Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Genre Overview: Men's Adventure Magazines

Sometimes called, either derisively or affectionately, the Sweats, Men's Adventure Magazines ran from the early 50's through the late 60's, though some managed in one form or another through the late 70's.  The featured mostly "true story" type fiction, though there was usually a very thin pretense to how true it actually was.  The tone was ridiculously hyper-masculine, to the point where it's almost impossible to parody.  At least 50 titles began with the word Man or Men.

While the genre in many ways replaced the pulp magazines that had all but died out, the tone and feel were quite different, and there weren't a lot of authors who made the transition, having either quit writing, moved on to paperback originals, or drank themselves to death.  Likewise, with few exceptions, the writers of Men's Adventure magazines didn't move on to the Men's Adventure Paperbacks, a much different beast.  The only author to move up to any level of respectability was The Godfather's Mario Puzo.

Men's Adventure Magazines had their own feel and pace, developed due to the quick page count.  A situation and characters are introduced in a paragraph or two, there's a big action scene, and a brief epilogue.  There were longer stories, but they tended not to hold up as well.

First person narrative was very common, given the "true story" background.  In many ways, they had more in common with the True Confessions genre of women's magazines than the detective or adventure pulps.  This is especially evident in the amazing story titles: "I Was a Sex Gang Flunky for the Nazi She Demon", etc.

In addition to the machismo, there's the sadism.  Some magazines kept it clean, but others reveled in cruelty and torture.  And Nazis, lots of Nazis.

There were a few stock story topics, such as:
  • Exotic adventure
  • Mob/Crime stories
  • Animal attacks (Weasels Ripped my Flesh, etc)
  • War stories
  • Nazi atrocities
  • Westerns
  • Sex exposes

There were also "health" articles preying on men's sexual insecurities, with titles like "Why Your Lesbian Wife Would Rather Sleep With Communist Hippies" and the like.

The rise and decline of Men's Adventure Magazines tends to follow the trajectory of sexploitation movies.  In film, we had Nude Cuties, the sadistic Roughies, hard core porn with actual stories, then just people doing it.

"Gentleman's" magazines like Playboy ran on a parallel track, and only a couple Men's Adventure magazines grew from earlier nudie mags (Sir! is the only one I can think of).  If you look over the covers (Galactic Central is a good place), every title that survives into the 60s starts slipping in photos of half naked women on the cover for a year or so before the painted action scenes are dropped altogether.

More and more page length was given to nude pictures, and the titles either dropped completely or became full blown spank mags.  A few of them, such as Sir! and Male, had some fiction up to the late 70's, before the text either disappeared or became pure sexology.

The lurid covers get most of the attention nowadays, but recently some of the texts have been reprinted as well.  Click on the links below for the Amazon pages.

Cover galleries and overviews:

It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps, Expanded Edition
Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything

Story reprints:

A Handful of Hell: Classic War and Adventure Stories
Cryptozoology Anthology: Strange and Mysterious Creatures in Men's Adventure Magazines
He-Men, Bag Men & Nymphos: Classic Men's Adventure Stories
Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Two-Fisted Stories From Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Flesh And Orgies Of Death: Fiction, Features & Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Nudes For The Devil's Butcher: Fiction, Features And Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines
Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood: Fiction, Features And Art From Classic Men's Adventure Magazines

And if you need a non-stop infusion of machismo, visit the Trash Menace Gallery, with over seven hours of cover slideshows.

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