The MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #3 – our “Vigilante Justice” issue

In January 2021, I launched a new full-color, glossy magazine with Bill Cunningham, the talented head honcho at Pulp 2.0 Press.

Each issue features classic stories and artwork from men’s adventure magazines (MAMs) published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, introductions and articles about the artists, writers and story topics, a vintage pinup photo gallery, and ads and cartoons from old MAM issues.

We named it the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY, reflecting our plan to publish four issues per year.

This post provides a preview of what you’ll find in the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #3, which was just released on Amazon worldwide.

Our first MAQ issue focuses on Western stories and artwork.

MAQ #2, published this past April, focuses on James Bond-style Cold War spy stories and artwork.

We dubbed MAQ #3 our “Vigilante Justice” issue, since it focuses on stories about tough but moral men who take on and take out mobsters and other bad guys deserving of justice dealt “with extreme prejudice.”

The cover wrap (i.e. the back and front cover image) for MAQ #3 features artwork by the late, great comics, paperback cover, and men’s adventure magazine artist Earl Norem.

It’s an over-the-top scene used for one of the stories included in MAQ #3“The Amputee Vengeance Squad’s Mafia Wipeout.”

To help put such tales in perspective, MAQ #3 kicks off with an introduction by the legendary comics writer and novelist Chuck Dixon about the “Vigilante Justice” genre of stories and books.

Chuck is literally the most prolific American comic book and graphic novel writer of all time. He’s penned over 40,000 pages worth of stories for hundreds of issues published by DC, Marvel, and other comics companies.

Contents pages from the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #3
From Chuck Dixon’s intro to the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #3

His Batman comics featuring the character Bane (who he co-created with Graham Nolan) and his seminal entries in THE PUNISHER series are special favorites of mine.

I’m also a fan of Chuck’s novels, especially his popular SEAL TEAM 6 “Bad Times” series and his gritty LEVON CADE series.

The Punisher and Levon Cade are both prime examples of “Vigilante Justice” style characters.

As Chuck notes in his article, many modern “Vigilante Justice” stories and novels are literary descendants of Mack Bolan, “The Executioner.” And, MAQ #3 features some special treats for Executioner fans.

If you’re one of those fans, you probably know that The Executioner series was created by author Don Pendleton in 1969. It launched a publishing phenomenon that lasted far beyond Don’s death in 1995.

There are now more than 460 Mack Bolan novels and another 400+ in related spinoff series: the ABLE TEAM, PHOENIX FORCE, STONY MAN, and SUPER BOLAN series.

With hundreds of millions of copies of Executioner novels and spinoffs in print, Mack Bolan is probably the world’s most popular “Vigilante Justice” character.

The first two Executioner novels, WAR AGAINST THE MAFIA and DEATH SQUAD actually led to the creation of the term “action/adventure novels” — and spawned many copycats.

The action/adventure name was coined by Pendleton himself when his editors at Pinnacle asked him what genre The Executioner series fit into.

WAR AGAINST THE MAFIA and DEATH SQUAD are also the only two Executioner stories that were turned into MAM “Book Bonus” stories — i.e., condensed versions of the novels accompanied by specially-created artwork.

I first discovered those stories while doing research for the book ONE MAN ARMY: THE ACTION PAPERBACK ART OF GIL COHEN, which I co-edited with Wyatt Doyle for our Men’s Adventure Library book series.

Gil Cohen is one of the greatest artists who did cover paintings and interior illustrations for MAMs. He also created many paperback cover paintings before focusing on doing large scale military aviation paintings (showcased in the book GIL COHEN: AVIATION ARTIST.)

During the 1980s, Gil created more than 200 cover paintings for The Executioner series and its spinoffs.

His cover art for those novels are fan favorites and established the familiar visual image of Mack Bolan.

MAQ #3 includes a special section about Gil and his Executioner cover art.

In addition to showing photos of many of his originals, it provides a list of Executioner covers paintings that Gil still has and is now offering for sale. (You can also see many of them in the interviews I’ve done with Gil for this blog.)

Ironically, before Gil started doing covers for Executioner novels, he was the first artist to depict Mack Bolan in a magazine illustration.

It was used for the Book Bonus version of WAR AGAINST THE MAFIA published in FOR MEN ONLY, October 1969 with the title “One Army-trained Killer against The Mob: THE EXECUTIONER.”

A Book Bonus version of the second Bolan novel, DEATH SQUAD, was published in another MAM — MEN, September 1971, with artwork by Samson Pollen. In that, it’s titled as “Raid on the Mob’s Secret ‘Murder Mansion.'” (By the Way, Sam Pollen’s original MAM art is featured in two books I co-edited, POLLEN’S WOMEN and POLLEN’S ACTION.)

MAQ #3 reprints both of those stories for the first time ever, thanks to the kind permission of Don’s wife, Linda Pendleton.

Linda is a prolific author who has written dozens of fiction and non-fiction books. They include everything from Westerns like THE BOLD TRAIL, to detective novels like her CATHERINE WINTER, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR series, to a long list of books about American history, spirituality and the supernatural. She also writes screenplays, poetry, articles and several interesting blogs.

Linda is the overseer of Don Pendleton’s literary estate. She’s also a contributor to his Executioner legacy. Among other things, she worked with artist Sandu Florea to create graphic novel adaptations of WAR AGAINST THE MAFIA and DEATH SQUAD. She also wrote the definitive guide THE EXECUTIONER, DON PENDLETON CREATES MACK BOLAN: 50 YEAR ANNIVERSARY 1969-2019.

For MAQ #3, Linda wrote a fascinating insider’s overview of the Bolanverse.

That’s followed by my article about the short-lived, little-known periodical DON PENDLETON’S ECUTIONER MYSTERY MAGAZINE. It ran for only four issues in 1975 and copies are now fairly hard-to-find collectors’ items.

The EXECUTIONER MYSTERY MAGAZINE was a digest-sized short story mag published by a mysterious guy named Leonard J. Ackerman. Linda Pendleton told me Don’s only involvement was to license his name for use in the mag’s title.

However, the issues include stories penned by some notable authors who wrote for the more successful mystery magazines and became popular novelists, such as Gil Brewer, Richard S. Prather, John Lutz, and Stephen Mertz.

In fact, Stephen Mertz’s first published story, “The Busy Corpse,” appeared in the fourth and final issue, published in August 1975.

As related in the MAQ #3 article, Stephen has vivid memories of selling that first story. It was one of the things that led Don Pendleton to pick him as a regular ghost writer of Executioner novels after the series was licensed to Harlequin’s Gold Eagle publishing subsidiary in 1980.

Mertz went on to write a dozen fan favorite Executioner novels and dozens of other action/adventure books. He also created several of his own popular novel series, including the M.I.A. HUNTER series and the more recent CODY’S WAR series.

Our glamour girl “Gal-lery” section in this MAQ issue features the legendary pinup icon Bettie Page.

It includes several of her “cheesecake” photo spreads from MAMs, some of which are artfully colorized by Bill Cunningham.

That section also showcases the first paperback cover paintings Bettie ever posed for, created by the great illustration artist, art teacher and author Jack Faragasso, along with reference photos Jack took of her and a profile of Jack.

Recently, longtime publishing entrepreneur Paul Burke and his current company Asylum Publications have created renewed interest in Jack and his work.

They’ve reprinted Jack’s classic art instruction books, published the excellent new book THE EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS OF BETTIE PAGE BY JACK FARAGASSO, and produced a series of high-quality prints from some of Jack’s artwork and his photos of Bettie Page.

As they say: but wait, there’s more. The third issue of the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY also includes three other wild MAM “Vigilante Justice” style fiction stories, accompanied by classic MAM cover and interior artwork.

One of those stories, “Blood Feud with the Mafia,” was written Donald Honig early in his career, before he gained notable success from his novels and then became a top baseball historian.

Don is one of the last of living writers who were regular contributors to the men’s adventure magazines published by Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management company, which — in addition to launching Marvel Comics — was home to many classic MAMs, such as ACTION FOR MEN, FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MAN’S WORLD, MEN, STAG, TRUE ACTION, and others.

I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Don quite a few times and have bought rights to reprint a bunch of his MAM stories. We included one of his Westerns on MAQ #1 and a spy story he wrote in MAQ #2.

His story “Blood Feud with the Mafia” in MAQ #3 was originally published in TRUE ACTION, August 1970. Like the early Executioner novels, it pits a tough Vietnam veteran against mobsters.

Honig’s story and the next two fiction yarns in MAQ #3 “We Wiped Out ‘Brutal Mack’s’ Cycle Killers” and “The Amputee Vengeance Squad’s Mafia Wipeout” — are all illustrated by Earl Norem, who was one of the top illustrators for the Magazine Management MAMs.

Those stories also feature Vietnam vets imposing bloody vigilante justice on bad guys.

In the case of the “Cycle Killers,” from FOR MEN ONLY, November 1972, the biggest of the big bads is a sadistic biker gang leader.

In the “Amputee Vengeance Squad” story, three friends who lost limbs in the Vietnam War get revenge against drug-dealing mobsters who killed another battle-damaged buddy of theirs. It was first published in MEN, August 1975.

There’s more cool stuff in the MAQ #3 than I’ve shown and mentioned in this post. You can really only understand how cool and unique it is by buying a copy.

If you do, I hope you’ll write a positive review on Amazon, Goodreads, or elsewhere online to help us spread the word about the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY. Every positive review, no matter how short, is like gold for indie publishers like us.

Bill Cunningham and I are already working on MAQ #4, which will feature stories by and photos of “Jungle Jane” Dolinger.

Jane was the only woman who was both a prolific contributor of stories to men’s adventure and bachelor magazines and a pinup model whose photos wowed readers of those mags.

I expect MAQ #4 to be published in December. Until then, check out the third issue and, to quote the catchphrase Don Pendleton gave to Mack Bolan, “Live Large.”

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