So, you're probably aware of Marvel's early 1990s comic efforts to bolster their sales by any means necessary. And you're fully aware that summer is in full swing…put the two together and what do you get? That's right – The Marvel Swimsuit Specials. Now, I won't deny that at face value they are "mature" art books with very little left to the imagination, but there's more to them than that. If your first thought was that they're clearly ripping off Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issues, you're absolutely right. The first one was actually called Marvel Illustrated complete in the magazine format with captions noting what designer made each look, articles, and even advertisements for fake products, modeled by Marvel characters.
It came a long way since then in the book's run spanning from 1991 to 1995 (putting out one special each year), but one thing can be said for the controversial title: they didn't shy away from showcasing all of their heroes – in every way imaginable.
Here are a few of my favorites, either for their cleverness, the stunning artwork, or the absolute absurd brilliance of it all. I mean, who else would even think to host a massive summer beach party…on the moon?! Only Marvel, apparently. They're in chronological order because ranking them all got too difficult – I mean, they're all great! And yes, I included Luke Cage, even though it's technically not so much a swim look. But would you check out his assets?
- Marvel Illustrated: The Swimsuit Issue (1991)
- Marvel Swimsuit Special #1 (1992)
- Marvel Swimsuit Special #2 (1993)
- Marvel Swimsuit Special #3 (1994)
- Marvel Swimsuit Special #4 (1995)
Now, the concept, re-titled "Marvel Summer Special" was planned to be revived last year, but it was taken off the slate shortly after the announcement with no word on why or if it would be making a comeback. Personally, fan art is more accessible now more than ever; we don't need comic creators to publish a book full of our favorite characters' beach looks. I can do a quick search and see some amazing art of Rogue at the beach, or how ridiculous Namor would look in a fish scale speedo. Besides, beach culture kind of peaked in the early 1990s – it doesn't need to make a comeback, but it doesn't need to be totally forgotten; the 90s french cut beach vibes are just fine as they are, even if it's all gloriously dated by now.