I remember once being told that air conditioning can only hope to lower the temperature inside a structure by twenty degrees. In my very dim home office (my Bat Cave, if you will) I manage to cheat that down to thirty, by dint of insulation, ceiling fan, and simply not moving. The point is, with temps topping 100 degrees – and that’s without the heat index, which adds our sizable humidity into the formula – I’m still wondering why I live here.
Oh, that’s right. I can’t afford to move.
Ah, well. Life can’t be too easy, or we’d have nothing to talk about.
Visited my parents over the weekend; it had been a couple of months since they’d gotten to spoil their grandson or grandpug. This was the cue for my wife and mother to head out and shop the resale stores. After thirty-some-odd years of living in an almost exclusively male household, my mother is very happy to have another woman around.
For my part, I eventually sneaked out to the local Half-Price Books – I’ve managed to empty the local stores of any interesting material – and spent way too damn much money. Picked up some more Preston & Child blockbusters, mainly to convince myself that good gravy, I could write this. A few comic trade paperbacks. And – the topper, a thick art book entitled Men’s Adventure Magazines.
Written in three different languages – English, French and German – by contributors like Max Allen Collins, the book traces the history of men’s magazines of the 40s through the late 60s. A combination of pulp, graphic exposes (with often bloody photos unprintable in the major media) and skin, these magazines were a pervasive presence through my youth. Titles like Stag, Men, Men’s Adventure, Cavalier… I don’t think Manly Man was a title, but it should have been.
These magazines featured hyperbolic, often salacious painted covers, which were almost always so overwrought as to be humorous. These form the bulk of the book, and the major reason I bought it. I’m sure we all remember studying about the part of World War II when scantily clad French hookers machine-gunned an entire Nazi platoon. Surely, that is in there, somewhere.
It’s too much of a good thing, and I find myself drinking it in by portions. My favorite part of the book thus far – and it is arranged by themes – is “Animal Attacks”. I had no idea that the phrase “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” originated on the cover of a man’s magazine – but there it is, with the cover art to match. Add to the mix of b-movie horrors detailed within this chapter attacks by vicious swarms of flying squirrels and spider monkeys. I had no idea snapping turtles traveled in herds.
And that’s before we even get to the subjects of female pirates and SS sex slaves.
How did these become such a big part of my youth? Besides the obvious, the copies owned by my father and grandfather, never very well hidden at all?
Simply, these mags were on display in stores, right next to Ladies’ Home Journal and Life. Newstands didn’t make much of an effort to conceal them, and as they often wound up next to Famous Monsters or Vampirella, I always found these magazines in my searches. Did these magazines, heavy on the violence and bondage imagery, at all affect my development into what I am today?
Jeez, it’s too hot for weighty ruminations like that, too. I’ll just close by mentioning that the magazine slang for these items was the “sweats”, which seems wholly appropriate, both in subject matter and the time of year in which I’m reading about them. Time to get that scanner talking to the new computer, I’m thinkin’.
“Mad Monkeys Manned the Lifeboats!”
(That image courtesy Men’s Adventure Magazines)
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