Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Face of the 80s: A Paperback Warrior Unmasking

It's hard not to find model Steve Holland's likeness when browsing the 50s, 60s and 70s Men's Adventure line. The American actor portrayed the iconic Flash Gordon in 1954, appearing in 39 episodes. Switching from actor to male model, he appeared in several comics released by Fawcett and Gold Key as well as manly magazines like 'Men' and 'Man's Story'. Holland's biggest contribution was the paperback action genre, with his likeness adorning covers for 'The Executioner', 'The Man from O.R.G.Y.', and 'Jason Striker'. His most renowned work is modeling as “The Man of Bronze”, the pulp fiction hero 'Doc Savage' for Bantam's paperback reissues. 

Holland's face can be found on countless comics, magazines and books, but when the 80s hit, was there a new version of Steve Holland? In 1985, New York model Jason Savas originally posed as 'M.I.A. Hunter' Mark Stone for the publisher Jove. The curly black hair, smooth shave, Bruce Wayne chin and high cheekbones was the perfect image of the 80s self-reliant hero. Vigorous, bold and exhibiting droves of masculinity, action readers needed this bravado to match the bullets. Savas was that guy, and his likeness adorns a majority of Stephen Mertz's 16-book series. 

Savas was an extremely popular model for cover artists to use throughout the 80s and early 90s. In fact, in the late 80s it is hard to find an action series that doesn't feature a painting of Savas, geared in fatigues and headband with the always present CAR-15. He's always grinding his teeth, ready for battle and exhibiting the internal fortitude to fight your fight. It wasn't always in Southeast Asia or Colombia against drug cartels and communists. No, you could find Savas riding the range (Louis L'Amour), six-shooter in hand with a Winchester in the scabbard. He was there as a street savvy vigilante (Avenger), an ex-CIA mercenary (Eagle Force), a doomsday warrior (Out of the Ashes) or the Vietnam grunt (Vietnam: Ground Zero). Savas knows more about our genre than we do. So much that he wrote his own action novel in 1999. "The Messenger" features a Gulf War veteran working as a bike messenger and fighting crime in New York City.

How Savas was able to become the face of the 80s is anyone's guess. Unfortunately, this Paperback Investigation hit a cold trail. We can't locate an address or anyone who is familiar with his whereabouts. If you or someone you know has a contact, send them our way. In the meantime, we have tons of paperbacks to remind us that Savas is Mark Stone, Matt Hawke, Ben Raines...and you and I.