Men's adventure is a genre of magazines that had its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. Catering to a male audience, these magazines featured pinup photography and lurid tales of adventure that typically featured wartime feats of daring, exotic travel, or conflict with wild animals.
These magazines are generally considered the last of the true pulp magazines; they reached their circulation peaks long after the genre-fiction pulps had begun to fade. These magazines were also colloquially called "armpit slicks", "men's sweat magazines", or "the sweats", especially by people in the magazine publishing or distribution trades.
Notable men's adventure magazines included Argosy, the longest-running and best-regarded among them, as well as Adventure (magazine), Real, True, Saga, Stag, Swank, and For Men Only. During their peak in the late 1950s, approximately 130 men's-adventure magazines were being published simultaneously.
The tales they contained usually were written in a realistic style and claimed to be true stories. Damsels in distress, usually in various states of deshabille, were often featured in the painted cover or interior art. These often scantily clad women were notoriously depicted being menaced or tortured by Nazis or, in later years, Communists. Artist Norman Saunders was the dean of illustrators for these magazines, occupying a position similar to that enjoyed by Margaret Brundage for the classic pulps. Many illustrations, however, are credited to corporations or are anonymous. Historical artist Mort Künstler also painted many covers and illustrations for these magazines, and Playboy photographer Mario Casilli started out shooting pinups for this market. At publisher Martin Goodman's Magazine Management Company, future best-selling humorist and author Bruce Jay Friedman was a men's-sweat writer and editor, and future hit novelist Mario Puzo a writer.
The title of the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention album Weasels Ripped My Flesh was borrowed from a man-against-beast cover story in the September 1956 issue of Man's Life, and the title went through another permutation when filmmaker Nathan Schiff made the horror feature Weasels Rip My Flesh (1979).
These magazines' circulation dropped precipitously in the mid-1960s. Their tales of wartime adventure appealed to American men of the World War II and Korean War generations, and these men were reaching an age at which these magazines' girlie pictures were less of a draw. For those who wanted pornography, more explicit and less old-fashioned publications were available by this period. The Vietnam War and its attendant social controversies did nothing to create an appetite for similar entertainments that would have involved rescuing damsels from the Viet Cong. Their vision of adventurous, fighting masculinity also became unfashionable. Some, such as Swank, survived by turning into explicitly pornographic magazines; others simply ceased publication. There have been attempts to revive the Argosy title, once in the 1990s, and again in 2004. Soldier of Fortune seems to have carried on the tradition of true war stories for a male audience.
Adam Parfrey : "Most scribes laboring for Martin Goodman's Magazine Management firm and other repositories of adventure magazines spoke of feeling like well-compensated slaves of a very particular style ['man triumphant'] that was not their own. This was not the style with which editor Bruce Jay Friedman felt most comfortable, and when editing publications for Martin Goodman he unsuccessfully tried to talk him out of running advertisements for trusses, an ad signalling the magazine's target audience: blue-collar yahoos. It would be years before he could raise his head at industry cocktail parties, when his acclaimed examples of 'black-humor fiction' were seen as appropriate material for a hipper, more monied crowd."