy Gammill’s book.

I also highly recommend Ron Goulart's book Good Girl Art.

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

Further reading…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Some wild Basil Gogos paintings from the Rich Oberg Collection…


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that Rich Oberg is the world’s foremost expert on and collector of men’s adventure magazine art.

It’s the Rich Oberg Collection that’s featured in the great Taschen book about men’s adventure magazines.

Photos of original artwork and magazine covers in Rich’s collection also appear in other books that are must-haves for fans of vintage men’s magazines and pulp art, such as Volume 3 of Dian Hanson’s History of Men’s Magazines, and the lushly-illustrated books about artists Norman Saunders and Basil Gogos.

Rich has been very generous in sharing his unsurpassed knowledge of men’s pulp artists with me — and in sharing cover scans and photos of artwork from his collection.

He also occasionally posts images and comments in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group that’s associated with this blog (which is another good reason to check out the FB site, if you haven’t done so yet).

Recently, for example, Rich uploaded photos of some wild Basil Gogos paintings that he owns.

Gogos is best known for his legendary movie monster artwork. But from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, he also created many cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure magazines.

His work for the men’s pulp mags runs the gamut from “good girl art” to panoramic battle scenes.

The images Rich recently posted were examples of Gogos paintings that fit into the infamous bondage and torture subgenre of men’s adventure magazine art. (The kind of stuff that led to the nickname “men’s sweat mags.”)

Above is the original Gogos cover painting from Rich’s collection that was used for the March 1972 issue of Man’s Book magazine. It’s a classic Nazi bondage and torture scene showing scantily clad, busty babes in chains, about to be whipped (again) by Colonel Klink’s evil twin.

Below is the even wilder evil Nazi B&T painting that Gogos created for the April 1972 issue of Man’s Epic. The wicked combination of the hobbling bondage harnesses and punji-like stakes in this one are horrifically imaginative.

Another gonzo Gogos painting Rich Oberg recently posted on men’s adventure FB site shows manacled babes being menaced by a Charles Manson lookalike who’s brandishing a longshoreman’s hook.

It almost looks like the poster for a 1970s horror movie. But it’s actually the cover painting used for the November 1972 issue of World of Men magazine.

As I’ve noted here before, horror movies provide an apt analogy for understanding the appeal of the bondage and torture art and stories used by men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

You can be a fan of classic Seventies horror and psycho killer flicks, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Hills Have Eyes, or of modern “torture porn” movies, like Saw and Hostel, without being either a psycho or a fan of BDSM in the real world.

Yes, those kinds of movies show bad, evil, scary things. But they are entertaining if you’re able to appreciate them. Similarly, you can be a fan of the bondage and torture images and yarns in men’s adventure pulp mags without being a perve or a menace to society.

The original paintings shown above are cool, masterful examples of men’s adventure pulp art that have not been seen by many people.

Thanks again to Rich Oberg for making photos of them available to me and readers of the Men’s Adventure Magazines blog and Facebook group!

In my next post, I’ll show more Basil Gogos art. In the meantime, click this link and scroll down a couple of pages to see some previous posts that featured his work.

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



More recommended reading…

If you’re interested in why stories, books, movies and images dealing with bloody, evil, horrible things can be so damn fascinating and entertaining (with or without half-naked women in them), read Stephen King’s excellent non-fiction book Danse Macabre.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MAN’S ILLUSTRATED exposes “America’s Latest Sex Drug LSD – The Instant Thrill Pill.”


In an entry I posted here a while ago, I featured a wild, but apparently true story about a doctor who volunteered to be a guinea pig in some early LSD experiments in the 1950s.

It’s titled “I WENT INSANE FOR SCIENCE” and it was published in the August 1956 issue of Man’s Magazine, one of the classic men’s adventure pulp mags.

This week, I received an email about that story from Dr. Stephen Siff, an assistant professor of journalism at Miami University.

Dr. Siff is currently working on a book about media coverage of LSD in the 1950s and 1960s.

Part of his research on this trippy topic has been featured in Slate magazine and in a fascinating article Dr. Siff wrote for the scholarly publication Journalism History: “Henry Luce’s Strange Trip: Coverage of LSD in Time and Life, 1954-68.”

Dr. Siff contacted me because he’d found a fuzzy photocopy of what appeared to be a reprint of the 1956 Man’s Magazine story about LSD in the December 1961 issue of Man’s Magazine

He wanted to know if I could verify that it was in fact the same story. He also asked me if men’s pulp magazines often reused stories and if I knew of any other stories about LSD in other vintage men’s adventure mags.

The answers are yes, yes and yes.

Some of the men’s adventure magazines had relatively large circulations and production budgets, such as True, Argosy and Stag. But most did not.

To fill up an issue, budget-minded editors of many men’s pulp mags would sometimes reuse stories and artwork that had previously appeared in their own magazine or in another magazine owned by the same publishing company.

In some cases they bought reprint rights from another publisher, for a fee that was smaller than the cost of buying an original story or artwork. A few fly-by-night men’s pulp magazines simply pirated stuff that had been used in other men’s mags.

The writers and artists who provided stories, cover paintings and interior art for men’s adventure magazines typically worked without written contracts and it was usually assumed that they were selling the publishers all rights to their work, including reprint rights. This meant the publishers could reuse or sell their work with little or no additional payment.

Thus, it’s not unusual to see the same cover painting used on or in two or more men’s adventure magazines. For example, the rousing harem scene painting used on the cover of the August 1959 issue of True Adventures magazine, created by the legendary artist Mort Kunstler (though credited under his favorite pseudonym, Emmett Kaye), was later reused on the cover of the January 1963 issue of A-OK for Men.

Kunstler’s painting was used again on the cover of the April 1968 issue of Men in Adventure, then recycled as an interior illustration for a story in the July 1970 issue of Adventure for Men.

Recycled stories are also fairly common in men’s adventure mags.

Sometimes when a story was reprinted the editor would use the same title, text, byline and artwork or photos. Sometimes the editor gave the story different title or even credited it to a different author, and used different artwork or photos.

When the 1956 Man’s Magazine story about LSD was reprinted in Man’s December 1961 issue, a few changes were made.

On the cover of the 1961 issue (which features a cover painting by Mel Crair) the story is promoted with a different teaser cover headline: “THE DRUG THAT TURNS MEN INTO MANIACS.” And, the 1961 version of the article uses a different, much scarier photograph for the first two pages (a totally unrelated stock photo that seems to show some poor mental patient being smothered).

But the interior title and text used for the 1956 and 1961 versions of “I WENT INSANE FOR SCIENCE” are the same. And, both versions credit the story to “Dr. Robert H---- as told to William Michelfelder.” (Dr. Robert H---- preferred to remain anonymous.)

William Michelfelder was a serious journalist who primarily wrote for the New York World-Telegram and Sun. His story about LSD focuses on the way it was being used in psychiatric research in the 1950s. At that time — and even in 1961 when the story was reprinted — public awareness of LSD was not widespread.

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that LSD started becoming famous/infamous as a recreational drug. In the mid- to late Sixties, public awareness (and use) began increasing steadily, thanks to the promotional efforts of and news about pioneering acid heads like Dr. Timothy Leary and his Harvard buddy Dr. Richard Alpert (later known as Baba Ram Dass) and the psychedelic explosion of the hippie counterculture movement.

The July 1964 issue of Man’s Illustrated includes a sensationalized pre-hippie era story that gives a whiff of things to come. The cover touts it as a “Sizzling Expose of AMERICA’S NEWEST SEX DRUG – LSD .”

Inside, the story is illustrated with a cool photo, altered by hand to look, um, hallucinatory. And, the title is expanded to: “Sizzling Expose of America’s Latest Sex Drug LSD – THE INSTANT THRILL PILL.” 

This 1964 article not only reflects changes in the awareness and use of LSD. It also reflects changes that were taking place in men’s adventure magazines.

By the mid-1960s, men’s pulp mags were ratcheting up the raciness of their sex-related stories and cheesecake photos as they tried to compete with the more explicit men’s bachelor slicks, like Playboy, Modern Man, Rogue and dozens of others.

So, while the 1964 Man’s Illustrated article does include some generally accurate background information about LSD, the focus was how it was being used by the idle rich, beatniks and other weirdos to enhance their sexual experiences and fuel orgies.

It starts with an anecdote about a pool party in Beverly Hills. Some “handsome young men skin-tight trunks” and some “healthy, hyper-bosom, bikini clad animals of the fairer sex” get high on acid-soaked sugar cubes. When the LSD kicks in, there is “a rapid and indiscriminate pairing off of men and women.”

One couple begins to “tear at each other’s meager clothing in a frenzy of sexual excitement.” Others carry on in similar fashion.

Meanwhile, an “unusually well-endowed wench strides out to the end of the low board and dramatically rips off her own bikini top, doing a complete circle for all to see her magnificent body. That done, she begins to untie her panties, screaming out: ‘Anybody here man enough to claim me?’”

Later in the story, author Joseph Andrews (who I could find nothing about), makes LSD sound like a cross between Viagra and Spanish Fly. He writes:

“Physically, a person’s sexuality becomes almost limitless — and enjoyable in the extreme — which is one of the reasons why a male LSD user’s potency may last for hours and why a female may often be capable and desirous of having a seemingly endless series of relationships, while under the influence of the drugs.”

Nobody around to have sex with with? No problem.

According to the article, the “sexual effect often is so intense that a person taking the drug can be thrown into orgiastic spasms of fantastic duration — all this without the aid of a partner.”

But wait a minute there, bub! In case you’re starting to think LSD sounds like a good thing, forget about it.

The article duly notes that distribution of LSD was made illegal by federal regulations in October 1962. It also cites police reports saying that LSD was being used as a date rape drug.

Even worse, LSD could make you stop liking sex! “Some people who have used the drug, even under proper supervision, have actually lost interest in sex,” it says.

The article ends by noting that LSD can also cause a few other problems. You know, things like psychosis and memory loss.

So, remember kids, just say, um — what was I talking about? I forget. Damn you, Owsley!

If you’d like to read the Man’s Illustrated article about “LSD – THE INSTANT THRILL PILL,” just click this link to download the entire story in PDF format. (Yer welcome.)

By the way, the action-filled World War II cover painting on the July 1964 issue of Man’s Illustrated was painted by Basil Gogos. Gogos is best known for his classic movie monster paintings, immortalized on the covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. But he also provided many cover paintings and interior illos to vintage men’s magazines.

In my next post, I’ll show you some original Basil Gogos cover paintings from Rich Oberg’s incredible collection of men’s adventure magazine art.

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

Further reading…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Talking about Ernest Hemingway, then and now...


This week, two things reminded me of one of my favorite books of the past year, All Man! – Hemingway, 1950s Men's Magazines, and the Masculine Persona by Dr. David M. Earle.

The first reminder was a the copy of the February 1956 issue of TRUE magazine that I bought on eBay.

It’s the 20th Anniversary Issue of TRUE and it features a great cover painting of Ernest Hemingway by artist Charles Everett Rowe.

Rowe’s portrait goes with a “bonus book-lengther” about Hemingway, who was at the height of his fame at the time.

On the cover, this story is promoted with the title “HEMINGWAY, ROGUE MALE.” (I assume that’s supposed to be a rogue male elephant in the background of Rowe’s painting.)

Inside, the story is titled “WHO THE HELL IS ERNEST HEMINGWAY?”

The subtitle blurb on the story’s first page describes it as: “An astonishing and intimate portrait of America’s great soldier of fortune by his friends and his enemies: Sidney Franklin...Marlene Dietrich...Leonard Lyons...John O’Hara...Spruille Braden...Robert Capa...Mary Hemingway...Edward Scott... and many others.”

In “The Editor Speaking” department, TRUE editor Douglas S. Kennedy gushes:

“The guy grinning crookedly at you from this month’s cover portrait is, I think, a fitting symbol for this TRUE milestone. Of all men, living or dead, Ernest Hemingway stands for much of what we, at TRUE, admire. Hemingway represents a hairy-chested maleness, an irreverence for the conventional, a dislike of the traditional. He is, truly, a rogue male.

Hemingway’s world is inhabited by beautiful dames (Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and four wives, to mention a few). It is also inhabited by rugged guys: boxers, baseball players, soldiers-of-fortune (and misfortune). Hemingway hobnobs with nabobs — and bums. Hemingway hunts big game in Africa, catches big fish in the Caribbean (and drinks like them, too), and is a roving reporter of the violence of our times — from wars to bullfights.”

That’s actually a good description of the Ernest Hemingway’s image in the minds of many editors and readers of men’s adventure and bachelor magazines in the 1950s. It was a larger-than-life persona that was part real, part myth, part PR and part BS.

Looking back on the cultural attitudes of mid-20th Century America, it seems fitting that Ernest Hemingway’s public nickname was “Papa.”

He was the über-Dad of the Fifties, the iconic he-man who showed us guys how to be manly, through his writings, his lifestyle, his exploits and his image.

Six years after the 20th Anniversary Issue of TRUE was published, “Papa” Hemingway killed himself with one of the shotguns he had used to kill big game. His final wife, Mary, initially claimed it was an accident. But it was soon revealed to be suicide.

Most of the many stories about and by Hemingway that appeared in men’s bachelor and adventure magazines were published in the decade before his death and the few years after.

Dr. David Earle’s fascinating book All Man! traces the development of Hemingway’s public persona as viewed through the lens of those magazines.

The second thing that reminded me of that book this week was seeing a TV interview with Earle that was posted on his All Man! Facebook page.

It’s a half hour show done for WSRE. That’s the local PBS affiliate in Pensacola, where Earle teaches courses on modern literature at the University of West Florida.

During the course of the interview, Earle provides an interesting overview of the facts and insights about Hemingway, American culture and vintage men’s magazines that are in All Man!

I’ve posted a link to the show at right for your viewing enjoyment.

And, in case you missed the older posts on this blog that are based on my own interview with Dr. Earle, here are links to those...

An interview with David M. Earle, author of the new book All Man! Hemingway…

Talking with Dr. David M. Earle about men’s magazines…

By the way, I was unable to find any information about artist Charles Everett Rowe except for a few mentions of the fact that he painted the Hemingway portrait for the February 1956 issue of TRUE. If you know anything about him, please drop me a line.

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

Further reading, viewing and listening…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting manly and “Living the Gay Life” with AMERICAN MANHOOD magazine


American Manhood was an interestingly schizophrenic and unique men’s pulp magazine.

It combined elements of a bodybuilder magazine, a men’s adventure mag and a gay-oriented male pin-up mag.

As I noted in a previous post here, American Manhood was conceived by the famed bodybuilder and fitness icon Josef E. “Joe” Weider.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the publishing company owned by Joe and his brother Ben — Weider Publications Inc. — published magazines in each of the genres that were mixed together in American Manhood.

Those two “Brothers of Iron” are best known as pioneers of the modern bodybuilding and fitness industry. But they were also pioneers in the realm of magazine publishing.

They published some of the first modern bodybuilding and fitness magazines, and some of the first and best post-WWII men’s bachelor and adventure pulp magazines. They even published a few vintage male model mags that appealed primarily to gay men.

The Weider magazine American Manhood didn’t fit snugly into any of those categories. It was an odd hybrid.

Consider, for example, the strange combination of stories, photos and ads in the May 1953 issue.

There’s a manly western adventure “book-length” story, “The Magic Door Of Llano Estacado” by Robert A. Cutter. This yarn glamorizing buffalo hunters has a nice illustration by artist G. Don Ray, who created artwork for various men’s magazines and mystery digests in the 1950s, as well as for The Official Boy Scout Handbook.

There’s also a manly African safari article by Tromp Van Diggelen, a famed white weightlifting champ and strongman from South Africa who was billed as “The South African Hercules.”

Like Ernest Hemingway and other iconic he-men of the Fifties, Diggelen liked to slaughter, er, I mean hunt big game. His story in American Manhood tells us about the various animals he killed, with the help of his big guns and a crew of native “kaffirs” (the South African N-word).

Following Diggelen’s article is another manly piece by American bodybuilding champion Clarence “Clancy” Ross, titled “You Don’t Have To Be Weak And Underweight.” (That’s right, you wimps, you too can get pumped up if you make the effort.)

Also in this issue is a photo spread and how-to piece of historic interest that features George Paine, titled “How You Can Broaden Your Shoulders.”

Paine was one of the first black bodybuilding champions, and Joe and Ben Weider were among the first bodybuilding contest sponsors to let blacks compete.

There’s an interesting mention of this in the online article “How Joe and Ben Weider Became the Founding Fathers of Bodybuilding.” It notes:

When Joe and Ben created their first bodybuilding competitions way back in the 1940s, they also broke race taboos that permeated American culture in general and American sports in particular.

“The Weiders liberalized bodybuilding at a time when black athletes were shunned from competition,” explains Leroy Colbert, the first black Mr. America. “Before that, the competitions were very prejudiced and unfair, and if you were black, you were not allowed to win. But when Joe and Ben began organizing, they said ‘If you’re the best, you’re going to win. We don’t care what color you are.’”

By opening the door for black and Hispanics in bodybuilding, Colbert maintains, the Weiders were the first to apply true sportsmanship to bodybuilding.

One or more ads for Weider bodybuilding equipment, nutritional supplements or books can usually found in most vintage men’s pulp magazines.

In American Manhood, the majority of the ads were for Weider products, like the two below.

However, unlike most men’s pulp mags, which also featured ads for stag films, nude photos of female models and heterosexually-oriented books and sex aids, the only ads in American Manhood that had sex appeal were geared toward gay men, like these ads for male beefcake photos…

As I noted in my previous post about American Manhood, Joe Weider had no problem with homosexuality. He wasn’t gay. But he also wasn’t homophobic.

By the way, back in the 1950s, the term “gay” was not the common term used to refer to someone who is homosexual.

That’s why the article in the May 1953 issue of American Manhood that’s titled “Living The Gay Life” is not a jokey double entendre. In fact, it’s an article about a very manly American military veteran who became the “dean of American weight training instructors” — Art Gay.  

This profile of Gay was written by Barton Horvath, one of many bodybuilders who had a long association with the Weider brothers. Horvath was featured on the cover of the fist issue of the Weiders’ first magazine, Your Physique, in August 1940. He later wrote articles for Your Physique and several other Weider bodybuilding mags, such as Muscle Builder and Muscle Power, as well as for their hybrid mag American Manhood.

Some of the articles in American Manhood suggest that teenage boys and young men in their early twenties were among the key target audiences.

The May 1953 issue included advice-style pieces like “You Can Become An Athlete” and “So You Want To Be A Marine!” My special favorite is the breathless article "SHOULD TEENAGERS PET?" by Dr. A. Michaels.

In case you’re wondering, the answer is exactly what your parents told you — “No!!!”

As summed up by the editor’s blurb for this helpful article: “If YOU think it’s smart for youngsters to pet then read this doctor’s views. This article may save you from ruining your life!”

Naturally, guys who are into bodybuilding, whether straight or gay, like photos of bodybuilders. And, American Manhood had plenty of them.

Below are some examples from the May ‘53 issue that were printed as lush duotones. From left to right, they feature bodybuilders Guy Higgens, Malcom Brenner and Alan Stephan.

The excellent, vaguely homoerotic cover painting used for the May 1953 issue of American Manhood was done by the talented pulp artist Peter Poulton.

An editorial blurb on the contents page says the lifesaving scene in his painting is: “Dedicated to the valiant men of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, who serve our country in time of war and peace, with total disregard to their own safety!”

Poulton provided the cover art for all 12 (or so) issues of American Manhood that were published from late 1952 to 1954.

He also did some cover paintings for the Weider magazine Mr. America during the brief period in the early Fifties when it used pulp-style painted covers.

But he is better known for his science fiction cover and interior art.

According to Robert Weinberg’s excellent Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, Poulton provided artwork to Astounding Science Fiction, Fantastic Story Quarterly, Future, Science Fiction Magazine, Science Fiction Quarterly, Space Stories, Space Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Wonder Stories Annual and other vintage sci-fi magazines in the 1950s.

He also did cover art for science fiction books, such as Earthbound (1952) by Milton Lesser.

In the near future, I’ll give you my review of Lawrence Abbott’s new biography of “Jungle Jane” Dolinger, the unique adventuress, author and pinup model I’ve featured in some previous posts on this blog.

In the meantime, get in shape you girlie men!

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