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May 26, 2010 Last updated: March 24, 2020

Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Vintage Men’s Adventure Magazines

man's life magazine cover weasels ripped flesh

Before Men’s Health and Maxim Magazine, before the men’s magazine category was dominated by glossy, slick publications, there were the “He-Man,” “pulp,” or “sweat magazines.”

These “men’s adventure” magazines catered to men of a different generation and reflected the taste and sensibilities of those men. The readership largely consisted of GI’s who had fought and survived the Big One, men who had experienced both adventure and gruesome death and violence. In contrast to their experiences overseas, life back home seemed dull and mundane. Their wives and families who hadn’t experienced the horrors of war had only vague notions of what things had been like “over there.” In a life that seemed sterile and scrubbed clean, men’s magazines were an oasis of the kind of unfettered manliness and grit the men were used to. And to the men who hadn’t served, the magazines were a chance to live such adventures vicariously.

Products of the time, the magazines were certainly not politically correct. Instead of articles about $10,000 watches and luxury vacations, the pages of the sweat magazines were filled with “true” (typically fictionalized or embellished) stories of war, survival, crime, safari, and the Old West.  A favorite theme was the showdown between man and wild flesh-eating beasts and critters. Stories of men rescuing women from the torture of savage natives or cruel enemy armies were common (as were tales of powerful Amazonian-like women and man-capturing gangs of female dominatrices). But the magazines generally adhered to the philosophy of famous salesman Elmer Wheeler, who said to “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” The headlines of the magazines were far more lurid and sensational then the actual stories inside the magazine.

The magazines only cost 25 cents, and their insides were filled with cheap, pulpy pages printed only in black and white and packed full of ads for correspondence courses, baldness cures, and fitness programs. The centerpiece of the magazine was thus the cover which showcased glossy, colorful, and evocative artwork. The publisher would have an artist draw up a wild cover and then a writer would build a “true” story around it.

The popularity of men’s adventure magazines peaked in the late 1950s, when fifty different titles were published and hundreds of thousands of men picked up the magazines at the local drugstore or read them at barbershops. But as Playboy and then Penthouse came on the scene, and the courts loosened their restrictions on what was deemed obscene material, “the sweats” began to seem quite tame and outdated in comparison and couldn’t compete. They quietly disappeared in the 1970’s.

The cover art is still great to look at. Here are a few of my favorites:

vintage adventure men's magazine cover grizzly bear

vintage battle cry men's magazine cover

vintage male magazine cover men's pulp

vintage adventure men's magazine cover tiger in wait

vintage man's life men's magazine cover fighting snakes

vintage fury men's magazine cover shark attack

man's conquest vintage men's magazine cover cannibal crabs

vintage man's illustrated men's magazine slaughter stalag

vintage man's life magazine cover red tide of death

all man vintage men's magazine cover she devil

vintage real men's magazine cover boxing

man's life vintage men's magazine weasels flesh cover

men in combat vintage magazine cover soldiers fighting

vintage men magazine cover battled giant otter

vintage for men only magazine cover gun is law

vintage men's stag magazine cover mad monkeys

vintage man's life magazine cover fighting alligator

real men vintage magazine cover fighting spears

true men vintage magazine cover flying rodents

male vintage men's magazine cover escape story

man's life men's vintage magazine cover giant turtles

true war vintage men's magazine cover korean battle

vintage magazine cover true men nazi butcher girls

vintage man's magazine cover hemingway hitler

Source: Men’s Adventure Magazines: In Postwar America

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