Saturday, April 30, 2011

Vintage “sweat magazine” cover paintings by John Duillo, from the Rich Oberg Collection


In a recent conversation with men’s adventure art collector Rich Oberg, we discussed the fact that most of the vintage “sweat magazine” cover paintings in his collection have rarely been seen. (We apply the term “sweat magazines” to the outré subgenre of men’s adventure magazines that regularly featured bondage and torture cover art and stories, though some people use it more generally to refer to all men’s adventure periodicals.)

After our conversation, Rich sent me photos of some of the original B&T sweat mag cover paintings he owns, so we could do a series of posts on this blog.

Our first post in the series featured covers by Mel Crair.

Today’s post features sweat-style paintings by artist John Duillo from the Rich Oberg Collection.

Duillo was born in 1928 and died in 2003, after a long and varied career as an artist.

During the final decades of his life, he was widely known and highly respected for his historical artwork, particularly his Civil War art and his Western paintings and etchings.

Indeed, for some time, Duillo was President of The Society of American Historical Artists. His history-themed paintings and prints are still popular and sold in fine art galleries and online.

But, like many working artists, Duillo spent much of his career doing more commercial illustration art, especially book and magazine covers.

According to the bio about him on the RoGallery site, Duillo’s cover paintings appeared on an estimated 500 paperback books.

Quite a few of those were Westerns, including some by top Western authors like Zane Grey, Max Brand and Louis L'Amour. Duillo also painted covers for many pulpy mystery, detective and “sleaze” paperbacks, as well as science fiction and fantasy covers. If you’re a Conan the Barbarian buff, you probably recognize some of the covers he did for the classic Conan series published by Lancer Books, which also featured covers by fan-favorites Frank Frazetta and Boris Vellejo.

John’s wife Elaine Duillo is also a talented and prolific artist whose paintings appear on hundreds of book covers.

She’s best known for her Gothic and romance paperback covers — and for being the first artist to feature the male model Fabio in her cover paintings.

She was also one of the few women artists who provided artwork to men’s adventure magazines.

That’s due in part to the fact that John and Elaine were both represented during part of their careers by the artist and artist’s agent Ed Balcourt. Balcourt is a legendary figure in the world of illustration art who represented many men’s pulp mag and paperback artists. (There’s a great article about him by writer and pulp art maven Gary Lovisi in Issue Number Thirty-Two of Illustration magazine.)

Some of John and Elaine Duillo’s paperback covers are pretty wild. But none are quite as over-the-top as the bondage and torture cover paintings John did for men’s sweat magazines in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The John Duillo painting at the top of this post is a great example of an exotic adventure B&T sweat cover. In it, blood-crazed natives are the ones doing the binding and torturing of a beautiful, busty babe, rather than evil Nazis.

That eye-pooping painting was used on the cover of the June 1969 issue of Man’s Action.

It goes with the gonzo adventure yarn inside “I HEARD THE SACRED STATUE SCREAM.”

Duillo’s painting for the cover of the December 12, 1962 issue of Men Today — portraying a scene from the story “A CRYPT OF AGONY FOR THE SCREAMING BEAUTIES OF BELGIUM” — is in the more common Nazi bondage and torture category.

The Duillo painting featured on the October 1964 issue of Men Today gives us a look at the horrible fate facing “THE SILK PANTIES PLATOON WHO BROKE CASTRO'S BLOCKADE.” One of the unfortunate (and, as usual, scantily-clad) damsels in that one is being garroted by a Fidel Castro lookalike. Another is being dunked head-first by a different Castro clone, using a demonically-creative water torture device.

Stories and cover paintings that featured evil Cuban Commies were fairly common in men’s adventure magazines in the 1960s. In case you missed the series of three posts I did about other great examples, here are links to Part I, Part II and Part III.

The hapless (and, of course, gorgeous and well-endowed) nurses shown in the painting Duillo created for the cover of the April 1968 issue of Man’s Book are “STRIPPED VIRGINS FOR THE TORCH OF TORMENT.” That’s a “torchure” apparently devised by evil Japs.

Thanks again to Rich Oberg for allowing me to post another set of rarely seen original men’s adventure art from his collection. In the next post, I’ll show you some more of Rich’s pulp treasures.

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

Highly recommended for pulp art fans:

Pulp Fiction Art - Cheap Thrills and Painted Nightmares

An excellent documentary about pulp art, pulp artists, and pulp art collector and historian Robert Lesser, now available on DVD

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Men’s “sweat magazine” art from the Rich Oberg Collection – Part 1: Mel Crair covers


Bondage and torture cover art and stories are fairly common features of some vintage men’s adventure magazines.

The most notorious and most sought after are the Nazi B&T covers — showing Nazis tormenting scantily-clad women or male POWs, often using fiendishly-creative forms of torture.

The evil bad guys (and sometimes evil women) on men’s adventure mag bondage and torture covers also include Commies, African natives, Indians, Satanists, psycho killers and motorcycle gang members. But evil Nazis are the most common and most “popular.”

These sado-masochistic B&T covers helped give men’s adventure magazines the nickname “sweat magazines.”

Personally, I only apply that term to the subgenre of men’s pulp mags that commonly featured B&T cover art and stories, just as the term “weird menace” is used for the subgenre of pre-WWII all-fiction pulps that commonly featured bondage and torture covers and stories.

Many artists who created cover paintings and interior illustrations for the men’s adventure magazines did at least some sweat-style bondage and torture art. A few, like Norm Eastman, Norman Saunders and Basil Gogos did quite a lot of it.

A large percentage of the original men’s adventure magazine paintings that still exist are owned by Rich Oberg, the greatest collector of men’s adventure artwork in the world.

Examples from his collection are shown in the two must-have books about men’s adventure periodicals: It's a Man's World and Men's Adventure Magazines in Postwar America.

But those books only show a small sampling of the pulp art treasures preserved in Rich Oberg’s huge collection. And, only some of those are sweat-style bondage and torture paintings.

So, in a recent conversation I had with Rich, we decided to do a series of posts on this blog that show more of the wild B&T artwork he has in his collection, along with the covers they were used for.

Many of the original paintings we’ll be showing you in these posts have only been seen by the artists and the handful of magazine editors and collectors through whose hands they passed.

We’ll start with some wild Nazi cover art by artist Mel Crair (1923-2007).

As noted in the best online bio of Crair, on David Saunders’ great Pulp Artists site, he started out doing magazine covers for some of the last of the all-fiction pulp magazines, especially Western pulps. He also painted paperback covers, movie posters and illustrations for mainstream magazines. But Crair is probably best known for the hundreds of terrific men’s adventure cover and interior paintings he created from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s.

The original Crair painting shown at the top of this post was used on the cover of the May 1966 issue of Man’s Epic. It’s for the titillating story “SHACKLED NUDES OF THE MONSTER GENERAL.”

The male model Crair used for the monstrous, leering Nazi officer shown in that cover is Steve Holland.

If you’re a fan of vintage paperbacks and men’s pulp mags, Holland should look familiar to you. He was highly popular as a male model in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

He’s best known as the model used for Doc Savage on the covers of the Bantam reprint series, most of which were painted by artist James Bama (who also did many covers and interior illos for men’s adventure magazines). You’ll also see Holland’s manly image the covers of other paperbacks, including reprints of Kenneth Robeson’s other series, The Avenger, Mack Bolan’s Executioner series (featuring covers painted by men’s adventure artist Gil Cohen) and many Westerns.

Below are some more examples of Mel Crair’s Nazi “sweat mag” covers from the Rich Oberg Collection, along with the covers they were used on.

Crair’s painting for the August 1966 issue of Man’s Book goes with the story inside “TORTURE SECRETS OF HITLER’S MAD DOCTOR OF AGONY.”

The Crair painting for the cover of the March 1969 issue of Men Today is for the “Great Escape” style story “BRING OUT THE HOSTAGES OF HITLER’S DEATH TRAP.” The babe with the great cleavage on that classic “Good Girl Art” cover is helping to rescue some American POWs from a German stalag.

The poor girl on the cover of the March 1971 issue of Men Today is the one who needs rescuing. She’s being subjected to the “STRANGE RITES OF HITLER’S MAD FLESH STRIPPER.”

There are two unfortunate Nazi victims on the cover of the August 1967 issue of New Man magazine. They are unfortunate residents of “HITLER’S HIDEOUS HAREM OF AGONY.” And, yes, Steve Holland appears to have been the model for the both of the evil Nazi troopers in that scene.

In the next post, I’ll show some rarely-seen B&T paintings by artist John Duillo from the Rich Oberg Collection.

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

Further reading for pulp art fans...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Robert F. Dorr's new book MISSION TO BERLIN – and some of his classic men’s adventure stories...

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know that Robert F. Dorr— one of America’s top military aviation historians — was once one of the best and most prolific writers of stories for men’s adventure magazines.

I’ve featured a number of Bob’s classic adventure stories from the 1960s and 1970s in previous posts on this blog and, with his gracious permission, I’ve made digitized reprints of them available as downloads.

He was also kind enough to do an interview with me a while back, which gave me some interesting insights into what it was like to be a writer for men’s pulp mags.

After the men’s adventure genre faded away in the 1970s, Bob Dorr continued to be an amazingly prolific writer. But his focus became military history — particularly military aviation history.

Over the past 35 years, he has authored more than 70 books and thousands of non-fiction magazine articles about the Air Force and air warfare. And, he’s still going strong.

Bob’s new book, Mission to Berlin, has just been published. It’s an in-depth look at the incredible bravery and vital strategic role of American B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber crews during World War II.

I really enjoyed Bob’s previous book, Hell Hawks!, which focused on WWII fighter pilots, and I’m anxious to read Mission to Berlin.

Bob is my favorite kind of historian. He not only puts historical events in context, so you understand the big picture.

He also humanizes history, by telling the stories of the individual men and women involved, through their eyes and in their words.

When asked about that approach, Bob gave an answer that was especially interesting to me.

“A part of it from my experience writing hundreds of articles for the men’s pulp adventure magazines,” he said. “Titles like Stag, Male, Argosy and True staked their success on war stories that began with the event and used the event to frame and shape the person. Every one of the real men in Mission to Berlin is changed forever by his experience, so it only makes sense to use that experience as the backdrop for what happened to the person.”

Based on what Bob told me about Mission to Berlin, riding along with the B-17 crews as a reader of the book is going to be a hell of a ride.

“No one had ever fought at such great heights, in such terrible cold, with such fast and brutal action taking place all around them,” Bob explained. “So it was natural that American bomber pilots and crews became the stuff of legend and lore. Today, we realize that we’ll never see anything like this again — thousands of aircraft and tens of thousands of men fighting many miles above the earth. These were very young men, citizen-soldiers drawn from our population, caught up in a new and different situation. We have overused the ‘Greatest Generation’ label, but it is not wrong to say that these men achieved nothing less than to save the world.”

If you haven’t read any of the history books written by Bob Dorr, Mission in Berlin sounds like a good one to start with. It’s available now on Amazon.com. You can also get a personally autographed copy signed by Bob. To do that, mail a $35 check to: Robert F. Dorr, 3411 Valewood Drive, Oakton VA 22124.

If you missed my previous posts about some of Bob’s men’s adventure magazine stories, an appropriate one to start with, in light of his new book, is his gritty tale about a World War II bomber crew: “YANK ACE WHO SAVED THE ANZIO INVASION.”

It’s the cover story for the December 1967 issue of Man’s Magazine, which features a cover painting by the great pulp illustration artist Mel Crair.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Bob Dorr’s stories appeared in many of the best men’s adventure magazines, including Action for Men, Bluebook, Escape to Adventure, For Men Only, Man to Man, Male, Man’s Magazine, Real, Sir! and Stag.

As you might suspect, he wrote a lot of war stories, like “Yank Ace” and the action-filled Korean War story, “CHARGE OF THE MAD MACHINE GUNNER.”

“Mad Machine Gunner” was the featured cover story for the January 1967 issue Man’s Magazine. The cool painting on that cover is also by Mel Crair.

In addition to war stories, Bob wrote almost every other type of story that appeared in the men’s pulp mags. He wrote spy stories and Cold War thrillers, like “I FOUGHT CASTRO’S CUTTHROAT GUERRILLA SQUAD.” That one, about a Yank and a beautiful babe fighting against evil Commies in Guatemala, was published in the April 1970 issue of For Men Only. It’s a wild yarn, illustrated with an equally wild two-page illustration by another great illustration artist, Earl Norem.

Occasionally, Bob wrote “sexposés,” like “BEHIND THE SCENES OF BUDAPEST’S SEX REVOLT” (Bluebook, September 1970) and killer creature features, like the “‘GHOST’ BEAR THAT TERRORIZED A TOWN” (Male, February 1975).

He also wrote one of my favorite vintage drug exposé stories — titled “INNER SECRETS OF THE INTERNATIONAL COCAINE COMBINE” (Bluebook, July 1971). It’s historically interesting for being an early article about coke smuggling. And, like many old stories about illegal drugs, it’s illustrated with some photos that are pretty funny in hindsight.

For example, one photo shows several people that the caption identifies as “coca farmers” breaking apart pods to make cocaine. In fact, the pods in the photo are cacao, or cocoa, pods, the source of chocolate. (Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant.) Another larger photo supposedly shows a pile of “cokies” having a “wild sex orgy.” 

In honor of Bob’s new book, Mission to Berlin, I’ll add a new story to the list of Robert F. Dorr men’s adventure stories that readers of this blog can download and read. Like Mission to Berlin, it’s about the courageous men who crewed B-17s during World War II.

It’s titled “THE ‘IMPOSSIBLE’ RAID — A Lone B-17 vs. a Nazi Airbase.” The editor’s teaser subhead on the first page outlines the plot:

“One Flying Fort might be able to sneak through the defense ring at Abbeville-home of the Luftwaffe's top aces. But it meant a suicide run at tree-top level through fog so thick the bomber could plow into a hill before it ever reached its target.”

If you’re a Bob Dorr fan, like me, I think you’ll enjoy reading this early forerunner of his later history books, such as Hell Hawks! and Mission to Berlin.

You can download the entire “IMPOSSIBLE RAID” story in high-rez PDF format by clicking this link.

If you’re not a Bob Dorr fan yet, you should be. He was one of the best men’s adventure magazine writers in the 1960s and 1970s and since then he has become one of America’s best and most respected military history authors.

By the way, a good way to keep up to date on Bob and communicate with him is via Facebook. He has a large following on his Hell Hawks! Facebook page and a recently created a new page for Mission to Berlin.

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

Further reading: books by Robert F. Dorr…

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Inside MAN’S LIFE, September 1956 – from sin happy vacationers to accordion-playing geeks...


In recent posts, I featured cover paintings by artist Wil Hulsey, starting with his famous “WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH” cover from the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life.

Tonight’s post provides a look inside that classic issue of one of the best and longest-running men’s adventure magazines.

Man’s Life was published bimonthly by the New York-based Crestwood Publishing Co., Inc. from November 1952 to December 1965, then by Stanley Publications from mid-1966 until 1974.

Two of the guiding hands of Man’s Life during its Crestwood years were Milton Luros and Harold Straubing.

Luros was a talented pulp artist who became a major publisher of erotica, porn mags and “sleaze” paperbacks in the 1960s, through his companies American Art Agency, Parliament News, Brandon House, Essex House, Barclay House and others.

Straubing was the comics editor of the New York Herald Tribute Syndicate in the late 1940s. In the early 1950s, he began a long career as a magazine and book editor and a long association with Luros.

From 1952 to about 1959, Straubing was editor of both Man’s Life and True Men Stories. (True Men Stories was published in those years by Crestwood’s affiliated firm Feature Publications.)

Luros was Art Director for both magazines, though not under that name. He was credited as Milton Louis, a shortened version of his real name, Milton Louis Rosenblatt.

After Luros moved to California around 1958 or so to create his publishing empire, Straubing joined him and worked as an editor for several of Luros’ porn and non-porn magazines and book companies.

Luros and Straubing’s knack for generating interest-grabbing, envelope-pushing visual and written content was honed during their tenure at Man’s Life and True Men Stories. The September ‘56 issue of Man’s Life is a prime example — starting with the OTT cover painting by Wil Hulsey (who later worked as an artist and art director for several Luros magazines and book companies).

The lead story inside is a classic sexposé: “SIN HAPPY VACATIONISTS ARE OVERRUNNING CAPE COD” by Gene Channing, a writer who penned a number of sex exposes and action stories for men’s adventure magazines in the Fifties and Sixties.

Channing’s credibility-stretching article is illustrated with photos of sin-happy couples in action. As you can see in the scan at the beginning of this post, the happy sinners have those iconic black bands printed over their eyes, ostensibly to protect their identities (though the photos are almost certainly just stock photos).

This is followed by “MY HEAD WAS IN HIS MOUTH,” the first of three killer creature stories in the issue.

The head in the story belongs to a wheelchair-bound war veteran and the mouth belongs to a Maine black bear. It’s actually a pretty good, supposedly-true survival story, though it’s not quite as wild as the “WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH” yarn, which really is about a man who’s attacked by vicious weasels.

That legendary tale, credited to Mike Kamens, is also portrayed as a true, first-hand account. Of course, it’s actually pulp fiction, written under a pseudonym, like many of the “true” stories in men’s adventure magazines.

The third killer creature in the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life is a shark, portrayed in the photo that illustrates the story by a small, already dead-looking reef shark. The story itself, titled “HOOKED TO A KILLER SHARK,” is actually better than that pic suggests.

Like many other men’s adventure magazines, the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life also includes a “true crime” story. This one is “SEX MANIACS PROWL LOVERS’ LANE,” which mentions cases involving various pervs and psychokillers, most notably the “Mad Butcher” of Kingsbury Run. It was written by Eric Greywood, who also wrote stories for several vintage true crime and detective mags, including Crime Detective and The Master Detective.

The two most grisly stories in this issue are about real historic events.

“THE CIRCUS TENT WAS A FLAMING COFFIN” is an account of the July 6, 1944 Hartford Circus Fire, in which 168 people were killed. It was one of the most deadly fire disasters in American history.

The story “600,000 MURDERS IN 7 DAYS” has a hugely higher body count. It tells the horrific story of the bloody mass violence that occurred in 1947 when Pakistan was separated from India.

On the lighter side, there’s an article about that venerable baseball tradition, the beanball, titled “STICK IT IN HIS EAR.”

And, of course, as in most men’s adventure magazines, there’s also a cheesecake photo spread. This one features the model and actress Shirley Skiles, whose biggest claim to fame was appearing on the 1964 Disney feature The Tattooed Police Horse.

As you can see, the photos of Shirley are pretty mild cheesecake. In the mid-1950s, showing too much skin was one of the reasons the U.S. Postal Service could use to take away a magazine’s second class mail permit, which would usually kill the magazine. (See my previous post about Gusto magazine.)

However, back then, an exception was made for photos of “natives girls” with exposed breasts. They came under what my friends and I called “the National Geographic rule.” Thanks to that rule, a photo in another story in the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life shows a young Mexican girl topless.

The story, titled “TRAPPED IN THE TREASURE POOL OF DEATH,” is actually a pretty good Indiana Jones-style adventure tale about a treasure hunter who nearly bites it in a quest for valuable Mayan relics.

There’s also a good noirish pulp tale in this issue, “DEAD ALL THE WAY.” It features a sleaze-paperback style illustration by an uncredited artist.

Of course, part of the fun of reading old men’s adventure magazines today is checking out the ads. One of my favorites in this issue is the ad for the “Bubble Boy” with the, uh, “MYSTERIOUS MAGIC ACTION.”

Another is the “BETTER HAIR THRU BODY CHEMISTRY” ad. It has a truly unusual photo and an odd-looking diagram in the middle that seems like it should be in the “Bubble Boy” ad.

The full-page ad on the back inside cover also caught my eye. It’s for the U.S. School of Music. I couldn’t help but notice the guy in the upper left corner who’s playing an accordion, above a caption that reads: “Opened Door to Popularity.”

It reminded me of one of my childhood traumas, immortalized in the dramatic photo shown below.

Yes, folks, that’s me, playing an accordion. My parents really liked Lawrence Welk and Myron Floren. Oh, the horror when I found out a few years later that most teenage girls weren’t actually attracted to accordion-playing geeks.

BTW, if you want to read the September 1956 issue of Man’s Life for yourself, it’s available in high-rez PDF format in my Payloadz store for $2.99. Just click this link to download it.

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

New reading recommendations…