This is my third post in a 3-part preview of the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #6, our “Heists Issue.” (If you missed the previous posts, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.)
In these posts I’ve shown examples of the eye-poppingly cool page layouts my co-editor Bill Cunningham does for the MAQ and excerpts from intros I wrote for the stories.
If my preview encourages you to read MAQ #6, you can get it on Amazon worldwide, from indie booksellers Bud’s Art Books and Mike Chomko Books, or directly from me via the online bookstore linked to this blog.
I’d be hard pressed to pick my favorite story in MAQ #6.
But I can say one of my favorite illustrations in it was done by artist Samson Pollen for a heist yarn titled “The G.I. Wild Bunch,” originally published in MALE, March 1975.
I had the good fortune of getting to know artist Sam Pollen several years before he passed away in 2018 at age 87.
During those years, I collaborated with him and Wyatt Doyle, my co-editor on the Men’s Adventure Library series, to create two books showcasing his men’s adventure magazine artwork—POLLEN’S WOMEN and POLLEN’S ACTION.
Recently, Sam’s wife Jacqueline gave us permission to publish a third book featuring his MAM artwork, POLLEN IN PRINT: 1955-1959.
Sam was one of the top illustrators for the Martin Goodman Magazine Management MAMs from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s.
He created nearly three hundred illos for the company’s flagship mags—MALE, STAG, FOR MEN ONLY, and MEN—and its lesser-known MAMs.
One of the interesting things I learned in talking with Sam is that, when doing artwork for MAMs, he preferred to create interior paintings rather than cover paintings.
He did scores of full color cover paintings for paperbacks from the 1950s to around 1990. But he relished the broader canvas two-page spreads gave him, so he rarely accepted MAM cover assignments.
“I enjoyed doing magazine interiors more than the covers.” Sam explained. “Covers didn’t pay that much more to make it worth the difference. Working in black and white and duotone for interiors, I was able to focus on the subject more.”
I love both Sam’s MAM interiors and his paperback cover art. Before Sam hooked up with Magazine Management in 1955, he did paperback cover paintings.
He continued doing paperback covers at some level during the next four decades and focused on them primarily in the 1980s and 1990s, after the MAM genre had faded away.
At PulpFest 2022, Sam’s widow Jackie had a vendor table and brought along a bunch of his original paperback cover paintings she still had, in addition to some of his MAM interior paintings.
I had a great time visiting with Jackie at PulpFest and she gave me a good deal on one of Sam’s paperback paintings that I kept ogling. It was used for the 1981 novel by Dan Streib titled THE TERROR MERCHANTS, #11 in the 14-book HAWK series Streib wrote about the adventurous, crime-fighting journalist Michael Hawk.
It’s the painting I’m holding in the photo shown here. And, that’s lovely, vivacious Jackie Pollen at right in the photo.
By the way, Jackie is an artist in her own right and recently published a collection of her colorful, almost psychedelic pen-and-ink drawings titled THE MAGICAL PEN OF JACKIE POLLEN. It’s very cool!
The penultimate story in MAQ #6. Originally published in MALE, July 1975, is titled “G.I. ‘Hayseeds’ Who Pulled a $2 Million Gold Heist.”
I initially picked this story because of the great full-color illustration done for it by Earl Norem. After I read it, I also liked the story.
Unlike most heist stories, the heisters are total amateurs.
Their target is also unusual. It’s a shipment of counterfeit gold coins being transported by train through Canada. Why they’d want counterfeit coins is explained in the story.
One of several things about the story that made me smile is the character at the right in Norem’s illustration. He’s supposed to be a guard on the train who initially refuses to open the safe the coins are in.
The Hayseeds tie the guard to the safe with rope and put sticks of dynamite here and there in the ropes. They ask the guard if he wants to change his mind.
He shakes his head ‘no.’ So, Frank lights a fuse to the dynamite—and the frightened guard quickly relents and opens it.
The look on the guard’s face is priceless.
And, I could be wrong, but when I saw Norem’s image of the bug-eyed guard it immediately reminded me of actor Lon Chaney Jr.
In fact, to me, the guard’s face looks amazingly like a still photos of Chaney looking bug-eyed in several of his films, such as OF MICE AND MEN (1939), THE INDESCTRUCTIBLE MAN (1956), DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971).
Bill Cunningham and I are both fans of gonzo films like those. In fact, Bill is a quite movie maven. Before focusing on writing, editing, designing and publishing books and magazines, he worked as a movie producer and a designer of movie posters.
Now, through the “Cinexploits!” division of his Pulp 2.0 Press imprint, he publishes of lushly illustrated books based on or about movies, including: TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN, CELLULOID WARS: LESSONS LEARNED FROM BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, NEMESIS: THE BOOK OF THE MOVIE, DEATH KISS, and most recently AUTOMATONS: THE BOOK OF THE MOVIE.
The final story in MAQ #6 is “Arizona’s Incredible ‘Kung Fu’ Vengeance Heisters” by Grant Freeling, from MALE, November 1973.
In the early 1970s, martial arts movies made in Hong Kong became popular in the US, especially those starring Bruce Lee.
And in 1973, the then year-old TV series KUNG FU, starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, was one of the biggest hits on television.
Men’s adventure magazine stories both reflected and helped boost a number of topics that became trends in American pop culture. So, it’s no coincidence that MAMs were featuring stories involving martial experts during the ’70s.
The image of the main character, named Hal Brice, flying through the air in Earl Norem’s awesome illustration may seem familiar to you. If so, that’s because you’ve watched some Bruce Lee movies. It’s based on the signature double-fisted, flying kick move Bruce made famous in his films.
In fact, the two photographs used for the story in addition to Earl’s artwork are still photos from Bruce Lee’s first film, THE BIG BOSS. One of them shows a head-and-shoulders pic of a guy who’s labeled as Hal Brice, with “Hal’s” face superimposed over Bruce Lee doing the flying kick in the background scene.
THE BIG BOSS was made in Hong Kong in 1971 and began playing in theaters in North America in 1972 and 1973. The second Chinese-produced film Lee starred in, FIST OF FURY, hit American movie theaters shortly after the first.
The image of Lee performing his flying kick image was prominently featured on posters for both THE BIG BOSS and FIST OF FURY. So, Norem may have used one of those as a reference for his illustration.
By the way, if you’re a Lee fan, you may know he claimed to have given the concept for the TV series KUNG FU to the show’s creator, Ed Spielman. The evidence suggests they did discuss such a show and Lee did develop a proposal for a TV Western about an Asian martial arts master named Ah Sahm in 1870s America.
Lee never got official credit for the idea for KUNG FU. However, in 2019, with the blessing of Lee’s family, Cinemax launched the mini-series WARRIOR based on his concept. I love it and look forward to seeing the show’s main character Ah Sahm kick butt again in the forthcoming third season.
As I was writing this post, Bill and I were putting the finishing touches on MAQ #7, which will showcase “Gang Girl” stories and artwork. I’ll be posting a preview of that one in the near future.
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