“I had a glimpse of a squirrel perched on his neck; it seemed funny as hell for a second.”
That was the initial reaction of the main character in the story “FLYING RODENTS RIPPED MY FLESH!” when he saw a small furry creature land on his buddy in the outback of Australia.
It’s the same initial reaction most people have when they see the “killer flying squirrels” cover painting done by artist Wilbur “Wil” Hulsey for that story, which originally appeared in the men’s adventure magazine MAN’S LIFE, August 1957.
But if you read that story and the others reprinted in our new book, I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE: KILLER CREATURES IN MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES, you’re likely to find they aren’t quite what you expected.
Most animal attack stories in MAMs — including those that may initially seem like they’d be “funny as hell” — are dark action/adventure tales that are grim and bloody as hell.
In most cases they are essentially horror stories.
I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE reprints examples animal attack stories from men’s adventure mags published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, along with dozens of “killer creature” covers and interior illustrations, printed in glorious full color.
The format of this new book is a bit different from previous books in our Men’s Adventure Library series.
Our previous anthologies — WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH!, HE-MEN, BAG MEN & NYMPHOS, A HANDFUL OF HELL and the CRYPTOZOOLOGY ANTHOLOGY — each include more than 20 stories, along with the cover and interior artwork originally used for the stories.
Our last book, BARBARIANS ON BIKES, is solely an image archive: a collection of MAM covers and interior artwork and photos that feature bikers and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE is the first of example of a format we’re calling “The Men’s Adventure Library Journal.”
It’s an in-between format that’s roughly half stories and half artwork, all related to a particular theme; in this case, “killer creature” stories.
You can get a good idea of what the book looks like inside by clicking on and viewing the video preview at right.
Men’s adventure mags published hundreds of animal attack stories involving every possible type of critter, from true potential man-eaters like sharks, lions and bears, to squirm-inducing species like snakes, scorpions and spiders, to many kinds of critters that are highly unlikely threats to humans, such as weasels, lobsters, lemmings and anteaters.
In fact, killer creature stories are far more common in men’s adventure magazines than stories about sadistic Nazis tormenting scantily-clad women.
Nazi bondage and torture stories with lurid artwork that makes them both castigated as politically incorrect by knee-jerk critics and beloved by certain collectors are only common in the low-budget “sweat mag” subgenre of MAMs.
Animal attack stories appeared either occasionally or frequently in most of the 160 different men’s adventure titles published from the ‘50s to the ‘70s.
Many of those stories are illuminated with eye-popping artwork by top illustration artists of the era.
For example, the painting used for the first story in our new book and featured on its cover was done by George Gross.
Gross was an extremely-talented artist who started out doing cover paintings for the pre-World War II pulp fiction magazines that were forerunners of the MAM genre.
He later hundreds of cover and interior illustrations for men’s adventure magazines and paperbacks.
His cover painting for “I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE” is as classic as that story, which first appeared in MAN’S CONQUEST, November 1956.
For some reason, Gross’ painting was heavily cropped when it was used on the cover of that issue. But the full painting was shown inside in black-and-white.
In our book, we inserted the full color version where the painting appeared in black-and-white in the magazine.
Why? Well, because it’s so cool — and because we could.
Here’s a look at the original magazine spread and the colorized spread in our book side by side…
Gross’ killer crabs artwork is much less bloody than the story itself. And, the story is not quite as far-fetched as you might think.
Coconut crabs grow up to three feet across. Their claws, which can crush coconuts, can also easily slice off a finger – or do worse.
As noted in an article on the Smithsonian website, coconut crabs have been known to eat everything from chickens to cats and they could in fact overtake and eat a weak or injured human. In fact, one theory about the death of Amelia Earhart is that she crashed her plane on a small atoll in the South Pacific and survived, but was gravely wounded and unable to fend off scavenging coconut crabs, who ate her — possibly alive.
The “killer flying squirrels” story we included in this volume is far less plausible. Moreover, contrary to the famed Wil Hulsey cover painting and the photos used to illustrate it, the story is about “killer” Australian sugar gliders. Of course, in the real world, sugar gliders are about as deadly to humans as squirrels.
These small marsupials are popular pets Down Under and elsewhere. They can nip and they do live in groups in the wild. But it’s unlikely that even a huge mob of pissed off sugar gliders would pose a real threat to humans.
Nonetheless, if you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll find that “FLYING RODENTS RIPPED MY FLESH” is a very cool and amazingly gruesome ripping yarn.
Killer creature stories were particular mainstays of the long-running periodical that tale originally appeared in, TRUE MEN STORIES, as well as in the equally long-running MAM of killer weasels fame, MAN’S LIFE. (The famed “WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH!” story we reprinted in our book of the same name, and that inspired the title of an album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, first appeared in the September 1956 issue of MAN’S LIFE.)
In 1950s and early 1960s, most issues of both MAN’S LIFE and TRUE MEN STORIES featured animal attack stories. Many included three or four.
For example, in addition to the story about flesh-ripping rodents, the August 1957 issue of TRUE MEN STORIES includes a wild story about killer pangolin anteaters (“TO HELL WITH THE GOLD – WE’RE DYING”), one about a berserk bull (“I WAS CHOKING ON A POOL OF GORE”) and another about a bloodthirsty lynx (“FETID FANGS TORE AT MY THROAT”).
The third story in the premiere issue of the Men’s Adventure Library Journal series comes from a short-lived and lesser-known men’s adventure magazine that went by the hormone-infused name RAGE. It’s a tale about a “lust-crazed gorilla” who kidnaps human women, titled “TERROR SAFARI.”
Of course, that old trope has long been played for laughs in comedy films. But it’s not just an old trope. It’s ancient. The idea that gorillas kidnapped and sexually abused human women has been a traditional legend of native peoples of Africa for centuries.
It was noted and repeated widely by white explorers and hunters in the 1800s and 1900s, eventually leading to the modern comedy movie gag. But, as you’ll see, the “TERROR SAFARI” story is not designed to be humorous, even though the cover painting that goes with it, by artist John Duillo, portrays a totally gonzo, gravity-defying scene.
Two stories in the book come from MALE, one of the best and longest-lasting men’s adventure magazines.
MALE was one of the “Diamond Group” MAMs published by Magazine Management. Those magazines were a training ground for many writers who went on to international fame, such as Mario Puzo, Bruce Jay Friedman and Martin Cruz Smith – as well as for many others who, though less well known, earned a good living as professional writers.
For example, one story in our book, titled “STRANGE REVENGE OF WYOMING’S MOST HUNTED GIANT PUMA,” was written by Robert F. Dorr.
From 1964 to 1989, Dorr was a globe-hopping Foreign Service Officer for the US State Department. In his spare time, he wrote short stories for men’s adventure magazines.
Most were war and adventure stories, some of the best of which we feature in our anthology of his stories, A HANDFUL OF HELL, published shortly before Bob died last year.
But Bob could write gripping stories about virtually any subject and we are partial to his somewhat different take on animal attack stories because his tend to be sympathetic to the animals. (We included one he wrote about a polar bear in our WEASELS anthology.)
His giant cougar story is also notable for being illustrated by Mort Kunstler, under his pseudonym Emmett Kaye.
Mort (who I interviewed for this blog a while back) painted thousands of illustrations for magazines and books from early 1950s to the 1980s.
Since then he has focused on creating historical paintings for high end galleries and collectors. His Civil War paintings are especially sought after and often sell for tens of thousands of dollars. (You can see many excellent examples on his official website.)
A fifth story in our first Men’s Adventure Library Journal was written by another prolific writer who is a special favorite of ours: Walter Kaylin. We showcased a variety of classic stories by Walter in our HE-MEN, BAG MEN & NYMPHOS anthology.
Like Bob Dorr, Walter was a regular contributor to the Magazine Management mags for more than 20 years.
Like Bob, Walter wrote hundreds of stories for men’s adventure magazines. So many that he often had two stories in the same issue: one under his own name and another under one of his common pseudonyms, Roland Empey or David Mars.
In our view, the killer creature story by Walter that we picked for this collection tops the movie SNAKES ON A PLANE in several ways, not the least of which is that it involves “a million snakes” surrounding the survivors of a plane that crashed in Louisiana’s swamp country.
Originally published in the January 1974 issue of MALE, under his pen name Roland Empey, it’s illustrated with a terrific illustration by Bob Larkin.
Larkin’s work for men’s adventure mags came late in their lifespan, in the 1970s. He’s best known for his more recent artwork for comics and graphic novels published by Marvel.
One of the things we’ve done with our recent books is to publish them in two editions: a trade paperback and a higher-priced deluxe hardcover edition.
Most of the content of the paperback and hardcover editions are the same, but the deluxe hardcover editions include bonus stories and artwork.
In I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE, we include sections showing classic killer creature covers and interior art between the stories by great artists such as Wil Hulsey, Clarence Doore, Rafael DeSoto, Wil Hulsey, Norm Eastman, Mort Kunstler and others.
The hardcover edition includes two additional sections of artwork. One features original men’s adventure mag paintings by Samson Pollen.
Sam is still alive and well and living in New York. Last year, my co-editor Wyatt Doyle and I contacted Sam and found out that he has kept scores of original paintings he created for the Magazine Management MAMs, such as ACTION FOR MEN, FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MEN and STAG, as well as many of the original paintings he did for action, adventure and romance paperback novels.
Most of the originals Sam kept have rarely or never been shown online or in any books. We’re happy to announce that he has agreed to let Wyatt and I show them in an upcoming series of books that will showcase his distinctive illustration art.
The Pollen artwork in the hardcover edition of I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE provides a little taste of those future publications.
The hardcover also includes a bonus story that’s also sort of a mini-preview of another book we’ll be publishing in the months ahead.
Of course, Bob Silverberg is best known and revered for his science fiction and fantasy stories and novels, such as his Hugo-award-wining NIGHTWINGS trilogy and his highly-popular MAJIPOR novels. But like other hardworking science fiction pros in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Arthur C. Clarke and Harlan Ellison, Silverberg also wrote stories for various men’s adventure magazines.
As I’ve noted in previous posts on this blog (“LESBIANS ON THE PROWL”), some of Bob’s MAM stories were classic sexposé and sex advice stories written under the pseudonym L.T. Woodward, which he also used for a number of “sexology” books. Others were action/adventure yarns and softcore erotica, also typically written under pen names.
Several years ago, when I contacted Bob to get permission to reprint his men’s adventure mag story “TRAPPED BY MAU MAU TERROR” in our WEASELS anthology, he confirmed that he had written most of the stories in five of the six issues of EXOTIC ADVENTURES published in 1958 and 1959.
Bob has also sold us the rights to reprint the best of them in a forthcoming book in our Men’s Adventure Library series, tentatively titled THE EXOTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG.
If (hopefully when) you read the “killer creature” stories in I WATCHED THEM EAT ME alive, you’ll see that there many parallels in the realm of movies and understand why such stories can be both absurd and horrific at the same time.
For example, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic film THE BIRDS might just seem silly based on the premise: killer birds. But it’s not. It’s horror.
So are killer creature movies like WILLARD (1971), JAWS (1975), ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990), THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS (1996), ANACONDA (1997), CONGO (1995) and many others.
The way for those films and most Grade B, Drive-In and Grindhouse “natural horror” flicks was paved by stories in men’s adventure magazines.
EDITOR’S NOTES: The great Walter Kaylin passed away in February 2017. Wyatt and I were honored to have known him. We’re also honored to have reprinted stories by him in two previous books and in I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE. We officially dedicated our new book to Walter. And, with the gracious permission of his daughters Lucy Kaylin and Jennifer Kaylin, we plan to reprint more of Walter’s classic men’s adventure magazine stories in future books.
I’m also pleased that Justin Marriott, editor of several incredibly cool and beautifully-produced fan magazines about vintage pulp paperbacks and related stuff, has included a reprint of my farewell post to Walter in issue #8 of his MEN OF VIOLENCE mag. Here’s a link to Justin’s site, where you can order copies of that issue and other magazines Justin publishes, including the PAPERBACK FANATIC and PULP HORROR. And, here’s a link to a fascinating interview with Justin conducted by our friend, writer/editor/publisher Paul Bishop. MoV #8 also includes an article by Paul about the FARGO action/adventure novels.
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Click this link or the image below to order our latest full-color
collection of men’s adventure magazine artwork and stories, the first
in our new, lushly-illustrated “Men’s Adventure Library Journal” series…
I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE:
Killer Creatures in Men’s Adventure Magazines