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November 23, 2004

{     Men's Adventure Magazines in Postwar America - TASCHEN     }    

This TASCHEN-published collection of pulp men's magazine artwork hits harder than a jaw-shattering left hook. Full of ripe misogyny, polarizing political stereotypes and a double-helping of delicious sexploitation, this exquisitely bound and formatted coffee-table book collects 500+ pages of the finest sweat-mag illustrations from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Equally lurid and titilating, the tome also serves to contextualize and elucidate the work through a series of informative essays and an interview with Norm Eastman, one of the genre's foremost artists. What emerges is an understanding of the artwork as a sort of hyperbolic point-of-purchase advertisement- the stories contained in these magazines rarely matched in tone or content the outrageous cover art used to sell them. In a testosterone-heavy paralell to women's romance novels, what was really being sold was a fantasy, an illusion of power, of struggle, and of victory. Seeing the work assembled so expertly here, you can easily view it as the collective id of an era- the desire for unbridled passion, violence and heroism made garishly manifest. Intervening decades of political correctness have only brought these themes into sharper relief. Culled from the collection of Rich Oberg (owner of the largest known stash of men's adventure magazines in the US), you get a little bit of everything- Nazis, Commies, chain gangs, bikers, strippers, fierce animals on the attack, Oriental high-seas adventure, war stories, and scads of bondage, torture and fisticuffs. Thankfully, writer/pin-up provacateur/hard-boiled badass Max Allan Collins is along for the ride. You may know Collins as the author of The Road to Perdition and the Nathan Heller series of mystery-novels, which draw on a rich vein of pulp/adventure influence. George Hagenauer, Collins long-time research assistant, rides shotgun, and design junkie and prolific author Steven Heller rounds out the team. A must-own for fans of the pulp-action genre, exploitation-art lovers and anyone who can appreciate the folly of the naive stereotypes and gender bias that abounded in this bygone era. Though there is a bit of scholarly exposition, these images are about as subtle as a brick wrapped in barbed-wire delivered to the back of the head. The editors/authors wisely avoid being didactic, allowing the reader to absorb the material with a minimum of pretense. Slickly bound in a flexi-cover format, the book weighs in at a hefty 4.5 pounds. The reproductions are rich in color and vibrancy, especially when you consider that much of the source material is half a century old. Vintage interior editorial art images are included along with reproductions of the magazine covers, making this one of the most visually comprehensive examinations of the genre to date. If you know TASCHEN, then you know their reputation for providing publications of only the highest quality, and this piece is no exception to the standard they've set. Amazon is offering it for only $26.36, almost fifteen bucks off the suggested retail, making this a no-brainer of a holiday gift.

     » Buy it.
     » TASCHEN
     » maxallancollins.com

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