Artist Samson Pollen created hundreds of classic illustrations for the men’s adventure magazines (MAMs, for short) published in the 1950s, 1960s and 197os.
Before Sam passed away in December 2018, Wyatt Doyle and I co-edited two books with him featuring his original MAM artwork for our Men’s Adventure Library book series.
The first, POLLEN’S WOMEN: THE ART OF SAMSON POLLEN, focuses on MAM artwork he did that has scenes featuring sexy or dangerous-looking female characters.
The second, POLLEN’S ACTION, showcases Pollen paintings done as illustrations for the typically wild action/adventure stories in MAMs.
With the blessing of Sam’s widow Jacqueline Pollen, we recently released a third Pollen art book titled POLLEN IN PRINT 1955-1959.
We initially offered an edition of it via Indiegogo that sold out quickly. Now we are releasing a deluxe hardcover edition worldwide via Amazon and other major online booksellers, like Barnes & Noble and the Book Depository (which offers free shipping anywhere in the world). You can also buy copies directly from me via this blog’s bookstore or my eBay listings.
It’s a big, sexy, action-packed chronological collection of Pollen’s earliest illustrations published in men’s adventure magazines from 1955 to 1959.
We’re planning to do future deluxe-format books that will feature Sam’s illustrations from issues published between 1959 to the mid-1970s, eventually showcasing a complete collection of three decades of his MAM work in its entirety.
Sam enjoyed initial success as a cover artist for paperbacks in the early 1950s. He started doing magazine artwork in the mid-1950s, while continuing to do paperback covers. (See my article in ILLUSTRATION magazine #67 for an overview of both aspects of his career.)
Almost all of Pollen’s magazine artwork was done for Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management Company.
Magazine Management launched the Marvel comic empire and published many types of magazines. Among those periodicals are some of the best and longest-lasting MAMs, including ACTION FOR MEN, FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MAN’S WORLD, MEN, STAG, and TRUE ACTION.
Our POLLEN’S WOMEN and POLLEN’S ACTION books showcase full-page reproductions of the original paintings Sam created for various MAMs, along with scans of the magazine pages they were used for. You can see an extensive flip-page preview of POLLEN’S WOMEN at this link and a similar preview of POLLEN’S ACTION here.
They include examples of his MAM paintings from the 1950s to the 1970s that fit the respective themes of the books: alluring women and action/adventure.
The POLLEN IN PRINT approach is different.
It showcases a chronological presentation of Pollen’s work as it was first seen by MAM readers in the original printed pages of the magazines. The images are high resolution scans of single and two-page spreads from the magazines, along with the small “spot” illustrations Pollen created for some stories.
Each image is printed on a full page. In the case of artwork used for two-page spreads, I spent many hours using photo-editing software to remove the page seams.
Here are some pages from the new book that show what I mean. In the magazines they come from, these images spanned two pages. Because our Pollen art books are a horizontal format, we can show two pages united on one page.
In this new Pollen book, we also show each of the smaller, but no less masterful “spot” illustrations he created for MAM stories. They’re each printed on a single, full page. Thus, they are much larger in size than they are in the magazines, and every detail can be savored.
When enlarged, Pollen’s spot illos show how great he was as illustration an artist, even when doing small, black-and-white paintings. To my knowledge, no other books have ever featured spots the way we do in POLLEN IN PRINT: 1950-1959.
Below at left is the two-page spread in our book featuring Pollen’s main illustration for the story “The Man Who Lived Underground” from MALE, October 1956. It’s an excerpt from a controversial, historically significant novel by the pioneering Black author Richard Wright that wasn’t published in full until 2021. Next to that is one of the seven spot illustrations Pollen did for the story. As you can see, it’s an amazing work of art itself. (The background is tan because that issue used low grade, tan paper for the back pages the spots appeared in.)
Below are some more spot illos by Pollen from the book. The one at left was used for a story in MALE, September 1957. The one at right was used in MAN’S WORLD, June 1958.
Like our previous Pollen art books, this new one is a 140-page, 11” x 8.5” deluxe hardcover, printed on high-quality paper.
Illustrations that were printed in full color or as two color “duotones” are printed in full color or as duotones in the book. Illustrations that were originally printed as black-and-white in the magazines are shown in black-and-white in the book.
We think the insights and revelations to be gleaned from this complete, chronological look at Samson Pollen’s MAM illustrations are significant, both in terms of bringing to light “lost” or long-unseen works, and by visually charting Pollen’s progress and evolution as an artist.
In addition to the image scans, there is some in-depth frontmatter text about Samson Pollen and his career that helps put him and the MAM genre in context.
If you’ve enjoyed other books in our Men’s Adventure Library series, we think you’ll enjoy POLLEN IN PRINT: 1950-1959. We expect to release the next book in the POLLEN IN PRINT series in 2023. In the meantime, we will soon release GEORGE GROSS: COVERED, a new art book collecting MAM covers by artist George Gross that we debuted at PulpFest 2022.
Below is a peek: the “cover wraps” (back and front cover images) for the paperback and deluxe hardcover editions of the Gross book.
I’ll post more about the George Gross book soon.