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

Our books on Amazon: the MEN'S ADVENTURE LIBRARY series...
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

The men’s adventure magazines section of the newsstand – fifty years ago...

Fifty years ago, if you went browsing through the magazines at your local newsstand, you would have seen a wide variety of magazines that were primarily targeted to men.

There were dozens of upscale bachelor magazines and lowbrow girlie pinup mags, outdoor sports magazines, team sports magazines, true crime and detective magazines.

At a well-stocked newsstand you might also have seen 25 or more different men’s adventure magazines, all competing for eyeballs with dramatic, colorful cover paintings and enticing headlines.

If I’d have been browsing that newsstand in February 1961, one of the men’s adventure covers that would have grabbed my attention is the cover of that month’s Real magazine.

It shows a crew member of a dirigible falling headfirst through the sky to certain death, while another crewman desperately hangs on to a tether rope.

The artist who painted that horrific (but really cool) scene was James Meese.

There’s very little information online about Meese. No bios that I could find. But I do know that he is best known for his pulp paperback covers.

In fact, in the 1950s and 1960s, he painted dozens of great book covers, many of which have been posted on Flickr and other sites.

Below are two nice examples. One is the 1953 Signet edition of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer thriller Kiss Me Deadly. The other is the 1956 Pocket Book edition of Agatha Christies The Mystery of the Blue Train, along with a photo of Meese’s original painting, which was sold for nearly $4,500 last year on the Heritage Auction Galleries site.

James Meese didn’t do a large number of men’s adventure magazine illustrations. But those he did are superb. And, I think his cover for the February 1961 issue of Real magazine is one of his best.

There are some other great examples of vintage illustration art inside the February 1961 issue of Real.

One is a mind-blowing duotone by artist Dom Lupo, for the story “WHEN THE DEVIL WALKED LIKE A MAN.” (Check out the spooky skull and crossbones reflection in the eyes.)

Looking at that illustration makes me wish Lupo had done a lot more artwork for men’s adventure magazines.

Alas, he didn’t. Starting in 1963 and throughout the rest of his career, Lupo worked almost exclusively as a “golf artist,” doing illustrations for Golf Magazine, Golf Digest and golf-related books. Amazingly enough, there are a number of other artists out there who specialize in golf art.

You can read a good bio of Dom Lupo, which he wrote himself, on the Today’s Inspiration site — an excellent blog about illustrators and illustration art maintained by Canadian artist Leif Peng.

Another excellent duotone illustration in the February 1961 issue of Real was done by an artist who created hundreds of cover paintings and interior illos for men’s adventure magazines — the great Norm Saunders.

Although that illo may not be “tasteful,” it’s definitely tasty. 

It shows an alluring, nude babe stretched out on a giant food platter surrounded by fruit, getting a few strategically placed bands of whipped cream applied on her naughty bits by a happy chef.

The illustration is for a bawdy story titled “SKITTLES was the king’s VITTLES.”

That classic Saunders illo and the much less common examples of men’s pulp mag art by Meese and Lupo make this one of my favorite issues of Real magazine.

Real was published bimonthly from 1958 to 1967 by a series of publishers, starting with Literary Enterprises during the first two years of its run. In 1961, the publisher was Excellent Publications, Inc.

At that point, Real was one of the most popular men’s adventure magazines, with a circulation of about 450,000 (one of the highest of any periodicals in the men’s adventure mag genre).

Of course, there were plenty of other men’s adventure magazines to buy at the newsstand in February of 1961. The genre was in the middle of its heyday.

Men’s adventure mags being published then included Adventure, Argosy, Bold Men, Cavalier, Climax, Escape to Adventure, For Men Only, Male, Man’s Conquest, Man’s Day, Man’s Life, Man’s Magazine, Man’s World, Men, Real, Real Adventure, Real Men, Saga, See, Sir!, Stag, True, True Adventures, True Men Stories and Wildcat Adventures.

Below are covers scans of the February 1961 issues of some of those magazines. Which ones would have grabbed your attention if you were browsing at your local newsstand fifty years ago?

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

Further reading: some good books about some great vintage illustration artists…

Thursday, February 17, 2011

MAN’S STORY, August 1968 – Part 2: “Hippy” Stag Films, Instant Sex, X-Ray Specs and more...

A significant part of the entertainment value you can get from reading vintage men’s adventure magazines today is not exactly the same entertainment value that was originally intended.

For example, many of the stories and illustrations in the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story that I featured in my previous post were probably intended to be titillating and shocking when they were published. Today, they generally seem more laughable than lurid.

Like most men’s pulp mags, the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story has plenty of interesting vintage advertisements.

Of course, like the stories and artwork, many of them are of interest for reasons that are different than originally intended.

One ad that caught my eye was a reflection of the fact that the Hippie era was at its height (and near its end) in 1968.

The psychedelic poster-style headline in the ad urged you to “TURN ON” and “MAKE THE SCENE” — but not by dropping LSD.

It was an ad for “HOT HIPPY STAG FILMS.” Yeah, man! We’re talking’ groovy skin flicks “FILMED INDOORS BY ‘WAY-OUT’ COLLEGE STUDENTS.”

If you sent $1 to Darleene Sales, Dept. N 1, Box 147 in Reseda, California, you’d get a fully illustrated catalog, plus a $2 credit toward your purchase of some of their mind-expanding “CRASH-PAD FOTOS, FILMS AND SLIDES.”

Other California companies were on the cultural cutting edge on different fronts in 1968. One was that legendary pioneer of sexy lingerie, Frederick’s of Hollywood.

A full-page Frederick’s ad in the August ‘68 issue of Man’s Story not only features hot nighties, push-up bras, crotchless panties and other saucy apparel. It also shows us Frederick’s “EXCITING NEW MASSAGER.” Now, I assume that anyone who saw the photo of this vibrator in 1968 knew what it was really used for. But, oddly, the illustration shows a woman using it on her neck. And, the description is more elliptical than explicit, which makes it pretty funny to read.

The text describes it as a “cordless vibrator for satisfying relaxation” that would bring “new found joys and pleasures” by providing a “deep, gentle penetrating massage” and, ultimately, “soothing, beneficial relief from daily tensions.” As an added plus, the description noted that it was “invaluable for skin tone and complexion care.” Also, in case you wondered, it was “7 inches long” and “Completely safe.”

On another page in the magazine there’s a second ad for the Frederick’s Cordless Vibrator. That one shows an illustration of a man using it on the back of his neck. Yeah. I’m sure a lot of men bought one for that purpose.

Other ads in the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story feature some gadgets I’d love to see, just out of pure curiosity. I’d especially like to see the mysterious “INSTANT SEX” product.

What the hell was it anyway? The ad for it doesn’t actually say. You had to shell out your $1 to find out (or buy 6 for $5). The ad copy did note that the Instant Sex thingy, whatever it was, was synthetic and “not designed to replace the original.” However, it would “prove to be a satisfactory substitute.”

Below the Instant Sex ad was an ad for THE “EVERYTHING” SHOP, which offered “everything you want.” You know, things like “really different” photos, movies and slides, “SEXsational specialties” (maybe Instant Sex?) and “wild gags” (maybe Instant Sex?).

Some other cool gadgets advertised in the same issue included the Hypno-Whirlascope, which would allow you to “transfix your subjects.”

There are also ads for the legendary X-Ray Specs and the “Amazing Spy Device” that let you see through walls.

If you were planning to get married, you could send away for The Marriage Bed, a how-to book that would help you “ENJOY A SEXCESSFUL MARRIAGE.” To prevent any embarrassment, it was “shipped in a plain wrapper.” (As were many other products advertised in men’s adventure magazines.)

There’s also an ad for the Ed Sale guitar manual, which was guaranteed to teach anyone to “PLAY GUITAR IN 7 DAYS.” The photo suggests that part of Ed’s “secret system” back in 1968 was to wear a swimsuit, hat and gloves.

Another ad that caught my eye was an ad for the openly racist Guiding Light Club, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. It boasted of having “hundreds of lonely women and men who want marriage” and promised “quick results.” All ages were welcome — as long as they were “White race.” 

The ad for the international pen pal organization below the Guiding Light ad was apparently more enlightened about ethnicity. Its members were from 100 countries and one of the men shown in the photos is a Negro (as “White race” folks called them back then, when they weren’t using the other N-word).

If you were already married and into the swing thing, you could check out the “HOLLYWOOD SWINGERS” club. It offered “confidential party films” featuring a “Young Show-Biz group.”

The ad claimed this group included “several couples, exceptionally attractive and uninhibited” who were “known in Hollywood.” They were open to “broadminded, adventurous contracts” if you wanted them to film something special for you and would consider a “possible trade” if you had some films of your own to swap.

Of course, there are lots of other fun-to-read ads in the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story. If you want to see more, just click this link to download the entire issue. It only costs $2.99 and your satisfaction is guaranteed. If you have any complaints about it, write me at Darleene Sales, Dept. N 1, Box 147, Reseda, California.

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

New recommendations: some recent and forthcoming books about illustration art and artists…

Friday, February 11, 2011


Last night, after watching an episode of the Showtime TV series Dexter, I went to bed and read the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story magazine (Vol. 9, No. 4).

The juxtaposition of the two got me chuckling over the fact that some people call men’s adventure magazines like Man’s Story “pornography.”

As you probably know, Dexter Morgan, the central character of Dexter, is a serial killer who is portrayed sympathetically. (He only kills “bad” serial killers and other sickos who deserve it and he loves his family as much as any sociopath can.)

Dex seemed almost heroic in the most recent season, during which he rescues a young woman who was tortured and gang-raped — and then methodically captures and kills the pervs who did it, one by one.

Most episodes of Dexter include some very graphic, very bloody violence. There’s plenty of explicit language (lots of F-bombs, anatomically-oriented slang, etc.). Many episodes have nudity. Many have scenes showing bondage, torture and mutilation.

The official Parental Guideline rating for Dexter is “TV-MA, LSVD.” MA means a show for “Mature Audiences,” unsuitable for viewers under age 17. The LSVD refers respectively to: (L) coarse language (F-bombs, etc.); (S) some explicit sex and/or nudity; (V) graphic violence; and (D) “intensely suggestive” dialogue.

Millions of “normal” Americans watch and love Dexter. Critics love it.

I pondered that as I was reading the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story last night.

Like many issues of Man’s Story, it features what is often described as a “lurid” Nazi bondage and torture cover painting. The painting was done by Norm Eastman, a legendary men’s pulp mag artist who later painted covers for romance novels.

Eastman’s cover painting goes with the fictional story inside “HELPLESS VIRGINS IN THE NAZIS’ HARNESS OF TERROR.” The story is about the effort to convict a Gestapo officer of war crimes after World War II. A woman who comes forward to testify against him tells how he suspended her with the weird “harness of terror” and brutally tortured her. In the end, the Nazi gets his just desserts.

Now, as you can see, there’s no nudity in Eastman’s cover painting. And, no blood. The story itself has no explicit anatomical or sexual language and no F-bombs. The descriptions of the torture are gripping but not graphic. And, the Nazi who does the torturing is portrayed as a despicable fiend. Not someone you might actually like or identify with.

Bottom line: the Man’s Story cover painting and the story it goes with are nowhere near as sexually explicit or gory as a typical episode of Dexter — or many other current TV shows. Nor is anything else in most men’s adventure magazines.

There are some racy fiction stories in the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story, but none that qualified as “pornography” under the relatively puritanical laws in effect back then, let alone now. One is the noirish tough-guy P.I. vs. bad bikers story “BRING BACK THE NAKED ANGEL OF THE HELL RIDERS’ LUST CULT.” It includes a scene in which motorcycle gang members “pull a train” on a young socialite that the P.I. later saves (and “makes love” to, of course).

That’s followed by “the story which shocked the U.N.” It’s “a tale of a world-wide conspiracy so depraved it is spoken of in whispers.” It’s a yarn with love slaves and whips, delicately titled “HORROR AND AGONY – THE DISCIPLINE RITES OF THE INTERNATIONAL WHITE SLAVERS.”

There’s also a tongue-in-cheek Western, titled “LOVE ME TO DEATH — THE INCREDIBLE REVENGE OF COLORADO KATE,” in which a saloon whore gets revenge on the guy who killed her boyfriend by literally “loving” him to death. It was written by the amazingly prolific pulp writer Dean W. Ballenger (1913-2005), who wrote many stories (probably hundreds) for men’s adventure magazines and dozens of pulp paperback novels. The majority were published under Ballenger’s own name. But he also used various pen names, including Philip J. Arminas, Warren S. Cargett, Philip Chivington, Wilbur Dane, Keith J. Erlwanger, Dale P. Flores, Oscar Foley, L. J. Garfield & Walter Garrett.

As usual in men’s pulp mags, this issue of Man’s Story also includes several wild exposé and sexposé articles. One is a story about the hazards of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, titled “PSYCHING OUT: OUR NATIONAL DISGRACE.” (Click this link to see some of my favorite mind-bending vintage stories about LSD and other illegal drugs.)

Another is the “true confession” style piece “I WAS A SURFERS’ ORGY GIRL.” (You didn’t know how depraved surfers are, didja?)

For good measure, there’s the newsy story “PARKING LOT PASSION — THE TEENAGE MENACE,” warning about “a corner of hell where vicious punks vent their lust in an orgy of savagery.”

The August 1968 issue of Man’s Story also includes several cheesecake photo spreads. Most notable is the one featuring model and actress Judy Crowder. Photos of Crowder appeared in a number of men’s magazines in the Sixties and in some classic “art photo” books. (Click this link and scroll up a page to see the great shot of her in a book by the talented glamour girl photographer Peter Gowland.) Crowder also appeared in a few TV shows, including a 1961 episode of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.

Like most cheesecake photos in men’s adventure magazines published in 1950s and 1960s, there’s no full frontal nudity in the Crowder pics.

Explicit nudity was actually rare in men’s adventure magazines until the waning years of the genre in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when they tried (unsuccessfully) to compete with the more explicit men’s bachelor mags and true porn mags that began to dominate the men’s magazine market at that point.

In fact, most of the men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s and 1960s — and even the 1970s — would barely qualify for a TV-MA rating today if they were TV shows. Many would be PG.

But I do understand why some people are offended or disgusted by things like the Nazi bondage and torture cover paintings and stories, even though those tend to be far less graphic or “pornographic” than what’s in today’s media. I also understand why some people are offended by the casual sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other politically incorrect aspects of men’s adventure magazines, even though those aspects simply reflect common attitudes and prejudices of the era.

And, that’s why there’s “Content Warning” on this blog — even though you won’t find any real pornography here. (Sorry, guys.)

BTW, Man’s Story was published bimonthly from February 1960 to December 1975 by EmTee Publications, Inc., which had editorial offices at 201 Park Avenue South in New York City.

Ironically, although Man’s Story is infamous for it’s Nazi covers, it was owned by two Jewish guys, B.R. “Bud” Ampolsk and Maurice Rosenfield (spelled Rosenfeld by some sources). They also owned Reese Publishing Co. Through those companies, Ampolsk and Harvey published several other classic “men’s sweat mags” that feature a lot of now highly-collectible Nazi covers, including Man’s Book, Man’s Epic, Men Today, New Man and World of Men.

In my next post, I’ll take a closer look at some of the kooky ads in the August 1968 issue of Man’s Story. In the meantime, you can click on this link to download the entire issue in high–resolution PDF format.

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

More complete issues of men’s adventure magazines you can download…

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Surfing for Mort Kunstler illustration art…

If you’re a reader of this blog, you probably know that Mort Kunstler is one of the greatest of the many great artists who provided cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. (You may also know that his name is officially spelled with a German accent mark, as Künstler, though I generally use the Americanized version, since it’s more recognized by search engines.)

Mort is currently 79 years old and still painting. In fact, he has wider recognition and fame now than he did when he worked for the men’s adventure mags.

But he no longer does magazine illustrations. He is best known today as a painter of American history scenes, particularly Civil War art, which has been his primary specialty since the 1980s.

Indeed, if you Google his name, most of the sites that show up in the search results — including his own main website, MortKunstler.com — focus largely on his Civil War art.

If you search Mort Kunstler's name on Amazon.com, you’ll see a whole series of books that feature his Civil War paintings (as well as prints, calendars and other items).

To date, no books have been published that focus on Kunstler’s illustration art for men’s adventure magazines, despite the fact that Kunstler painted literally thousands of cover paintings interior illos for men’s adventure mags, both under his own name and the pseudonym Emmett Kaye.

But there are several websites and web pages you can visit to see a good cross section of examples.

One is the Mort Kunstler page on the American Art Archives website.

That site, maintained by Thomas and Christiane Clement, offers a wealth of high resolution scans of vintage magazine covers and interior illustrations done by many famous magazine illustrators. I highly recommend it. (If you’re looking for copies of men’s adventure magazines to buy, you should also check out their eBay store.)

As I mentioned, Mort Kunstler’s own primary website focuses on his Civil War paintings. But it also a lot of in-depth biographical information about him and the “American Popular Culture” section does showcase examples of the original paintings he did for magazines, books, movie posters and ads.

Recently, I noticed that there is now a second official Kunstler website — KunstlerIllustrations.com — that primarily focuses on his magazine art. It shows and sells prints of some of the ultra-cool original paintings Kunstler did for men’s adventure magazines. They’re in the sections of the site labeled Crime, Dames, Exotica, History and Man vs. Wild.

The KunstlerIllustrations.com site is maintained by the staff at the Kunstler Enterprises studio.

They’ve also created a companion Kunstler Illustrations Facebook page where you can find additional Kunstler artwork and historical info that’s not on KunstlerIllustrations.com. If you’re a Facebook member, you should definitely visit that page regularly.

I’ve posted quite a few Mort Kunstler covers and illos on this blog. In case you missed them, below are links to a few of my past posts that featured his work.

Most recently, I did a post about the beautiful interior illustrations Kunstler created for a condensed version of the book “His Majesty O’Keefe,” published in the April 1954 issue of Sport Life magazine.

Several of my past posts have featured World War II scenes painted by Kunstler. One is on the cover of the May 1963 issue of Stag. It’s an awesome aerial view of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the ill-fated ship mentioned in the movie Jaws. Kunstler’s cover painting goes with a story inside about the Indianapolis — “108-HOUR MID-OCEAN ORDEAL...500 DEAD...300 STILL AFLOAT” — written by the legendary men’s adventure magazine writer Walter Kaylin.

Another previous post features Kunstler’s cover painting for the January 1961 issue of Male, which goes with a wild WWII story about some Nazi-hunting “Virgins from Hell.” In that same issue, there’s a luscious blue-and-black Kunstler duotone illustrating another WWII story, a yarn a Yank soldier who meets up with “a never-say-no British nymph and a beautiful Manila pom-pom girl” in the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

Another past post features several classic man vs. animal paintings by Kunstler. One shows a man fighting a giant Komodo dragon. My personal favorite is the one that shows a guy fighting off bloodthirsty Pangolin anteaters. (In the sensationalized alternate universe of vintage men’s pulp magazines, any creature could be a vicious killer.)

That post also shows an example of a Kunstler painting that was used on the covers of two different men’s adventure magazine covers — but with a twist. The scene depicted shows a horde of vicious Mandrill baboons attacking two people. In the first version, used for the cover of the May 1955 issue of Men, a manly white hero is desperately trying to fight off the baboons, using his empty rifle as a club. On the ground at his feet is an African native who has already been overcome by the bloodthirsty critters.

As I found out from collector Rich Oberg, who now owns the original painting, Kunstler changed the bottom right corner years later for use on the cover of the April 1971 issue of Male magazine. In the revised version, Kunstler painted over the African native and replaced him with a blonde damsel in distress.


Like the legendary illustration artist Gil Cohen, who I recently interviewed, Mort Kunstler did most of his magazine art for the men’s adventure mags published by Martin Goodman’s company Magazine Management (or it’s subsidiaries), such as Action for Men, For Men Only, Ken for Men, Male, Men, Sport Life and Stag.

However, like Cohen, Kunstler did work for some other men’s adventure mag publishers.

Lately, I’ve been collecting copies of Adventure magazine from the 1950s, the decade when it changed from being a classic all-fiction pulp magazine to a men’s adventure format. In those years, Adventure was published by pulp pioneer Henry Steeger’s company Popular Publications, Inc. and it’s subsidiary New Publications, Inc.

Many of those Adventure covers from the Fifties have excellent cover paintings by Mort Kunstler, under his own name and as Emmett Kaye. Below are scans of some of my favorites. I’ll post some more in upcoming posts.


By the way, although there are no books focusing on Kunstler’s men’s adventure magazine art, there are many nice examples of it in the two best books about the genre: It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps and Men's Adventure Magazines in Postwar America, featuring the Rich Oberg Collection.

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

New in SubtropicBob’s Virtual Newsstand:

A complete digital copy of MAN’S STORY, August 1968. (Cover by Norm Eastman.)