Thursday, March 19, 2020

Barbarians on Bikes: Bikers & Motorcycle Gangs in Men's Pulp Adventure Magazines

When it comes to post-apocalyptic and men's action-adventure, Paperback Warrior has featured a number of reviews of books featuring bikers and biker gangs. From sprawling doomsday sagas like 'The Last Ranger' and 'Outrider' to gritty vigilante novels like 'Hell Rider', the inclusion of motorcycles and their riders is a consistent aspect of the freewheeling warrior spirit.  While most of our attention has been given to the 80s and 90s action paperbacks, in all actuality the motorcycle-fiction genre reached a fevered success much earlier. Between the 1950s to 1970s, men's action-adventure pulp magazines featured wild, colorful and over-the-top biker paintings and illustrations. The stories themselves ranged from harrowing military feats to Hell's Angels styled escapism for blue-collar males. It was an immensely popular and competitive market for the publishing industry.

Esteemed scholars Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle (The Men's Adventure Library, have collaborated on a number of historic accounts and publishing trends in vintage Men's Pulp Adventure Magazines (MAMs). Their 2016 coffee-table archive is dedicated to the biker sub-genre within the publishing industry of the mid-20th Century. Titled “Barbarians on Bikes: Bikers & Motorcycle Gangs in Men's Pulp Adventure Magazines” (New Texture), this 130-page book chronicles hundreds upon hundreds of magazine covers, gate-fold spreads and a brief introduction that cites 1947's “cycle-rally-gone-wild” in the Northern California town of Hollister as a real-life catalyst for America's fascination with biker culture. The book also features an analysis by author Paul Bishop, a former LAPD detective and author of the terrific 'Fey Croaker' detective series.

While I enjoy book and magazine covers, my expertise is typically dedicated to the in-between pages. I love reading and reviewing great fiction, but have a soft place in my heart for the artwork adorning all of these great paperbacks. It's rewarding to find that same passion lies within Robert and Wyatt's labor of love. The astronomical prices of vintage magazines, combined with the rarity of finding intact 70-year old magazines, makes “Barbarians on Bikes” a must-have for anyone that appreciates the action-adventure culture (films, comics, magazines, paperbacks). The high-quality, full blown scans of these hard-to-find magazines is an all-you-can-devour eye candy buffet. Personally, this book is about as close as I'll ever come to holding and owning these vintage and antiquarian men's magazines.

“Barbarians on Bikes” showcases Bob and Wyatt's undying love for a time and place in history that we'll never experience again. Their dedication and hard work unearthing these historic treasures for today’s generation are an absolute delight. For readers, collectors, historians and anyone else remotely interested in men's action-adventure literature, pulp magazines and motorcycles, “Barbarians on Bikes” is mandatory for your home library or coffee-table.

Buy a copy of this book HERE


  1. Wow! I am honored and thankful for that review, guys, and I know Wyatt is, too. Much appreciated!!!

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