Talking with Rich Harvey about the Napa Collection and Pulp AdventureCon…

If you’re interested in classic pulp magazines, men’s adventure magazines or vintage paperbacks and you live within reasonable traveling distance of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that’s where you want to be on February 21, 2015.

On that day, the first Florida Pulp AdventureCon will be held there at the Universal Palms Hotel.

It’s an offspring of the annual Pulp AdventureCon held in New Jersey for many years.

The chief organizer of both is Rich Harvey. Rich is a pulp magazine and comics maven, a writer and graphic designer, and founder of Bold Venture Press, which publishes a growing array of books and the PULP ADVENTURES story anthology series.

Rich also works part-time at Heartwood Auctions, one of the biggest sellers of pulp magazines and other vintage periodicals in the country.

He’s one of the Heartwood staff who are involved in selling “the Napa Collection,” a huge stash of men’s adventure magazines that makes Heartwood one of the biggest sellers of issues in that genre in the country. As I write this, there are more than 1,300 men’s adventure mags from the Napa Collection up for sale on the Heartwood Auctions site and in its eBay store. There are hundreds more from the collection that have not yet been put up for sale. The write-up about the Napa Collection on the Heartwood site calls it “one of the most significant single owner magazine collections to come to the market in decades…an uncirculated near mint collection from the Napa area in Northern California of Men’s Adventure, pin-up, and Men’s Magazines from the 50s, 60s and 70s.”

Given the men’s adventure magazines I’ve seen (and bought) from the Napa Collection so far, I’d say the phrase “one of the most significant” may be an understatement.

It includes near complete runs of many of the most popular men’s adventure titles.

They include the classic Diamond/Atlas mags published by subsidiaries of Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management company – such as FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MEN and STAG – to full or near full runs of the “sweat magazines” published by B.R. “Bud” Ampolsk and Maurice Rosenfeld’s Reese and EmTee companies – such as MAN’S BOOK, MAN’S EPIC, MEN TODAY and WORLD OF MEN – which are both notorious and highly-prized for their lurid cover paintings of Nazis torturing scantily-clad women and similar lurid imagery.

According to the story told to the folks at Heartwood, this amazing treasure trove was literally “unearthed” in the Napa Valley of Northern California when an earthquake cracked the walls of a house there and revealed a large hidden room full of thousands of magazines.

The magazines had been bought new from a local drugstore by the man who owned the house. Before he died, for some unknown reason, he had his entire collection walled up in a room with no windows.

According to the story, his wife was surprised when cracks created by an earthquake revealed this “secret” cache of periodicals.

But she was savvy enough to know the collection might be valuable and sold it to a dealer, who then sold it to Heartwood Auctions.

Recently, Rich Harvey told me that Heartwood would be bringing some of the magazines from the Napa Collection to the upcoming Pulp AdventureCon in Fort Lauderdale.

That led to a wide-ranging discussion via email recorded below…

BOB DEIS: How long have you been doing the New Jersey con, Rich, and what made you decide to launch a pulp convention in Florida?


The first show was an offshoot of the small, friendly get-togethers held by Andy Biegel, Jr.—a New Jersey collector who hung out with his neighbor, Michael Avallone, the great paperback author. The Sunday gatherings were continued for many years by pulp collector Albert Tonik, until 1999, when he decided he could no longer play host. The first Pulp AdventureCon was in 2000. It was a small event, but over the years it grew. Now there’s an average of fifty tables at each show, making it half the size of weekend-long events like Windy City Pulp & Paper Show and Pulpfest. I now live in sunny Fort Lauderdale and Heartwood Auctions is virtually down the road, so doing a convention here just made sense.

What kinds of things can visitors to the Fort Lauderdale con expect to find?

RICH: Primarily visitors will find pulp magazines: the original pulp magazines that filled newsstands from the turn of the century until the 1950s. However, most pulp collectors have broad interests, so you’ll also find men’s adventure magazines, vintage paperbacks, old movie memorabilia, classic radio comedies and dramas, and sometimes golden age comics. I’m often surprised at what turns up at these shows.

You told me that Heartwood Auctions will be bringing magazines from the Napa Collection to the show. That’s enough to make me decide to drive up to the show from the Florida Keys to attend the show.

RICH: The Napa Collection is probably the most complete run of men’s adventure magazines assembled into one high-grade collection. The overwhelming majority of these issues are beautiful, and it’s a real honor to handle a collection like this. I started working at Heartwood last spring. I timed it just right, since they were just getting around to cataloging and pricing the Napa Collection. As you’ve read, the collection surfaced after a minor earthquake in Napa Valley. During repairs to her home, a woman discovered a secret room filled with her late-husband’s collection. It’s a mystery why he hid them away so permanently. Representatives from Heartwood flew to Napa Valley to appraise the collection. They must have felt like archeologists, tunneling their way into the secret men’s adventure room.

I noticed that you had artist and model Mala Mastroberte as a special guest at the last Pulp AdventureCon in New Jersey. I’m a big fan of hers. Will there be any special guests at the Fort Lauderdale con?

RICH: Mala has attended the Jersey show for several years now, and it’s been impressive to watch her expand her line of Mala-merchandise. Her fan-base has expanded, as well. Mala has been invited to the Fort Lauderdale and she said she will try her best to come. One guest we will have for sure is J. David Spurlock of Vanguard Publishing will be present. He’s the co-author of THE ALLURING ART OF MARGARET BRUNDAGE, and he’s been churning out great books pertaining to comic books and pulp magazines for a very long time.

On the Pulp AdventureCon website, you have a section that addresses the question “What is pulp?” I was interested in your answer since it’s similar to my own view. As you know, some hard core fans of the classic pulp fiction magazines published from the 1920s to the 1950s the think “pulp” should only be used to describe those particular periodicals. But of course it has come to be applied to many other things, such as men’s adventure magazines and vintage paperbacks from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. And, of course, some notable writers, like Thorp McClusky, and great illustration artists, like Norman Saunders, worked for all three of those genres. What’s your view of the term pulp and how it has evolved?

RICH: When I refer to “the pulps,” I’m referring to the original pulp magazines published from the 1920s to the 1950s, like other collectors of those magazines. But “pulp fiction” can also apply to the men’s adventure magazines, vintage paperbacks, and even movies. It’s generally characterized by fast-moving plots and snappy dialogue, interesting plot twists or oddball characters. Literary critics erroneously claim pulp fiction is short on characterization. Those same critics seem to enjoy stories wherein people sit around and emote. Stories about college professors earning great money, but feeling unfulfilled and not having enough sex, are very popular among that critical group. In pulp fiction, the characters express their personalities when confronted with danger or adversity. Without conflict, you have no plot. “Survival of the fittest” is the law of the land, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the physically strongest guy. That’s where pulp fiction gets its hardboiled edge.

As you know, my friend Rich Oberg owns the world’s biggest collection of original artwork used for men’s adventure magazines and a huge collection of those magazines. He and I have noted that men’s adventure magazines and artwork have not traditionally had much of a presence at pulp conventions. Why do you think that is?

RICH: Men’s adventure magazines have been largely ignored by pulp collectors. As I’m looking through the hundreds of different issues that comprise the Napa collection, I’m seeing the best and worst of the genre. Of course, there are many great stories and fantastic artwork, but the more ridiculous material rises to the top of our cultural awareness. Nazis whipping women never worked for me, but it’s a recurring theme on the covers. There might be some resentment toward the men’s magazines, since the pulps died a slow, painful death on the newsstands in the 1950s, and the new genre of men’s adventure magazines was steadily expanding. When I got into collecting pulps in the 1980s, many older collectors, who had actually purchased the pulps off the newsstands, dismissed men’s adventure magazines – and comic books – out of hand.

I think the post-World War II men’s pulp adventure magazines have their own set of fans. I get thousands of viewers of the blog from around the world. We’ve gained over 1,000 members in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group in the past year. And the Men’s Adventure Library anthologies of men’s adventure magazine stories I’ve published with Wyatt Doyle at New texture Books are selling well enough for us to be planning more. My sense is the fan base for the vintage men’s adventure magazine genre is growing.

RICH: I don’t know. I’m still learning about the genre. Handling the Napa Collection has been a real crash course in them—Men’s Adventure Mags 101. It’s too bad pulp publishers didn’t adapt to the men’s adventure format. The other day I was studying some of the artwork in them, and I wondered what DOC SAVAGE or THE SHADOW might have looked like in this format. As a pulp magazine collector, one thing I’ve noticed is that, unlike the original pulps, which limited their reprint material, men’s adventure magazines did a lot of recycling of artwork and stories. I wonder if there were newsstand customers who felt ripped off after spending a quarter and seeing recycled material, or if modern collectors feel that way.

Well, as someone who has been collecting men’s adventure magazines for quite a few years, I have a different perspective. There were over 160 different men’s adventure magazine titles. The top tier mags with the highest circulations and budgets, like TRUE, ARGOSY, SAGA and CAVALIER, rarely recycled artwork or stories. The mid-level magazines, like FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MEN, STAG and the other classic mags published by Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management company and its subsidiaries did some recycling. It was the lower budget “sweat magazines,” like those published by B. R. “Bud” Ampolsk and Maurice Rosenfeld through their EmTee and Reese companies—MAN’S BOOK, MAN’S EPIC, MAN’S STORY, MEN TODAY and so forth—that the most recycling, including recycling the content of whole issues lock, stock and barrel. But many of those duplicate issues are actually more collectible because of their lurid covers and because some of the duplicates were one-offs or limited runs. For example, CLASH, February 1965, was a one-off that was a complete duplicate of MAN’S STORY, January 1965 except for the title. The cover painting is one of the wild Nazi bondage and torture scenes done by Norm Eastman and the female model he used was Eva Lynd. If you can even find a copy of CLASH, you’ll likely pay well over $100 for it if the seller knows what he’s selling.

RICH: I guess I would be hesitant to spend big money on these magazines unless I had a pretty good index to the material and knew which ones were worth more.

No complete index like that exists at this point, though creating a master index of men’s adventure magazines, listing their contents and the artists is a long term goal I have. Newbie collectors can find out a lot about the different magazines by buying two great books: IT’S A MAN’S WORLD and MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES, both of which feature magazines and artwork from Rich Oberg’s collection. They should also check out the Men’s Adventure Magazines section of Phil Stevenson-Payne’s amazing Galactic Central website and buy a copy of DEVINE’S GUIDE TO MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES, which I sell in PDF format in the Virtual Newsstand. By the way, are you seeing a trend toward higher prices for copies of men’s adventure magazines lately? I think I do.

RICH: They can certainly be expensive now if they’re in high-grade condition and damn expensive in really high-grade condition. Not so expensive if the magazine is in average to low-grade condition.

I think prices for high quality copies is increasing in general, especially for the Reese and EmTee “sweat mags” with the most outrageous cover paintings. Issues with things like Nazi bondage and torture cover paintings by artists like Norm Eastman, Norman Saunders and Syd Shores are now selling for $50 to $150 or more. Several years ago, you could often get those for $20 to $50. However, you can still buy issues of the less sought after men’s adventure magazines for anywhere from a buck to ten bucks.

RICH: My advice to newbies is to do your homework. Buy some random, inexpensive issues, maybe some low-grade reading copies, just to get started. Get a nice sampling of titles and begin picking out your favorites. If you’re a serious collector who is interested in high quality issues from the Napa Collection, watch for the new listings on the Heartwood Auctions site. They get listed there before they go on eBay.

I’ve bought quite a few on the Heartwood site lately to fill holes in my collection. Like a copy of ACTION LIFE, November 1964, with a cover painting by Harry Schaare. And some hard-to-find VG quality copies of MAN’S LIFE from 1958 featuring “killer creature” covers by Wil Hulsey, the artist who did the famed “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” cover painting. Hulsey one of my favorite men’s adventure artists. Have you developed any personal favorites in terms of titles and publishers, or artists or writers who worked for the genre?

RICH: I find the true crime and detective articles very interesting. One magazine did a feature on serial killers and profiled Howard Unruh, the psycho scumbag who went on a shooting rampage in Camden, New Jersey in 1947. My uncle was a detective for the Camden police force, and he was on the scene when they arrested him. Decades later, he said he still regretted that someone didn’t just kill that guy right then and there. I certainly read that article with great interest! Oscar Fraley turns up every so often with articles about crime and corruption. He was well-suited to that task, since he was Elliot Ness’ collaborator on THE UNTOUCHABLES. It’s a real treat to find Shell Scott stories by Brett Halliday, or an Ed Noon detective yarn by my old pal Michael Avallone. It’s interesting to look at the early men’s adventure magazines and see the pulp authors and artists turning up, and how the names change as the years go by. A real changing of the guard took place in men’s adventure genre.

Do you have any favorite men’s adventure mag artists?

RICH: I’ve always liked artwork by Gil Cohen. Gil has been a guest at the NJ Pulp AdventureCon a few times, and he often brought original artwork to display. One year, Gil was talking to this gentleman—a big, tall guy with brushed-back white hair. He looked hauntingly familiar to me, but I couldn’t place him. Gil introduced him as the model for his series of Able Team paperback covers! I couldn’t place him because he wasn’t scowling or carrying a submachine gun. It’s always a pleasure to see artwork by Roger Kastel or James Bama.

They are some of my faves, too. One of my first interviews for this site was an interview with Gil Cohen and I recently did an interview with James Bama.

RICH: Earl Norem is another one of my favorite illustrators. I always loved his work for comics and I’ve been discovering more of his work for men adventure magazines as we’re cataloguing the Napa Collection. When Martin Goodman phased out his mens adventure mags, and began publishing comic-style magazines, good old Earl Norem showed up again. Instead of painting Cuban guerilla-fighters firing at a hapless U.S. soldier and a hot babe, he painted the same guerillas firing at The Incredible Hulk and a hot babe—and same scenarios only with super-heroes. Also, I was delighted recently to discover Harry Rosenbaum in some of Goodman’s magazines. Rosenbaum painted one of my favorite Marvel covers, based upon a drawing by John Romita, for The Spectacular Spider-Man, a short-lived magazine starring Marvel Comics’ most popular character.

We’ll have to compare more notes on artists at the upcoming Pulp AdventureCon in Fort Lauderdale. If show is successful, could it become an annual event like the one in New Jersey?

RICH: As far as my partner and co-organizer Audrey Parente and I are concerned, it’s already an annual event. The show will grow over time. Based on signups so far, the attendees with table of merchandise to sell will mostly be different collectors and dealers from the New Jersey show – unless some of those northern pulp guys need relief from the snow. I suspect a few of them will turn up at the last minute.

I look forward to seeing you there, Rich. Thanks for talking with me.

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Comments? Questions? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

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