Life and Death on the Front Lines: The Men’s Adventure Magazines

May 25, 2018 by

At this year’s convention, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. Our programming will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture.

Although the pulps played a very important role in the evolution of American popular culture, they had essentially disappeared by the early fifties. While some continued in the smaller digest format, the rough paper magazines seemed increasingly out of step to the generation coming home from the Second World War. They needed something else.

“The heroes who beat Hitler and Hirohito came back home to a period of difficult adjustment. . . .  Men who had walked through the charred remains of Hiroshima or the gory battlefields of Europe returned to families and friends acquainted only with the sanitized version of the war that had been fed to the home front. Sex with prostitutes or starving refugees, the need to kill a sixteen-year-old kid or be killed, and suicide missions that left battalions decimated were experiences that only other vets could understand. Men’s adventure magazines spoke their language, and reassured an entire generation that they were indeed heroes.”

Some of the great old pulps became men’s adventure magazines. ADVENTURE, BLUEBOOK, and ARGOSY — the first pulp of them all — were all retooled as “sweat magazines.” But most of the approximately 160 titles in the men’s field were introduced fresh and raw, designed to appeal to the returning veterans of World War II, and later, the soldiers shipped off to fight in Korea and Vietnam.

“Almost all included war stories of various kinds: true history pieces and eyewitness accounts; serious dramatic war fiction; highly-embellished articles that mixed fact and fiction; and, wild over-the-top yarns featuring sadistic Nazis and Commies, scantily-clad babes, and battling Yanks.”

Join PulpFest 2018 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry to learn more about the men’s adventure field. On Friday, July 27, at 7:50 PM, Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle will explore the roots of the men’s adventure genre and its depiction of war in such magazines as BATTLE CRY, MEN IN COMBAT, REAL COMBAT STORIES, SALVO, TRUE WAR STORIES, WAR CRIMINALS, WAR STORIES, and WOMEN-IN-WAR.

You’ll get all of this, plus a ten-dollar discount off the daily admission at Confluence, Pittsburgh’s long-running science fiction, fantasy and horror conference if you choose to attend both conventions. You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2018 button on our home page. And while you’re at our site, you can book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast!

(Bob Deis has worked as a teacher, an artist, a musician, a logger, a magazine writer, and a state government bureaucrat. By accident, he fell into a lengthy career as a political consultant. Now retired, Bob spends much of his time collecting, writing, and publishing books about the men’s adventure men magazines such as the December 1965 issue of STAG, featuring cover art by Mort Künstler. In 2009, Bob created the popular website about the genre, Several years later he became friends with another fan of the men’s adventure genre, writer and publisher Wyatt Doyle, co-founder of the New Texture imprint.

Together, Bob and Wyatt co-edit and publish the Men’s Adventure Library series of books that collect classic stories and artwork from the men’s adventure magazines. Their books include WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH!, HE-MEN, BAG MEN, & NYMPHOS, CRYPTOZOOLOGY ANTHOLOGY, A HANDFUL OF HELL, BARBARIANS ON BIKES, I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE, and POLLEN’S WOMEN: THE ART OF SAMSON POLLEN.)