The Marvel Swimsuit Specials were a unique breed of Nineties comic double-you-tee-effery. They took sober, serious superheroes and made them flaunt their décolletage and banana hammocks (more so than usual). Here's the ripest cheesecake we could find.
Over at The Comics Journal, Richard Cook argues that the nigh nude heroes and heroines served an aspirational role for the ogling heterosexual male reader:
The juxtaposition of beefcake and cheesecake allowed the reader to shift from the fantasy of being the perfect male to the fantasy of acquiring the type of hottie that only perfect males can acquire.
You can read Cook's thoughts at the Hooded Utilitarian. And for your viewing pleasure, here are the best moments of the Marvel Swimsuit Specials throughout the years. Hat tip to the exhaustive galleries of Shirtless Superheroes.
Northstar, one of the comicdom's first gay mainstream superheroes, is also one of the most prim and priggish superheroes around. A Fire Island spring breaker he is not.
S A good rubdown, Colossus? Those ladies better have brought their steel wool.
S This Captain America illustration was a collaboration between Norman Rockwell and Tom of Finland.
S You know how Bullseye kills his victims? He takes their breath away.
S Nothing screams Swimsuit Special quite like "karaoke with your dad."
When Ghost Rider hits you with his Penance Stare, this is what you see.
S Luke Cage: never a man for restraint, never nude.
S Namor had to swim through an entire humpback whale mating season just to get here.
S Q: Could Thor look any more ridiculous?
S A: Yes, he can look like a Manowar album cover. This really should be the poster for the movie. The "hammer as a penis" metaphor has never been so lucidly depicted.
S What are Dr. Doom and Kingpin doing in the bushes with their clothes off? Where did the blow-up doll come from? Why aren't the heroes arresting them? Are they voyeurs? So many questions left unanswered.
S Wasp is cheering for the Branch Dravidians.
S This is concept art from Hustler's This Ain't Multiplicity XXX.
S Rob Liefeld did a jeans ad. It's only sensible Cable did one as well.
S This is why the Punisher kills people.
S Is Morbius going to exsanginuate those women? Whoa. The Marvel Swimsuit Special just got extremely real.
S The Black Widow, dressing understated as any good spy should.
S I like how X-Force's surfboard is even equipped with guns.
S Wait, isn't this duo like the most sexually frustrated pairing in superhero history? Why are they cavorting around in their skivvies? I bet the two of them enjoyed a lot of heavy petting wearing dishwashing gloves.