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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More Bruce Minney paintings featured on the History Channel’s “American Pickers” show...

On the evening of August 5th, 2013, the History Channel’s “American Pickers” TV series aired an episode of particular interest to fans of men’s pulp adventure magazines.

In it, the show’s stars, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, stumbled upon a treasure trove of original paintings by artist Bruce Minney that had been hidden away in a storage building in Pennsylvania for over 30 years.

The building was owned by a man and woman identified simply as Les and Loretta. Les told the Pickers he’d bought the paintings directly from Bruce, around the time when Bruce had decided to sell off his men’s adventure paintings prior to moving his family from New Jersey to California in 1981.

Sadly and ironically, Bruce passed away the same day this episode debuted.

Of course, Mike and Franz couldn’t have predicted that when the episode was shot.

And, based on things they said, my impression was that they didn’t really know who Bruce was and were unaware of the fact that he was still alive when they found the paintings Les and Loretta owned.

They clearly didn’t know that Bruce was one of the greatest of the many great illustration artists who did artwork for men’s adventure mags and paperback books.

So, the Pickers only bought six of the Minney paintings Les had. I provided a look at those in my previous post here.

This post focuses on the paintings that were glimpsed on the show but passed up by the Pickers.

As noted near the end of that episode (which you can now watch online), men’s adventure cover paintings usually bring much higher prices than interior artwork. And, those showing scantily-clad damsels being tormented by Nazis or other evil fiends are among the most sought after.

Given that, I was especially amazed that the Pickers passed on buying the original Bruce Minney painting used for the cover of the June 1970 issue of NEW MAN magazine.

It’s a classic exotic bondage-and-torture scene in which a scantily-clad damsel has been hung up, crucifixion-style, by some South American natives. (Luckily a guy with a rifle is coming to rescue her in the background.)

The Pickers also passed on the awesome cover painting Bruce created for the November 1963 issue of REAL ADVENTURE.

They apparently didn’t know there’s a subset of art collectors who actively seek out illustration art that features military aviation battle scenes.

And, the one from REAL ADVENTURE is a doozy, showing an American flyboy falling head-first through the midst of a World War II aerial battle.

In his excellent book, BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING, author Tom Ziegler included Bruce’s comments about many of the hundreds of men’s adventure paintings he created.

Regarding the REAL ADVENTURE illo, Bruce told Tom:

“This was really a hard job. For one thing I had to pose him [i.e., the male model he photographed for reference] sideways on the floor with his legs in the air. Then I had to figure out how the lines from the parachute got stuck on the tail of the airplane. Then you have the airplanes flying underneath. Holy Crap. I remember that job – not with fondness, but it turned out pretty well. I never knew the title of the stories. I knew the magazine and a one-paragraph summary of the situation.”

The “American Pickers” guys also passed up buying two other cool Minney battle scene paintings that are featured in Tom’s book about Bruce.

One is a superb interior duotone Bruce created for a story about Gen. “Iron Pants” Royce, which appeared in the June 1964 issue of STAG.

In his book, Tom explains that in 1963, Bruce bought a Bausch and Lomb projector that had a significant impact on the types of scenes he was able to create.

It allowed him to project reference photos he collected of planes and various other things onto his illustration the board in the size needed to fit the scene he was painting.

“The projector was invaluable,” Bruce told Tom, “and allowed me to work a lot faster.”

As noted by Tom in his book, you can see the difference when you compare the 1964 STAG illustration with the pre-projector one Bruce did for a war story in the April 1960 issue of STAG (which now resides in the Rich Oberg Collection).

The scene is the 1960 illustration is ‘simpler.’

There are only two airplanes against a fairly uncomplicated background.

Both planes are sharply rendered and Tom said Bruce spent a lot of time doing the reflections on the wings.

By comparison, Tom wrote:

“The 1964 illustration done after Bruce got the projector is wild; bombs dropping, explosions, at least 16 planes in the air or on the ground. Very little attention is paid to the metallic surfaces of the planes. There is simply too much else going on.”

For some reason, the Pickers also decided not to buy a great “Good Girl Art” illo by Minney, featuring a nude with her naughty bits hidden by a strategically placed fern.

It was used in ACTION FOR MEN, September 1968.

They also took a pass on a great, gory bear attack illustration by Bruce that Les and Loretta owned. That one appeared in the May 1971 issue of MALE.

There was also a passing shot of an intriguing Minney painting that shows a guy and gal in what appears to be a bathtub being attacked by Japanese soldiers.

Neither Tom nor I have figured out what that one was used for yet. But it looked very cool on TV.

If you happen to know what magazine it was used in, please shoot me an email or drop by the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group and let us know.

I’m not sure why the Pickers didn’t buy all of these other Minney paintings when they had the chance. They probably should have.

I suspect that now, since they were featured on national television and Bruce has passed away, somebody else has.

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

The definitive book about Bruce and his art…

To buy a copy of this highly-recommended, lushly illustrated book, click this link or the image above

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bruce Minney, “The Man Who Painted Everything,” is now gone – but his artistic legacy will live on...

On August 5, 2013, the great illustration artist Bruce Minney passed away at age 84, about two months after suffering a major stroke.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that Bruce was one of the best and most prolific of the many talented illustration artists who created cover and interior paintings for men’s adventure magazines published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

He also did many paperback book cover paintings throughout those decades and into the 1990s.

Though I never met Bruce in person, I felt like I knew him.

I’ve featured his work in numerous posts on this blog. Some of them showed examples of the original Bruce Minney paintings that now reside in the mind-blowing art collection of my friend Rich Oberg, who I call “the Dean of Men’s Adventure Magazines.”

I later had the pleasure and honor of doing a phone interview with Bruce that I posted here in 2011.

And, the following summer, Bruce son-in-law and biographer Tom Ziegler (married to Bruce’s daughter, Carole) did a series of guest posts for MensPulpMags.com with excerpts from his lushly-illustrated, must-have book BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING.

Ironically, Bruce Minney died just hours before the first airing of an episode of the History Channel’s “American Pickers” show that featured some of his original men’s adventure magazine paintings.

Although Bruce didn’t get a chance to see it, that may have been for the best.

The hosts of the series, antique “pickers” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, and the female clerk at their store in Tennessee, made some nudge-nudge-wink-wink comments about the paintings that Bruce may have found a bit annoying. (I know Tom and I did.)

If you saw the episode or watch it online on the show’s website, you’ll know what I mean.

The “American Pickers” folks clearly know a lot about various types of antiques. But they do not appear to be very knowledgeable or appreciative fans of men’s adventure magazine art and seemed unaware of the amazing breadth and quality of Bruce’s body of work.

Nonetheless, for me, it was fascinating to see the original Minney paintings that were shown and cool to see any TV show do something about vintage men’s adventure magazines.

The Minney paintings shown in the “Pickers” episode had been hidden away for decades in a cluttered storage building owned a Pennsylvania antique dealer and his wife. They were identified simply as Les and Loretta.

Les explained that he bought the paintings directly from Bruce in a visit he made to the Minneys’ home in New Jersey. He recalled it being 1979. Tom told me it was probably in 1981. As Bruce told me in my interview with him, and as Tom recounted in his book, that was the year when Bruce decided to move his family back to California, where he grew up.

By then, Bruce had hundreds of his men’s adventure mag paintings on illustration board stored in their New Jersey home. At that time, unlike today, there was no significant market for original pulp illustration art in galleries or online sites like Heritage Auctions. So, Bruce decided to sell them off cheaply and even threw many away, to avoid having to haul them across the country when he moved.

Les said he bought about 40 men’s adventure paintings from Bruce. It’s not clear how many he still had. The video in the episode provides glimpses of what seemed to be about a dozen.

Mike and Frank only bought six: three cover paintings and three interiors.

Two of those cover paintings were iconic “sweat magazine” images of scantily-clad damsels being menaced by evil Nazis. One was used the cover of the July 1967 issue of WORLD OF MEN, the other appeared on the March 1971 issue.

In BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING, Tom Ziegler documented at least thirty WORLD OF MEN covers that Bruce did during the first eight years of that magazine’s ten-year run (1963 to 1973).

He noted that the March 1971 issue was the last one Bruce did for the magazine.

The third Minney cover painting the Pickers bought was a classic ‘70s Satanist cult scene, complete with a human sacrifice in the making.

It appeared on the August 1971 issue of MAN’S STORY, and is one of only three cover paintings I know of that Bruce did for that long-running men’s pulp mag. (It ran from 1960 to 1975.)

WORLD OF MEN and MAN’S STORY were both published by the Reese and EmTee companies, owned by B.R. “Bud” Ampolsk and Maurice Rosenfield (spelled Rosenfeld in some sources).

The three interior paintings the Pickers bought were all used in issues of STAG, one of the flagship men’s adventure magazines published by subsidiaries of Martin Goodman’s legendary Magazine Management company from 1949 until 1978 (after which it it morphed completely into a hardcore stroke mag).

One was a World War II action scene that showed some “Joy Girls” luring Japanese soldiers into an ambush. It was used for a story in the July 1970 issue of STAG.

The second STAG piece was a truly awesome “animal attack” illustration, showing a herd of “killer moose” running through a town. It was used for a story in the April 1971 of STAG (flipped horizontally when published).

Like artists did in many men’s adventure magazine illustrations, Bruce found a way to include a few barely-clothed babes.

The third STAG illo featured a Hells Angels style motorcycle gang. It was first used for a story in the January 1973 issue and later reused for another biker yarn in a different issue.

Mike and Frank negotiated Les down to a total price of $3,100 for the six Minney paintings they chose, which seemed like a good deal to me.

In the final part of the episode, those paintings were appraised by a guy from a local comic book shop. A lot of people who are into comics are also fans of men’s adventure magazines and the appraiser did seem to know more about the genre and Bruce Minney than Mike and Frank — though not a lot more.

The appraiser did note, correctly, that Bruce Minney was a very popular and prolific illustration artist. He estimated that the Minney interior paintings the Pickers bought were worth about $550 each and the covers were worth $1,000 to $2,000 or so.

At the end of the show, the appraiser concluded that all six Minney paintings were worth about $5,200, which suggested that Mike and Frank would make a nice profit.

I’d say that was a safe conclusion.

In fact, I’d guess those paintings may be worth significantly more than he estimated given Bruce’s recent death, the publicity from the show and the fact that awareness and appreciation of Bruce’s illustration art had already been steadily growing in recent years.

Bruce has not yet gained the level of recognition given to some of the artists who once worked for men’s adventure magazines, such as Mort Kunstler, James Bama or Basil Gogos.

But he certainly deserves it — and I think it will happen eventually.

When I watched the “American Pickers” episode the evening of August 5th, I knew Bruce had passed away earlier in the day.

Tom Ziegler had posted that sad news on his Bruce Minney Facebook page.

It made watching the show quite poignant. The fact that it was the first TV show I had seen that featured any men’s adventure magazine artwork also made it special to me.

But it wasn’t really a fitting homage to Bruce.

Tom’s book about him is.

And, if you are a fan of vintage men’s adventure magazines or illustration art in general or Bruce in particular, it’s a must-have.

R.I.P. Bruce... Thanks for all the great artwork. It’s an amazing cultural legacy that will continue to live on long on.

Coming up: a look at the Bruce Minney paintings Mike and Frank decided not to buy (which they may now regret)…

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

The definitive book about Bruce and his art…

Bruce Minney book, cover & inside 
To buy a copy of this highly-recommended, lushly illustrated book, click this link or the image above