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Artist Spotlight: Walter Baumhofer

By Christopher Harrity

Walter Baumhofer (1904-1987) remains best known for his vivd illustrations for the 'Doc' Savage pulp series. Young men with a budding interest in other men often found Baumhofer's sweating heroes with their clothes in tatters and wrestling large phallic serpents compelling. Small wonder.

Walter Baumhofer was a married man who also had a dab hand drawing tremendously sexy women. That's fine. But seeing those pulp magazines with muscular men in peril sitting right there on the newsstand was like an electric jolt for men who had very little available homoerotic visual stimulation.  

Are they often racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic? Sure. But the guys are pretty hot.

More than 500 pulp covers fill his resume. Titles include Detective Tales, Fire Fighters, Wild West Weekly, Ace High, Gangland, Gangland Stories, Danger Trail, Western Story, The Spider, Spy Stories, Dime Mystery, Dime Detective, Adventure, and of course, 'Doc' Savage.

An art director told Baumhofer that Savage was "a Man of Bronze -- known as 'Doc', who looks very much like Clark Gable. He is so well built that the impression is not of size, but of power."

Baumhofer made the transition to slick magazines, starting with Liberty, and then had success after success with American Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Woman's Home Companion, Country Gentleman, This Week, Macao’s, Redbook, American Magazine, Woman's Day, Collier's, and Esquire. But Baumhofer also kept his testosterone-soaked brush producing turgid cover and interior work for  men's magazines such as True, Argosy, Sports Afield, and Outdoor Life.

Click through for some great pulp magazine covers by Baumhofer.


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