Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Men’s Adventure Quarterly #5

Mens Adventure Quarterly #5, edited by Robert Deis and Bill Cunningham
June, 2022  Subtropic Productions

Every issue of Men’s Adventure Quarterly has been great, but this one focuses on the wild WWII yarns the men’s mags were mostly known for. In this regard I feel that Men’s Adventure Quartlery #5 most captures the vibe of an actual men’s adventure magazine. The sort of thing vets read twenty years after the war, while they were on a break at their factory jobs or trying to tune out their nagging wives. “Ah, those lace-panty commando broads – the good old days!” 

This issue is set up differently than the previous four; it’s almost two separate books. The first half is along the lines of those men’s mag-themed trade paperbacks that were popular some years ago, more focused on the art, artists, and photography. The second half is like the previous issues of MAQ, featuring stories. One thing missing this time is an intro for each story, which I missed. But all told this volume is longer than the other four, with as mentioned more of a focus on art in the first half. I found this first half interesting, but I’ve always been more about the stories in men’s adventure magazines; in fact, I usually don’t pay much attention to the covers or the interior illustrations, other than to momentarily appreciate them. 

It’s all visually arresting, though – and I don’t just mean the beefcake photos of ubiquitous men’s mag model Eva Lynd! Bob provides an interesting overview of her career, and we see more of Eva in some artwork courtesy Norm Eastman, the men’s mag artist most known today for his illustrations for “the sweats,” with women in bondage or being otherwise sorely mistreated. There’s a lot of photography and artwork in this first section, to the extent that I really does come off like a separate book…sort of a “making of” peek into how the men’s adventure mags were produced. A cool piece on war comics by Justin Marriott can also be found here; a bit disconnected from the Eva Lynd/men’s mag art material, but still pretty cool if you are into war comics. Especially British ones! Unfortunately I’m not, but as usual Justin’s enthusiasm is enough to make one interested in the subject. 

After an article from a wartime-era issue of True on “The Filthy Thirteen,” the real-life inspiration for The Dirty Dozen, we get to the stories. First up is the story featured on the cover, “The Wild Raid Of Gibbons’s Lace Panty Commandos,” by Jim McDonald. I reviewed this one several years ago as part of my Girls With Guns men’s mag feature. My copy is in a reprint from the December 1973 issue of Man’s Story, which also featured “Lace Panty Commandos” on the cover. Bob and Bill don’t include this later cover in this issue of MAQ. Here it is: 

What’s interesting is that this cover is so inaccurate: at no point in the story is Gibbons captured and tied to a chair, to be saved by those lace panty commando babes. In fact that would’ve made for a nice story element, but McDonald’s tale is woefully short and unexploited, something I noticed in my previous review but really came home on this re-reading. I’ve said it a million times, but I have no idea why more of these men’s mag authors didn’t farm out their tales into actual novel-length paperbacks. “Lace Panty Commandos” would make for a great war-pulp paperback, but it barely has space to breathe in the few pages McDonald gives it. My previous review gets more into the nitty-gritty, so this time I’ll just leave it that, despite the too-short length, it’s still a fun tale and, with its “hookers turned commandos” angle, epitomizes the “Dirty Mission” theme. 

Next up is another fairly short one – as most of those non-“Diamond Line” men’s mag stories were – that follows the same vibe: “The Desperate Raid Of Wilson’s Lace Panty Guerillas,” by Chuck McCarthy and from the March 1963 World Of Men. This one’s so similar to McDOnald’s yarn that it could almost be the same story. We meet Lt. Pete Wilson as he’s hiding out behind enemy lines, using a group of French hookers to smuggle weapons from the Nazis the girls service. As with the previous stories, the “lace panties” themselves are not actually worn in the action scenes, as the misleading art would imply, but at least they are given mention – in the fourth paragraph, in fact: “…a pair of black silk panties,” worn by a French hooker Wilson just enjoyed. 

As with most of these early ‘60s stories, the naughty stuff is minimal at best. And so too is the action. But this story at least has a little more to it than the previous one. Actually it’s more about the buildup than the story itself; we’re told that Wilson was all the way over in Iwo Jima before special orders came in which had him shuttling around the globe in record time, to be deposited in Occupied France, where he was “to serve as beachmaster of the Allied landings on the eastern bank of the Rhine when the time came.” But he’s ignored orders to lay low and has been using the girls to smuggle in weapons. The story rushes to a climax when the girls are uncovered, and the Nazis show up, and Wilson has them all run up to the roof so they can fight back. It’s a pretty goofy finale, but it does feature some relatively bloodless action, complete with Wilson and the girls tossing grenades at the Germans. 

Next up is one I’ve wanted to read for a long time, to the extent that I almost dropped the money on a copy of the issue that contained the story: “Free The Girls Of Love Captive Stalag,” by Charles Kranepool and from the the December 1967 Men. This then is a “Diamond Line” story, and the higher quality of these particular mags is immediately noticeable. In fact, of all the stories in this MAQ, this is the one that should’ve been turned into an actual novel. Kranepool delivers a cool story that almost opens like a prefigure of Inglorious Bastards, with a squad of American Indian soldiers silently killing off a few Germans outside a castle in novel ways: bow & arrow, garrotte, and even a tomahawk. 

But the “Indian soldier” stuff doesn’t even turn out to be relevant to the tale per se; instead, it’s all setup for the goofy illustration, of a Nazi painting a girl’s body…! The sadist! Bob Deis includes a cool intro in which he traces this particular painting, and how it was repurposed for another story. This is another of those bits where it’s plainly obvious the author was directed to include this particular incident…and got it out of the way as quickly as possible in the actual story. I mean, the “sweat mags” were known for outright torture stories with Nazis doing horrible things to their female prey; having one that does no more than bodypaint them seems lame at best. But Kranepool features it, as no doubt instructed – and then the commander of the American Indians (who per the genre is a white guy, of course) blows him away so as to cause a distraction, and he and his men free the particular girl they’re here for. And of course it goes without saying that this guy also gets the chance for a little (off-page) fun with the girl. Overall a very entertaining story, with that economical style of pulp writing I so enjoy. 

Up next is another Diamond Line story, a “True Booklength” piece that’s the longest story here: “Savage Comrades” by Donald Honig, from the September 1969 Male. Honig has had a story in each volume of MAQ and every one of them has been good. I’m surprised I never came across any of his men’s mag work prior to readidng Men’s Adventure Quarterly #1. First of all, the splash art for this one, by Bruce Minney, was repurposed in another men’s mag I have. I’m too lazy to pull out my copy and check, but I’m fairly sure it was used for “Traitors Die Slow” by Grant Freeling. Or maybe it appeared in the original version of the story, which was titled “They Crippled Hitler’s D-Day Defenses.” Or maybe I’m just wrong on both counts. 

As mentioned “Savage Comrades” is the longest story here, and thus has the most “meat” to it. But surprisingly the female presence is nonexistent, and in fact – shockingly enough – there isn’t even a sex scene in the story. Not even off-page! But we meet our hero, Lt. Bill Craig, a hotheaded Texan, in the process of trying to get lucky, at least, hitting on a girl who happens to be dating a General. Craig ends up punching out the General, but he gets out of the brig because he’s “been specially trained for a certain mission.” What exactly makes Craig so instrumental to this mission isn’t really made clear, as it’s the guys he’s been given to command who are the most important. The “savage comrades” of the title, it’s a trio of Germans who have been arrested by their countrymen for various things, but given their various specialities the US Army wants to send them back into Germany on the assumption that the three will be willing to shoot fellow Germans. 

So already the entire premise is absurd: I mean one of these guys is a terrorist, known for bombing places and killing many. The other is a brawny boxer, and the last is a guy who would “make love to wealhty women, get money from them – and climb mountains.” I mean these are the three “specialists” the army wants Wilson to take into Germany, along with a lieutenant who just punched out a general. The goal is to blow up a refinery near a mountain where the Germans are perfecting the fuel for a new rocket or somesuch. The story itself is more concerned with Wilson and the Germans – plus another American who might as well be wearing a red shirt – heading into Germany and trying to avoid detection. There’s a completely random part where the boxer guy slips off to reunite with his wife, only to find her shacked up with a Nazi, and he goes ballistic. 

It all works up to a big finale where the team attacks the refinery and the base near it. It’s a well-done action scene, not very bloody as per the norm, but the problem is there’s too much unity in Wilson’s team. The entire aspect of these Germans being criminals who might stab Wilson in the back is given short shrift, and it comes off like any other war yarn. For that matter, the boxer feels bad for almost jeopardizing the mission by killing his wife! But otherwise that’s it for “Savage Comrades;” for a True Booklength yarn it’s a bit anemic so far as the plotting goes, and personally I would’ve preferred if the previous story had been expanded. Those three American Indian soldiers were way cooler than the three Germans in this story. 

We’re back to the grungier line of men’s adventure mags with the next story: “The Vengeance Raid Of O.S.S. Carter’s Death Doll Platoon,” by Jim Arthur and from the February 1972 Man’s Story. This is another I reviewed in my Girls With Guns feature. It’s also a longer story, and does a better job bringing to life the “lace panty commando” vibe than Jim McDonald’s story did. (For that matter I wonder still if Jim Arthur and Jim McDonald were one and the same.) I already wrote my thoughts on this one in the previous review, but reading it again this time I found myself really enjoying the story. And also got a chuckle how, in my previous review, I noted the slightly more explicit tone of the story, when compared to earlier men’s mags – in particular the “oral” stuff. The same thing jumped out at me when I read the story this time. I guess my mind’s just always been in the gutter. 

One thing that became clear this time was that the titular OSS agent Carter is a bit of an idiot. A big portion of the story is given over to his training of the women who have escaped from a castle of Nazi sadists, despite the protestations of the girls themselves – they want to parachute in and kick ass pronto. But due to his delays for training, Wilson ends up getting them all captured or killed – he’s taken so long to actually launch the mission that reinforcements have shown up at the castle. This allows Arthur to work in some of the “sweat mag” stuff Man’s Story specialized in, with the girls being tortured in the dungeons. But it’s all off-page and it’s not even described what exactly is being done to them, which makes it somehow more unsettling. Overall though, “Death Doll Platoon” is one of the better stories here, and I’m glad it’s now available for more people to read. 

We’re back to the Diamond Line with “The 5 Wild Missions Of O’Brien’s Submarine Commandos,” by Len Guttridge and from the November 1973 Stag. There’s nothing misleading about this story’s title, as it’s basically just a recounting of five missions undertaken by a submarine team during the war. Guttridge goes for more of a dry “war reporting” vibe than any other tale here, and like Honig’s story there isn’t even a sex scene! Instead the entire story is comprised of various sub attacks. Naval fiction isn’t much my thing, so I wasn’t really into this one. There’s another sort of sub-themed “dirty missions” men’s mag story I reviewed here, “The US Navy’s U-Boat Hit Men,” which is very much in the Dirty Dozen mold, so if there’s ever another “Dirty Mission” issue of Men’s Adventure Quarterly hopefully it will be included! 

Last up is a story I’ve bugged Bob Deis about for years: “G.I. River Rats Who Blasted The Nazis’ Sex-Circus Villa,” by Walter Kaylin (under his “Roland Empey” pseudonym) and from the November 1974 issue of Male. Years ago I asked Bob if he planned to include this story in the Kaylin anthology he published in 2013 with Wyatt Doyle, He-Men, Bag Men, & Nymphos, but the story didn’t make the cut. And to be honest, it’s easy to see why, as Kaylin doesn’t do much with the outrageous title, and probably the best thing about the story is Earl Norem’s awesome splashpage. (Norem’s always been my favorite of the interior illustrators.) Regardless, I still think “River Rats” is a lot of fun and it’s probably my favorite story here if for no other reason than I can finally read it – there were times where I almost dropped those absurd amounts of money for the November ’74 issue of Male just to read it. 

But like most of the latter-day men’s mag stories, “River Rats” is pretty short, and is more about the setup and harried conclusion, with none of the depth you’d get even in “Savage Comrades.” However it must be said that Kaylin still manages to deliver a bonkers story that has very little to do with realism. Even though the title and Norem art have you expecting some crazed frogman action, the majority of the story is about an undercover Yank who fights a bear in the plush cathouse of an Italian madam, for the entertainment of assembled Nazi elite. All sort of similar to Joaquin Hawks #2. The plan is to wait for someone really big-time to show, like Himmler. But D-Day is approaching so there’s no time to waste, thus we get a quick conclusion in which a bunch of Nazis are drowned by frogmen who are hiding in a lake – the drunk Nazis willfully jumping in, per the goofy setup Kaylin somewhat makes believable. 

And with that this expanded edition of Men’s Adventure Quarterly comes to a close. I’ve recommended every volume yet, but Men’s Adventure Quarterly #5 was definitely my favorite – and I’m not just saying that because I got to write an intro for it!


Robert Deis (aka "SubtropicBob") said...

Many thanks for your review of the MEN'S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #5, Joe -- and for the intro you wrote for it and the story ideas you provided. One of us should go meet with writer Donald Honig while he's still around. He's one of the last of the regular writers for the Martin Goodman "Diamond Line" magazines who is still alive. My friend Eva Lynd, who is featured in the first half of MAQ #5, is also still alive and well. I talk to them both fairly often by phone. Wyatt Doyle and I already did a book featuring Eva, as you know, titled EVA: MEN'S ADVENTURE SUPERMODEL. I'm thinking I may want to do a book featuring Don Honig men's adventure mag stories. Thanks again for your continued support for my labors of love. Cheers!

Grant said...

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it here, but there's a surprisingly early "commando broads" film (at least the last third of it) called FIVE GATES TO HELL.
It's very little known, but it is on DVD. I won't go into all of it, but that isn't even the only way it's a very early film.