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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An interview with artist Mort Künstler – Part 2

Today, Mort Künstler is known as one of the premier historical artists in America. Since the 1980s, his main focus has been on paintings of scenes from American history, especially Civil War scenes.

Mort is also one of the greatest of the many great artists who created cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s and 1960s. So, I was thrilled when I got a chance to interview him recently.

You can read the Part 1 of my interview with Mort at this link.

Here’s part two...

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Mort, you did a lot of history-related cover paintings and illustrations for men’s adventure magazines in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Did that help prepare you for your later historic paintings, like your Civil War art?

MORT - Oh yes, there’s no way I could have done what I’m doing today if I hadn’t of had that all that men’s adventure magazine work in the 1950s and 1960s. I learned how to compose, how to tell a story. The work I did for the men’s adventure magazines helped prepare me for all of the work I did later, including advertising art and movie posters and historical paintings. I remember I did all these historical paintings for ads around 1976, relating to the bicentennial of the country. Historical paintings for banks, chemical companies, and so forth. There was no way without the background and training I got from doing the men’s adventure magazine art that I could’ve done that, or the illustrations I did for National Geographic, or the historical paintings that I do now.

I wasn’t aware of your advertising work until I saw the examples on your website. Was that something you got into after the men’s adventure magazines went out of business in the early 1970s?

MORT - Yes, the ‘70s and ‘80s were my heaviest advertising period, where I just turned out tons of advertising art. I don’t even have any idea how much. I seem to go through periods, about 15 to 20 years, where one kind of art dominates and then the next thing takes over. But there was always some overlapping and I often did several types of art at any given time. During my early men’s adventure period I was also doing a huge amount of Aurora model box art. You know, for those plastic models that kids put together: ships and airplanes, tanks and figures, all sorts of things. The old ones are collectibles now.

Sure, I put together a lot of Aurora models in my early teens back in the 1960s. I saw a list of Aurora models you did paintings for on your Facebook site and I think made quite of few of them. One of my favorites that had one of your paintings on the box cover was the B-17 bomber formation kit. I also made some of the Aurora monster models that featured paintings by your fellow artist James Bama , who also did hundreds of covers and illustrations for the classic men’s adventure mags published by Magazine Management, like STAG, MALE, MEN and FOR MEN ONLY.

MORT - In fact I got Jimmy his first Aurora job. I recommended him for the famous monster model paintings that he did. He was my best friend in that period. We met at the Magazine Management offices and we became very close friends. He was the only artist I knew who was also an athlete, like I was. We also had kind of a similar painting style.

How did you get linked up with Aurora?

MORT - Well, the Aurora Plastics company was located Long Island where I lived, so it would’ve been very easy to solicit them. But, in fact, they solicited me. They saw my men’s adventure covers, including some of the ones I did with airplanes and contacted me. I ended up doing more Aurora box covers than any other artist.

How much direction were you given for the cover paintings and illustrations you did for the men’s adventure magazines?

MORT - It worked very simply. The editors would write a paragraph outlining the story concept, or a writer would submit an outline for a story and they’d accept it. They’d show me that. Then I’d do some sketches for approval before doing the painting. I would go into their art department, and they’d have a desk there, and drawing table and supplies, and I’d read this one little paragraph and then I would make a sketch on tracing paper, a quick sketch in charcoal. Two or three sometimes. Then I’d give them to the art director and he would bring them into the editors.

Larry Graber was the Art Director at Magazine Management for most of the ‘50s and ‘60s, right?

MORT - Yes, a lovely man. A wonderful man. He’s still alive and living in New York. He was a very important person in my life during that period. He’s the guy who told me Magazine Management would give me as much work as I wanted early in my career. And, for more than fifteen years, most of the men’s adventure work I did was for Magazine Management magazines, like STAG and MALE and FOR MEN ONLY. Anyway, I would give Larry a sketch based on a story idea he showed me. Then he’d show it to the editors. One editor was Noah Sarlat and the other was Bruce Jay Friedman. And, we would talk it over before showing it to Martin Goodman, the publisher. Mr. Goodman would have final approval.

Did your artwork also influence the stories?

MORT - Yes, especially at Magazine Management, very often the final stories were tailored after my art. Even Mario Puzo, who worked there before he became famous from writing The Godfather, would sometimes write stories based on what my pictures showed.

One of my favorite military aviation cover paintings of yours was for the July 1965 issue of MALE. It went with a story Mario Puzo wrote under his usual pseudonym at the time, Mario Cleri. You also did the interior illustration for that one. When you did other types of scenes that had people in them did you use models?

MORT - Yes, once sketches were approved, I’d go right from the Magazine Management offices to a studio that was nearby in New York, and photograph the models that would help me with my paintings. I wasn’t married to the photographs. They were just an aid. But I would just take a couple of photos of each pose, zing zing, and go home. I had my own darkroom at that time and I would develop the film and make the proofs. That was the next day. And, then it was just a matter of combining everything into one scene. If it required a man and a woman together, I’d call a woman and a man and book them for an hour. I’d have a half an hour with the guy alone, then the next half hour she would come in and they’d pose together and then I’d have her alone for some shots. But the key to what I did was the composition and lighting in the final painting. I used all of the elements that the old masters used — perspective, light and dark values and color. There were so many things that went into those pictures.

Did you have any favorite models that you worked with for your men’s adventure art?

MORT - Oh yeah, sure. Steve Holland was a favorite of everybody’s. He’s been written up in stories by any number of artists. I used him for everything, from an old man to a kid. If I had a crowd scene, with a fat guy, and a short guy, and a thin guy, and a bald guy, and a guy with glasses — Steve was my model for everyone. He was so good, he’d get the feel of each character, and I’d get a few shots of that and then I’d roll right through the others. He also posed for me when I was in my advertising art period. He’d come out to the house here and pose for me then. I loved Steve. He was a sweetheart of a guy and a wonderful model. And, to this day now, I’m still using some of the old photos I took of him. I’ve very rarely taken photos for the last 20 years. I was hired to do art for a number of Civil War films, like the movie GETTYSBURG and the movie GODS AND GENERALS, and so I ended up with a bunch of stills that helped me with my Civil War art.

Of course, Steve Holland was also a special favorite of Jim Bama, who used him as the model for his DOC SAVAGE paperback cover paintings and countless men’s adventure illos. Were there particular kinds of men’s adventure scenes you liked to paint?

MORT - I liked making pictures for stories that were believable. I did paint pictures for a lot of stories that were absolutely unbelievable. I think those were the most difficult. But I tried to make those pictures look real, too. And, I guess that’s what I’m best known for, as it turns out.

How many paintings did you do in a typical month for Mag Management?

MORT - They just flooded me with work. Every month I usually did three covers and two inside illustrations for Magazine Management. And, then of course there were sometimes these book bonus assignments. I noticed the example you published on your blog, the series of illustrations I did for HIS MAJESTY O’KEEFE. Each book bonus like that would have six or eight pictures.

You seem to have done a wider range of paintings than most other men’s adventure artists, from animal attack scenes and panoramic battles to history and adventure scenes, paintings of spies, criminals, sexy women. Just about every subject commonly featured in men’s adventure mags.

MORT - That’s why I was paid more. I was paid twice as much as most of the other artists because I could basically paint anything. It was pretty easy to do a couple of figures in a scene. I could do those in a day. But a lot other artists couldn’t do things like big battle scenes. I once asked “Why am I getting this assignment?” And they said “Because so-and-so can’t do it.” I said, “Then I should be getting paid more. I’m being punished for being better.’ And, they thought it over and said, “You’re right.”

Magazine Management publisher Martin Goodman seemed to have a knack for picking good artists and writers.

MORT - I’ll tell you something he did that was remarkable. I did a painting for a fiction piece called “The President’s Plane is Missing.” It was a novel. And, I did a cover and an inside illustration for it. And, it was a cover that was one of these very complex scenes. And, it was one of the best that I ever did really. And, I was being paid as I said about twice as much as most other artists for the covers, and I got a letter out of the blue from Mr. Goodman, and it had a check in it for a hundred dollars. And he said “Mort, I want you to know I saw that painting and I think it’s one of the best paintings that you ever did. And, as a token of my appreciation, I would like you to accept this check.” That was so unusual and a hundred bucks wasn’t bad in those days. It never happened to me from anyone else.

I have that issue. It was the February 1969 issue of STAG.

MORT – I’ll always remember that one. Mr. Goodman told me, “I have no way to know how your painting might affect sales, but I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate it.” Isn’t that something?

My impression is that men’s adventure magazines, and especially Goodman and Magazine Management mags, were important to a lot of illustration artists in the ‘50s and ‘60s, since most other magazines had moved to using photos for their covers and stories.

MORT - Oh my God, yes. I went through the whole ‘60s with them, as did a lot of other artists. And, then in the early ‘70s, the men’s adventure magazines died out. I gradually replaced that work with work that actually paid a lot more, the advertising art and movie posters, which took me into the ‘80s. My first art gallery show of historic paintings was in 1977. And, that started a whole new phase of my career that took me all the way through to now. We could all foresee that the men’s adventure magazines would be gone and paperbacks took their place to some extent, for a while. I never did that many paperbacks, though maybe more than a lot of other artists, because I could do the simple, covers with one or two people pretty quickly. But I never thought of myself as a paperback artist. I just had a couple of companies that loved my work and they’d pay me a substantial amount and they’d give me a lot of time.

You also did movie posters for some great movies, like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and BREAKHEART PASS.

MORT - The movie posters were the best paying art in the entire business, actually. Poster assignments were very much sought after. I did a lot of posters for adventure films, similar to the covers I had been doing for Magazine Management.

You seem almost as busy now as at any time in your career. Between your commissioned paintings, your limited edition prints, a series of books and other things I see on your main website and your vintage illustrations website, you have quite an empire going nowadays.

MORT - Yeah, it’s amazing to me. We have three people who work here, in a separate building. And, it’s just all I can do to keep up with things. As a matter of fact, I think I was happier when I just painted pictures, instead of doing things like dealing with licensing arrangements. But unfortunately — and fortunately — I’m very busy now. It sure as hell beats being ignored, doesn’t it?

I’ve noticed that you’re still doing new paintings on a regular basis.

MORT - Yes, I take more time doing a painting now, but I keep getting commissions for new ones. I just finished a painting on George Washington commissioned by the Adjutant Generals Schools of the U.S. Army, their alumni association. They had a military ball where the painting was unveiled. [NOTE: This new painting is now available as a limited edition print on Mort’s website.] I get a lot of commissions like that now. Right now I’m discussing commissions that will take me until next July to fulfill. It’s kind of hard to believe, from those humble beginnings of mine on Long Island to where I am today. Frankly, I think I’ve got the best racket in the world because, if I were retired, I’d want to paint pictures. So, you could almost say I’ve been retired all these years and I’m being paid for pursuing my hobby.

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Thanks again to Mort Künstler for taking the time to talk with me – and to his daughter Jane for linking me up with him.

Also, thanks to Mort’s staff for their help – and to men’s adventure art collector Rich Oberg for some of the images shown here.

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

Check out our Men’s Adventure Library series on Amazon by clicking this link or the image below.


Monday, August 8, 2011

An interview with artist Mort Kunstler – Part 1…

Recently, I had the pleasure and honor of talking with Mort Künstler — one of the best and most famous of the many artists who did cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

Mort is most widely known today for his more recent paintings of historical scenes from American history, especially his Civil War paintings.

But before he gained his current fame as a historical painter, Mort was an exceptionally hard-working — and exceptionally talented — illustration artist.

He created literally thousands of paintings for magazines, book covers, movie posters and advertisements.

I’m a huge fan of Mort’s work. So, I was thrilled when he agreed to do a phone interview with me.

I’ve only seen a few interviews with him online and they tend to focus on the historical paintings he has focused on since the 1980s.

I wanted to know more about his life and career before he gained his reputation as the premier historical artist in America...

Mort, I know you were born in Brooklyn and grew up there during the Great Depression in the 1930s. And, I’ve read that you were interested in art at a very early age.

MORT: Yes, I really was. The word Künstler means artist in German. And my father kept the original spelling with the umlaut over the u. He was an amateur artist himself and he discovered my talent at a very, very early age, when I was two-and-a-half or so. And, by the time I was in kindergarten I could draw very well. I was also sick a lot when I was a kid and my father would give me art supplies and set up still lifes or whatever and say to me: “Put down what you see.” I did. And, and I have drawings from when I was six to eight that show a complete room and furniture with a sense of perspective. I still have some of those drawings.

I’ve seen some of your childhood drawings on the Mort Künstler Illustration Art Facebook site. You clearly had a grasp of the basics of art, like perspective, at a very early age.

MORT: Yes, by the time I was twelve I could draw almost as well as I can today. Not with the same fluid ease, but I could put down almost anything there was given the time. Obviously, I’m much better at it now, but as far as putting down what I saw I could do it as well at twelve as I can today.

Was there particular subjects you liked to draw or paint?

MORT: I liked to copy all sorts of things out of the newspapers and I did what my father suggested and drew what I saw, from a glass of milk to a sandwich. Whatever I saw, I would draw it. As I got older, my mother would take me to art classes on Saturday morning at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. So, I had encouragement from both of my parents.

How old were you then?

MORT: I was probably about eight or so. I remember going Saturday mornings.

Did you have any other formal training before you got to Brooklyn College?

MORT: Well, as a matter of fact, I went to Abraham Lincoln High School, and there was a teacher there by the name of Leon Friend. He was very encouraging and extremely knowledgeable. He wrote a famous book on design. And, he really introduced me to other elements of art besides just putting down what I saw. So, he was very instrumental. His book is a collector’s item now. It was done in the Thirties and it talked about modern design, like the Bauhaus school of design, where they came up with theories of simplification.

I see a number of things about Leon Friend online here, in a quick Google search. Is the book you’re think of GRAPHIC DESIGN, published by McGraw Hill in 1936?

That’s it. You know, for a high school teacher during the Depression that book was a very impressive accomplishment. He inspired an awful lot of students that went on to great success in design and the advertising field. He was more of a designer than a painter. I don’t know of any painters that came out of his classes except myself. But he was an extremely inspiring teacher. He would be there when the birds got up, you know, and always said whenever you want something come in early and he’d work with you on whatever project you were involved in.

One of the pages I see online about Leon Friend says he was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame.

MORT: Really? I barely know how to turn a computer on or off. But I knew there must be something about him on the Internet. Isn’t that wonderful! I didn’t know about that group. I’ve never been a joiner of any kind.

I also see that he had another famous student named Alex Steinweiss, who’s famous for pioneering the design of record album covers.

MORT: Yes, Alex Steinweiss was a student at Lincoln High School before me. He went on to design a lot of record albums and became quite a well known designer.

So, after high school you went to study art at Brooklyn College?

MORT: Well, I did study art there. But my main focus wasn’t actually art. I grew up to be a pretty good athlete. I was a diver on the swimming team and I was a hurdler on the track team. Had a lot of agility, I guess you’d say. When I went to Brooklyn College, sports dominated my life. Art was secondary. Although I did do a weekly sports cartoon for the school newspaper. I think it was called The Vanguard.

According to the bio on your official website, you then when to the University of California, Los Angeles. Were you still more focused on sports than art at UCLA?

MORT: Yes, I went there on a basketball scholarship. I was just going around the clock with sports, all year ‘round.

Did you graduate from both Brooklyn College and UCLA?

MORT: No, I never graduated. I went to college for seven years. I later graduated from Pratt Institute. I studied art at Pratt for three years and got a certificate in illustration. But in college I went seven years without a degree. I think that’s a pretty good record. [He laughs.]

So, you focused on illustration at Pratt?

MORT: Yes, but whoever got into the art school at Pratt started in their first year with what they called the “Foundation Year.” You did a bit of everything, until they got a feel for where your skills were. The illustration course was the toughest one to get into. When you got into that, then the second and third years you just spent all your time, painting, drawing, composing and learning as much as you could about illustration. I got into the illustration course and was considered an outstanding student. I was in the top group.

When you graduated from Pratt, you were in New York in the early Fifties, where a lot of magazines and illustration artists were located. Did you go straight into magazine illustration?

MORT: No, it was not that easy. In those days there were illustration studios that would provide space and materials and sales people who would sell the work. They worked on a commission basis. The fees were split fifty-fifty with the artist and the studio company. But all of them folded in the next five to eight years. They were all gone. But when I got out of school I was given good advice I think and that was to try to get a job as an apprentice at a studio. Apprentices would run errands, clean up the place, touch up paintings when the artist wasn’t available. And, that’s exactly what I did, while some classmates of mine were getting jobs at advertising agencies, and some went into television, doing sketches.

Did your apprenticeship pay off by giving you a leg up on becoming a professional illustrator?

MORT: Oh, yes. Out of the seventy people in my illustration class, I think there were only two of us who became magazine and book illustrators. It was strictly a freelance business. I never realized that when I was a student. But there were no real jobs except in advertising as sketch artists or whatever. They didn’t do finished art. I think I’m the only one who eventually did very well as a professional illustrator. It was not a good time to be going into the field.

It was not a good time because most mainstream magazines were increasingly using photos instead of artwork?

MORT: Yes, in the early Fifties, illustration was really starting to die. Color photography was coming in. Television was coming in. More and more advertising money was going to television rather than print, and a lot of people were getting their fiction over television rather than reading it. Many magazines that used a lot of illustration were folding and the trend among most of the ones that survived was to use photos instead of illustrations. Fortunately for me and other artists, some of them, like the men’s adventure magazines, continued to use a lot of cover paintings and interior illustrations.

Who did you apprentice with?

MORT: I apprenticed with a company called Neeley Associates. And, they didn’t last much longer either. But it was a wonderful opportunity because I saw how pros worked. They had a stable of artists. One guy did trucks and things, one guy did boy/girl illustration, one was sort of cartoony humor. It was a great opportunity to see pros working. And, I asked them a million questions. I didn’t last very long at it because I realized there was not much point in hanging around once I had learned whatever I could. After three months I left and I was fortunate because I could work at home in Brooklyn and was able to be supported by my parents for a period. I worked on painting samples for about two or three months. Then I went around with them and started to get work eventually.

I read that your first job as a freelance illustrator was doing diagrams of football and basketball plays for SCHOLASTIC magazine.

MORT: Yes, that’s really true, And, then I started to get little cartoon jobs from the same magazine, and then the next thing I know Scholastic was a giant organization and I started to get other work from them. Covers and illustrations for Junior Scholastic. Then I said to myself, go ask for jobs from publications that have work you think you could do better than. So, I’d go into bookstores and look for things I felt that I could do better and I’d write down the name of the publisher, get the address and then call for an appointment.

Sounds like you were a very entrepreneurial artist.

MORT: I was. And, every time I got a job and had a painting to do, I would do it like it was for the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I’d put a lot of effort in. And, before I would submit it, I would show it to some other art director who might be interested. And, then after about a year or two maybe, I never was a day without work, which is very unusual for the illustration field. Even the best guys I knew would sometimes face feast or famine. They would sometimes sit for a month and do samples. but I never did a sample again after about 1953 or so.

Were most of your clients in the Fifties book publishers or magazines?

MORT: Well, I started to look for book cover assignments, but that was sort of a low paying area at the time, at least the hard cover dust jackets were. I did get some work from different book publishers. I remember going to a very famous old time publisher, Dodd, Mead and Company, and I remember the art director looking at my samples and saying “My god, this is great. But I don’t think we can afford you.” And I made the mistake of saying: “Wait a minute, I’m just out of art school and I’ll work for whatever price you pay.”

I’ll bet he liked that.

MORT: He did. [Mort laughs.] And, he took advantage of it. I did some full color paintings for him for seventy-five dollars, where he would have been paying a hundred or a hundred-and-twenty-five for some of those. But I ended up working for Dodd, Mead for years. I had a wonderful relationship with that guy and he gave me a lot of work and got me going.

You also started out working for men’s adventure magazines very early in your career.

MORT: Yes, the men’s adventure magazines popped in very early. I remember getting my first illustration from Magazine Management, the publishing company owned by Martin Goodman, in the early Fifties. It was a black and white illustration for MALE magazine. After a while, I got my first cover for MALE in 1954 [the April 1954 issue shown at the top of this post]. Magazine Management also owned a paperback company called Lion Library. So, I also I did covers for Lion. And, every picture I did for the Magazine Management magazines and books, I always gave it my utmost, given the deadlines.

After you got started with Mag Management, were you courted by other men’s adventure magazine publishers?

MORT: Yes, I started getting calls from rival publishers. And, I think artists are the same going back to Michelangelo. You want to make a living painting pictures. And, you’d rather be paid more than less for the same picture. So, they started to compete for my services. I ended up doing most of my work for Magazine Management because they made me a great offer. They could do that because they were the biggest, especially in the men’s adventure market. Not in terms of circulation of the individual magazines. But they had many magazines. TRUE magazine was the cream of the crop in circulation, ARGOSY was number two, and I did work for both TRUE and ARGOSY later.

You provided artwork for most of the top Magazine Management magazines, like MALE, STAG, FOR MEN ONLY and MAN’S WORLD.

MORT: Yes, the art director at Magazine Management [Mel Blum] said “We’ll give you as much work as you want. We’ll just keep you busy.” And then they matched and surpassed the other offers to where they were paying me more than TRUE and ARGOSY. So, Magazine Management took me through the Fifties and into the Sixties. I would just churn out work for them. I worked 12 hour days, 15 hour days, sometimes seven days a week. Almost always six days a week, from nine o’clock in the morning to ten or eleven at night.

Were you working out of your own studio at that point?

MORT: Well, at first I was working at home. Then I started working in a studio with another artist you may be familiar with because he did a lot of men’s adventure stuff, George Gross.

Yeah, of course. He was great!

MORT: George’s family was friends with mine. I used to call him Uncle George and I chose him as my mentor. If I was in Manhattan showing my samples, I’d stop by his studio. And, finally, he said “Hey, let me talk to the guys here.” He was renting space in an art studio of sorts. They did point of sales advertising display work and stuff, and George rented space from them. They had drawing boards and were doing lettering and those sorts of things and he said to them: “Why don’t you give this kid a drawing board, and he can do spots for you, whatever is necessary?” They did and it was wonderful. I didn’t have to commute back and forth from Brooklyn all the time. And, I could give a New York phone number, which was a big deal. I wasn’t just a kid working out of his house anymore.

You were in your mid twenties at that point?

MORT: Right. And, George sort of took me under his wing, and he taught me whatever he could. It was a wonderful thing for me. You know, he’s quoted extensively in the book THE AMERICAN SPIRIT, one of the books about my historic paintings that came out in 1986. Anyway, from then until around 1965, I did a lot of work for men’s adventure magazines. I also did some work for hunting and fishing magazines, like SPORTS AFIELD and OUTDOOR LIFE, and for AMERICAN WEEKLY, which was a Sunday supplement in the newspapers. I did a lot of work for them. I didn’t do much in the way of advertising, even though that was always considered the cream of the crop, because it was the highest paying work. And, I did some work for SATURDAY EVENING POST. I can’t even remember all of them. It’s so much.

Did you cross paths with artist Norman Rockwell when you worked for the POST?

MORT: I spoke to him on the phone several times, but I never had the pleasure of visiting with him. I wanted to but he was just too busy. It’s funny, I’m kind of at that point right now. I’m usually too busy to be able to see people who just want to stop by and meet me. We get calls from all over the world. It’s sort of amazing to me. I can’t quite believe it. We recently got a call from some people from Holland who just wanted to shake my hand and I did meet with them. So, I do meet people sometimes. But most of the time I just can’t.

So, now we’re up to the mid-1960s in your career. That was kind of another turning point for you wasn’t it?

MORT: Yes, in 1965 I got my first real historic painting assignment for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, for a story about the history of St. Augustine, Florida, and that eventually led to a whole new era for me.

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You can read Part 2 of my interview with Mort by clicking this link.

I encourage you to learn more about this great artist by visiting his official website and by buying some of the excellent books that feature his historic paintings.

Also be sure to check out the website that focuses on Mort’s illustration art — KunstlerIllustrations.com — and the the Mort Künstler Illustration Art Facebook site, as well as the gallery of his paintings on American Art Archives.

To see some of my previous posts about Mort’s men’s adventure art, click on his name in the Artist Index section for this blog and scroll down past the two interview posts — or, click some of the links you’ll see when you Google “Mort Kunstler” + MensPulpMags.com.

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

Check out our Men’s Adventure Library series on Amazon by clicking this link or the image below.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

From Vic Prezio and James Bama to Walter Popp and Norm Eastman – the missing HORRORHOUND captions, Part 2...

As explained in my previous post, men’s pulp art collector Rich Oberg and I recently put together an article about men’s adventure magazines that was published in the July/August 2011 issue of HORRORHOUND magazine.

The article is heavily illustrated and the layout looks great. But there wasn’t room to provide captions for all the covers and artwork it shows.

So, I’m providing info about the issues and artists featured in a series of posts here on this blog.

Today’s post provides info about the images on the second page of the article (page 45 in the magazine).

In the middle section of that page there are two original paintings from the Rich Oberg Collection, along with the covers they were used for.

The first painting, by artist Vic Prezio, looks like it could be a poster for a pulp sleaze version of Roger Corman’s 1961 film The Pit and the Pendulum.

It was used on the cover of the June 1964 issue of REAL MEN magazine.

The original painting below that was created by Basil Gogos for the March 1972 issue of MAN’S BOOK. (I featured it in a previous post here.)

In the 1950s and 1960s, Prezio and Gogos created cover paintings for both men’s pulp magazines and the classic horror magazines published by Warren: FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, CREEPY and EERIE.

James Bama is another artist who worked in both the men’s adventure and horror magazine genres. He also created some terrific paintings for the classic Aurora’s monster model kits that were popular in the 1960s.

A cropped image of Bama’s painting for the Aurora Bride of Frankenstein model box is at the bottom left corner of the second page of our HORRORHOUND article.

Below are photos of the top of the box and an assembled, unpainted model (from the cool Resin the Barbarian model fan site).

The cover next Frankie’s Bride in the HORRORHOUND article is the November 1973 issue of WORLD OF MEN. The cover painting is by Marty Ripoll for the story “TONIGHT SATAN CLAIMS HIS NAKED BRIDE.” (In my imagination, it’s a prequel to the campy William Shatner and Ernest Borgnine flick The Devils Rain.)

The next image in the bottom row of p. 45 is a classic Nazi bondage and torture cover: the October 1964 issue of MAN’S EPIC. The artist is uncredited, but it looks to me like it might have been painted by Norm Eastman, one of the grand masters of BDSM-themed “sweat magazine” subgenre of cover paintings.

To the right of that is an EXOTIC ADVENTURES cover that features a fantastic painting by artist Hugh Hirtle. (From the looks of the distressed damsel in that one, I’d guess Hugh is a fan of Bettie Page. But then, who isn’t?)

As I noted in an earlier post, that issue (Vol. 1, No. 2 from 1958) includes a long-overlooked erotic adventure story by the legendary science fiction author and screenwriter Harlan Ellison.

The next cover in the bottom row, showing a bug-eyed babe being lowered onto a bunch of presumably poisonous snakes, is the October 1950 issue CHAMPION FOR MEN. The cover painting was done by the great pulp illustrator Clarence Doore.

The March 1961 cover of BATTLE CRY that’s next to last in the bottom row features another painting by Vic Prezio. This one is pretty horrific, even by the politically-incorrect standards of men’s adventure magazines. It shows a Japanese soldier being fried alive by an American GI’s flamethrower.

Interestingly, this scene is somewhat similar to a cover used on one of the old BATTLE CRY comic books. Publisher Stanley Morse turned the BATTLE CRY comic into a men’s adventure magazine after the puritanical Comics Code was imposed in the 1950s and essentially banned violent images in comics.

Looking at the images along the right hand margin of page 45, from the top down, the first one features a “Good Girl Art” painting by Basil Gogos. This classic GGA cover is the October 1965 issue of ADVENTURE magazine.

Below that is a terrific example of what I call the “bad biker” cover subgenre. It’s the August 1972 issue of MAN'S EPIC. The painting is by Norm Eastman.

Evil motorcycle gang members are common on covers and in stories in men’s adventure magazines published in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Often, they are depicted wearing Nazi insignia, as some bikers did in real life (though perhaps not as often as they did on the covers of men’s pulp mags or the low-budget outlaw biker movies that were popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s).

Norm Eastman also painted the over-the-top scene on the next cover down, the March 1965 issue of MAN’S STORY: a demented Nazi officer preparing to burn the flesh off the face of a scantily-clad woman, while his henchman carries away his previous victim in the background.

Below that is the August 1966 issue of MAN’S ADVENTURE, which shows two women are getting some payback by carving a swastika on the chest of a Nazi officer. The artist is uncredited, but looks like it might be another Vic Prezio painting.

The Nazi bastards are back in control in the second to last cover at the right of page 45. It’s WORLD OF MEN, October 1964, featuring a cover painting by the great and prolific illustration artist Walter Popp.

The cover at the bottom right hand corner of the page is the November 1962 issue of MAN’S ACTION. It features another Norm Eastman painting. But in this one, the tormentors of the scantily-clad damsels are bloodthirsty natives instead of Nazis.

In upcoming posts, I’ll provide info on the rest of the images he provided for our HORRORHOUND article.

Thanks to Rich Oberg, as always, for sharing photos of covers and paintings from his amazing collection.

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Posters featuring the cover of MAN'S ACTION, June 1969

T-shirts featuring the cover of the 1959 Annual Issue of SIR!