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

Our books on Amazon: the MEN'S ADVENTURE LIBRARY series...
Click the image above for more information about our anthologies of men's adventure magazine stories and artwork

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

MORT KUNSTLER: THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS – a look at our latest book...


For the Men’s Adventure Library book series I co-edit and publish with Wyatt Doyle, via his New Texture imprint, 2019 was a banner year.

In January, we published POLLEN’S ACTION: THE ART OF SAMSON POLLEN, our second book showcasing original men’s adventure magazine (MAM) artwork by artist Samson Pollen. The first book we did with Sam before he passed away in December 2018 was POLLEN’S WOMEN.

In 2019, we also published a lushly-illustrated book focusing on the career of the legendary artist’s model, pinup model and actress Eva Lynd, titled EVA: MEN’S ADVENTURE SUPERMODEL.

Shortly after it was released, Eva was invited to be the Special Guest of Honor at the 2020 PULPFEST convention in August. (Wyatt and I will be there with her, signing and selling books, so if you’re able to come to Pittsburgh, stop by and see us.)

During the summer and fall of 2019, we worked with the great illustration artist Mort Künstler, his daughter Jane Künstler, President of Kunstler Enterprises, and Mort’s archivist Linda Swanson on an art book featuring classic men’s adventure magazine cover and interior paintings Mort did during the first major phase of his long career.

That book, titled MORT KÜNSTLER: THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS, is now available on Amazon in the US and worldwide. It’s also available on the Barnes & Noble website and via the Book Depository site, which offers free shipping to anywhere in the world.

And, you can buy a copy signed by Mort himself via his official website.

In the store section of Mort’s site, you can also buy high quality prints of some of the original MAM paintings featured in the book, as well as many other books, calendars, prints and collectibles that feature his artwork.

Nowadays, Mort Künstler is most widely known for the art he produced in the decades after the men’s adventure periodicals faded away and disappeared from newsstands in the late 1970s.

Around the time MAMs were becoming extinct, he began a new phase of his career doing historical artwork.

In the late ‘70s, he made a splash with Western paintings sold by fine art galleries.

Then, in 1982, a commission from CBS-TV to do artwork for the mini-series, THE BLUE AND THE GRAY, led to a period in which he focused on Civil War paintings. It wasn’t long before he became the most-collected and best known Civil War artist in the country.

Mort went on to do many paintings depicting scenes from throughout American history. And, as noted in the biography on his website, he came to be called “the premier historical artist in America.”

However, as Mort himself explains in an extensive interview with him in our new book, he honed his craft and made his living early in his career by doing cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s adventure magazines.

Most of that artwork was done for the “Atlas/Diamond” line of MAMs published by Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management company and its subsidiaries (FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MAN’S WORLD, MEN, STAG, etc.).

In fact, Mort created hundreds of awe-inspiring cover paintings and interior illustrations for the Goodman MAMs, as well as for other top mags in that genre, such as ARGOSY and TRUE.

The new book we created with him showcases over one hundred of his original MAM paintings.

The text includes a preface by Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, Deputy Director & Chief Curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and an introduction by Michael W. Schantz, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, New York.

We borrowed the title for the book from the title Michael gave to the special exhibit of Mort’s men’s adventure magazine paintings that was on display at the Heckscher Museum in the fall of 2019.

As explained by displays in the show — and by Michael and Mort in the front matter section of the new book — the use of the term “Godfather” reflects the fascinating links between Mort and writer Mario Puzo, author of the blockbuster novel THE GODFATHER.

From the late 1950s to the late-1960s, before THE GODFATHER made Puzo famous, he worked as a regular writer and sometimes as Associate Editor for the Magazine Management MAMs Mort Künstler did artwork for.

In fact, Mort created illustrations for dozens of the war and action/adventure stories Puzo penned for those magazines, which he often wrote under the pseudonym Mario Cleri. And, because Mort was so good and had such a vivid imagination, the editors sometimes had Mort paint action-filled scenes first — then had Puzo write stories to go with them.

When THE GODFATHER was published in 1969, Martin Goodman bought the right to publish a “Book Bonus” version in the August 1969 issue of MALE. Naturally, Mort was tapped to create the cover for that issue. And, when the Literary Guild edition of THE GODFATHER was published that summer, Mort was hired to create the artwork for the Guild Bulletin announcing it.

Last November, Wyatt and I traveled to New York to see Mort at his home in Oyster Bay. While there, we met his wife — and favorite female model — Deborah Künstler.

We used her image from one of Mort’s paintings on the front cover of MORT KUNSTLER: THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS. It’s part of a lush blue duotone painting he created for a spy story in STAG, April 1958.

While we were visiting with Mort and Deborah, we also had our first in person meeting with Jane and Linda.

To top it all off, we got a guided tour of the exhibit of Mort’s MAM artwork at the beautiful Heckscher Museum from Michael Schantz.

We’re extremely grateful to Jane and Linda for all the work they put in to help us create the new book and to Mort for giving us his blessing and sharing his memories with us for the text. With their input, and the insightful introductory text provided by illustration art experts Plunkett and Schantz, we created one helluva cool book — the first to focus on Mort’s MAM art.

This post provides a look at some pages from it. The featured artwork is shown in full-color, full-page spreads. We decided to keep those pages text-free, so each painting can be viewed and appreciated in itself as a piece of art. An appendix in the back of the book provides a list of where each painting appeared.

As you can see from the first two examples shown below, Mort did some terrific Civil War paintings for MAMs long before his later Civil War art phase. At left is the painting he did for the cover of STAG, October 1956. Next to that is his cover art for MEN, September 1957.

At right is the full blue duotone painting with the image of Deborah that we chose for the cover of the book. It was used for an interior illustration in the April 1958 issue of STAG.

Below at left is Mort’s cover painting for STAG, December 1959. It goes with a World War II a story inside about a B-24 crew.

The wild and crazy boat attack scene next to that is one of my favorite Mort Künstler paintings for a Cold War story. It was used on the cover of MALE, July 1960.

The Mort Kunstler illustration showing Bigfoot was used for a story in the March 1960 issue of TRUE and is well known to fans of cryptozoology lore. It’s one of the images we included in our book collecting MAM stories and artwork about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster and other legendary creatures, the CRYPTOZOOLOGY ANTHOLOGY.

The first painting in the pages shown below was used on the cover of STAG, May 1963. It goes with a classic story by Walter Kaylin about the ill-fated crew of the USS Indianapolis, many of whom were killed by sharks after their ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1945. You may recall that incident being described in the movie JAWS by Robert Shaw’s character Quint, who said he was one of the crewmen who survived. Kaylin’s story about the USS Indianapolis is included in our anthology of his great MAM stories, HE-MEN, BAG MEN & NYMPHOS.

If you’re an action/adventure movie fan, you almost certainly recognize the suave-looking guy surrounded by the bevy of beauties in the second image below. It’s Mort’s portrait of Sean Connery as James Bond, in a painting he did for the cover of the June 1965 issue of MALE.

The depiction of the Japanese Zero being shot down by an American P-40 Warhawk fighter is Mort’s painting for the cover of STAG, December 1965. It goes with the fact-based story “Yank Ace Who Battled the Japs Over Pearl Harbor,” one of the classic war stories by writer and military historian Robert F. Dorr we included in our anthology of his MAM stories, A HANDFUL OF HELL.

The alluring gal in the pool below at left is one of two paintings by Mort featured in inset panels on the cover of STAG, April 1967.

The exotic adventure painting next to that was used on the cover of STAG, June 1968.

Mort’s creatively composed painting at right was used on the cover of MEN, June 1969. Magazine Management Art Director Larry Graber, who Mort talks about in the book, would sometimes tell artists where to leave blank areas for text in their illustrations. Larry’s instructions for this example would have been interesting to hear.

I’ll be posting more pages from the book on this blog and in our Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, if you buy a copy of the book and enjoy it, I hope you’ll post a positive review of it on Amazon or Goodreads, or on a blog or website you write. Reader reviews are extremely important for indie publishers like Wyatt and me.

Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Weasels Ripped My Book Facebook Page, email them to me,
or join the
Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group and post them there.

Related reading…

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Men’s adventure magazine art used for album covers and spoofs…


In the Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook group, members sometimes post interesting examples of artwork from vintage men’s adventure magazines (MAMs) recycled for other purposes.

One of my favorite examples was posted a while back by Timothy Isaacson, a group member in Illinois who has diverse tastes in art and music.

His post showed the cover of the career-spanning, 2-disc compilation CD set by The Smithereens titled FROM JERSEY IT CAME! THE SMITHEREENS ANTHOLOGY.

The Smithereens are best known for their songs “Blood and Roses,” “Only a Memory,” “A Girl Like You” and “Too Much Passion.”

I remember seeing the band’s video for “Blood and Roses” when it was shown on MTV in 1986 (back when MTV was still good).

The song was also featured in the 1987 MIAMI VICE episode “Duty and Honor” (Season 3, Episode 15, also known to fans as “The Savage” episode, after the name of the psycho killer in the story).

Another claim to fame chalked up by The Smithereens’ is being featured in the gonzo Troma Films flick CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH.

During the high school dance scene at about 20 minutes in, they play the song “Much Too Much,” from their BEAUTY & SADNESS album. 

The cover art for the Smithereens’ CD set is a collage of images taken from three different classic MAM issues.

At bottom left is the face of a guy with a bloody cut on his cheek.

That image comes from the painting the great paperback and MAM artist Robert E. Schulz created for the cover of MALE, December 1954.

Schulz created hundreds of paperback covers and MAM cover and interior illustrations. Like many illustration artists, he also did some advertising artwork, most notably the image of the lumberjack used on the packaging for Brawny paper towels in 1978. (The red-hued package shown at left in the photo below.)

Schulz’s family created a Facebook page for him several years ago and one of the posts there has an interesting anecdote about the Brawny Man model. It says: “The model used was a gas station attendant from Stockholm, NJ. He was offered a big contract to appear in TV ads for a national advertisement campaign, but turned it down because he would not venture the 55 miles to NYC for any amount of money.”

The Bob Schulz cover painting for MALE, December 1954 that the Smithereens CD borrowed a piece of shows a guy running away from a tiger on a wooden bridge, as his buddy shoots at the big cat with a pistol. I suspect the cover art for that issue was picked because there’s a classic story about a killer tiger inside, though it doesn’t actually involve any adventurers on a bridge.

The story is memorably titled “EAT HER... Bones and All!” It was written by Bruce Jay Friedman, who worked as an editor for the Martin Goodman Magazine Management MAMs early in his career, before he became a world famous novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

It’s one of the stories included in WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH!, the first story anthology in the Men’s Adventure Library book series I co-edit and publish with Wyatt Doyle via his New Texture imprint.

The image in the middle of the Smithereens CD cover — a guy doing battle with a giant snake — comes from the cover of the January 1958 issue of the men’s adventure mag TRUE WAR. That cover painting was done by artist Mal Singer.

The screaming woman in the image at right on the CD cover comes from the cover of MAN’S LIFE, November 1957.

That cover painting goes with the story “SPIDER MONKEYS TORE ME APART!” It was done by the great Wilbur “Wil” Hulsey, who was — among other things — a grand master of illustrations for the type of “killer creature” yarns that were popular in vintage MAMs. (We focus on those in our MAM story and artwork anthology I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE.)

Wil Hulsey did many of the classic animal attack covers for MAN’S LIFE and TRUE MEN STORIES, including the iconic “Weasels Ripped My Flesh!” painting used for the cover of MAN’S LIFE, September 1956. (Naturally, we feature the “killer weasels” issue on the cover of our WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH! anthology, which reprints that classic story. As you may know Frank Zappa borrowed that story title as the title of a 1970 album by his band, The Mothers of Invention. In case you missed it, the story behind that album cover is in a previous post I wrote at this link.)

On the cover of MAN’S LIFE, November 1957, the screaming woman is beset by, er, ferocious killer spider monkeys. On the Smithereens cover, the layout designer Photoshopped a python onto her body.

Another CD cover that uses an image from a men’s adventure mag is the cover of an album by a French rock band named Blow. That came about because the band’s drummer, Lionel Amerio, stumbled across my interview on this blog with great MAM artist Bruce Minney and a later guest post by Bruce’s son-in-law, Tom Ziegler, discussing his lushly-illustrated book about Bruce’s MAM and paperback cover artwork, BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING.

Lionel sent me an email saying his band wanted to use part of Bruce Minney’s cover art for MAN’S CONQUEST, August 1971 on the cover of the band’s CD STREETS OF RAGE. Much to his credit, he said they did not want to use the image without Bruce’s permission and wondered if I could put him in touch with Bruce.

I did, Bruce said “OK,” and the result is the cover of the CD shown here, which was a joint release with another French band named Drebean.

The CD cover has Minney’s image of a group of male and female bikers tormenting a young woman superimposed on a cartoon-like street scene representing “Rage Street.”

I suspect there are other album covers that lifted men’s adventure mag artwork. If you know of other examples, please email me or post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook group and I will update this post.

There are a couple of other interesting cases of MAM covers being used for rock music purposes I currently know of, but they are not album covers.

One is a photoshopped spoof on the LaughingSquid site. It repurposes Wil Hulsey’s weasels cover as if it were about the song “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” by the English rock band The Smiths. The reimagined headlines superimposed on the spoof cover are a hoot.

I found some more like that in a post featuring “Classic Rock And New Wave Songs Brilliantly Reimagined,” on the oddly-named DesignYouTrust site. If you know the songs involved and read the headlines superimposed on the MAM covers, they’re pretty funny, too.

One is a version of the cover of MAN'S BOOK, June 1963, which has a cover painting by Bruce Minney depicting the legendary “Lace Panty Commandos.” It “reimagines” the 1979 Talking Heads song “Life During Wartime” as a men’s adventure magazine.

Another one on that site reimagines the classic Beatles song “Rocky Raccoon” as a MAM cover. It uses the cover of REAL MEN, June 1958, which features a Western cover by the prolific MAM, comics and paperback artist Vic Prezio.

By the way, the “Classic Rock And New Wave Songs Brilliantly Reimagined,” post also includes some cool paperback spoof covers, as well as the ad shown below, which will give my fellow Pink Floyd fans a chuckle. 

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Weasels Ripped My Book Facebook Page, email them to me,
or join the
Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group and post them there.

Below are the current books in our Men's Adventure Library series. We'll be announcing more soon…