The men’s adventure magazines of the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies certainly published a wide variety of material, and while it wasn’t as common as some other genres, you could sometimes find tales of science fiction, fantasy, and horror in them. ATOMIC WEREWOLVES AND MAN-EATING PLANTS: WHEN MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES GOT WEIRD, the latest volume from the Men’s Adventure Library edited by Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle, collects some of the best of those offbeat stories, with the usual great cover and interior illustrations to go with them. With some of these, their MAM appearances were reprints from other magazines such as WEIRD TALES and GALAXY, but some were written specifically for the men’s adventure market.
My favorite story is one that wasn’t a reprint when it was published in a men's adventure magazine. “The Man Who Couldn’t Die” by
Gardner F. Fox appeared originally in the August 1961 issue of ADVENTURE, the
iconic pulp-turned-MAM. Fox, of course, is a legendary name in comic book
history and also wrote scores of well-received paperbacks in various genres.
This science fiction story is about a sociopathic criminal whose brain is transplanted
into a robot body so he can go on a space voyage outside the solar system in search
of habitable planets. Of course, what he decides to do instead is to become the
greatest criminal overlord the solar system has ever seen. But then, as you
might expect, things don’t turn out exactly as he plans . . . This is an
excellent, fast-moving yarn with a nice twist at the end. I really had fun
Another well-known SF author, Theodore Sturgeon, contributes “The Blonde With the Mysterious Body”, from the April 1962 issue of MEN. This one appeared originally as “The Other Celia” in the March 1957 issue of the science fiction digest GALAXY. It’s a wryly humorous, genuinely creepy tale about voyeurism.
“The Hunted” by Rick Rubin, from the October 1961 ADVENTURE, is a top-notch story about humans on the run from robots bent on hunting them down. The twist ending is a little predictable, but Rubin, whoever he was, does a really good job of creating suspense and keeping things moving at a brisk pace.
In horror fiction, you don’t get much more well-known than H.P. Lovecraft, who is represented here with his story “The Rats in the Walls”, reprinted from its January 1959 appearance in SENSATION. The story appeared first in WEIRD TALES in 1924. Another horror tale that appeared first in WEIRD TALES (in 1940) is Manly Wade Wellman’s “Song of the Slaves” from the April 1959 issue of CAVALIER. As you’d expect from a Wellman story, it’s very well-written, and even though you’ll probably see the ending coming, it’s still really effective and downright chilling.
Elsewhere in this volume, you get stories about vampire bats, vampire tarantulas, giant lizards, man-eating trees (by Robert Moore Williams, the veteran SF and Western pulpster), devil worshippers, virgin sacrifices, crazed chicken choppers (a truly weird but good story), mad doctors, evil Nazis (but I repeat myself), and a really good Korean War/Civil War story that reminded me of the great Haunted Tank comic book series. Add some fine essays and introductions by Mike Chomko, Stefan Dziemianowicz, and editors Deis and Doyle, and you’ve got one of the best volumes so far in the Men’s Adventure Library. I had a wonderful time reading ATOMIC WEREWOLVES AND MAN-EATING PLANTS, and I give it a very high recommendation. It’s available in hardback (with a bonus story) and paperback editions.