An alarmingly disturbing and well rendered original gouache illustration by the highly regarded and prolific illustrator Mort Kunstler, this interior 2-page spread appeared in the August 1961 edition of Male Magazine, illustrating Martin Fass’s “Million-Dollar Manhunt For A Cold War Nymph.” The lurid, defining action-filled image captures the prevailing nihilism associated with the 1960’s “sweat magazine” art and envelope-pushing adventure fiction. Text reads “She was the top female agent of BACO-Europe’s anti-fascist Assassin’s League, and when she fell into enemy hands, the Yanks had two weeks to find her-or it was war in the Middle East.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, men’s magazines exploited Cold War tensions and capitalized on prevalent working class American fears. “The Sweats,” as they are commonly known, followed the blueprint set by the pulp magazines of the previous generation, depicting perceived enemies as savages, Nazis, and Communist torturers.
Leading illustrators in this strangely subversive genre, such as Norman Saunders, James Bama, Norm Eastman, Rafael DeSota and Mort Kunstler, created sensational, figurative illustrations executed in a style markedly similar to Socialist Realism and its associated propaganda imagery.
In Adam Parfey’s 2003 coffee table book It’s A Man’s World; Men’s Adventure Magazines, the Postwar Pulps Parfey states: “Consumerism, the specifically American style of propaganda best promoted by the work of Mort Kunstler in the 50’s and beyond, is an aesthetic limited by little beyond the ability to sell a magazine, though it rhetorically promoted the idea that America no matter it’s behavior was always morally superior. Other political beliefs, Nazism and Communism particularly, were by the conduct of their soldiers always portrayed as being perverse, ruthless and vicious. The racial component and sadistic misogyny of men’s magazines from the 50’s, the 60’s and even the 70’s is today astounding.”
“What’s also astounding is the imagination of the illustrations, all tractioned by the ability to depict fear. Fear of enemies, fear of animals, fear of women, fear of any loaded attack on the buyer’s manliness.”
Grapefruit Moon Gallery will be offer 5 original works by Mort Kunstler and a James Bama cover in the coming days.