Vintage Men's Mags #1: When Animals Attack

"Sell the sizzle, not the steak" was the motto of post-war men's magazines. The contents of the mags were merely an afterthought - it was the cover that sold them. During their peak in the mid-fifties, these sleazy illustrations were stacked right alongside The Saturday Evening Post and Popular Mechanics.

I could literally devote the next year to writing about the impossibly gratuitous cover art and lurid headlines (ex. "Nude Lust Slaves of Hitler's Russian Monster") and only scratch the surface of the post-war male pathos. Sigmund Freud would have a field day with these magazines!

So, instead of looking at the entire genre, let's just focus on their tendency to have covers depicting women being ravaged and mutilated by wild animals.

These covers depict women being attacked by basically any animal you can think of: elephants, monkeys, cheetahs, lions, panthers, boa constrictors, crabs, scorpions, gorillas, alligators, snapping turtles, ants, vultures, boars, etc., etc. You name the species, and I guarantee there's a cover of it torturing and eating a scantily clad woman.

Okay, I haven't seen a koala attack yet, but that's not to say it doesn't exist.

There's such an encyclopedia of wild animals killing ladies that they could almost serve as a learning tool for species identification... that is, if they weren't so unbelievably brutal. Which brings me to my main thought - what is it about a cover depicting a half-naked woman being gored by a wild boar that had hundreds of thousands of men buying it?

I think it had a lot to do with WWII and the atrocities and inhumanities that these men faced on a daily basis. It couldn't have been an easy adjustment going from a world of omnipresent violence to humdrum suburbia and the daily monotony of the factory.

Similar surges in ultra-violent media occurred after WWI in pulp magazines and after Vietnam in exploitation films. Of course, there's other factors at work here: the damsel in distress motif has been in effect since the dawn of time, as has the "man vs. wild" theme. Sprinkle in a liberal dose of T&A and it's not hard at all to see why they couldn't keep these magazines on the shelf!


  1. I forget which magazine carried the cover story "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" that inspired the Frank Zappa album of the same name.

    I don't think the audience for these magazines were the guys who had actually gone through combat in WWII, I think it was the guys who hadn't and, in the words of Shakespeare's Henry V "held their manhood cheap".

  2. "Weasles Ripped My Flesh" - Man's Life (September 1956)

    And you're probably right about the men's mag audience. The guys who went through hell were probably all too happy to leave the violence behind and embrace a tranquil "Leave It to Beaver" lifestyle.

    But who really knows - it's all armchair psychology.

  3. I had never really seen many covers like this before. Thanks for sharing this with us here. I'm more used to seeing half naked women getting ravaged by Nazis or some primitive tribesmen.

  4. Keith - Ah yes, the Nazi/Primitive Tribesmen covers... they'll definitely be in a retrospace post one day.

    I knew there was violent animal covers. The extent was surprising - I'm still on the look out for the rampaging koala cover.

  5. I did one post on such covers so far but it will not be the last. I have hundreds of covers at least and even have collected some interior art. I have the big Taschen book about this phenomenon. In fact I was just thinking about how to get active with this stuff again. here is the link to my post, one of my early ones. I certainly have let this topic go for too long, thanks for the inspiration.


  6. I always find it funny how homo-erotic the magazine names are. I wonder how many of the stories detail "Rick Brickstrong's bulging biceps, glistening in the sun," or some such?