A look at THE MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #8, the “Hit Men” issue…

Bill Cunningham, my co-editor on the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY dubbed MAQ #8 our “Heavy Hitters” issue. It showcases classic men’s adventure magazine stories about hit men by some excellent writers, illustrated by some of the top artists who worked for MAMs. It also includes guest editorials by some heavy hitters in the realms of pulp and pop culture history.: Gary Lovisi and Michael Stradford.

This last few months have been especially busy for Bill and me. In addition to putting out MAQ #8, Bill and I published the lavishly illustrated book THE ART OF RON LESSER, VOL. 1: DEADLY DAMES AND SEXY SIRENS. It’s the first in a series of books we’re doing about the paperback, movie poster and magazine artwork Ron has done during his six decade long career.

We’ve also both worked on other projects separately. For example, Bill recently announced his imminent publication of an 8-volume TOM CORBETT: SPACE CADET series. He has also created cover designs for Justin Marriott’s PAPERBACK FANATIC and BATTLING BRITONS fanzines, and Michael Stradford’s third book about the world’s most recognizable illustration art model, STEVE HOLLAND: PAPERBACK HERO.

Meanwhile, Wyatt Doyle and I published two new books in our Men’s Adventure Library series. I provided a preview of one of them, THE NAKED AND THE DEADLY: LAWRENCE BLOCK IN MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES, in a previous post on this blog. That anthology collects men’s adventure mag stories written by Block before he became renowned as one of the world’s foremost writers of mystery and crime fiction.

In August of 2023, Wyatt and I debuted the 18th book in our MAL series, ATOMIC WEREWOLVES AND MAN-EATING PLANTS: WHEN MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES GOT WEIRD, at PulpFest 2023 in Pittsburgh. It collects MAM stories about werewolves, vampires, ghosts, aliens, and robots written by “weird tales” luminaries such as H.P. Lovecraft, Manly Wade Wellman, Theodore Sturgeon, and Gardner F. Fox. Commentary on the stories, writers, artists and magazines is provided horror expert Stefan Dziemianowicz, pulp mag expert, bookseller, and PulpFest organizer Mike Chomko, and by me and Wyatt. Like all MAL books, it’s lushly illustrated with cover and interior art in full color.

The MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #8 begins with my usual opening introduction, followed by a fascinating article by Bill Cunningham about the 1972 film HIT MAN, starring Bernie Casey and Pamela Grier, a classic Blaxploitation homage to the 1971 British gangster film GET CARTER, starring Michael Caine.

As usual, the MAM stories in MAQ #8 are in chronological order based on their original publication dates. The first, “Setup for the Kid,” is from STAG, February 1957. It’s a noir-flavored tale of two professional hitmen who meet in Florida and travel together to carry out a contract they were assigned to work on together, illustrated by Robert E. Schulz.

On the way to the victim’s location, they discuss various things; some relevant to the job, some as inane as how hot Florida’s weather is. Their conversations remind me of several spoken by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Quentin Tarantino’s film PULP FICTION. The dark humor in the story, especially in the ending, is also Tarantino-esque.

The second story, from MAN’S ODYSSEY, March 1958, is “I Was Al Capone’s Hatchet Man” by Dave Mazroff. Mazroff was a very interesting guy. From the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, he was basically a professional criminal who worked for some of the biggest gangsters in Detroit and Chicago. He was involved in many crimes and did time in prison for several, including robbery, extortion, assault with a deadly weapon, and arson.

In the late 1950s, after his last stint in prison, Mazroff began submitting fictional and fact-based crime and mystery stories to digest magazines and men’s mags. He soon became a fairly successful writer, ultimately selling hundreds of stories and articles.

Most were published in MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE between 1968 and 1977. He also sold stories to other crime digest mags and to MAMs like ARGOSY, ADVENTURE, SEE, and MAN’S ODYSSEY.

Mazroff’s fact-based story is followed by “Killer With 100 Faces” by Donald I. Brock, from MAN’S TRUE DANGER, February 1963. It’s portrayed as a true story, but is in fact pure fiction. However, like many faux true stories in MAMs, it’s a fun read. And, like most stories in MAQ #8 and other issues of the MAQ, the cover and interior art that go with it are very cool. In this case, they’re by the great John Duillo.

The next story is “The Specialist” by George Joseph, from FURY, April 1963. It’s a neatly crafted story about a pro hit man that has a surprise ending—and it’s not the final twist you might expect.

The writer, George Joseph, worked as a lawyer in New Zealand for 40 years. On the side, he wrote hundreds of short stories and a number of fiction and non-fiction books.

The fifth story in the 8th issue of the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY is “Bugsy Siegel: Ever-Lovin’ Top Gun of the Syndicate” by Anthony Scaduto, first published in STAG, August 1963. It’s a good example of a MAM story that’s based on fact but written in a fictional style. The cover painting for STAG, August 1963 was done by the great Mort Künstler, whose MAM cover art is showcased in the book I co-edited with him and Wyatt Doyle, MORT KÜNSTLER: THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS.

The cool duotone artwork for the story was done by Samson Pollen. The original painting is one of the many featured in the book POLLEN’S WOMEN: THE ART OF SAMSON POLLEN, the first of three books featuring artwork by Sam that I co-edited with Wyatt Doyle. (The other two are POLLEN’S ACTION and POLLEN IN PRINT: 1955-1959.)

By the way, MAQ #8 is the first MAQ to come in three editions. Amazon KDP, which we use to publish the MAQ recently increased the prices it charges content creators, so we had to increase the price of the regular 150-page full color edition to $29.95. We realize some that may seem high to some readers, so we also created a Black & White “Noir” edition priced at $19.95 and even less expensive full color Digital Replica ebook edition. The Digital Replica Edition, viewable on an iPad, Kindle Fire, PC, Mac or other device is available free via Amazon if you have Kindle Unlimited or $9.99 if you don’t. At left is the 2-page spread showing Samson Pollen’s duotone painting for the Bugsy Siegel story from the color editions. At right is the same spread from the B&W Noir edition.

The next story is “I Hit the Hit Men” from MALE, November 1974. It’s portrayed as the true reminiscence of a freelance hitter who killed dozens of people, Jerry “Red” Kelley, “as told to” writer Win P. Morgan. It’s fiction, but is so full of believable details and anecdotes, that it certainly seems like it could be true.

As I note in my intro to that story, one of the things that caught my eye in the issue it appeared in was a brief “news” item about the famed porn actress Marilyn Chambers. It notes that Marilyn had been the model for mother holding the baby in the painting shown on boxes of Ivory Snow laundry detergent in the early ‘70s, and predicts that boxes of Ivory with Marilyn on them will be collectors’ items. They were right. On eBay, Ivory Snow boxes with Marilyn’s image now sell for $150 or more. I saw one she autographed before her death in 2009 offered for $399!

The seventh story in MAQ #8 is “The Hit Man Who Turned Out To Be A Woman” from FOR MEN ONLY, March 1975, illuminated with a cool artwork by Bruce Minney (subject of the must have art book BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING). I’m a big fan of movies in the “gals killing gangsters” genre. Films like KILL BILL I and KILL BILL II (2003 & 2004), COLOMBIANA (2011), and PEPPERMINT (2018).

This interesting hit woman yarn, by Craig Campbell, is definitely a “gals killing gangsters” story, but it’s not told from the female killer’s perspective. It’s told by a cop who’s given the unwelcome assignment of trying to track her down and stop her.

The final MAM story is “The Day Castro Beat the C.I.A.’s Mafia” by Wayne C. Ulsh, from FOR MEN ONLY, October 1975. It also has cool artwork by Bruce Minney.

When it was published in 1975, reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had recruited the Mafia to try to assassinate Cuban Communist dictator Fidel Castro had been made by the pioneering investigative journalist Jack Anderson and discussed in Congressional hearings.

However, it wasn’t until 2007 that the C.I.A./Mafia team up was publicly admitted by former C.I.A. Director Allen Dulles. Thus, Wayne C. Ulsh was somewhat ahead of his time when he wrote “The Day Castro Beat the C.I.A.’s Mafia.” It’s fictional. But its plot is not as far out as some the C.I.A.’s real life plots to kill Castro with assassins, poison, exploding cigars, contaminated scuba diving gear, and other wild stuff.

As noted above, MAQ #8 also includes guest articles by two people we are fans of, Gary Lovisi and Michael Stradford.

In the realm of vintage paperbacks and pulps, Gary and his wife Lucille are legendary. He has been publishing the great PAPERBACK PARADE magazine for over 25 years. It’s one of the great fanzines that helped inspire the creation of the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY. Gary has also authored a long list of fiction and non-fiction books you can check out on Amazon by clicking this link. He also has a YouTube podcast channel about new and vintage books. Recently, Gary and Lucille were profiled in a fascinating article in the October 2023 issue of HARPER’S MAGAZINE.

For MAQ #8, Gary wrote an exclusive overview of about hit men and hit women in novels, movies and real life.

He also allowed contributed a great interview with Betty Brosmer, who started out as a popular pinup model, then married bodybuilding guru and publisher Joe Weider and became a partner in his fitness equipment, bodybuilding context and men’s magazine empire. (I added a sidebar about the interesting Weider men’s adventure magazines Joe published with his brother Ben, which I’ve written about in previous posts on this blog.)

Michael Stradford’s article in MAQ #8 provides an overview of the career of Steve Holland, the male artist’s model used for countless paperback and magazine covers and interior illustrations from the 1950s to the 1990 by dozens of the top illustration artists of those decades. Michael is the world’s foremost authority on Holland. Among the books he has edited and published are STEVE HOLLAND: THE TORN SHIRT SESSIONS, STEVE HOLLAND: THE WORLD’S  GREATEST ILLUSTRATION ART MODEL, STEVE HOLLAND: COWBOY and the recently released STEVE HOLLAND: PAPERBACK HERO.

Michael is currently working with artist and writer Howard Chaykin on a hardcover graphic novel starring soldier of fortune Neal Fargo, based on FARGO paperback series by John Benteen. It’s gonna be great, so be sure to sign up for updates on their web page for the project at this link.

If you’d like to see even more of what’s inside MAQ #8, click the image below to view a video review and preview posted by our friend in the UK, Jules Burt. Jules has a mind-boggling collecting of vintage paperbacks, comics, fanzines, video games, toys and other memorabilia that he features in videos on his “Collections & Unboxings” YouTube Channel. Jules is also an excellent writer. Earlier this year, he wrote a great article for MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #7, our “Gang Girls” issue, about vintage juvenile delinquent paperbacks by Evan Hunter and Harlan Ellison. We greatly appreciate your support, Jules!

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