Who would expect to see such a lavish all-colour book about this down-market corner of American publishing, not me but I'm interested in visual popular culture and `It's a Man's World' is really quite a fascinating study of these `slicks', produced from 1950 to 1970. They were edited by a small group of men who put out over six thousand issues of about a hundred and thirty titles. The leading publishers, Magazine Management went bust in 1975 and this particular male market slid predictably into soft porn.
The book rightly concentrates on the garish, dazzling covers, fortunately they all retain the logos and unbelievable cover lines and there are hundreds to pore over. Each cover (many shown life size) has a caption with the publishing date and where known, the artist's name. Leading illustrators like Mort Kunstler, Norm Eastman and Norman Saunders have a magnificent showing through all the pages. These covers were the USP of this particular market, a few of the magazines inside pages are shown and it seems clear to me that most of the editorial budgets were spent on the cover art. No matter what the title, it would sell better if some female, who always seemed unable to do up all the buttons on her blouse, was in a distressing situation just about to be rescued by a nearby white hunk.
One chapter, The Sadistic Burlesque, covers the titles that are most sought after today. The paintings show sadistic extremes, mostly by Nazis or Commies, yet they were displayed on newsstands across the nation to be bought by any male. Perhaps for obvious reasons many of these covers have no artist credit. The cover lines are equally suggestive, the February 1963 issue of `Men Today' promised `Brides of agony in the cave of horror', `Soft maidens for the monster devil fish' and `Love captive of Castro's execution squad harlots'. Needless to say all the `true' articles in these magazines were made up.
I found `It's a Man's World' covered the post war pulps in detail and certainly worth getting if you are curious about popular art and culture but also have a look at 'Men's Adventure Magazines' (ISBN 3822825174) this is a super chunky book with over a thousand covers in colour and because of this I think it is much better than 'It's a Man's World'. Now that these titles are (fortunately) gone men can read about themselves in `The Von Hoffman Brothers: Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness' (ISBN 1575440849) and I doubt that the male authors of this book would be seen dead reading the `armpit slicks', they would be too busy being real men.