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"Men's Adventure" Indeed: Kong in STAG Magazine
An Appearance in a Newsstand Pulp Further Fictionalizes the Event
In addition to fictionalized paperbacks (see THE REAL KING KONG), the story of Carl Denham and his captive giant was further bastardized on the newsstands via pulp magazines.
One of dozens of men’s adventure rags that proliferated on newsstands from the fifties until the early seventies, Stag magazine exemplified the “sweat” school of serial literature, which consisted mainly of fast-moving, titillating stories designed to appeal to a male readership. While almost invariably splashed as “true!” or featuring “newly uncovered facts!”, these tales were more often than not created whole cloth by a stable of writers cranking out two and three potboilers per week.
The Godfather author Mario Puzo started his career writing for men’s adventure magazines like Male and Men. “I wrote ‘A Bridge Too Far,’ that story of the Arnheim invasion,” he recalled in an interview with Josh Alan Friedman. “After you got through reading my story, you thought the Allies won the battle, not the Germans. We were always looking for stuff we could take off on, so part of our job was reading a lot.”
A story called “Bloodbath on Skull Island: The True Story of the Capture of King Kong,” which ran in a 1960 issue of Stag, purports to be a firsthand account of Denham’s discovery of the “Eighth Wonder” and his party’s encounter with the natives of the island. Though it is unquestionably a fraud—albeit an entertaining, period-specific pastiche—the tale is interesting for the offhand manner in which Carl Denham is portrayed as a one-dimensional “black hat,” even casually casting aspersions on his sexuality later in the story when he seems disinterested in the ripe-for-rescue maidens of the island. Also intriguing is the way the author, “Richard Gray Mountbanc,” blithely mixes fact and cinematic fantasy in naming the expedition’s vessel Venture, for instance.
Even the cover and interior illustrations are an amalgamation of elements drawn from the RKO film and the true historical record. It was often the case in these pulps that the artwork would be commissioned and completed before the first word of the story it was to accompany was typed; that may very well be the case here, as the images are fairly generic — with a bit of added cheesecake (it is doubtful Anne Darrow wore cutoff jeans when coming ashore).
Almost 20 years ago, I was able to track down the actual author of the article and speak to him at some length about his sources and approach in constructing this article, and the results will appear in Eighth Wonder — though I promise in the near future to sprinkle some advance nuggets in this space.