Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Florida Pulp AdventureCon, from the perspective of a men’s adventure fan…

 

When my men’s adventure magazine mentor Rich Oberg and I heard that there would be a bunch of issues from the legendary Napa Collection and some original men’s adventure artwork at the inaugural Florida Pulp AdventureCon in Fort Lauderdale on February 22, we had to go.

And, we’re both very glad we did.

As noted in my previous post here, the Florida Pulp AdventureCon was organized by Rich Harvey and his partner Audrey Parente, organizers of the long-running PulpAdventure Con in New Jersey.

For me, the fun started the night before the Con.

Rich, his lovely wife Holly and I were invited to dinner by a fellow collector we know who lives in Southeast Florida.

As MAM buffs know, Rich owns the largest collection of original men’s adventure artwork and magazines in the world. It’s been featured in two great books: Taschen’s MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES and Adam Parfrey’s IT’S A MAN'S WORLD: MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES, THE POSTWAR PULPS.

The Florida collector we had dinner with owns one of the world’s most complete collections of the earlier pre-World War II pulp fiction magazines.

He was also instrumental in bringing the Napa Collection of men’s adventure magazines to Heartwood Auctions. And, he owns some awesome vintage illustration artwork.

Since he prefers to keep a low public profile, I won’t name this particular über collector.

But I will show a couple examples of the men’s adventure treasures we saw at his house.

One was a cover painting by Norm Eastman that was used for the cover of BLUEBOOK, October 1966.

The female model used for the machine gun-toting babe in that painting was my pen pal and favorite glamour girl Eva Lynd.

The guy in the background is Eva’s frequent modeling partner Steve Holland, the model for James Bama’s iconic Doc Savage paperback covers and countless other cover and interior illustrations done for paperbacks and men’s magazines.

Another treasure we saw that night was Norm Eastman’s original painting for MAN'S BOOK, October 1965.

I don’t know who the model was for the poor scantily-clad damsel who is simultaneously being pierced by bamboo stakes and whipped by an evil North Korean soldier. But the model for the Korean was Norm himself. (He often used his own face for the bad guys in his cover paintings.)

That MAN’S BOOK issue epitomizes the type of men’s adventure magazine that give bunched panties to people on the “correct” end of the politically correct spectrum. Along with other mags published by the Reese and EmTee companies (MAN’S EPIC, MAN’S STORY, MEN TODAY, NEW MAN, WORLD OF MEN, etc.) and by similar low-budget publishers, MAN’S BOOK is the kind of “lurid” mag that led the entire MAM genre to be dismissed and dissed and lumped together (quite, er, incorrectly) under the derogatory term “sweat magazines.”

Of course, to people like me and Rich Oberg, there’s not only nothing wrong with those old gonzo “sweat mags.” We love ‘em. We view them as them as cool descendants of the earlier periodicals called “weird menace” or “shudder” pulps. And, it amazes us that, in an era when the novel 50 SHADES OF GREY is a bestseller and many popular movies and TV shows regularly feature bondage, torture and other things that are far more extreme than the typical images and stories in men’s adventure magazines, the “sweat magazine” subgenre of MAMs still elicits shock and derision.

One of our other dinner companions the night before the Con – Stephen D. Korshak – has similar views. Stephen owns the internationally-renowned Korshak Collection of “imaginative” illustration art. Paintings from his amazing collection are featured in several beautifully-produced illustration art books.

My favorite is THE ALLURING ART OF MARGARET BRUNDAGE, which he co-authored with the renowned comics and illustration art expert, author and publisher J. David Spurlock. Brundage was a rare female pulp artist who did some of the best cover paintings for WEIRD TALES and other pulps in the 1930s.

We saw copies of many such pulps on display at the Pulp AdventureCon the next day and J. David Spurlock was a special guest there that day.

On his table he had copies of the many books he has written and published about comic and illustration artists. My favorite is FAMOUS MONSTER MOVIE ART OF BASIL GOGOS, which Spurlock co-edited with Kerry Gamill. It includes a chapter about the cover paintings and interiors Basil did for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, which range from intense battle scenes to alluring “Good Girl Art.”

Spurlock also brought along some nice artwork to sell – including “comp” sketches Gogos did for his men’s adventure work.

The first Florida Pulp AdventureCon was not a large show. But as the presence of Spurlock suggests, the quality of the vendors and items was high.

In fact, among the dozen other major vendors were some of the top vintage comic, magazine and illustration mavens in the country.

For example, in addition to being the organizer of the Florida and New Jersey Pulp AdventureCons, Rich Harvey is the founder of the Bold Venture publishing company. Bold Venture publishes a growing array of anthologies of both classic pulp stories and “new pulp” and Rich brought copies along for the table he and his partner Audrey Parente had at the Con.

Audrey is also a pulp fiction expert who has penned books about a pair of towering figures in that genre, writers Theodore Roscoe and Hugh B. Cave.

Two of the best sources of vintage magazines in the world – including men’s adventure magazines – also had tables at the show: DTA Collectibles, owned by pioneering comics and vintage magazine maven David T. Alexander and Heartwood Auctions, which Rich Harvey works for on a part time basis. David is a legendary figure in the realms of both vintage comics and vintage magazines and, among other things, is the coiner of the term “Good Girl Art” (GGA, for short). That handy term for images of scantily-clad babes is now applied to comic and cartoon art and illustration art used for magazines, paperbacks, calendars and other purposes.

The DTA and Heartwood tables both featured rows of classic pulp mags in great condition and those were the big draws, just like they are at venerable pulp cons like the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention and Pulpfest.

But my focus was seeking out some of the scarcer men’s adventure-related offerings that often show up at pulp cons. And, there were some great MAM treasures there to be had.

The Heartwood Auctions folks had brought along some boxes full of men’s adventure magazines from the Napa Collection, the amazingly pristine stash of men’s adventure mags found several years ago in a “secret” room in a house in California.

I’ve been buying issues from the Napa Collection for a while now via the Heartwood website to fill holes in my collection. At the Con, I snagged a couple more that I had missed.

One is a mint condition copy of MAN’S WORLD, August 1958, with an awesome exotic adventure cover painting by Mort Kunstler. MAN’S WORLD is one of the classic Atlas/Diamond group of mags published by one of Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management subsidiaries. (In 1958, Olympia Publications was listed as the publisher of MAN’S WORLD.)

Like almost all Atlas/Diamond magazines, this issue is full of rousing action and adventure stories, illustrated by some of the best mid-20th illustration artists who worked for the men’s magazines and paperbacks. For example, it includes superb interior duotones by Mort Kunstler and Tom Ryan

…and by the equally talented illustration artists Al Rossi and Samson Pollen.

The other Napa Collection issue I bought is a pristine copy of MAN’S ADVENTURE, January 1961, a men’s adventure mag published by comics pioneer Stanley Morse, through his Stanley Publications company.

The issue I bought features a wild chain gang scene, with a busty blonde prison boss whipping one of the hapless prisoners. No artist credit is given for the cover painting, but I’m pretty sure it was done by artist Mel Crair.

Most of interior art in that one is not quite as good as in MAN’S WORLD. But there is one illo in it that’s very notable for who it’s done by: John “Jack” Schoenherr. Schoenherr actually did quite a few illustrations for men’s adventure magazines, but they are far less known than his work for science fiction magazines, most significantly the memorable cover and interior paintings he did for Frank Herbert’s series of DUNE novels, starting with their serialization in ANALOG magazine in the early 1960s.

The Heartwood Auction folks also brought along some nice original men’s adventure paintings to sell. My friend Rich Oberg bought several to add to his huge and still growing collection. (He now has more than a thousand original MAM cover and interior illustrations.)

At a nearby vendor table I met author and historian Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson. Her grandfather was Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, the founder of DC comics who brought Superman to the public. Among other things, Nicky was selling a collection of adventure yarns the Major wrote for pulp magazines before he became a comics publisher, titled THE TEXAS-SIBERIA TRAIL.

At another table, pulp maven, pop culture historian and archeologist Jeffrey Shanks was selling pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks and copies of his pulp-related books. I bought a signed copy of his latest, ZOMBIES FROM THE PULPS, the first-ever collection of zombie stories published in classic pulp mags like WEIRD TALES, DIME MYSTERY and TERROR TALES decades before the modern boom in Zombie movies and TV shows began.

Jeffrey was also gracious enough to sell me a hard-to-find copy of TRUE, December 1959 that he had.

That issue is hard to find because it includes a historic story about Bigfoot, published before he was called Bigfoot. It’s titled “The Strange Story of America's Abominable Snowman” and was written by cryptozoology pioneer Ivan T. Sanderson, with art by Louis Glanzman.

In a few weeks, my co-editors Wyatt Doyle and Dave Coleman will be publishing our CRYPTOZOOLOGY ANTHOLOGY – the third book in the Men’s Adventure Library series. It includes a baker’s dozen of classic men’s adventure magazine stories about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Loch Ness monster and other legendary creatures. The “pre-Bigfoot” Bigfoot story from the December 1959 issue of TRUE will likely appear in a second volume of classic crypto-critter tales, which we’re already starting to plan for. (Thanks, Jeffrey!)

Vendors at Pulp AdventureCon also included some other notable pulp mavens who, along with Jeffrey Shanks, have dubbed themselves the “Southern Pulpsters” in the Facebook group where they hang out online.

One was writer, editor and graphic designer William Lampkin. William was a key contributor to one of the most long-running and authoritative online sources about pulp magazines, ThePulp.Net. He is the author of the Yellowed Perils blog, the first of ThePulp.Net’s Pulp.Blogs, and founded ThePulp.Net’s precursor, .Pulp, in 1996.

Another table at the Con was manned by Michael R. Hudson, CEO and President at Sequential Pulp Comics. Michael is both a comics and pulp expert and a mover-and-shaker in the realm of “new pulp” (a.k.a. “neo pulp”). Under his guidance, Sequential has published a series of highly-acclaimed graphic novels, written and illustrated by top players in that realm. He also recently wrote the novel MY NAME IS NOBODY, which is based on the original screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi for the famed 1973 spaghetti western.

In fact, I’d say one of the things that really impressed me about the Florida Pulp AdventureCon was how many talented and knowledgeable people were there, both as vendors and as viewers.

I was also struck by the camaraderie and friendliness of the Southern Pulpsters vendors at the Con, and by their willingness to share information about pulps, artwork, publishing and other topics with relative newbies like me.

It was great fun and I was happy to hear Rich Harvey confirm that he and Audrey already planning next year’s Florida Pulp AdventureCon. I’ll be there.

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