Weasels Ripped Our Flesh: The Forgotten World of Men's Adventure Magazines

Article excerpt

GUYS, HERE'S A question just for you: What sort of daring adventure fantasies recharge your sense of your own masculinity? Do you think about yourself alone at sea, for example, just you against nature's power, facing off against a pack of ferocious otters? How about the thrill of battle with an unnaturally bellicose lobster--is that the sort of thing that does it for you? Or maybe, in the hidden depths of your imagination, you prefer to think about yourself rescuing somebody, say a beautiful woman in a low-cut dress who's being attacked by a big-tusked boar.

If so, if these are the kinds of adventures that validate your sense of who you wish you were, then you were born too late. There used to be magazines--scores of them--that existed just for you. They were the "adventure pulps" that flourished from the 1950s through the '70s, and they featured exactly those kinds of ripping yarns, and so much more besides. Their rather cynical editors and publishers thought of them as "armpit slicks."

The decades after World War II were the heyday of the "man's magazine." Adventure pulps filled just one niche in a rich print world that celebrated soldiering and seduction, courage and cleavage, in many formats for many different sorts of readers. The adventure pulps--Man's Adventure, Men Today, Men in Conflict, Rugged Men, Man's True Action, Real Adventure, Man's Conquest, Man's Epic, New Man, Mart's Life, Man's Best, and maybe another 125 titles like these--addressed themselves to a certain kind of readership that seems to have become as extinct as the magazines. The niche is now empty.

Actually, it's more than just empty; it's forgotten. Except for a few collectors, it's as if the magazines and their readers never existed. Unlike numerous other pulp genres, many of which are still celebrated nostalgically and even anthologized for new readers, the adventure pulps, their stories, and their art have disappeared. They are today as culturally invisible as the sobbing women's fiction periodicals of the 19th century.

But if this is a genre in distress, then Adam Parfrey of Feral House, emperor of the outre, has come to its rescue. It's a Mesa's World. Men's Adventure Magazines, the Postwar Pulps, features hundreds of sensational full-color covers, essays by those who edited and illustrated these magazines (including one by satiric novelist Bruce Jay Friedman, one of the few people associated with the genre who later established a respectable reputation), and even a guide for collectors. …