Apr 21, 2017

Fighting the Nazis, One Bicep at a Time

Superman, the first costumed superhero in comic book history, premiered in Action Comics 1 in the spring of 1938, just in time for World War II.  By the time the U.S. entered the war in 1941, the skies were dark with superheroes and their teen sidekicks.  Some are still flying, albeit revamped, retrofitted, and re-invented into a form that their 1940s counterparts would hardly recognize:  Batman, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, Flash, Hawkman, the Atom, Plastic Man, Green Arrow.

But many others have fallen into obscurity: Dollman, Blue Beetle, Amazing Man, Electro, Black Marvel, Hourman, Bulletman, Uncle Sam, the Red Tornado, the Black Terror, Professor Supermind, Wildcat, Mr. Terrific.

They acquired their superpowers in various ways, through super-secret experiments, weird meteors, radioactive spiders, and mystics from the Himalayas, but they all were dedicated to fighting Nazis, and they all had spectacular physiques, which they usually displayed in skin-tight spandex.

Here are some superheroes who appeared without a costume, revealing their massive pecs and washboard abs to brighten spirits during the dark days of the War:

Samson, the descendant of the Biblical hero, has super-strength, as long as no one cuts his long hair.  He first appeared in Fantastic Comics #1 (1939), and got his own short-lived title in 1940.  The kid, by the way, is his teen sidekick David (no relation to the Biblical hero).

The Ultra-Man, aka Gary Concord, premiered in All-American Comics #8 (November 1939).  He's a 20th century scientist who goes to the future, aka Buck Rogers, and fights the tyrant Reborrizon.  Later he's killed himself, but his son takes over as the new shirtless Ultra-Man.

Scrounging around for ancient, Biblical, and mythical superheroes, Dan Zolnerowich stumbled upon Hercules.  Joe Hercules, however, is not descended from anybody.  He's a "real American youth" who just happens to have super-strength.  He starred in 21 issues of Hit Comics, from July 1940 to April 1942.

Magic Morro's story begins in Super Comics #27 (August 1940).  Originally Jack Morrow, he gained his superpowers on an island in the Pacific, where of course one must go shirtless.

I don't know who this is -- an ordinary soldier, not a superhero.  But a spectacular physique is a spectacular physique, even if you can't move mountains.  From Wings Comics #29 (January 1943).

Red Rube, who appeared in nine issues of Zip Comics in 1943 and 1944, is a twelve-year old orphan boy who turns into an adult superhero whenever anyone yells "Hey, Rube!" (which apparently happens quite often).

Apr 19, 2017

Stevan Dovanos: The Artist Behind the Homoerotic Towel Ads of World War II

You've seen copies of these magazine ads everywhere on the internet: naked World War II-era soldiers frolicking with towels, their butts and bulges in full view.

They didn't all show a lot of butt, but there were plenty of hard bodies and homoerotic hijinks.

They were called "True Towel Tales," illustrated one-page stories published magazines in 1943 and 1944. designed to sell Cannon towels.

Notice that towels play a prominent role in the illustrations.

The artist was Stevan Dovanos, born to Hungarian immigrant parents in Cleveland in 1907.  He attended the Cleveland Art Institute, and later moved to Westport, Connecticut.

Dubbed a "new Grant Wood," Dohanos specialized in "slices-of-life" small town Americana.  He illustrated the covers of 125 issues of the Saturday Evening Post with pictures of what he called  "Anytown U.S.A."

They remind me of Norman Rockwell's work, but with more humor and realism.

This is a rare historical painting of Roman gladiators.

Dpvanos was also interested in postage stamps.  As a member of the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, he oversaw the design of over 300 commemorative stamps during the 1960s and 1970s.

He died on July 4th, 1994, at the age of 87, leaving his second wife and son, apparently never aware that he was producing homoerotic art.

Apr 17, 2017

The Bulging Android of MST3K

This weekend I've been binge-watching the new reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20 years after the original MST3K, Jonah (Jonah Ray) and his robot chums are being forced to watch "cheesy movies" by the children of the original mad scientists (Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt).

The second episode that Jonah and the bots riff on, The Time Travelers (1964), sends the hapless scientists Dr. Von Steiner (Preston Foster) and Steve (Philip Carey) into the future, along with dumb blond "What's a proton?" Carol (Merry Anders) and comic relief "What does this button do?" Danny (Steve Franken).

They find a wilderness occupied by barbaric mutants.  The last survivors of humanity live in caves, where they are assisted by androids with weird faces.

The surviving humans are trying to build a spaceship to go to Alpha Centauri before they're killed by "the creeping death" or the marching mutants.  Meanwhile the scientists try to find a way home.

The plot is topheavy, cliched, and horrible -- which is why MST3K chose it, after all -- but take a look at the androids as they march in to confront the startled time-travelers.  Apparently it's important to for the surviving humans to gawk at android pecs.

And #32, on the left: that's quite a package for loose-fitting green dungarees.

The only male android listed in the credits is "Wayne Anderson," who was primarily known as a special effects artist.

And, apparently, for his Kovbasa+++.

Here he is again, after being wounded in battle, getting a new head.  I could swear I saw it getting bigger, as if someone was fluffing him on that operating table.

But it's not just Android #32.  Here's Danny on another operating table.  I don't know what's happening -- it doesn't really make much sense.  But apparently he was getting fluffed as well.

Steve Franken was a comedic fixture of the 1960s.  Here he is starring in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.  But I never heard anything about a big basket.

I wouldn't recommend the movie without Jonah and the bots making wise-cracks.  But I'd definitely like to know who was doing all the fluffing.

Apr 16, 2017

Men with Tree Trunks

I know it's just a trick of perspective, but I love the photos where it looks like a tree trunk, taking up half the frame.

Not too many older guys post them.  Maybe only twinks have the technical expertise.  Or the proper equipment.

This one looks like it's standing next to him.  I expect him to put his arm around it and ask "Have you met my little buddy?"

Maybe it wasn't the best idea to post this on Boomer Beefcake and Bonding -- too much has to be censored.

For the uncensored tree trunks, check out Tales of West Hollywood.

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