Modelled on the American Esquire magazine, Man began publication in 1936. An unapologetic magazine for men, it tested the borders of acceptable taste with suggestive cartoons, portraying the sexual exploits of men with a variety of female character-types. This feature endured throughout the magazine's history, but competition from more explicit magazines such as Penthouse and Playboy contributed to the demise of Man in the early 1970s.
While not aiming for literary quality, Man published many short stories and some poetry. A 1938 editorial reported that between four and five hundred manuscripts were received each month. The magazine expected stories to be 'slanted for masculine interests', but would provide some editorial enhancement if necessary. In addition to the many amateur writers who contributed to Man, writers such as Vance Palmer, E. V. Timms, Will Lawson, R. Carson Gold, J. M. H. Abbott, Ruth Park and Dal Stivens also appeared, largely adhering to the magazine's prescribed formulas.
Another literary feature of Man was the 'magazine within a magazine' called 'Australianasia'. Edited by Ion Idriess, this section published essays and adventure fiction set in places like the Australian Outback or in the South Seas. Idriess contributed many of these, but contributions were also received from Frank Clune, Francis Birtles, Jack Hides, George Farwell, Will Lawson, Robert Kaleski and a wide variety of amateur writers.
While Man asserted an Australian attitude in early issues, its later contents often reflected the adoption of language and commercial attitudes of the United States. In his study of Man, Richard White demonstrates how Man 'exhibits an image of the Australian Male which struggled to reconcile an Australian identity with modern demands'.
'This article examines the representation of masculinity in Man, a men’s magazine, in post-war Australia. While the notion of the “sleepy 1950s” has implied a period of social conservatism and gender stability, the representation of (and commentary on) men’s social, cultural and familial worlds in Man tells a rather different story. In a period in which Menzies’s breadwinner masculinity idealised work and familial life as the source of men’s satisfaction (and civilised society more broadly), Man positioned its imagined reader as desperately unhappy and frustrated by the confines of suburban life and marriage. There were limits, however, to the generosity of this critique. While trying to provide Australian men with an escape from the rigid confines of hegemonic masculinity, Man remained attached to a near-misogynist attitude to women. The distress and anguish of men, in this case, became another way to restrict the lives and choices of women.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.