Men! Manly Men! Now that I have your attention, ladies and Macho Men interested in Meaty Manliness, I’d like to put forth my thesis statement: Men were at their Manliest before the widespread use of electricity zapped the testosterone atoms of an entire nation. In this column, I aim to do two things: Explore just what made old-timey Men so Manly, and spread my ill-informed anti-electricity propaganda. I’ve already started on step two – invisible lightning bolts from the walls are electrifying your genitals as we speak! — so here’s step one:
The manliest things about old-timey Manmen were their magazines. None of that ‘Targeted Interest’ or ‘Independent Journalism’ crap. Pre-1960 magazines were about two things: Punching and fucking and sometimes that was actually just one thing. But I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do: Read these terrible articles. They’re just shoddy fanfiction about actual murders from a freer time, back when Libel was a kind of off-brand hooch and a fact-checker was just a guy you had to beat in a fistfight if he called you a fibber.
Instead, I posit that we can best examine the whiskey-pissin’, beef-horkin’, revolver-suicide-retirement-plan manly manly men of the 1930s by having them take off their girdles and dance around a bit. But failing that, I guess we could just look at some of the ads in their old detective magazines.
Advertisements in True Crime publications put a lot of emphasis on wildly unqualified amateur law enforcement, which to be fair, is very in-wheelhouse for Complete Detective Magazine.
But apparently being a cop back in the day is like being president today: All you need is raw enthusiasm, absolutely no regard for the sanctity of human life, and to have read part of one book (in the cop’s case, THE BLUE BOOK OF CRIME; in the president’s case, THE MAKING OF BLOODSPORT: CHEAP DRUGS, CHEAPER SEX, AND THE VITAL ROLE OF DOING LATERAL SPLITS IN THE FOR-REAL KUMITE WHICH DEFINITELY EXISTS).
Don’t worry, once you read the table of contents for THE BLUE BOOK OF CRIME, you are done investing in your law enforcement education. You can then hunt criminals straight from the pages of the detective magazines you already own:
God damn, Conly “All Neck” Ayers got fucking roasted in his own wanted poster. It’s true that it looks like his chin is mad at his throat, it’s true that his nose is also his Adam’s Apple, and it’s completely, inarguably true that he’s a human Patrick Star, but that eyebrow dig was just uncalled for.
If you just plain don’t have enough rope to hang Conly “The Trunk” Ayers, maybe Johnny Bugg is more your speed:
John Harvey “Sock Foot” Bugg is the least threatening anything in the history of everything. That name is not pulled from my Doug fanfiction, but it’s definitely going in there now. And he’s a kidnapper! What does he kidnap, Smurfs? Imagine being abducted by Harvey “The Sock Foot Cowboy” Bugg – your search party would be snickering right up until they found your severed toes artfully arranged into a flesh bouquet, aka The Sock Foot Corsage.
But point taken: a little tin mail-in badge is all the qualification you need to hunt these Dick Tracy first drafts.
Weirdly enough, detective magazines seem to endorse petty crime as much as they do slipshod vigilantism:
True Crime mags are full of more minor scams than your mom’s Facebook page. You won’t find this many low-effort cons anywhere else but an Airport Hilton, and it’s very odd that one publication is trying to move product to both predator and prey. Were these publications like the Reddit of their day: the only game in town where you could both complain about social justice and find exciting new hate groups to join?
But hey, it wasn’t all mail-order cops and classified-ad criminals — old-timey detectives knew how to have fun!
Finally! A tie that you can jerk off to! No longer do you have to carry two ties, one for work, and one for self-pleasure. Yes, one tie that does it all, from business deals on Wall Street to frustrated masturbation in the back of an Edsel! Plus the back is absorbent, for clean-up!
Not content to merely hustle rubes with magic trick, there were also a ton of ads for actual magic.
I didn’t even know you could sell ‘new types of prayer,’ but that’s exactly the type of sloppy desperation I’d expect from “PAXCO,” the shitty progenitor Hydrox to PoxCo’s far superior Oreo.
Hey, do you dream of success, conquering your enemies, and mastering the power of prophecy? Have you tried… smellin’ stuff?
I guess dopes have been falling for aromatherapy scams since the first idiot with too many coconuts evolved a nose, but I just never pictured the Greatest Generation’s manliest detectives buying into it. Some whiskey-fueled private dick stumbling into his office, all gutshot and ulcerous, pausing his grim narration to light a Raspberry Nag Champa because it’s Tuesday and he needs the ‘GOOD LOVE AND MONEY WISHES’ karma.
But I suppose that image does jive with the many, many wanted ads for poetry…
I understand that music had just been invented in 1928 by Billy Music and His Sound-Time Mouthblowers, and people were all very excited about it. But there is a lot of desperation in these many, many ads clamoring for shitty poetry about MOTHER and SACRED. This has to be some kind of scam, but for it to be this widespread, wouldn’t there have to be some takers? That implies there’s a significant demographic of singing gumshoes who read Complete Detective as much for the hot scoop on new ways to make your own blackjack, as they do for inspiration in penning “The Ballad of Sock Foot.”
Hey, here’s an eleven-inch solid slab of crazy:
Let’s zoom in on that WANTED: A BABY! ad. I’m sure that’s a dark remnant of the time when child-trafficking laws only dictated how fast you could drive with somebody else’s kid in the trunk.
But no, it’s actually a somewhat touching ad about infertility? This… this is not what I expected from you, Kaiser-punching cocksmen of the past.
Let’s pick another from the wall of textual lunacy:
There’s something very sassy about building a body specifically for men to envy, but I love that FUN IN BODY BUILDING is just an add-on to SECRETS OF STRONG MAN FEATS. Implying that you don’t really need to have a beautiful body in order to rip a tractor in half with your teeth, but if you make your pecs dance while you do it then Karmov the Krusher will positively seethe with jealousy.
Huh. It’s like I’m sensing a theme here.
Perhaps one that could explain why there’s so many ads in these pages about failed marriages…
Aw, that’s almost sweet. Love is indeed “a cherished privilege,” you chain-smoking, huge-livered, dead-at-50 old-timey copywriter. I am totally on board with this book about…
That’s the darkest turn I’ve seen since I wrote that joke about child-trafficking. H-how do you solve your marriage problems with fucking eugenics?! Do you breed perfect wives out of generations of your own – no, no I can’t even theorize about this book without typing sentences that will haunt my fingertips.
There are a surprising amount of ads targeted at female readers, and most of them are about trying to entice or entrap the mannish fans of True Crime mags who, alack and alas, seem more interested in envying each other’s glutes than breeding out the perfect woman.
I say “a surprising amount” of female readers not because I’m assuming women aren’t interested in detective work and savage homoeroticism — a demographic breakdown of Sherlock fans tells me that’s not true — it’s just weird they’d be into this specific magazine. Because if there’s one thing Complete Detective fans hate, it’s themselves and their failing, inadequate bodies. But if there are two things they hate, it’s their own uncooperative penises and all women.
“You’re gonna LOVE how much you’ll HATE women! Finally, Tommy “The D” Horton does what we’ve all been waiting for him to do, which is just fucking take the worst gender to the mat. We’re not even gonna advertise a potential use for this information — just watch this dude fucking drag the unfairer sex for 123 double-spaced pages!”
“At last, a man who’s willing to straight-up fight a female! Any female! Any female under 5 feet with no formal fight training! And recently clipped fingernails! No farmworkers! NO ORIENTALS. A single unslapped woman is a challenge that 1932 has let hang for too long! Never again feel EMBARRASSED that the undonged might be happier than you, when you KNOW FOR A FACT that Tommy The Hort once heard a girl fart in an elevator! THAT BITCH. Learn about…”
If there’s one thing Thomas D. Horton is sure of, it’s that women don’t play by the rules. He’s not sure what those rules are, but apparently there are formal playguides for literally every abstract activity, and not a single woman obeys any of them. They bargain unfairly in love for… love points? I don’t know what they’re haggling for in a relationship, but I’m damn sure they cheat at “office.” They even display bad sportsmanship when you call them animals — they’re just the worst, and if you’d hang back to light some Lucky Revenge incense while The Hortsman uses the Master Misogynist’s Prayer to nail down this Eugenics For Spite chart, we won’t even need these dames no more! We’ll be free! Free to focus on each other’s bodies, only reluctantly impregnating our carefully-bred Brood Cow when we need to make some more Complete Detectives!