In 1970, Frank Zappa immortalized the famous pulp declaration “Weasels Ripped My Flesh!” Indeed, midcentury men’s action magazines were constantly featuring men and women ravaged and mutilated by wild animals.
We’ve done articles on the Nazi scourge (When Nazis Attack! Men’s Action Mags and Hitler’s Perverted Minions) and those pesky jungle natives (When Natives Attack! White Damsels and Jungle Savages in Pulp Fiction).
Well, it’s high time we give the Animal Kingdom its due. Here are some pulp covers which remind us that Nature is not to be loved, but rather feared… and destroyed if necessary.
These covers depict innocent humans being attacked by basically any animal you can think of: elephants, monkeys, cheetahs, lions, panthers, boa constrictors, crabs, scorpions, gorillas, alligators, snapping turtles, ants, vultures, boars, etc., etc. You name the species, and I guarantee there’s a cover of it torturing and eating a screaming human.
Okay, I haven’t seen a koala attack yet, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist.
Elephants must be destroyed! They have a grudge against our women, and therefore must pay the ultimate price!
So, who did these stories appeal to? I don’t think the audience for these magazines were the guys who had actually gone through combat in WWII; I think it was the guys who hadn’t and, in the words of Shakespeare’s Henry V “held their manhood cheap”.
“Lizards from Hell”
Really? To be honest, these scratching iguana-like creatures don’t seem particularly threatening. The least threatening in the history of “animals attack” covers would have to be from an issue of True Men magazine, which featured attacking pangolins. (Pangolins are basically toothless anteaters.)
Lampreys on the other hand….. (shudder)….
Give me a marauding panther or pissed-off elephant any day over a lamprey attack. Of all these covers, this one makes me cringe the most.
And, yeah, there seems to be a sexual element going on in a lot of these “animals attack” covers and stories…. but that’s a rabbit hole we probably don’t want to dive down.
You’ll notice a pattern in these covers: the woman nearly always has her breasts partially exposed. It’s as if the sight of cleavage incites wild animals to attack…. I think I may be on to something here.
Another cleavage hating beast.
Zappa pulled his “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” line from Man’s Life (September 1956). But there were plenty of other equally audacious headlines he could have chosen:
“Attack of the Sex Mad Hippo”, “Mating Raid of the Red Ape”, “Ambush of the Rabid Minks”, “An Army of Ants Ate the Flesh Off My Body” and even “Flying Rodents Ripped My Flesh” (featuring, of all creatures, squirrels).
For more great pulp headlines check out an earlier article.
The very first animals attack cover was the sixth issue (January 1951) of Stag magazine – “Mad Monkeys Manned the Lifeboats”: the “true” story of an unidentified sailor on a siking ship whose cargo load of caged monkeys escaped and battled the crew for the lifeboats. the sailor narrator supposedly ended up in an insane asylum.
These pulp covers were notorious for “scenery censors” – cleverly concealed nudity. This one has the maiden’s naughty bid strategically covered by the wild cat’s jaw. For more examples of this, read this article and become an expert.
Eventually, the pulps would die out, but the “animals attack” torch was kept aflame in the movies of the 1970s. For half the decade, theaters were glutted with Man versus Nature flicks like Piranha (1978), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Jaws (1975), Orca (1977), Day of the Animals (1977), Ants (1977 TV Movie), Prophecy (1979), Ben (1972), Grizzly (1976), Rattlers (1976), Frogs (1972), The Swarm (1978), and Squirm (1976).