Preview: David L. Chapman – Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975


From the art of Ancient Egypt to Classical Antiquity, right through to our modern era, despite how much cultural norms seem to have shifted, the chiselled male figure still stands as the paradigm of physical health and fitness – an emblem of militaristic and political might. The male figure persists as such an object of envy, admiration and desire that it’s even used to sell consumer products – and along with them false ideals and unrealistic expectations.

Although Seattle-based author David L. Chapman subtitles his latest book A Pictorial History, Universal Hunks is more than just a fully coloured viewing platter. Chapman, along with a foreward by cultural and sports historian Douglas Brown, provides thoughtful analysis of the varying erotic, political and commercial appeals of the idealized male figure according to geographical and cultural context. The book’s pages fill with images the Western world may be less accustomed to seeing: Asian bodybuilders and beefy African tribesmen file alongside muscular Soviets and Europeans. Many of these images come from Chapman’s own collection while the rest have been culled from sources ranging from bodybuilding posters, advertisements, magazine and book covers and product packaging.

Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975 is the latest addition to David L. Chapman’s twelve books on male photography and bodybuilding. Previous titles include Comin’ at Ya!: The Homoerotic 3D Photographs of Denny Denfield (2007) and American Hunks: The Muscular Male Body in Popular Culture, 1860-1970 (2009), both from Arsenal Pulp Press.

Head over to Arsenal Pulp’s website where you can read a PDF excerpt of Universal Hunks as well as print and accessorize your very own Hunk Doll with three styles to choose. Pre-order a copy at Amazon | Indigo | Locally.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu