Marvel Swimsuit Special: An In-Depth Analysis Part I
When it comes to comic books, eccentricity has never been in short order. The silver age of comics is considered the heyday for the weird and wacky, followed by the gritty reactionary tales of Frank Miller and Alan Moore in the 80's. Like a pendulum, the industry swung back to the zany in the 90's. Clones! Robot Superman! Spawn! One of the more ridiculous books of this time period is the Marvel Swimsuit Special. Released annually between 1992 and 1995, these collections of pinups did not hesitate to embrace their shallow purpose. Not quite poster books and lacking any semblance of a storyline, these infamous tomes embody their place and time in an industry that has since strayed from such blatant fan service. The cheesecake stuck around, but it made its home in every brokeback pose (mostly executed by female characters), while the men left behind their speedos and went back to their stoic ways. By no means do I miss properties like the Marvel Swimsuit Special; but it is nice to see a comic where the men are almost equally objectified. It is easy to overlook these collections as unworthy of further analysis, but I think not. Each and every page is teaming with as much intrigue as sensuality. Join us as we delve deeply into the zeitgeist of 90's comics. And there is no shame in just coming to ogle either. (There are quite a few images, so follow the continued analysis after the jump. And please do click on the images to see them larger to read the text!)
The most interesting aspect of this fake ad for "Handyman Tools" appears to be the placement of Thor's, ahem, decorations. Glad to see this version of his costume didn't last.
The roster of talent involved is surprising. Adam Hughes has quite a few pieces, as well as other familiar names such as Darick Robertson (The Boys), Steve Epting (Marvel cover artist), and Salvador Larroca (X-Men, Iron-Man). Since this book is nearly twenty years old, it is interesting to see how the artists still active today have grown since they created these works.
This is sadly not the first Marvel Swimsuit Special; I would have preferred to start my analysis from the beginning. However, we do get the benefit of enjoying the letters column since this is the third publication. Jomo Powell seems to have had his wish fulfilled since this issue takes place on the moon as he suggested, and the Caroline's will be pleased to see the inclusion of Gambit in this issue. Jean-Francois, however, spends quite a bit of time lamenting the fact that the previous special featured a somewhat inaccurate portrayal of Rogue and her powers. Sir, if you want Rogue to become a giant scaly dinosaur, you are reading the wrong book.
Uatu of the Watchers answers the question you will keep asking yourself throughout reading: why are these Marvel characters on the moon? In short, the Inhumans have invited Earth's Mightest to partake in the Water Festival. Meanwhile, all of the third string characters that are not being depicted here are the only thing that stands between Doctor Doom and world domination. Also, Uatu is a creeper that wants to watch everyone in their swimsuits.
Our first splash page features the Inhumans and everyone is…..fully clothed and looking relatively normal. What a disappointment. It is worth mentioning that this is not the only piece featuring Lockjaw the Pet Avenger.
With hair only Janet Jackson could rival, Typhoid Mary is our first solo pinup. Yes, the villainess of Daredevil. Guess they're keeping the big guns for later in the book. Is it just me or does her leg appear to have the reflection of her face?
This depiction of the Thing and Human Torch is a little confusing, even after reading Uatu's description. Where are Sue and Reed? Who are these women with similar powers? Their fawning companion to the left gives a whole new meaning to the term "fire crotch".
If you didn't think Uatu was a creeper yet, just read his description of Black Widow. She "never hurts for company"? Really? Despite his assumption, I don't think Black Widow takes her namesake from the spider because it eats its mates. Otherwise she would be known as the Preying Mantis. More baffling than the description is the state of Black Widow's costume. Did she forget to pack her swimsuit? Did she rip her suit apart to create a makeshift bikini? Where did the tooth necklace come from? This look is definitely more Savageland than Moonscape.
The first of many banana hammocks to come. Thus far, each of our male superheroes has been surrounded by adoring aliens, while the women have been shown solo. Either there is a serious imbalance between males and females in the Inhumans population or the hosts were not gracious enough to invite male escorts to the festivities. That or the editors and artists felt more comfortable depicting bulges if a web-fingered alien tweaking nipples was also present. Gotta maintain the balance!
Elektra has a pretty great swimsuit. It has her trademark red and black colors, and also maintains the recognizable sash from her costume. Good thing she brought four sais with her to the lunar beach to keep down that towel!
At first I thought this was Cable, or Longshot, or some other character with a glowing eye, but it turns out this is Bullseye. Now the speedo design makes sense.
Good thing Jubilee is here. Otherwise it would just be four dudes "chicken fighting" in the water, being totally straight. Nevermind, Jubliee has no effect here.
I'm not very familiar with Sersi as a character and at first thought this might've been Kitty Pryde hanging out with Lockheed. Now she's just another Eternal dancing under the moonlight, rocking that disc man.
There isn't one facial expression here that doesn't make me uncomfortable. From the unwilling participant "Boomer" to the enthusiastic Inhumans waiting below, an inappropriate time is being had by all.
Storm, you man-eater! Forge is definitely in her sights, as according to Uatu, she can't resist a man in lighting trunks. Who can?
This may be my favorite pinup of the bunch because how did this make it past editorial. Never mind the fact that Captain America is giving the most come-hither-to look of them all, but he is reading the Constitution of the United States. He must be hiding a big patriotic boner beneath his belted speedo. I don't think his beach gear is standard issue from the Army either. No, this scene reflects the carefully considered tastes of a man out of time that has quickly caught up to the style of the 90's. There's no hiding the pride, even on the moon.
And leaving on that high note, join us next week for Part II of the continued analysis of the 94' Marvel Swimsuit Special.