As some of you know, I've developed an interest lately in the men's adventure magazines of the Fifties and Sixties, even joining the Facebook group devoted to them. There's also an excellent blog about them run by Bob Deis, the founder of the Facebook group. (The scans that accompany this post come from Bob's blog.) These publications, with titles like FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, and STAG, always fascinated me as a kid when I saw them on the magazine racks while I was buying my comic books, probably because they were forbidden fruit. My mother already had enough of a dislike for me reading comics. If she'd caught me with my nose in an issue of FOR MEN ONLY with a racy cover, she would have pitched a conniption fit and that magazine would have been in the garbage faster than you can say, "Smut".
Now, of course, I can read whatever I want to, but the magazines that would have cost me a couple of quarters back in 1968 now fetch considerably more than that on eBay. Even so, I've picked up a few of them and will probably buy more once I've read the ones I have.
In the meantime, that Facebook group I mentioned above has been an education, as well as being highly entertaining. For example, I'd never heard of Bruce Minney, although I was familiar with his work without really being aware of it. (I'll get to that.) From the mid-Fifties through the early Seventies, Minney was a prolific artist for the men's adventure magazines, providing scores of cover paintings and interior illustrations. He painted rampaging elephants, runaway trains, aerial dogfights, gun battles, explosions, evil villains (many of them Nazis), stalwart heroes, and lots and lots of beautiful girls. If there was a way to work it into a cover painting that would catch a newsstand browser's eye and induce him to part with his quarters, Bruce Minney painted it.
Hence the title of this excellent new biography and appreciation of Bruce Minney's work by Thomas Ziegler, BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING.
Ziegler is in a good position to produce such a book, since he's Bruce Minney's son-in-law, but this volume doesn't whitewash the inevitable hills and valleys of a freelancer's career. It's a fascinating, well-written look behind the scenes of the men's adventure magazine industry, a large neglected sub-genre of popular fiction. (And despite the preponderance of magazines with "True" or "Real" in their titles, most of what was published in them actually was fiction.)
Ziegler doesn't stop with those magazines, however. He explores Minney's career as a fine artist and, of most interest to me, as a paperback cover artist. Until I saw all the cover reproductions in this book, I didn't realize he had painted the covers for so many books that I've read or at least owned during my life.
I bought the e-book edition of this one, read the text on my Kindle, and used the Kindle app on my computer to appreciate the hundreds of excellent color cover reproductions. A trade paperback edition will also be available soon. If you have an interest in the men's adventure magazines, paperback covers, cover art in general, or the life of a freelance artist, BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING gets the highest recommendation from me. It's one of the best books I've read this year.