CRYTOZOOLOGY ~ FANTASTIC BEASTS AND FANTASTIC STORIES
My buddies, and fellow enthusiasts, Robert Deis and Wyatt
Doyle have recently published their third sterling collection of stories torn
from the pages of the men’s adventure magazines published in the 1950s, 1960s
and 1970s. Following on the popularity
of Weasels Ripped My Flesh! and He-Men, Bag Men & Nymphos, comes
their Cryptozoology Anthology – collecting
action pulp stories of Bigfoot, sea monsters, and other mysterious creatures.
Also onboard as an editor for this anthology is David
Coleman, author of the The Bigfoot
Filmography, an in-depth survey
of what he has dubbed Cine du Sasquatch,
with reviews of every appearance of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman
and other manlike Hominid cryptids in
TV shows and movies.
Anthology brings together thirteen stories about legendary monsters from
three decades of men’s adventure magazines. They’re all lushly illustrated with
full color scans of the covers of the magazines where they were originally
published plus the interior artwork and photos used to illustrate them.
There’s also a bonus story and extra artwork in the special
hardcover edition and a hidden story
in both the HC and paperback editions.
Each story features animals whose existence or survival is officially
unsubstantiated by science or in dispute or who are based on cryptid creatures:
Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, fish
with human hands, the Yeti, the Thunderbird, the Ape-Man Monster of
Tennessee, and the Thing at
Dutchman's Rig (a relict dinosaur) are just some examples.
The stories in the Cryptozoology
Anthology range from sensational
period reporting and true accounts of
savage duels between man and monster, classic fiction yarns (including a giant
squid story by the great Arthur C. Clarke), as well as rare archival
discoveries, men's pulp history, expert analysis, cryptid-by-cryptid
commentary, and much, much more.
I’m grateful to Robert, Wyatt, and David for taking the time
to share their men’s adventure magazine and legendary beast expertise.
Historic accounts of
legendary creatures! Man versus monster! Fantastic stories and fantastic
artwork! How does all of this come together in your Cryptozoology Anthology?
and interest in cryptozoological themes didn’t begin in men’s adventure
magazines, but men’s adventure magazines (MAMs for short) played a significant
role in popularizing the subject, in at least two essential ways: For one, many
of the familiar tropes that have defined the way we think of cryptids – for
better or worse – were established in men’s adventure magazines; Dave shares examples
in the book.
But perhaps more importantly, the mags kept cryptids in the conversation. MAMs didn’t often
trade in horror or science fiction themes, but cryptids seem to have been
grandfathered in as animal attack stories of a sort, and animal attack stories
were always welcome. These magazines regularly featured stories with a
cryptozoological bent; it’s fair to say they embraced the subject. Clearly a significant
portion of their readership did, too.
How do you decide on
the theme of an anthology from the hundreds of story types in men’s adventure
Bob Deis: It was
actually Wyatt’s idea. Our first anthology of men’s adventure magazine stories,
Weasels Ripped My Flesh!, was sort of
a broad sampler of some of our favorite MAM stories, including many by writers
that went on to greater fame, like Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, Robert
Silverberg, and Robert F. Dorr, along with interviews with and commentary by
former men’s adventure writers and editors like Mario Puzo and Bruce Jay
Friedman. Our second, He-Men, Bag Men
& Nymphos, focused on stories by a little-known author that Puzo and
Friedman both considered to be one of the best men’s adventure writers ever,
Walter Kaylin. Wyatt decided we should try doing an anthology of stories about
some popular subject. He happened to know Dave Coleman from their shared
background in writing movie scripts. Dave had recently published his Bigfoot Filmography, and Wyatt had noted
the growth in cryptozoology books, TV shows and movies. He floated the idea of
a cryptozoology-themed collection of men’s adventure stories with introductory
text by Dave. I loved the idea.
always loved monsters, and I knew there were monsters in men’s adventure
magazines – Bob’s shared some of the more monsteriffic
covers and illustrations from his collection on www.MensPulpMags.com/ I was thrilled to
learn just how many monsters there’d been in the mags!
Dave has been a champion of our books for a long time, and he
and I had talked about working together. Once Bob and I decided on weird
creatures, Dave was the first person I thought of. I knew he’d be able to put
the stories into the larger context of cryptozoology, its history, and its
How did you choose
the particular stories for the Cryptozoology
Bob: I started by
finding all of the stories about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Yeti and other cryptid
that I could find in my collection of men’s adventure magazines. That took a
while, since I have over 4,500 issues. I did an initial selection of options
based on the ones I thought were the best, in terms of being ripping yarns or
having historical significance. Then I sent the list and image scans to Wyatt
and Dave and we jointly picked the cream of the crop, along with the additional
artwork and special features we wanted to include.
Dave: What was a
nice bit of Fortean synchronicity, I thought, was that while we were confident
there would be at least a few cryptozoological stories per magazine series to
choose from, we didn’t really know what we’d find until Bob Deis uncovered
them. Researching the book was not unlike its own expedition back into the
history of men’s magazines and how they related to cryptids over the decades,
and we often came across unexpected finds
in the stories and amazing illustrations.
Sure enough, there was also this veritable flood of
wonderful stories, each often uniquely capturing its era, which came from MAMs
in regards to crypto stories. I was astounded by how many Bob was able to find,
but pleased, as I had always believed, as did Wyatt and Bob, that there was a
deeply-intertwined connection prior to the editing of the book.
archives are staggering. He’d send Dave and me pages and pages of magazine
covers, interior artwork and stories that we’d try to narrow down to favorites.
We wanted to use everything! Each time I’d think, this or that is the best story/cover/artwork
in the book, we’d get a new message from Deis with a half-dozen new favorites
to choose from. We felt very pleased with ourselves when we’d finally narrowed it
down to 13 stories (a number we liked for its Fortean associations), then realized
we’d miscounted; we had 14. So we said okay, 13 stories and we’ll hide the
other one somehow – we couldn’t bear to cut another tale. I toyed with the idea
of leaving the hidden story out of
some printings of the book, so that in true cryptid spirit, it would be seen by
some and not by others – but that seemed unfair. So, it’s not in the table of
contents, but it’s in there. I’m not telling you where.
What goes into
producing a book like the Cryptozoology
Anthology beyond choosing the stories?
Bob: It’s a lot
of work and a team effort. I make high resolution scans of the covers, interior
artwork and stories and write my notes for introductory text. Then I pass all
that on to Wyatt, who makes editorial decisions and does the graphic design for
our books, which he’s incredibly good at.
collaboration I’ve enjoyed with Wyatt and Bob makes Cryptozoology Anthology unique in my experience as writer, and I
look forward to hopefully repeating it soon. Everyone is knowledgeable,
passionate and dedicated to producing the best book possible. You take that
kind of good fortune for granted as author at your own peril.
As for what goes into it beyond choosing the stories?
Research. A few of the writers chosen for Cryptozoology
Anthology such as Arthur C. Clarke are well-known and need no introduction.
But others are less well-known, and we felt it important to try to offer as
much in the way of insight into who was writing about cryptids as much as
present the stories only.
Wyatt: We sparked
off each other as part of the process, and collaborating with two experts made
my work easier. I was able to bounce questions about the mags off Bob, and run cryptid
questions by Dave. Google can’t deliver the kind of insight these guys bring to
their areas of expertise; they’ve got stuff that ain’t even in books yet.
Selling the book is where we are now. Putting together a
fun, colorful, informative collection is one thing. We’re a small, independent
press. How do we get the word out about the book without the marketing budget
and resources of a big publishing house? The internet affords a lot of access
to potential readers, but there’s a lot of noise to cut through. It’s a
We try to come up with promotion that sticks with people. There’s
a yeti photo included in the book that I’d joked looked like comic Joe Besser
(of the late-era Three Stooges). So we ran a tongue-in-cheek ad online
featuring both that got a big response; it even ended up spotlighted by Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast,
for combining two of Gilbert’s great loves!
How did Dave’s
Bigfoot expertise come into play in the Cryptozoology
Bob: It was
critical to fulfill our vision for the book. We didn’t just want it to be a set
of stories with no context. We wanted it to be both fun to read and a serious
contribution to cryptozoology lore. Dave added that element in his introductory
text for the stories. He has a vast storehouse of knowledge of the history of
cryptozoology and the portrayal of cryptid creatures in popular media.
written The Bigfoot Filmography
proved an invaluable asset in this regard towards the editing of Cryptozoology Anthology. I had met and
known some of the top cryptozoologists in their respective fields as a result
of my previous book.
So when we began Cryptozoology
Anthology, I was able to contact many of these experts and get their input,
as well as offer my own, to hopefully present a more balanced perspective of
the MAM/cryptid connections.
Wyatt: Dave was our wise Sherpa guide. He knows the
landscape and terrain of the subject very well, and he was able to lead Bob and
me through the tangle of backstories and debates related to various crypto
topics from the stories. Dave helped us get a handle on how each story fit into
the larger scheme of cryptozoological history and lore – much as he does in the
What did you learn
about men’s adventure magazines from creating the Cryptozoology Anthology you didn’t know before?
Dave: That the
cryptid stories were narratively evolving, no pun intended. The way Bigfoot,
for example, is presented, as well as Yeti, is very flexible. And true to the arc
of the culture from which they came, MAMs would have their cryptids, for
example, become more licentious and the violence more outrageous.
I knew of course MAMs can be very transgressive by
experience reading them as a delightfully shocked child reader back when. But
as an adult, it was fun to see how the MAM editors were clearly alive to the
cryptid fiction genre they were creating, and how they clearly added to the
excitement in successive waves of stories and how their writers wrote them.
Bob: After our
initial discussions with Dave, we realized that men’s adventure magazines
played a major role in the cultural awareness and perceptions of many cryptid
monsters, especially Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Yeti, the Loch Ness monster and
the giant Thunderbird. But no previous books had ever really focused on that.
So, we figured out that the Cryptozoology
Anthology would also have historic significance in the realm of crypto
people think men’s adventure magazine subjects, they think animal attacks, Nazi
villains, war, tropical love slaves… The curious fact that Bigfoot and yeti
stories and reportage were a lesser known part of that universe seemed reason
enough to merit a collection. But the realization that the magazines were not
merely exploiting that interest, but actually helping to establish and fan the
flames of that interest in significant ways was a revelation. It altered our
perspective on the whole project.
After producing a
trio of anthologies ripped from the pages of the men’s adventure magazines,
what impresses you most about these stories?
Bob: I continue
to be amazed that they are still relatively unknown and underappreciated. There
is far greater awareness of the stories and artwork from the pre-World War II
pulp magazines and of the science fiction and fantasy magazines that were
published in the 1950s and 1960s, the decades that were the golden age for men’s
adventure magazines. The best stories and artwork in men’s adventure magazines
are as good as anything from those other genres and, I think, deserve wider
attention. They also include many fact-based stories and photographs that
provide glimpses of history, something the old pulps and sci fi mags do not
provide. They’re a huge a treasure trove of mid-Twentieth Century pop culture
Wyatt: I still
get a kick out of the fact that these magazines got no respect in their time,
and even now, when even the most mediocre genre material is elevated to
“classic” status simply because it’s old, MAMs continue to evade respectability.
Inexplicably! No one has ever suggested the beloved pulp magazines of the 1930s
are high art, and they're collected feverishly. Comics’ fans find something to
appreciate – even love – in the most unlikely D-list titles from the 1950s.
Even the most dire mid-century sex magazines are hip. Yet noses still turn up
in some collector's circles at the mere mention of men's adventure mags. We’ve
heard arguments they shouldn’t even be considered pulp fiction! Men’s adventure
magazine fiction is the outcast in an outcast genre, the perennial underdog of
What else would you
have included in Cryptozoology Anthology
if you had the room? What fantastic
beasts are missing? Enough for another Cryptozoology themed anthology down in
Bob: Well, there
are literally scores of other stories about various types of cryptid creatures
in men’s adventure magazines. We only scratched the surface of what there is
about Nessie and other sea and lake monsters. And there are plenty more about
the manlike Hominid cryptids, too. Enough to fill several more volumes. In
fact, we’re already thinking about a second one.
originally from Philadelphia, so I heard tales of the Jersey Devil around a lot
of campfires growing up; it would have been nice to include him. He does make a
cameo appearance in the John Keel story (Incredible
Monster-Man Sightings in the U.S.), but we had no standalone piece focused
solely on the Jersey Devil. But that doesn't mean it's not out there, somewhere.
You wait, Bob will find one.
As fans of the men’s
adventure magazines do you feel an obligation to preserve this publishing niche
or is it all for fun?
Bob: It’s both
for me. There’s certainly a humor factor associated with many men’s adventure
magazine stories and artwork. Some of it comes from conscious
nudge-nudge-wink-wink aspects that the editors, writers and artists put in knowingly.
Some of it is because many of the stories and illustrations look so jaw-droppingly
over-the-top or politically incorrect from today’s perspective. But, yeah, a
big part of the reason behind doing our www.MensPulpMags.com/
blog, the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook group and the Men’s Adventure
Library series of anthologies is to increase awareness of a genre of magazines
that was once read by tens of millions of men, and that was contributed to by
many talented writers and artists; a genre that sheds a light on American
history and culture that you can’t get from reading history books.
Was the success of
the men’s adventure magazines due entirely to the marriage of outrageous art
and hard action stories, or was there something deeper going on in society
which kept these magazine flying off the shelves?
Bob: The men’s
adventure magazines took shape after World War II and were largely targeted to
American servicemen, veterans and blue-collar workers who grew up reading
classic comic books and pulp magazines. There were millions of them so it was a
big market. I think men’s adventure magazines filled a need for those men,
after they became adults experienced the grim realities of World War II, the
Korean War, the Vietnam War and the huge cultural changes that took place in
the 1950s and 1960s. They wanted magazines that combined entertaining stories
with news and exposés and other features done from and for the point of view of
grown-up, regular guys, rather than for the upwardly mobile executive types and
eggheads that Playboy and its clones
targeted. Of course, all men like the photos of semi-nude and nude women that
were common to both the men’s adventure and girlie mag genres.
Wyatt: What still
blows my mind is the readership the mags enjoyed. These crazy stories and wild
images that today exist only on the very fringes of pop culture were once
ubiquitous and mainstream, a regular part of a lot of working men’s
entertainment diet. We know reading fuels the brain in unique ways, helping to
cultivate imagination and critical thinking. What does it mean when great
swaths of the population move away, en
masse, from reading as entertainment, replacing it with more passive, less
engaging pursuits? It’s hard not to feel that as a culture, we’ve lost
What do you think is
behind the resurgences of interest in men’s adventure magazines?
Bob: I’d say the
growth of the Internet has a lot to do with it. The covers and interior artwork
are so cool that examples get posted and reposted on thousands of websites. And
art auction sites like Heritage Auctions have increasingly been offering
original men’s adventure magazine paintings for sale as part of a general
increase in interest in twentieth century illustration art. Fans of the artwork
eventually begin to realize that it comes from magazines they don’t know much
about, which leads them to websites like MensPulpMags.com and then to books
that give them more information, like ours and the two seminal books that focus
on the artwork, It’s a Man’s World and
Men’s Adventure Magazines in Postwar
America. Both of those feature the collection of our friend Rich Oberg, the
biggest collector of men’s adventure artwork in the world. The other big factor is eBay. Basically, eBay
has made it possible for anyone to buy old issues of men’s adventure magazines
that were pretty much hidden from sight in attics and used bookstores for a
couple of decades and largely forgotten. As a result, there are more and more people
actually collecting the magazines.
Wyatt: It’s almost
impossible not to be hooked by the fantastic covers and spectacular interior
illustrations once you’ve seen them; that’s the biggest group of fans, and
that’s always going to be the biggest group of fans. A smaller subset also
enjoys the stories, and recognizes there’s just as much to enjoy and marvel at
and be thrilled by in the magazine’s copy. A third group appreciates the art
and stories, but is also intrigued by the idea that the magazines — their
stories, their artwork, their take on their world and their times — provide
unique perspectives on a whole lot of other things, some of which have little
or nothing to do with great illustration art or high-octane fiction. Our
ambition is to pack enough art, pulp, and insight into our releases to satisfy
each of those tastes with the same book. So far I think we’re doing all right.
Thanks gang for a
great interview and for the coolness that is Cryptozoology Anthology…And I haven’t forgotten I agreed to help
out with an anthology of boxing stories from the Men’s Adventure Magazines,
which I’m greatly looking forward to working on.