Charles Atlas - He-man action figures in 1946!

Charles Atlas, in case you've never looked in the back of a comic book, was "the face of fitness" for several decades, starting in 1929. This ad from 1946 is absolutely hilarious, not because of ridiculous claims, but because of the excellent proto-photoshop work.

He's holding the two little men in his mighty fists, one skinny and one mighty. It was done with a razor knife (not clear if X-Acto knives were available in 1946) and good old glue of course, and the crudeness is what makes it work.

Charles Atlas was born Angelo Siciliano, but changed his name to Charles Atlas in 1922. His exercise plan is based on the idea of "muscles pulling against muscles", instead of using mechanical resistance. This idea allegedly came to him while watching lions at the zoo, noting that they didn't need machines to remain strong. There are a few flaws in his line of logic there, but anyway.

It's interesting to note some of the strange language he uses in his ad copy. "Solid, tough LIVE MUSCLE". "I talk to you in straight-from-the-shoulder language". Live muscle? Straight from the shoulder? I was able to find some evidence of this phrase, but I've never heard anyone use it. "Live muscle" is more of a puzzle. He was born in Italy. Maybe it's because English is his second language? I dunno. There's an old Monty Python parody of the Charles Atlas ads. I'd seen it lots of times before reading through this ad, and it's pretty clear that Terry Gilliam (the animating Python member) didn't change the sales pitch much at all from the original. "What's my secret? It's DYNAMO TENSION! Muscles pulling against muscles - the natural way!".

The way he's holding those two little men, and the prominence of the word "he-men", it's hard not to think of He-Man action figures. The general form of attire in the He-Man universe is pretty much fur underpants and not much else: not too different from old Chuck here. he needs some fur boots and a Buster Brown haircut, though.


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