CriminOlly thinks: A wonderfully entertaining and marvellously horrible collection of stories and artwork from vintage magazines. 5/5
Title: I Watched Them Eat Me Alive: Killer Creatures in Men’s Adventure Magazines | Editor: Robert Deis | Publisher: New Texture | Pages: 128 | Publication date: 6th July 2017 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: Yes
I Watched Them Eat Me Alive is delightful trip of a book. It’s contents have been torn from the pages of Men’s Adventure Magazines from the 1950s, 60s and 70s and lovingly put back together again into a slim but satisfying volume that mixes artwork, stories and modern critique on both. Growing out of the pulps at a time when millions of blue collar men still read for pleasure, these magazines mixed cheesecake photography, articles on hunting and other masculine pursuits, dramatic illustrations and punchy short stories in the genres with a perceived male appeal: crime, westerns, adventures, sci fi and horror.
The publishers have pulled together a number of different themed books (War, Westerns, Bikers, etc), with this one focussing on animal attacks. Like a weird extension of the non fiction hunting and travel content the magazines also featured, these outlandish tales detail hunters and wilderness adventurers at the mercy of nature and are written in a faux documentary style. There are five stories within, including snakes, gorillas, crabs and flying squirrels (!) as their relentless enemies.
The stories are very formulaic, often identical in structure, but no less fun for it. Typically they start with some violence, then flash back to provide background, then continue with the violence, and end with their heroes literally cataloguing the body parts they have been robbed of. The detail of that bloody theft is often far more graphic than I expected. The crab story (which gives the book its title) includes references to severed veins flapping like bloody worms.
Aside from the stories, which are fun enough on their own, the book is packed with full colour reproductions of original cover art. The pictures have a glorious retro appeal, harking back to an age before streaming services and video games, when popular entertainment was often just a combination of ink, paper and the fevered imaginations of a hundred hacks.
I Watched Them Eat Me Alive is the first installment of The Men’s Adventure Library Journal, a series focusing on specific facets of the vintage men’s adventure magazines stories, artwork, and history. This deluxe, expanded hardcover contains additional material exclusive to this edition.
Dedicated to exploring the lost world of vintage men’s adventure magazines (aka MAMs), The Men’s Adventure Library chronicles the mags’ three decades on American newsstands, from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s. Mixing elements from many sources–early pulp fiction, detective stories and true crime, mystery and noir films, exotic travel magazines, celebrity scandal rags and bachelor mags–MAMs ratcheted up the tension and amped up the testosterone to create explosive, entertaining, and often outrageous reading for millions of American men. Though long extinct and mostly unseen for generations, their pervasive influence continues to shape some of the most popular and enduring pop culture tropes and trends.
Curated by MAM historian/collector Robert Deis and writer Wyatt Doyle, The Men’s Adventure Library reprints and provides context for classic MAM stories and artwork drawn from the mags’ rich history of gonzo pulp, with releases available in full-color trade paperback and deluxe, expanded hardcover editions. Each volume is a vivid reminder that MAMs were extremely cool, unexpectedly influential, and still pack a bare-knuckle punch. Read ’em all…if you’ve got the guts!
Content Warning: Animal cruelty
Tolerance Warning: Sexism, racism