Thursday, August 27, 2015

Art by Earl Norem does double duty, for a “Spider Tribe” and a “Scorpion Cult”...

My previous post here took a closer look at Earl Norem’s amazing interior illustrations for the “Book Bonus” version of Mario Puzo’s novel THE GODFATHER in the August 1969 issue of MALE magazine.

We featured those illustrations in our WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH! anthology, along with an interview Puzo did with our co-editor Josh Alan Friedman about his years as a writer for men’s adventure magazines published by Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management company.

Another classic Norem illustration we featured in WEASELS is an example of a cover painting that was later changed and repurposed for a second cover and a different story.

The first version was the cover painting Norem did for ACTION FOR MEN, March 1969.

It shows a hunky American guy staked out on the ground, with big tarantula-like spiders crawling on him.

In the background, some of the natives who staked him out are dancing around him.

The men are covered in red body paint and look like iconic South American aborigines.

As usual in men’s pulp adventure mags, the female tribal members are non-native-looking babes who look like PLAYBOY models.

This amazingly cool Earl Norem goes with the story inside titled “I LIVED WITH THE LOST 'SPIDER TRIBE' OF BOLIVIA.”

It’s portrayed as a true story in the magazine, complete with a straight-faced introduction by the editor.

The editor’s note explains that the story is about U.S. Air Force Captain Charles Hines, the pilot of an American U-2 reconnaissance plane.

According to the editor, Hines was on a spy mission over Communist Cuba when his oxygen malfunctioned.

He ended up making an emergency crash landing in the jungles of Bolivia, where he became “the first white man to visit the Boronos — the most primitive tribe in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world.”

Of course, readers didn’t have Google back then. They couldn’t just search “Boronos tribe” Bolivia and find out that search returns the message “No results found.”

So, as was customary for men’s adventure magazines, the supposed reality of the story was played to the hilt.

In addition to adding a credible-sounding introduction, the editors used various stock photos to enhance the illusion.

I’d guess that few readers ever noticed (or cared) that the photos seem to show native people from a couple of different tribes or places.

The “Spider Tribe” story is credited to George D. Robinson, a pseudonym of writer David George.

According to Phil Stevensen-Payne’s indispensible vintage magazine website, Galactic Central, George wrote stories for both pulp fiction digest magazines and men’s adventure magazines under several pen names.

Two years later, Earl Norem’s “Spider Tribe” cover painting was altered by changing the spiders into scorpions.

With that change, it was featured in an inset panel on the cover of FOR MEN ONLY, March 1971. The scorpion transformation was done so the painting could be used for the story “I WAS SEIZED BY PERU’S ‘SCORPION CULT’ TRIBE.”

That one was written by one of the most notable authors who started out writing for men’s adventure magazines, Robert F. Dorr.

I’ve written quite a few posts about Bob Dorr here in the past and have had the pleasure of getting to know him through an ongoing correspondence.

He’s also an active member of our Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook group, and regularly posts comments there that provide insights into what it was like to write for men’s adventure magazines back in the day.

Bob wrote hundreds of stories for many different men’s adventure magazines in the 1960s and 1970s.

He went on become one of our country’s top military aviation historians.

In recent decades, he’s written hundreds of articles for military and aviation periodicals and 70 history books, most recently a highly-praised series about the crews of fighters and bombers of World War Two, that includes HELL HAWKS!, MISSION TO BERLIN, MISSION TO TOKYO and FIGHTING HITLER’S JETS.

This year, Bob branched out by writing the hard-hitting, expose-style book AIR POWER ABANDONED: ROBERT GATES, THE F-22 RAPTOR AND THE BETRAYAL OF AMERICA’S AIR FORCE.

He also self-published his first novel, a highly entertaining alternate history story titled HITLER’S TIME MACHINE.

Although HITLER’S TIME MACHINE is Bob’s first novel, he got lots of practice writing fiction during his years as a regular contributor to men’s adventure magazines.

Like the “Spider Tribe” story in ACTION FOR MEN, Bob’s “Scorpion Cult Tribe” story in FOR MEN ONLY is another classic example of a MAM yarn that was published as a true story and accompanied by photos designed to create an air of credibility.

In this case, the editors apparently figured that most readers would not notice (or care) that the photos supposedly depicting a Peruvian tribe includes shots of some Middle Eastern guy with scorpions on his face and a group of Australian aborigines.

Those kinds of unintentionally humorous absurdities are among the things I love about men’s adventure magazines.

I also love the cool spiders-turned-to-scorpions cover painting by Earl Norem, which is a classic example of a whole sub-genre of MAM stories that involve animals as instruments of torture (a subject I wrote about in a previous post here).

And, believe it or not, the “Spider Tribe” and “Scorpion Tribe” stories are actually damn good pulp fiction yarns that we may feature in a future story anthology.

Coming up: Earl Norem artwork from our HE-MEN, BAG MEN & NYMPHOS anthology.

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

Want signed copies of any of our men’s adventure magazine story anthologies shipped anywhere in the world? Click this link or the image below to buy copies directly from me on eBay.

Men's Adventure Library books

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Earl Norem and Mort Kunstler artwork for THE GODFATHER…

In my previous post here, I featured some of the original artwork by Earl Norem that’s owned by members of our Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

We’ve been posting a lot about Earl in the group since his death on June 19, 2015 at age 91.

He was one of the greatest and most prolific of many great artists who worked for men’s adventure magazines and the related realm of comics.

In a comment on a post in the group, one of the members who had not yet bought our first two men’s adventure magazine story anthologies – WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH! and HE-MEN, BAG MEN & NYMPHOS – asked me if there are any illustrations by Earl Norem in those books.

The answer is: Oh, hell yeah! There are some great Norems in those books.

For example, the WEASELS anthology includes the masterful duotone montage illustration Earl Norem created for the “Book Bonus” version of Mario Puzo’s novel THE GODFATHER that appeared in the August 1969 issue of MALE magazine.

Among the scenes included in the montage is at least one you will undoubtedly recognize: the bloody horse head in the bed.

It and the other two small scenes are all worthy of a closer look.

MALE’s “Book Bonus” excerpts from THE GODFATHER came out just five months after the novel was originally published by G. P. Putnam's Sons.The first edition of the book was released on March 10, 1969, with the iconic marionette image created by graphic designer S. Neil Fujita.

If you’re a fan of this blog or our anthologies of men’s adventure magazine stories, you probably know that Mario Puzo wrote THE GODFATHER in his spare time while he was working as a writer and Associate Editor for Martin Goodman’s company Magazine Management.

Magazine Management was the umbrella for various subsidiaries that published MALE and the other classic “Atlas/Diamond” men’s adventure magazines, such as ACTION FOR MEN, FOR MEN ONLY, MAN’S WORLD, MEN and STAG, as well as many other types of magazines, comic books (including the early Marvel Comics) and paperback books.

In fact, Puzo wrote scores of stories for those magazines before Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 movie version of THE GODFATHER launched his career into the stratosphere. Most of Puzo’s men’s adventure magazine stories were written under the pseudonym Mario Cleri, but many were published under his own name.

Giving Magazine Management the rights to publish a “Book Bonus” edition of THE GODFATHER was a nice nod to Puzo’s writing roots and MALE gave it special treatment.

The front cover featured a terrific cover painting for the story by artist Mort Kunstler. It’s also a montage style painting featuring several scenes.

To further enhance the cachet of their GODFATHER “Book Bonus issue, the editors had a special promotional “card” on fairly thin white paper glued to the cover along the left edge.

The promo overlay has short quotes from reviews of the novel by the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, NEWSWEEK, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL, THE NEW YORK TIMES and (for some odd reason) THE ANNISTON, ALA. STAR.

To see the complete cover of the issue, you had to lift the overlay and fold it over like a flap or – as most readers appear to have done – tear it off.

Underneath the review sticker is a headline for an interesting anti-animal experiment exposé titled “LET’S STOP THOSE ‘EXPERIMENT’ LABS THAT TORTURE ANIMALS” and another for a the story “THE TEROPOR TREK THROUGH THE EVERGLADES.” Today, it’s a valuable find if you can snag a copy of MALE, August 1969 with the GODFATHER review quotes foldover still attached.

Inside the magazine, in addition to the main 2-page interior illustration by Earl Norem, there’s a second smaller, half-page Norem illustration for THE GODFATHER that we also reproduced in our WEASELS anthology. It’s Norem’s depiction of the classic scene in which Michael Corleone meets drug dealer Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo (who had recently had his men try to assassinate Michael’s father Vito) at a restaurant, supposedly to discuss peace terms. Sollozzo is accompanied by the corrupt local police captain Mark McCluskey.

In the novel, after the three men sit down at the table and have some initial discussion, Michael excuses himself and goes to the bathroom, where he retrieves a handgun one of the Corleone men had hidden for him before the meeting. When Michael returns to the table, he shoots and kills both Sollozzo and McCluskey, then calmly walks out of the restaurant.

I love Norem’s illustration of Michael shooting of Sollozzo and McCluskey.

I also love the restaurant shooting sequence in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie version of THE GODFATHER.

When Michael (played by actor Al Pacino) kills Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and McCluskey (Sterling Hayden), it signals that he has finally embraced being a member of a Mafia family and given up his attempt to be a “normal” member of society. And, the bloody denouement of the scene, with Captain McCluskey grabbing futilely at the spurting bullet hole in his neck, just before Michael shoots him in the head, is indelibly memorable.

Mort Kunstler’s montage cover painting for MALE, August 1969 also includes a depiction of several scenes from the book, including his version of the restaurant shooting scene, a nice example of a “Good Girl Art” babe, a bedroom scene (possibly depicting Michael Corleone’s with his second wife Kay, played by Diane Keaton in the movie), a nighttime shooting scene.

Interestingly, if you reread the novel, you find that Coppola's version was actually a bit closer to Puzo's description of the order and placement of the shots Michael fired than Norem’s or Kunstler’s. Here’s how it’s depicted in the book:

"Michael thrust the table away from him with his left hand and his right hand shoved the gun almost against Sollozzo’s head...The bullet caught Sollozzo squarely between his eye and his ear...Michael pivoted to bring the gun to bear on McCluskey...It caught McCluskey in his thick bull-like throat and he started to choke loudly as if he had swallowed too large a bite of the veal. Then the air seemed to fill with a fine mist of sprayed blood as he coughed it out of his shattered lungs. Very coolly, very deliberately, Michael fired the next shot through the top of his white-haired skull."

Coming up: more Earl Norem art from our WEASELS anthology, our HE-MEN, BAG MEN & NYMPHOS anthology, and a new collection we plan to publish in the fall of 2015.

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

Related reading: books featuring artwork by Earl Norem & Mort Kunstler…

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Earl Norem is gone, but his men’s adventure and comics artwork is immortal...

Three of the top illustration artists whose work appeared in many men’s adventure magazines have died in recent months.

One was Wilbur “Wil” Hulsey, the man who created the iconic cover painting for the “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” story that inspired this blog, the title of our first anthology of vintage men’s adventure magazines and, of course, the Frank Zappa album title.

Hulsey was a master of everything from animal attack covers to “Good Girl Art” covers.

He died in February at age 89.

Rudy Nappi, who started as a pulp magazine artist, then did hundreds of paperback covers and men’s adventure mag illustrations, died in March at age 92.

In June, artist Earl Norem also passed away at the age of 92.

Earl was one of the most beloved illustration artists in two realms: men’s adventure magazines and comic books.

He did hundreds of MAM cover paintings and interiors.

A large percentage were for the classic Magazine Management Atlas/Diamond magazines: ACTION FOR MEN, COMPLETE MAN, FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MAN’S WORLD and STAG.

Most of the rest appeared in the long-running men’s adventure mags published by Stanley and Crestwood, MAN’S LIFE and TRUE MEN STORIES.

Earl Norem was equally prolific in the world of comics.

He created hundreds of awe-inspiring, often MAM-like cover paintings for many Marvel comics, such as SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, TALES OF THE ZOMBIE, TRANSFORMERS and PLANET OF THE APES.

He is also known for doing some great, gonzo artwork for the MARS ATTACKS comics and trading cards.

In fact, in the weeks before his death, Earl was working on a new MARS ATTACKS trading card project for Topps.

To my knowledge, only one collector owns a significant number of the original men’s adventure artwork done by Wil Hulsey and Rudy Nappi: that’s my friend Rich Oberg, who owns the largest collection of original men’s adventure artwork in the world. (Rich’s collection is featured in the books: Adam Parfrey’s IT’S A MAN’S WORLD and Taschen’s MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES.)

Naturally, Rich also owns many of Earl Norem’s men’s adventure cover and interior paintings, as well as some of Earl’s comics cover art, like the painting used for TALES OF THE ZOMBIE #6 (July 1974).

Rich and several other avid collectors of Norem’s artwork are members of the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group that’s an offshoot of this blog.

One of them is Craig Clements. Craig has been buying paintings and sketches directly from Earl Norem for years.

The Norem artwork he owns runs the gamut from men’s adventure illustrations to Mars Attacks paintings to comics cover paintings and preliminary sketches.

His collection also includes rarely-seen Norem treasures like Christmas cards from Earl and his wife Peg (illustrated by Earl, of course).

Another notable collector of Norem’s work who recently joined our Facebook group is Ray Falcoa.

Ray was a friend of Earl’s who owns an amazingly large collection of the artist’s preliminary sketches and original paintings.

Among other things, Ray owns the black-and-white and color prelim sketches Norem did for one of my favorite MAM covers: the portrait of a tough-looking biker with mirror sunglasses on the cover of MEN, April 1969.

Earl apparently thought the biker would be facing right when he did the sketches. But either he or the Art Director ultimately decided to flip it the other way for use on the magazine cover.

Ray has also been the owner of another one of my Norem faves: the painting used for the story “We Heisted New York’s ‘Diamond Row’” by W.J. Saber in STAG, August 1973.

It’s a gonzo masterpiece that features a gang of thieves wearing cartoon character masks, shooting it out with the cops.

Ray is a collector of both men’s adventure and comics artwork. So he also owns many examples of Norem’s comics artwork.

In addition to posting some examples in our MAM Facebook group, he has posted many of his Norems on his pages on the site.

One of the other members of both the site and our MAM Facebook group who has many great Norem originals is illustration art collector David O’Dell. (I featured artwork David owns by the men’s magazine illustrator Bill Edwards in a previous post on this blog.)

I have yet to be able to identify which men’s adventure magazine issues some of the Norem paintings David owns were used in.

For example, does anyone out there know what the wild painting with the collection of skulls wearing military hats was used for? Or the one with the pistol-packing babe under the sun lamp?

If you know, please shoot me an email or drop by the MAM Facebook group and lets us know.

In upcoming posts, I’ll showcase more Earl Norem illustrations. Like most everyone who knows his work, I love it.

R.I.P., Earl. I imagine you being borne to heaven by a bevy of babes like those you painted.

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

Related reading: books featuring artwork by Earl Norem…