Monday, March 27, 2023

Men's Adventure Quarterly #7 (plus She Devil OST)

Men's Adventure Quarterly #7, edited by Robert Deis and Bill Cunningham
January, 2023  Subtropic Productions

The seventh installment of Men’s Adventure Quarterly was perfectly timed for me; its focus on “Gang Girls” was in-line with a CD I purchased shortly before Xmas (more on which anon), so I dove right into this latest issue of the series. And it’s another great publication courtesy Bob Deis and Bill Cunningham, providing ample stories and art. We also get informative editorials from the two and co-editors Jules Burt and Andrew Nette; the latter gives a cool rundown on ‘50s juvenile delinquent pulp, particularly focused on the novel that kicked the genre off, The Amboy Dukes. But man, I was bummed he didn’t mention that Ted Nugent took the title of this novel for the name of his first band – and their mega-skewed Zappa-influenced prog-acid 1970 LP Marriage On The Rocks is one of my favorites. 

As ever Bob Deis provides an informative overview for the entire issue, and then separate intros for each story. I was impressed that he was able to find so many “juvenile delinquent girl” stories in the men’s mags; I had no idea there were enough to fill a book! I’ve said it before, but Bob could’ve made a good living coming up with themes for book publishers back in the day. It’s worth noting though that toward the end of MAQ #7 we get out of the j.d. girls theme and into a “biker chick” theme, but that’s fine by me – also worth noting that in one of the various artwork spotlights in the issue they show the poster for the biker-chick flick The Hellcats, the obscure novelization of which I reviewed here a few years ago. In fact I think “biker chick” would be a great theme for a future issue of Men’s Adventure Quarterly

“The Vicious Girl Gangs Of Boston,” by Henry S. Galus and from the August 1954 Man To Man, starts us off, about the “Violent, insane, brutal thuggery” of the titular girl gangs in Boston. “Female punks are causing a menace never equaled in our history,” Galus tells us in this exploitative expose that’s delivered more as a standard reporting piece than the typical men’s adventure yarn. 

“Tomboy Jungle” by Wenzell Brown, from the November 1957 For Men Only, is more along those yarns – it starts off as straight fiction, with a guy hitting on some jailbait girl in the city…and walking into a trap set up by the jailbait’s j.d. friends. The girl is a Pachuco, “the fastest growing crime cult in the country.” This is a vicious lot of gang-girls who use their beauty to lure men into allies for a little knife-in-the-back fun. Brown then goes into breathless rundowns of some Pachuco atrocities, surely with his tongue slightly in cheek, like when he tells us how a “young army private” in New York was once abducted by three Pachuco girls, who “compelled him to have sexual relations with each of them.” The horror!

“Zip-Gun Girl” is by Albert L. Quandt and from the September 1958 Man’s Illustrated. This is probably the longest story yet featured in an issue of Men’s Adventure Quarterly, running to nearly thirty pages (though admitedly I’m missing the sixth volume of MAQ, which might have had even longer stories). This is because “Zip Gun Girl” is a condensed version of a novel titled Zip-Gun Angels. Usually I skip abridged stories in men’s adventure magazines, figuring I’ll read the original novel someday. But I’m not planning on reading Quandt’s novel any day soon, so this condensed version sufficed. It’s not nearly as lurid as the title would imply. 

This one’s about Pebbles Jackson, a teen beauty (“the fullness of her sweater was heaving”) with an ex-con father who has just moved into the city. She finds herself in the middle of a gang-war between the Tigers and the Buccaneers. There’s also a cop named Grieg who takes an interest in Pebbles – who meanwhile befriends gang-girl Blackie (so named due to her hair color). The titular zip guns are used by the two gang members, and at one point Pebbles’s dad gets hold of the gun. It’s pretty involved and clearly a novel instead of a fast-moving piece of pulp. Quandt’s writing is good, but like I said I think this abridgement will do it for me and I won’t be seeking out the original novel. 

We’re back to the fast-moving pulp, plus our first first-person narrative in this MAQ, with “Street Queens Are Taking Over,” by Jack Smith and from the January 1962 Wildcat Adventures. This one’s more of a sweat yarn than the more polished men’s adventure stories of the Diamond Line (ie For Men Only, Male, etc); it’s the sort of short, fast-moving sleaze the mysterious Pep Pentageli collected in his own men’s adventure anthologies (ie Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood). It also has my favorite art in this issue, with a hotstuff brunette gang-girl about to whip a blonde. We even get two versions of this illustration, the cover piece and the splashpage, both courtesy Charles Frace (again, Bob Deis’s intros are very informative). This whipping is the centerpiece of the story, given that “Street Queens” isn’t very long. It’s an exploitative piece in which the narrator tells us about Margie, the sadistic boss of the West Side Dragons, who per the illustration whips a blonde girl named Shirl, who slept with Margie’s man (whose nickname is Jack the Ripper!) – and, since this is a sweat, Margie whips Shirl to friggin’ death. This one was probably my favorite in this issue. 

The luridly-titled “Lust On Our Streets” is another sweats yarn, by Allan Hendrix and from the September 1963 Wildcat Adventures. As with the previous story it’s another that trades on exploitation; the entire story is the buildup to a teen girl getting raped by a gang of j.d.s, lured into an alley by her new “friends” in the city. This one’s in third person, though, and concerns two rich teens who move to New York, hanging out in the slums with some j.d.s because they seem cool; the delinquents bait them with talk of a new dance called “The Leash,” which turns out to be j.d. code for taking the two teens into an alley and whipping them, then raping the girl. As with most of these sweats the author’s tongue must be in his cheek, as the entire thing is just lurid exploitation, then abruptly morphs into a concerned polemic on this national problem in the final paragraphs. Features another “great pair” of cleavage-baring illustrations (note the clever pun) by Charles Frace. I can already see the sweat mag editors of yore enthusing over this guy’s work; in my mind they’re sweaty, heavyset lechers with cheap cigars in their mouths: “Get that Frace guy – he does jugs like nobody!” 

We come now to the biker girl era with “The Passion Angel Cycle Girls,” by Clinton Kayser and from the December 1967 Men. Illustrated with photos of bikers and their chicks acting crazy for the camera, this one purports to be first-hand accounts by the titular cycle girls, talking mostly about what drew them to the biking life and how they like to get it on with bikers. As Bob Deis notes in his intro, it’s likely all the product of “Kayser’s” imagination; in his intro Bob also mentions another men’s adventure mag story, one I’ve been interested in for a long time, which features one of the greatest “topless biker chick” illustrations you’ll ever see (courtesy Earl Norem, my favorite of all the men’s mag artists): “Sex Life Of A Motorcyle Mama.” Bob, please consider this story for a future MAQ

The last yarn in this very special “Gang-Girls” issue is “Latest Teen Terror Craze: Cycle Girls On Wheels,” by J.R. Wayne and from the June 1970 Man’s Conquest. Originally from 1965, this one goes back to the more “factual” vibe with a rundown on what draws certain young women to the motorcycle scene. 

After this we get some artwork spotlights on j.d. and biker movies – as ever, Bill Cunningham does a great job on the art in this MAQ. And Bill’s layouts are so much easier to read than the original men’s adventure magazines, which ran triple-column pages of blurry type, to the point that I’ve often wondered how their target audience of WWII and Korea vets could even read the damn things. But then, they were probably buying them for the cleavage-baring illustrations. And who could blame them? 

Back to the CD I mentioned at the start; while reading Fuel-Injected Dreams I was on a momentary ‘50s rock kick, and went looking for something “new” to listen to. Last year I picked up a CD titled Terror From The Universe, released in 2020 by UK label Righteous, produced in “Glorious Crampovision.” What this meant was that dialog from ‘50s sci-fi movies was sprinkled between (and sometimes over) exotica and rock music of the era, and each track was a long sequence of several songs blended together, like a DJ set. While it wasn’t the type of music I’d generally listen to, I liked the concept of the CD. So this past November I saw that Righteous, in 2018, had released a similar compilation, titled She Devil OST, the “soundtrack” to a nonexistent 1950s juvenile delinquent movie. Here’s the cover: 

Following the same setup as Terror Beyond The Universe, She Devil features dialog samples from ‘50s j.d. films – with a focus on “gun girls.” And the music featured is much better – none of the exotica of that later Righteous release, but more on the rock spectrum. Well, I played it and I liked it…and meanwhile my six-year-old son loved it. One of the coolest things about being a parent is seeing the stuff your kid gets into. When I ordered She Devil OST, I had no idea that it would soon become my son’s favorite album. Man, he plays this thing all the time – I converted it to MP3 so he could blast it on a Bluetooth speaker. On weekends or when he’s off from school, he demands we play his “full album” (his name for the CD), so I’ve heard She Devil OST multiple times now. 

And I have to say, it makes for the perfect aural accompaniment to Men’s Adventure Quarterly #7. Like the stories Bob and Bill have collected here, the songs on She Devil OST aren’t just relegated to the 1950s, but go into the (early) ‘60s as well. They’re for the most part raw and wild, with none of the saccharine schmaltz you might expect of ‘50s or early ‘60s rock. Best of all, I hadn’t heard any of these songs before – Righteous, which seems to have a focus on releasing CDs with themes centered around the punk band The Cramps, generally sticks to under-the-radar releases. My favorite song on the CD is “Tongue Tied,” by a singer named Betty McQuade; apparently it was the B-side of a 1962 single only released in Australia. Like I said, under the radar sort of stuff. But man, this track is almost proto-punk, at least in how Betty McQuade snarls out the vocals. 

Meanwhile my son’s favorite song is “Motorcycle Millie,” by Garrett Williams; he surely must be the only 6-year-old kid who goes around singing, “Motorcycle Millie – she’s my girl.” And also he’s real big on the goofy 1960 oddity “You Been Torturing Me,” by The Four Young Men, which goes on about all the ways the singer is going to get violent revenge on the girl who broke his heart – “I’m gonna stomp you on the top of your foot/And hang you from a big long fishing hook/And drop you plumb to the bottom of the sea,” and etc. To tell the truth I’m half afraid my kid’s gonna start singing this one in his kindergarten class, and next thing you know the school counselor will be giving us a call… 

Anyway, wrapping up – this is another highly-recommended issue of Mens Adventure Quarterly, and I hope Bob Deis and Bill Cunningham keep publishing this series for many years to come!


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

Many thanks, Joe! I always enjoy your insightful reviews and suggestions. Bill Cunningham and I need to draft you to do another article for a future issues of the MAQ. Cheers!
- Bob Deis

russell1200 said...

FWIW, there is a punk-rockabilly fusion group that was sort of a cult favorite called "The Cramps". There songs often feature campy horror sci-fi themes. The lead singer (Lux Interior) had a bit of a Frankenstein Monster look, and the lead guitarist (Poison Ivy) could be a stand in for the women in your magazine.

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

I remember The Cramps, Russell -- and agree!