Our books on Amazon: the MEN'S ADVENTURE LIBRARY series...

Our books on Amazon: the MEN'S ADVENTURE LIBRARY series...
Click the image above for more information about our anthologies of men's adventure magazine stories and artwork

Monday, December 19, 2011

MAN’S MAGAZINE, February 1954 – the legendary “painting vs. photo” market test...


Cool cover paintings are one of the defining characteristics of the men’s adventure magazines that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s — and a primary reason why they are popular collectors’ items today.

Of course, painted covers were common on all types of magazines prior to 1950. But during the Fifties most switched to using photos on their covers.

There are several reasons why men’s adventure magazines held out against that trend until the late Sixties.

For one thing, like the vintage science fiction pulp magazines pulp magazines of the same era, which are also known for their great painted covers, men’s pulp mags featured wild fiction stories and equally over-the-top “true” stories that were best illustrated (or could only be illustrated) with imaginative artwork.

Trying to create photos of scenes in many of those stories would be impossible or end up looking totally lame compared to the images talented pulp artists could create.

In addition, despite how politically incorrect some men’s adventure cover paintings seem now (think scantily-clad damsels being shredded by vicious killer creatures or bound and tortured by non-white natives or demented Nazis) they were generally of less concern to official and self-appointed censors of the Fifties and Sixties than (gasp!) nude photos on or in men’s magazines.

The Taschen book MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES notes:

“Illustrations had always had more leeway than photographs, because classical painters and sculptors had depicted nudes; thus, a painting of a bound woman in panties being whipped by a Nazi on the cover of REAL MEN was deemed less offensive than a nude centerfold.”

That ironic observation comes from the first chapter, an excellent historical overview of the genre aptly titled “Blood, Sweat, and Tits.”

In that chapter there’s also a mention of an interesting market test that happened in 1954.

The test revealed one other simple reason why the classic men’s adventure magazines used painted covers: most of the men who bought men’s pulp mags preferred them.

As explained in the Taschen book:

IMPACT and some other magazines ran occasional photo covers, but an experiment by STAG competitor MAN’S MAGAZINE in 1954 put an end to that. It produced its February issue with two covers: one a painting of an explorer confronting a tribe of Australian bushmen, the other a pinup photo of Eve Meyer (pneumatic bride of photographer and filmmaker Russ Meyer). Strangely enough, the explorer outsold the lovely Eve, and most he-man magazine publishers stuck to cover paintings for nearly two decades.”

Until recently, I only owned the Eve Meyer version of the February 1954 issue of MAN’S.

But a while ago, during my visit with the renowned men’s pulp art collector Rich Oberg at his home in Tennessee, Rich graciously gave me a copy of the painted cover version. (I returned the favor by giving Rich a MensPulpMags.com t-shirt that features one of the awesome John Duillo cover paintings he owns.)

MAN’S MAGAZINE was one of the earliest and longest-lasting men’s adventure magazines. It was first published in October 1952 and ran until October 1976 (though in its final years it was more a soft-core porn mag than an adventure mag).

Initially MAN’S was published bimonthly in an oversize 10" x 13.25" format. All of the first eight issues published in 1952 and 1953 had painted covers. 

MAN’S was reasonably successful during its first year-and-a-half. But by 1954 the editors wanted to find out if showing “cheesecake” photos of female models and actresses on the cover might attract more readers.

I suspect that question arose due to the recent popularity of pin-up magazines like MODERN MAN, which also began publication in 1952, and the huge splash made by the premiere issue of PLAYBOY in December of 1953.

On the contents page of MAN’S February 1954 issue, the editors explained the painting vs. photo market test this way:

“WHAT KIND of a cover does a man like to see on Man’s Magazine — a stirring adventure scene painted in vivid colors or a true-to-life photograph of a bewitching woman? That’s a question that’s been giving us grey hair for a year, and now we’re putting the decision up to you. In order to determine your preference, we’re publishing this February 1954 issue with not one but two covers! Half the press run bears an exciting painting in full color illustrating the story Naked Devils and Black Magic, which starts on page 10. The other half of this issue has a terrific Kodachrome cover of luscious Eve Meyer of San Francisco (see photo left). She’s the second in our series on America's Unpublicized Beauties, and you’ll find Frisco's Marilyn Monroe in three fetching dimensions on page 13. You'll find photographs of both covers above the contents on the right. Which cover do you like best? How about dropping us a line (a postcard is fine!) casting your vote for your favorite and telling us the type of cover you’d like to see on future issues of Man’s Magazine.”

It took a while for the results to become clear to the editors. They appear to have mistakenly assumed that the photo version would sell better and be more popular with MAN’S readers, since the April and June 1954 issues of MAN’S had a photo of a shapely woman on the cover.

But by the summer of 1954, feedback from readers convinced the MAN’S editors to go back to cover paintings.

The August 1954 features a terrific action painting of a man in a special firefighting suit engulfed in flames, as he combats a raging oil well fire. From then until 1969, MAN’S featured paintings on its covers.

By the late 1960s, PLAYBOY-style magazines and harder-core porn mags were dominating the men’s magazine market. At that point, MAN’S and most other men’s adventure magazines that were still being published stopped using cover paintings and switched to sexy photo covers and increasingly-explicit inside photo spreads to try to stay in business.

However, this simply turned them into copycat porn mags and delayed their demise for a few more years. By the mid-Seventies, the men’s adventure magazine genre had essentially disappeared.

In the next post, I’ll give you a closer look at the stories inside the legendary February 1954 issue of MAN’S MAGAZINE.

By the way, I recently added a complete, high resolution PDF copy of that issue in my Payloadz store. You can download it for $2.99. Your purchase will give you a virtual copy of a men’s adventure magazine issue that is very hard to find in print — and it will also help keep this blog alive.

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


NOW AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

The February 1954 issue of MAN’S MAGAZINE, with both the painting and photo covers and all interior pages, in high-resolution, searchable PDF format, for only $2.99.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

REAL men read “REAL” men’s adventure magazines...


The men’s adventure magazine genre that developed after World War II mixed elements from several other popular genres into a unique blend.

Their action-oriented cover paintings and fiction stories were clearly inspired by the all-fiction pulp magazines published from the early 1900s to the 1950s.

But unlike the classic pulps, which focused on publishing fiction stories, the men’s adventure mags included various types of “true stories.”

Some of those stories were fairly straightforward history, news, advice and how-to articles.

Others were sensationalized stories similar to those in the lurid true crime and detective magazines and the celebrity gossip and scandal periodicals that became popular in the 1940s and 1950s (pioneered by Robert Harrison’s infamous CONFIDENTIAL magazine).

As in those envelope-pushing magazines, “true stories” in men’s pulp mags often had a very tenuous basis in reality.

Many were essentially works of fiction that were given an air of reality through the use of “as told to” bylines, phony quotes, staged photos and stock photos. (A good example posted here a while ago is Robert F. Dorr’s story “BEHIND THE SCENES OF BUDAPEST’S SEX REVOLT”.)

The guys who read men’s pulp mags in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s obviously liked amped-up, over-the-top “real” war, action, adventure and exposé stories. Along with cool pulp art, pulpy fiction yarns and cheesecake photos, those stories gave men’s adventure magazines their own unique character and appeal.

That’s one reason why many men’s adventure magazines have the word “real” or “true” in their titles or subtitles.

For example, two of the best and longest-lasting postwar men’s pulp magazines were REAL, published from 1952 to 1967, and REAL MEN, which ran from 1956 to 1974.

REAL — subtitled “the exciting magazine FOR MEN” — was initially published by Literary Enterprises (from 1952 to about 1959), then by Excellent Publications in the early 1960s, followed by PAR Publications and finally by Arizill Realty and Publishing.

The great skin diver vs. shark cover painting used for the September 1953 issue of REAL shown at the beginning of this post was done by artist Ray Johnson.

The wild croc attack painting on the cover of the October 1959 issue (above) was done by Maurice Thomas.

REAL’s competitor REAL MEN was published by Stanley Publications, one of the companies owned by the pioneering comic book and men’s pulp mag publisher Stanley Morse.

The highly talented and prolific illustrator Victor “Vic” Prezio created the pulpy, eye-grabbing exotic adventure painting featured on the cover of the March 1959 issue of REAL MEN, shown at left.

There were also several shorter-lived men’s adventure magazines that used the word “real” in their titles.

One was REAL ACTION, published from April to November of 1957 by Normandy Associates, another Stanley Morse company.

The artist who painted the very politically incorrect Nazi bondage and torture scene for the August 1963 REAL ACTION cover (shown below) is uncredited.

Another “real” mag was REAL ADVENTURE. It was published by Hillman Periodicals, Inc. from early 1955 to late 1958. The cover of the July 1958 issue features another great painting by Vic Prezio, this time with a man as the bondage and torture victim and a fierce-looking African as the torturer.

REAL COMBAT STORIES, which ran from the fall of 1963 to early in 1972, was put out by the Reese Publishing company. Reese was owned by B. R. “Bud” Ampolsk and Maurice Rosenfield, who also owned EmTee Publications (another company that published men’s adventure magazines).

The unusual above-and-below water scene on the January 1970 issue (below) was done by an uncredited artist.

The men’s adventure magazine REAL LIFE ADVENTURES was published by Vista Publications, Inc.

Vista was one of Martin Goodman’s many companies, which included the venerable Magazine Management and other companies in the “Atlas/Diamond” group of men’s postwar pulp mags. Unlike some of Goodman’s decade-spanning men’s adventure magazines — such as STAG, MALE, MEN, and FOR MEN ONLY — REAL LIFE ADVENTURES failed to find a widespread audience and only lasted for about five issues, published in 1957 and 1958. The painting on the cover of the October 1957 issue, shown above, is by Jim Bentley.

Finally, for men who just couldn’t get enough war stories, there was the magazine REAL WAR, in which virtually every story was indeed related to some aspect of war.

I featured my favorite issue of REAL WAR here a while ago: the futuristic October 1958 Special Issue about “THE WAR IN SPACE! It has yet another great Vic Prezio cover painting.

Getting back to “reality,” you may have noticed that most of the story titles you see on the covers of the men’s adventure magazines that have “real” in their titles do not sound like stories you’d find in mainstream history, travel or news magazines.

For that kind of reality, stick to AMERICAN HERITAGE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and NEWSWEEK.

If you want reality on steroids, with an LSD chaser, there’s nothing quite like the surreal “reality” of vintage men’s adventure magazines.

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

Some books to put on your Christmas wish list…


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bruce Minney Interview, Part 3 - From battle scenes and biker babes to African violet pots...


In case you missed them, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of my interview with Bruce Minney, one of the top illustration artists who did cover and interior paintings for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

Below is the third and final post in the series…

Bruce, my impression is that men’s adventure magazines were important markets for many illustration artists from the mid-Fifties to the early Seventies, as mainstream magazines increasingly used photos for their covers and interior pages.

BRUCE: Yeah, that’s true. A lot of the mainstream magazines that once used a lot of illustration art, like McCall’s and Saturday Evening Post, were switching to photos or just folding up and going out of business. Of course, those were the kinds of magazines I really wanted to work for when I moved from California to New York in 1955.

But the trend was against you.

BRUCE: Yeah, it was. But the men’s adventure magazine kept a lot of illustrators going.

It’s really pretty amazing how many great illustration artists worked for the men’s pulp mags. You, Mort Kunstler, Norman Saunders, Basil Gogos, Syd Shores, Charles Copeland, Rudy Nappi, Earl Norem, Samson Pollen, Vic Prezio, Robert Schulz, Norm Eastman, John Duillo, Gil Cohen, James Bama

BRUCE: Is Jim Bama still alive?

Yes, the last I knew he was alive and well and living in Wyoming, still doing his famous Western art.

BRUCE: That guy, he could paint like God. Especially his Western art. My God!

Did you ever hang out with Jim?

BRUCE: No. We met each other once while we were waiting to see Larry Graber, the Art Director for Magazine Management at their office in New York. I remember Jim told me how much he admired my work, which floored me. He may just have been being nice. That’s the only time I saw him.

I’m not surprised that Bama admired your work. Today I’d say you’re viewed as being right up there in the top tier of illustration artists that worked for the men’s adventure magazines by people who know the genre.

BRUCE: Well, thank you very much.

When you were working for the men’s adventure mags, how many paintings would you do in a month?

BRUCE: Two, usually. There was a lot of time involved. You had to do the sketches, then go in and get them approved by the art director, then you had to get your models and photograph them, then get your film developed and your prints made, and then do the painting. And, after that, you had to bring the painting in to the art director and then do changes on it if they wanted any. Sometimes it was just small things, but it added more time to the process. [Bruce chuckles.] I remember that I’m still kind of mad at Larry Graber for a change he made me come in and do once. He was a nice guy, but he called me in one day to change a thumb nail on a guy’s hand in one of my illustrations. I think he was pissed off at something else, but he was taking it out on me, ‘cause I was such a nice guy. [He chuckles again.]

Could you tell me a little bit about the types media you used for your illustrations? Did you normally use watercolors and gouache, like many illustration artists did back then?

BRUCE: Yes, I did. And, I also used casein for a number of years. It’s sort of like using watercolors, but when it hardens, it hardens like a rock. I guess it’s a lot like egg tempera, but it’s milk based. Casein was very big at one time. 

Casein paint was sort of displaced by acrylics.

BRUCE: Yes. And, of course, I used acrylics, too. Later in my career, for paperback covers, I’d start a painting with watercolors and then go over it with acrylics, and then go over that with oils. The watercolors were very thin, and the acrylics were thin. And, the oils would cover up all the brush strokes from the acrylics.

You would use all three in one painting?

BRUCE: Uh-huh. For paperback cover paintings. Some of the paperback company art directors would take a magnifying glass and go over the entire painting and if they saw a brush stroke they would call you in to get rid of it. They wanted it to be very photographic. So, that was kind of a pain. Oh, and I used a projector, by the way, as a lot of illustration artists did for both magazine and paperback covers back then. I would sketch in the figures just lightly on the illustration board, and the landscape in the back. Then I put photos of the models on the projector and projected them on the board. And, sometimes, if I had a landscape, I’d project a landscape photo.

Did you keep many of the paintings you did for men’s adventure magazines?

BRUCE: I did for a period of time. But then I was moving around, you know, from coast to coast. And, they just got to be a bigger load, and a bigger load, I thought what the hell am I saving all of these for? They aren’t gonna be worth anything. So I threw them all away.

You did? Omigod! You literally threw them away?

BRUCE: Yeah. It didn’t seem worth carrying them around all over the country at the time. I guess there would have been three or four hundred of them. And, they’re heavy, you know. They’re on illustration board. So, anyway, I threw away the ones I had picked up and saved. 

Do you remember what year it was when you threw them away?

BRUCE: Around 1981, when I moved from New Jersey to California.

Gil Cohen told me a story like that when I interviewed him, [See Part 3 of my interview with Cohen.] In the 1970s, he got tired of storing the hundreds of paintings he’d done for men’s adventure magazines, so he put them up for sale in a bin in his brother’s hardware store in Philadelphia and sold them for a fraction of what they’d be worth today.

BRUCE: I did something like that, too, before I threw mine away. I took my family and a bunch of illustrations down to Atlantic City. We had kind of a picnic day on the boardwalk. And, I put a bunch of my paintings in bins and sold them cheap. People were buying them for $3 to $5 each.

Maybe some of your paintings that show up on Heritage Auctions and eBay come from that.

BRUCE: Maybe. But I didn’t sell that many in Atlantic City. So, I always wonder where most of those paintings come from. Who first put them on the market? Was it the people who worked at Magazine Management? Did they take home the ones that I didn’t pick up and keep?

Could be. My friend Rich Oberg, who owns the largest collection of original men’s adventure magazine paintings in the world, has dozens of your cover and interior paintings. I think he got most of them from a few art dealers who specialize in illustration art and from the Heritage Auctions site.

BRUCE: I sold a few of my illustrations that I had kept on Heritage Auctions. It’s funny that the racy ones are the ones that people want the most now.

Recently, I saw one of your battle scene cover paintings being sold by Grapefruit Moon Gallery online. It was used on the cover of the July 1973 issue of ADVENTURE FOR MEN, for a story TITLED “I NAILED THE NAZIS FROM A GALLOPING GOOSE.”

BRUCE: Yeah, my daughter Carole and her husband Tom told me they saw that one on the Internet. I didn’t remember that one until they showed it to me.

It’s a great battle scene, done as a black and blue duotone. It’s actually one of the few duotones I’ve seen that was used as a cover painting. Bruce, I know that you did a lot of paperback cover paintings in the 1980s after the men’s adventure genre disappeared and you moved back to California. Did you keep painting into the 1990s?

BRUCE: Some. But in the Nineties, even a lot the paperbacks started using photographs or just raised lettering on their covers. So, that work kind of dried up, too. And, there were so many illustrators out there, hungry for work. In fact, I remember it got so bad that sometimes the publishers wouldn’t pay you for a long time. I did a job once and they didn’t pay me for six months. Six months later they pay you. After you put out money for models and did all the work. And, when that happened I said that was the end, I’m not doing this anymore. Anyway, around 1993, I moved to Florida, near Daytona Beach. Then I went into ceramics. I did that for about ten years, doing these tent shows.

How did you get started doing ceramics?

BRUCE: I had taken a class in ceramics in California, before I moved to Florida. And, I came up with this wonderful design for African violet pots. They were pretty special.

Your son-in-law Tom Ziegler sent me a photo of one. It’s really gorgeous.

BRUCE: Oh, yes. People were eating them up. I sold thousands of them. All over the world people have my African violet pots. [He laughs.] I had people buying them from Japan, France, Germany. Even Greenland, once. And, that was profitable for some years. But I quit that after about ten years and I’m not doing it now. Now I’m doing some fine art paintings and collages.

What kind of subjects?

BRUCE: Well, I’m doing people, figures, mainly.

Do you have a website for your new art?

BRUCE: No, not yet. But Tom and my daughter Carole are working on it. They take good care of me.

I’ll look forward to seeing that and will post a notice about it when it’s up and running. Tom told me he did recently create page showing some of your new collages on the etsy.com website and they are very cool. Well, it has been a great pleasure and honor to talk with you, Bruce. Thank you very much!

BRUCE: It was nice talking to you, Bob.

Thanks again to Bruce Minney, to his son-in-law Tom Ziegler for setting up the interview and sending me photos of Bruce, his ceramics and his recent artwork, and to my friend Rich Oberg for the photos of the original paintings he owns and the cover scans that go with them.

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

In the MensPulpMags.com Payloadz store:



WORLD OF MEN, December 1964

Featuring Bruce Minney’s wild
“Nazi rat torture” cover painting for the story “SOFT FLESH FOR THE NAZIS’ FANGED DOOM.”

A digitized copy of the complete magazine, in high resolution PDF format for only $3.99.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Bruce Minney Interview– Part 2: “Sweat Magazines,” paperbacks and beyond...


In the first part of my interview with Bruce Minney, he told me how he got started doing cover and interior art for men’s adventure magazines in 1955, after linking up with Magazine Management.

Magazine Management is the umbrella name often used to refer to what was actually a set of companies owned by Martin Goodman, the pioneering publisher who also founded the comic book company that became Marvel Comics.

Mag Management and its associated companies, such as Atlas Magazines, Inc., Vista Publications and Official Magazine Corp., put out a long list of classic men’s pulp mags from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s.

They included many of the best known, longest lasting men’s adventure magazines, like STAG, FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MAN’S WORLD and MEN, as well as many lesser known and shorter lived titles like ACTION LIFE, ADVENTURE LIFE, ADVENTURE TRAILS, BATTLEFIELD, COMPLETE MAN, FISHING ADVENTURES, HUNTING ADVENTURES, KEN FOR MEN, MEN IN ACTION, REAL LIFE ADVENTURES, SPORT LIFE, SPORTSMAN, TRUE ACTION and WAR.

Minney was one of a group of talented artists that Magazine Management used on a regular basis in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Those regulars included illustration luminaries like Mort Kunstler, Gil Cohen, James Bama, Charles Copeland, Rudy Nappi, Earl Norem, Samson Pollen, Vic Prezio and Robert Schulz. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Minney also began doing covers for the more lurid “sweat magazine” subgenre.

That’s the subgenre of men’s adventure magazines best known for featuring politically-incorrect bondage and torture cover paintings, particularly “Naziploitation” (aka “Nazisploitation”) style covers showing Nazi soldiers torturing semi-nude damsels in distress or Nazi dominatrix characters torturing American GIs.

Sweat magazines with cover paintings by Bruce Minney, Norm Eastman, John Duillo, Basil Gogos, Norman Saunders, Syd Shores and Vic Prezio are now among the most highly sought men’s adventure magazines among collectors.

In recent bidding battles I’ve seen on eBay, some issues have sold for $150 or more. And, the rare, surviving original paintings used for sweat magazine covers now sell for thousands in art auctions.

In my conversation with Bruce, I asked him how he got started doing sweat mag covers...

BRUCE: Well, sometime in the Sixties I started getting jobs from the publisher who did a lot of the magazines with all the girls tortured by Nazis and stuff like that. I can’t remember the name of that outfit.

I think most of the sweat mag covers you did were for magazines published by Reese Publishing Co. and Emtee Publications, Inc. Reese and Emtee were both owned by B.R. “Bud” Ampolsk and Maurice Rosenfield. Their companies published many of the most famous sweat magazines that had a lot of “Naziploitation” covers, like MAN’S BOOK, MAN’S EPIC, MAN’S STORY, MEN TODAY, NEW MAN, REAL COMBAT and WORLD OF MEN.

BRUCE: Yeah, that’s right. That’s them.

Norm Eastman is particularly known for the cover paintings he did for Reese and Emtee magazines. Did you know Norm?

BRUCE: Yes, I knew Norm Eastman quite well. I used to shoot photos of models up in his apartment sometimes. I also used to have a studio with another artist who did a lot of work for those same magazines, John Duillo. At one point, John and I had a studio where we just shot pictures of models. That’s all we did up there. It  was across the street from the Flatiron Building. You know that John’s wife was an illustrator, too, right?   

Yes. Elaine Duillo. She’s great. There’s been speculation among collectors of men’s adventure art that Elaine may have painted some of the men’s adventure magazine illustrations that were credited to John.

BRUCE: No, I don’t think she did. She was a top notch illustrator. She was kind of way above that. Oh, wait a minute! [He laughs.] I guess that doesn’t sound good for guys like me and John, does it? Anyway, John used to work for the photographer Robert Scott in the darkroom. That’s where I met him. John used to develop my pictures during my early years as an illustrator, when I was using Scott to take my model photos, before I started doing my own model photography.

Did you meet Norm Eastman through Bud Ampolsk and Maurice Rosenfield?

BRUCE: Yeah, I think I may have first met Norm at their offices. Bud was the guy I dealt with there. One of the things I remember about him is that he once told me he wanted the women I painted to be more “sausage-like.”

Sausage-like?

BRUCE: Yeah, I was doing long, slender women that I thought looked hot. But Bud said he liked them a bit fatter and shorter. He said, “Can you make them look more like sausages?” I said, “Uh, sure.” But I didn’t.

Did you enjoy doing paintings for the Reese and Emtee sweat magazines?

BRUCE: No, I’m not into torture. Sorry.

Hah! OK. Let me put it this way: did you find them to be so over-the-top that they seemed humorous to you then, like they do a lot of people now in retrospect?

BRUCE: No, it was very serious business. We were really torturing those girls. [He chuckles.]

There’s an interview with Norm Eastman in the first edition of the book MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES [the 2004 softcover edition with the scorpion cover]. In that, Norm said he used to brainstorm torture methods with Bud Ampolsk. Did you do that?

BRUCE: No, I never brainstormed with Bud. I’d just come in and he’d say can you do this or that. He’d give me a situation.

What would he say to describe a scene?

BRUCE:
Well, I’m looking at a cover I did for him right now in a book in front of me. It has been attributed to Norm Eastman sometimes, but it’s mine. It’s the one with the rats. The bad guy has a patch over his eye, the Nazi Commander. He’s letting the rats out of the cage, and the girls are tied up to a stake, arms above their heads, and these rats are running around.

Oh yeah, that was used on the cover of the December 1964 issue of WORLD OF MEN. That’s a wild cover painting. How would Bud explain something like to you?

BRUCE: He would just say: “Can you do a Nazi releasing rats with some girls tied to a stake, with their hands over their heads?” So, I did that, and I put a Nazi flag in the back and a guard with a machine gun.

Did you give Bud a sketch before you did a painting for him?

BRUCE: Yes, I did.

How many assignments did Bud give you at a time?

BRUCE: One. Then I’d make some sketches. I’d bring those in and after he OKed them I’d go shoot photos of my models. Then I’d do the paintings at home. I wish I’d kept all of those paintings now.

Yeah, they’d be worth quite a lot today.

BRUCE: I understand some of the Nazi paintings Norm did for Bud sell for ten thousand or more now. Is that right?

Yes, I think that’s true.

BRUCE: [He laughs.] Norm probably got paid $200 or so when he painted one, as I did. For those magazines, $200 was usually tops for a cover painting.

Were interiors less?

BRUCE: Yes, but I never did interiors for those magazines. I was too high class for that. [He laughs again.] Of course, I did do a lot of interiors for the Magazine Management magazines. In fact, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, I was getting a lot of what would have been Mort Kunstler’s jobs, because he had moved on. The scenes with hundreds of figures — battles, a bank robbery in Rome, an escape from a prison. I could do that stuff, too, like Mort, though I wasn’t as fast as Mort was. There’s a funny story about Mort that I heard. Mort is a left-hander. One day he was listening to his mother talking on the phone to one of her friends. And, he heard his mother say to her friend, “Just think of what he could have done if he was right-handed.”

I don’t recall Norm Eastman doing much for the Magazine Management mags.

BRUCE: No, I don’t remember him doing anything for them.  I can tell you a funny story about Norm, too. His girlfriend, or maybe it was his wife, was at this apartment building. And, Norm thought it would be funny if he took off all his clothes in the hallway, then knock on the door and she’d open it and he’d be standing there naked. He thought it would be hilarious. But before she answered the door, the people from the adjoining apartment came out and saw him no clothes on. So the joke was on him, or maybe on them. Anyway, that was his story. I don’t know if it was true.

Recently, when I visited my friend Rich Oberg, the men’s pulp art collector, he showed me dozens of terrific men’s adventure paintings by you and Norm that he’s tracked down and bought over the years. He also has some cover paintings Norm did for Harlequin romance paperbacks.

BRUCE: I did some Harlequin covers, too. But I was doing their adventure novels. Norm was originally from Canada, where Harlequin has its offices. I remember the art director for Harlequin came down to visit me in New York once. He knew I lived near a big Playboy Club in New Jersey. He said he wanted to visit me and we were supposed to talk about covers, but he really wanted to go to the Playboy Club. So, I took him up there.

Do you remember how you got hooked up with Harlequin?

BRUCE: I think they saw some of my stuff in the men’s adventure magazines and contacted me.

By the time the men’s adventure mags started to fade away in the 1970s, you were already doing books covers. And, you really did a lot of them in the Seventies and Eighties. Your son-in-law Tom Ziegler told me you created cover paintings for over 400 paperbacks in those years for a long list of companies: Grosset & Dunlap, Avon, Fawcett, Harlequin, Ace, Pinnacle, Manor Books, Pyramid...

BRUCE: Yes, I got into that because I could see the end coming for men’s adventure magazines.

You did covers for several popular paperback series I’m a fan of, like the EDGE Western series by George C. Gilman and the Horatio Hornblower series published by Pinnacle.

BRUCE: Yes, I mostly did covers for Westerns, action and adventure novels, historic novels. Stuff like that. I didn’t do romance covers like Norm did.

I also recall a really wild illustration you did for NATIONAL LAMPOON magazine, the November 1970 issue. It was for a story that spoofed the men’s adventure magazine stories and artwork and also reflected the anti-Vietnam War sentiments of the time.

BRUCE: Yes, I only did that one job for them. It was a very brutal illustration. And, at first, I didn’t know whether I wanted to do that one or not. It shows a GI machine-gunning a baby. You just see the baby’s hand in the foreground dropping the pacifier. There’s a bare-breasted woman next to the GI and some nude woman in the background. And a helicopter.

I’ve seen that one in person at Rich Oberg’s house. He owns the original painting. In the magazine, a banner at the top of the page says it came from “GUTS Magazine,” which is fictitious, but not too different from some of the names actually used for men’s pulp mags. The title of the story is “The Dink Patrol and the Love Slaves of Xuyan Tan Phu.” The illustration you did for it is actually really great.

BRUCE: Yeah, it did turn out to be a great illustration. NATIONAL LAMPOON later put it in a show of the magazine’s artwork that toured all the way to Japan.

Were you still living in New York in 1970?

BRUCE: Yes. We lived there throughout the Seventies. Then in 1981 we moved back to California, because some guy in Los Angeles saw my work and he said I could get movie poster jobs there. And, those really paid big — five or six grand each. My wife Doris and I were both from California and she wanted to go anyway. So, we moved back, but the guy who said he could get me movie poster work didn’t follow through. I didn’t get any work from him. Then my wife died and I went back to UCLA and learned how to do the newer type of illustration art that uses markers because I thought it might help me get some advertising work, which it did. I did a bunch of marker samples and took them around and got jobs from advertising agencies. So, I started doing that, plus painting paperback covers.

Did you move back to Oakland, where you grew up?

BRUCE: No, I moved to near L.A., in Ventura. People told me that was a good area to be in because artists could get work doing storyboards, which I did. Storyboard work was fast paced. You’d go in one day and you’d have to have six illustrations the next morning. I actually did storyboards for a long time. I did some for advertising agencies, for ads for companies like McDonald’s and Chrysler. I also did storyboards for NBC for a long time. But it was all freelance. I never worked at their studios. I always freelanced. I never had a real job.

So in the 80s, you did a combination of things — advertising, storyboards, paperback covers. Did you ever get any movie poster work?

BRUCE: No, I never did.

This is the end of Part 2 of my interview with Bruce Minney. Here’s a link to Part 3.

Be sure to check out the Wikipedia entry about Bruce created by his son-in-law Tom Ziegler.

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