This is Pretty Much Why I Didn’t Tell People in the ’90s I Read Comic Books

17 Disturbing, Dumb and Downright Bizarre Images from the Marvel Swimsuit Specials of the 1990s

(Needless to say, this list is probably definitely NSFW, in case you were wondering. Not that there’s anything particularly dirty here, but… yeah, just trust me on this one.) 

The ’90s were a strange time for comic fans, and among the stranger sights back then were the Marvel Swimsuit specials, a series of one-shots that gave Marvel characters a break from their usual battles to pose in skimpy beachwear. Why? Because the ’90s, that’s why.

The concept was meant to be tongue-in-cheek fun, complete with fake ads in which Marvel heroes posed as spokespeople for fictional brands of shampoos and deodorants. But there were just enough bizarre entries scattered among the cheesecake to make you wonder just what the hell the editors were thinking when they greenlit these books. To wit:

1. Black Widow

First up: the Black Widow, one of the most formidable spies in the Marvel universe. Now, I’m no expert on espionage, but I’m thinking the ability to not attract attention and blend into the shadows would be among the more important skills for a super-spy to master. Not really sure how spraying yourself orange and wearing a thong with one of Morticia Addams’s tattered tea towels factors into that.

2. Boom Boom 

Gosh, where to start. The fact that Boom Boom seems to have left her entire lower intestine with her clothes back in her dressing room? The fact her teammates look shocked and pissed, respectively, to discover she hides bodacious ta-tas and half a ribcage under her X-Force uniform? The fact that Cable, the team’s tough-talking mentor, is striking the kind of pose and facial expression that one would more likely expect from the gay best friend in a formulaic romantic comedy? The fact that Rob Liefeld received actual American currency in exchange for this dreck?

3. Doctor Strange

Now, everyone is entitled to their fantasies, but I cannot — nay, will not — imagine the type of person who looks at Doctor Strange and think, “Mrrr-row!” I mean, sure, he was pretty much the only superhero who could rock the ’70s porn ‘stache, but just try to get inside the twisted mind of someone who could look at him in his full Sorcerer Supreme regalia and think, “I wonder how he’d look stepping out of that cloak and into a sweet little package-flattering Speedo?” No, I don’t think any of us would want to make that person’s acquaintance any time soon. Well, Clea excepted, of course. That’s one gal who can show me around her Dark Dimension any time she wants.

4. Nick Fury and Tony Stark

And suddenly I can’t get the song “The Bare Necessities” out of my head. Can’t imagine why. (And what kind of security threat would necessitate a sidearm at the beach? Suicide-bomber seagulls?)

5. The Invisible Woman

I don’t think it’s Susan Richard’s ill-advised use of her invisibility powers here that amuses the eye as much as the expression on her husband’s face. “God-dammit, woman! Take off those bloody headphones and turn around! We’ve got a little situation over here, if you’re not too busy showing your navel to undersexed teenagers!”

6. Iron Man

This is from a larger image in which members of the Avengers and their West Coast branch are taking part in a fun game of tug-of-war. Everyone is in a swimsuit (or a version of their uniform better suited for a beach outing), and here’s Tony Stark decked out in his full suit of armor… with a pair of Bermuda shorts over his metallic codpiece. Right.

7. Val Cooper and Jamie Madrox of X-Factor

Those of you saying you didn’t see this and immediately think of the words “severely twisted but highly marketable porn video for people of all sexual tastes… and I do mean all” are nothing but filthy stinking liars whose pants will be on fire until the day you die.

8. Morbius the Living Vampire

Got a woman in your life who can’t kick that Twilight addiction? This’ll do the trick.

9. Namor the Sub-Mariner

What’s funny about getting the Sub-Mariner to model swimsuits is that’s pretty much all he ever wears… though admittedly his usual attire doesn’t consist of a string of pearls with a single scallop shell covering his Great Barrier Reef (God only knows what’s covering his Mariana Trench in the back). And to demonstrate how easy it is to gross you out: “Boy, whatever it is he’s drenched in, it certainly looks… viscous.”

10. Northstar

In case you can’t read the text, here’s what it says: “Never one to be afraid of making waves, Northstar expresses his free spirit by wearing his swimsuit wherever he wants!” Marvel Comics: Bravely Reinforcing Every Gay Stereotype You’ve Ever Suspected Since 1992.

11. Psylocke

No, Psylocke isn’t an alien princess from another world. She’s actually Asian (more accurately, she’s a British telepath who was trapped in an Asian body when — on second thought, let’s just go with “Asian”). Look, the ’90s was a simpler, less enlightened time, okay? In all our comics, all Arabs and Arab-Americans were  ash grey, African-Americans came in only one shade of brown, and Asians gave artists an excuse to break out their special “two shades yellower than a jaundice victim in a marshmallow peeps explosion” pot of paint. (Does it help if I tell you this was drawn by Jim Lee?)

12. Wonder Man

“Hi, I’m Wonder Man, and I’d like to introduce you to my giant purple snake.” Worst. Pick-up line. Ever.

13. Cable and Domino of X-Force

Big gun? Check. Extra ammo? Check. Hunting knife? Check. Wildly impractical but de rigueur-for-the-’90s armstraps and legstraps? Check. Gun-mounted surfboard? Check. Odd joke about her name that doesn’t make clear exactly what service she provides for free if it takes more than 30 minutes? Check. Looks like another fun day at the beach!

14. Doctor Doom and Kingpin

I find this image equal parts confusing and scary. What would Doc Doom and Kingpin be doing with a blow-up sex doll together in an “isolated area” of the island? Why would the only buff dudes in this picture be shown in their full head-to-toe costumes in the middle of a freakin’ tropical jungle? Why would Doc Doom’s beach wear consist of a muscle shirt on top of the suit of armor he wears all the time? How did Daredevil and Black Panther get the monkeys to crash whatever strange party these two had going on? How did they get the Daredevil costume on one of the monkeys? Why would Daredevil even have a monkey-sized costume handy for such an occasion? So many questions.

15. Ghost Rider

Oh, har-de-har-har. He’s being a nudist on the beach, but you don’t see any naughty bits because, you know, he’s just a flaming skeleton. If this image gives Nic Cage any ideas for the next Ghost Rider movie, I’m seriously going to hunt this artist down.

16. Banshee and Siryn

For those of you not up on your Marvel family trees, Sean “Banshee” Cassidy is the father of the nubile young lady with the microphone. Think about that for a second. In the middle of a magazine that was basically spank material for boys who couldn’t get their hands on a Sears catalogue, they put a buff guy and his leggy daughter in swimsuits and had them sing a duet together. And suddenly I’m flashing back to that Arrested Development episode where Michael and his niece realize too late what the lyrics to “Afternoon Delight” are referring to while they’re singing karaoke.

17. The Punisher

If you can’t read the caption, here’s what it says: “Why, if it ain’t Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher… Nice skull, Frank! But if I were you, I’d be careful… looks like those ghoul-gals back there wanna help ya with proper dental hygiene.” And that, kids, is how Marvel sneaked the first-ever comic-book reference to inter-species fellatio past the Comics Code Authority. I have to go dunk my eyes in a bucket of bleach now.

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