GEORGE GROSS: COVERED, a new Men’s Adventure Library art book

GEORGE GROSS: COVERED is latest book in the Men’s Adventure Library series I co-edit with Wyatt Doyle, the multi-talented head honcho of the New Texture indie publishing imprint.

This new art book now available in paperback and deluxe hardcover editions from Amazon in the US and worldwide, Barnes & Noble, Bud’s Art Books, Mike Chomko Books, the Book Depository (which offers free shipping worldwide), and directly from me via my eBay listings or the online bookstore linked to this blog.

You can see an extensive flip-page preview of it by clicking the image of the covers shown here or by clicking this link.

In this post, I’ll show some selected scans of pages from the book.

If you’re a fan of vintage pulp magazines, men’s adventure magazines (MAMs), or action/adventure paperbacks you’ve almost certainly seen artwork by George Gross, even if you don’t know him by name.

He was one of the few illustration artists whose career included creating cover art for classic pulp mags published in the 1930s and 1940s, cover and interior art for MAMs published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and cover paintings for paperbacks published from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Indeed, his memorable cover art helped define the look of mid-20th Century action/adventure fiction.

GEORGE GROSS: COVERED is the first art book to showcase classic men’s adventure magazine covers that feature Gross’ cover paintings.

It’s also the first to reveal the connection between Gross and the first paintings to depict characters in Mario Puzo’s novel THE GODFATHER. (Images that predate the cool artwork used for the “Book Bonus” version of THE GODFATHER that appeared in the August 1969 issue of MALE magazine and other depictions in various media.)

The paperback and hardcover editions of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED are both full color, 8.5″ x 11″, coffee table books. In both, each one of the scores of MAM covers featuring Gross artwork is printed on a full page.

In addition to showing MAM covers by Gross, the book includes an introduction Wyatt and I wrote and special contributions from two people we greatly admire.

One of them is the noted pulp art expert and historian David Saunders.

David is the son of the famed illustration artist Norman Saunders, the author of several books about famous pulp artists (including a great one about his father), creator of the indispensable website, which features biographies of scores of artists and other key people involved in the pulp magazine genre.

An in-depth biography of Gross by David is featured in the opening section of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED.

The book also includes an exclusive interview with legendary artist Mort Künstler. As readers of this blog know, Mort is one of America’s premier illustration artists.

Today, he’s most widely known known for his Civil War and historical artwork. But he honed his painting skills by creating cover and interior illustrations for MAMs — a part of his career showcased in our book MORT KÜNSTLER:THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS.

When we were working on that art book with Mort, we learned that George Gross was his close personal friend and mentor. Mort called him “Uncle George.”

Gross passed away in 2003 at age 94. Mort Künstler is still alive and well and recently celebrated his 95th birthday.

For the Gross book, Wyatt conducted a series of phone calls with Mort that were turned into an opening chapter in the book. Mort related many memories of “Uncle George” and provided some fascinating insights and revelations about him.

In addition to being friends, Mort once shared studio space with George. They sometimes served as each other’s reference models and George helped Mort break into the MAM realm.

Mort said Gross was especially proud of the MAM cover art we showcase in the book and, to us, the reason is clear.

The images Gross created for MAMs are amazingly cool, as you can see from the examples in this post.

Naturally, his MAM cover art includes classic action/adventure and battle scenes. But many of my favorites are his close-up portraits.

Gross was a master at rendering facial expressions and clearly recognized the drama inherent in the human face. His most memorable pieces reflect that, with skilled, detailed depictions of tension, terror, anxiety, agony, and rage.

George’s father Dave Gross was himself a successful professional illustration artist. In 1928, George followed in his father’s footsteps and studied art at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn. Even before graduation he began working at his father’s commercial art studio in New York City.

In 1934, he got his first pulp art assignments. They were cover paintings for DOUBLE ACTION WESTERN and MYSTERY NOVELS MAGAZINE, pulps published by Louis Silberkleit’s Winford Publications.

In 1937, Gross began a long association with John W. Glenister’s publishing company, Fiction House. He soon became the top Fiction House cover artist, creating scores of cover paintings for the company’s pulps, including ACTION STORIES, AIR STORIES, BASEBALL STORIES, COMPLETE NORTHWEST, DETECTIVE BOOK MAGAZINE, FIGHT STORIES, FOOTBALL STORIES, JUNGLE STORIES, NORTH WEST ROMANCES, and WINGS. He also did cover art for other pulp publishers, such as Periodical House and Street & Smith.

After World War II, as the paperback book industry exploded and pulps began to wane, Gross began providing cover artwork for paperbacks published by Dell, Star Books, Lion Books, Bantam, Berkley Books, Ace, Cameo Books, and other publishers.

In 1955, Gross began getting freelance illustration assignments from men’s adventure magazines.

Over the next decade-and-a-half he did cover art and interior illos for a long list of MAMs, including: ACTION FOR MEN, ARGOSY, ADVENTURE, BLUEBOOK FOR MEN, CAVALCADE, MALE, MAN’S CONQUEST, MAN’S ILLUSTRATED, MAN’S WORLD, REAL, SAGA, SEE, STAG, and TRUE ADVENTURES.

Gross continued to do MAM covers until 1969. Full-color, full-page reproduction’s of his MAM covers are the centerpiece of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED.

He continued to create masterful cover paintings for action/adventure paperbacks until his retirement in 1984. Some of his best that realm are the covers he did for The Avenger series, the Operator 5 pulp reprints, the Nick Carter Killmaster novels, The Enforcer series, the Death Merchant series, and the Alex Hawk and Adam Steele Western series.

Gross also did the cover art for the first editions of the first ten books in Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan/Executioner series before artist Gil Cohen took over doing those. (See our book ONE MAN ARMY: THE ACTION PAPERBACK ART OF GIL COHEN for more about Gil’s Executioner artwork.)

Some of the books in our Men’s Adventure Library series, such as POLLEN’S WOMEN: THE ART OF SAMSON POLLEN, POLLEN’S ACTION and POLLEN IN PRINT: 1955-1959, are only available in hardcover editions.

The hardcover edition of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED features a wild alligator attack cover painting Gross did for the January 1958 issue of MAN’S CONQUEST magazine. The trade paperback edition uses his cover art for SEE, May 1962. In that scene, a sexy-looking, scantily-clad stripper is fighting off an unwanted advance from some thuggish guy.

Others, including GEORGE GROSS: COVERED, are available in both softcover, trade paperback editions and deluxe hardcover editions. In those cases, the hardcover editions have more pages and additional content. Typically, Wyatt creates different covers for the two editions.

It will be interesting to, er, see if the paperback edition of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED outsells the hardcover. If it does, I don’t think it will be entirely because it’s a bit less expensive.

Wyatt and I are proud that our Gross book is already getting rave reviews from people we admire. For example, in a recent post on his popular “Rough Edges” blog, the legendary writer and publisher James Reasoner said:

“This is one of the most beautiful books you’ll ever see, reproducing in vivid detail many of those MAM covers Gross painted…GEORGE GROSS: COVERED is just a wonderful book, available in both hardback and paperback editions. If you’re interested in the Men’s Adventure Magazines or just great action artwork, it gets a very high recommendation from me.”

Thanks, James! As a big fan of your Western, action/adventure, and historical novels, I consider that high praise indeed. If you don’t know James’ work, check out his author page on Amazon.

I also want to give a special thank you to our friend Mike Chomko for providing the catalyst that led us to publish GEORGE GROSS: COVERED. Mike is marketing and programming director for the long running PulpFest convention and the proprietor of Mike Chomko Books.

Mike has asked Wyatt and I to do presentations at PulpFest in recent years, in addition to having tables there to sell our books. (I’ve posted versions of those presentations in previous posts on this blog.)

As he was planning the 2022 PulpFest events, he asked us if we’d be interested in doing a presentation about George Gross. We said yes, knowing that Gross was a top cover artists for men’s adventure magazines and paperbacks.

We decided that since we were going to do a presentation on Gross, we should use that research to do a book. Thus, GEORGE GROSS: COVERED was born and we debuted it at PulpFest. So, thanks and cheers, Mike! We look forward to seeing you at PulpFest 2023.

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Current books in the Men’s Adventure Library series co-edited by Robert Deis (that’s me) and Wyatt Doyle…