I often find some very interesting stuff when I’m doing a search for film posters, stills, and other materials. Recently the cover for a men’s adventure magazine from the 1950s popped up. I dropped what I was doing and started looking for more of them. The ones I found are mostly from the 50s and 60s. I remember seeing these at news stands when I was a kid, but that was as close as I got. My dad regularly bought True, Argosy, and Saga, which I got to look at when he was done with them. Those were fairly rational publications, but these others were another thing entirely, more like the National Enquirer compared to the New York Times. There’s no denying the disturbing Stone Age attitudes and macho fantasies reflected in these covers, but they’re so ridiculous it’s hard to take them seriously. Though that might be a mistake, given the current climate.
The cover at left illustrates the story “Trapped in a Sea of Giant Crabs,” while the one at right features “Chewed to Death by Giant Turtles.” As you can see, “Man’s Life” had a thing about rugged shirtless men — who all appear to be the same guy — being attacked by man-eating rats or “Eaten Alive by Killer Pigs.” That’s one unlucky dude. It’s hard to imagine anyone reading this stuff with a straight face, but what do I know?
I was startled by the cover below that illustrates “Weasels Ripped My Flesh,” which is the title of a Mothers of Invention album of the same name. The record jacket drawn by Neon Park has always been one of my favorites, one of the greatest album covers of all time. Frank Zappa had to have seen this magazine.
Many of these magazines feature scantily-clad young women being tortured by Nazis or Communists or attacked by large snakes. I’m not sure what this snake motif is about, but I suspect Freud might have an idea.
The cover at left shares DNA with the EC Comics cover at right. This sensationalistic approach can also be seen in exploitation and science-fiction/horror films of the period.
There were occasional surprises in what I found. The Hemingway cover below may have been an attempt to appeal to a more literary crowd (though I doubt it), while the tiger reflection cover below that is subtler than most. It’s almost poetic by comparison to the usual lurid presentations.
There’s probably a limit to how much of this a person wants to look at, and I may have exceeded that here. Believe me, I didn’t have the nerve to include some of the more extreme examples. If, however, you haven’t had enough and would like to see more, you can do that here. – Ted Hicks