Michael's Long Box: Swimsuits, Underwear, Lingerie, Oh My!

in Comics2 months ago (edited)

Been a while since I dug into the ol' long box, which means it's been entirely too long since I made fun of @blewitt for something involving his full-time job. So, with that in mind, I decided to trawl the collection and see how I could further debase and embarrass myself, and I'm pretty sure I've hit another vein of 90s comic gold. So let's spend a few thousand words here in the middle of winter talking about the most cringe-worthy, blatant cash grabs from an era defined entirely by cringe-worthy cash grabs: the pin-up books.

There's enough cheesecake in this article that you're risking serious insulin-related consequences just by browsing. It's best taken in small doses. The 90s were completely ridiculous. You're welcome.

I'm far from the first person on the internet to bring up the weirdness that is the Swimsuit/Lingerie/Nude/Pin-up comic book. Heck, this isn't even the first time I've written about one, so feel free to go back and refresh your memory. But while those were one-shots focused on a single issue, this will be a general article about the phenomenon. Along the way, I'll show off some of the stranger/more obscure/ridiculous books in my collection so you can go to bed tonight knowing that, for all your faults, at least you don't have any of these comics hiding in your vault of horrors.

First, A Little History

Sports Illustrated rolled out the first of what became their yearly swimsuit issues all the way back in 1964, but it took the comics industry nearly thirty years to realize there was money to be made in the depiction of their femme fatales wearing less clothing than usual. Thus, in 1991, they published the magazine-sized Marvel Illustrated: The Swimsuit Issue:

Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.jpg

Billed on the cover tagline as "A sophisticated parody for everyone who loves Marvel Comics!", the swimsuit issue cost $3.95 at a time when Marvel's standard cover price on all their books was $1.50. You were definitely paying for the privledge of seeing your favorite heroes, villains, and Mary Jane Watson sporting speedos, one-pieces, or bikinis. To further cement its status as a magazine parody, the book even includes full-page ads for fake products hawked by the Marvel heroes, in-universe articles so you could learn She-Hulk's bodybuilding technique or see how the judges rated Silver Surfer on his ability to surf, and an editorial by the magazine's chief Fashion Editor, Janet Van Dyne. In order to tie everything together, the swimsuit issue posits that Tony Stark set the whole thing up as a charity event of sorts on the neutral ground of the Savage Land, where Ka-Zar and Shanna Plunder served as hosts for the fashion shoot/tropical paradise getaway.

In reality, the only "charity" who benefited was Marvel's bank account, but hey, props for at least giving a semblance of a reason for the book's existence. This one sold so well that Marvel produced one every year for the next four years, but each subsequent one skimped on the parody elements a bit more than the last, and by 1995 they had clearly reached the "give us your money and check out Thor's muscles and parts of Rogue's body she never uncovers because skin-to-skin contact is deadly" point. Facing larger looming issues than a bit of fan service could assuage, Marvel stopped producing them, but the damage had already been done as other companies saw the profit potential and the floodgates parted.

One of the early adopters in the wake of Marvel's success was Amazing Heroes Publishing's Spoof Comics, a title centered around creating unauthorized gender-swapped versions of popular characters and teams owned by DC and Marvel. These included the likes of Superbabe, Wolverbroad, and OX Cow O' War, although their peak rip-off may have been Spiderfemme vs. Denim which poked fun at a certain friendly neighborhood web slinger and his symbiote nemesis. Not bound by the Comics Code Authority, the normal books already featured some questionable content, but the swimsuit issues especially went to town, featuring some characters in see-through bikinis or completely lacking clothes (making one wonder if the artist got the memo this was a swimsuit issue).

Amazing Spoof Heroes Swimsuit 004.jpg

I only have it for the Adam Hughes cover, I swear!

Not to be outdone by a parody press, series creator Bill (Fables) Willingham leaned so heavily into the mantra "Sex Sells" that he left Robocop-sized holes in the wall with Elementals. Published by Comico Comics and practically daring everyone to come at him for telling an adult-oriented story in a traditionally kid-oriented medium, the titular super-powered team had zero problems disrobing into some barely-there nighties or engaging in some relaxing dolphin sex after a hard day's fight.

Yeah, even I'm not depraved enough to have that one in my collection. But Comico did a number of these pin-up galleries through the years, so here's a small sample platter:

Elementals 1996 Swimsuit Spectacular 001.jpg

Elementals Swimsuit Spectacular 1996

The 1996 swimsuit book has two pieces by Ben Dunn of Warrior Nun Areala and Ninja High School fame, just FYI.

Elemental's Sexy Lingerie Special 005.jpg

Elemental's Sexy Lingerie Special #1

This one's done up like a series of Playboy centerfolds, with each character getting his or her own write-up with their real name, nickname, favorite films, and other trivia. Useful for stumping your local Comic Book Guy with the sort of ephemeral knowledge that is only good for stumping your local Comic Book Guy, and will utterly destroy your chance of getting a date with anyone who doesn't already smell like the inside of a storage locker.

Elemental's Lingerie006.jpg

Elementals Lingerie, Vol. 2, #1

Despite claiming to be the "1st Sexy Collector's Issue", I'm sorry to report that:

  • A: Its current market value is still the same as its cover price, and
  • B: Nearly half the artwork in here was reprinted from Sexy Lingerie Special #1.

Man, some days you just can't win when it comes to buying shameless cash-grabs. Who knew?

Here's one I'm pretty sure even @blewitt has never seen before:

CFD Book of Lingerie007.jpg

The CFD Book of Lingerie

CFD was an indie publisher, probably best known for Nightcry, their anthology book which released during the black and white surge in the mid-90s. Readers who appreciate BDSM/fetish art will be right at home with Sandra Chang's multi-page spread, otherwise this is nothing special unless you're already a fan of the stuff CFD Productions was churning out back in the day.

Finally, what would a feature about 90s cheesecake books be without a nod to Brian Pulido and Steven Huges of Chaos! Comics? As two of the creators of the "bad girl" genre, their Lady Death came with standard-issue revealing attire, but far be it from Brian not to milk the hell out of his fans with books featuring the Lady wearing even less than usual? When that's already your main selling point, it's not hard to squeeze a few more dollars out of fan wallets with publications like these!

Lady Death Swimsuit Special008.jpg

Lady Death Swimsuit Special #1

That's one of three alternative covers produced for this book. The cover has a red velvet texture to it, and was limited to 10,000 copies, making it slightly more valuable than the standard edition. It came out in 1994.

Lady DeathIn Lingerie009.jpg

Lady Death in Lingerie #1

And, of course, if Elementals could do it, then so could Chaos with this 1995 follow-up to the massive success that was her swimsuit special. Ben Dunn has a pin-up in this one. (Man, this guy got into all the pin-up books didn't he?).

Whew! I think that's enough pin-up books for today. Although just because I'm stopping doesn't mean I don't have more I could showcase. Image, Wildstorm, Top Cow, Maximum Press, and other companies pushed similar products all through the 90s and into the 2000s. So if you want to see more full-frontal nerdity, just drop me a note in the comments, and I will further debase myself for your enjoyment (and upvotes). If you've got some of these hanging around and want to do a post on them, by all means, drop a link in the comments too!

If I helped keep you a little warmer this winter, slap that upvote button like it's dat ass, and I'll see you (yes, YOU, @blewitt) in the back issues of the next exciting installment of Michael's Long Box!


I wonder how many longboxes of smut @blewitt already stashed away for the inevitable failure of the internet as predicted by Paul Krugman in 1998? He can finally make bank with those swimsuit issue comics and slightly-stained Playboys!

Lol. I do have an actual Adult Comic box behind the counter. Full of stuff like Cherry comics or Wendy Whitebread Undercover Slut. Lololol

Adult comics are the future postulated by 1984 and American Psycho. Chris is filling his important role in society by keeping them away from impressionable 40-somethings. I'm filling my important role in society by telling all the impressionable 40-somethings about them, then sending them to his store. It's, like, a symbiotic relationship, if you think about it. Circle of Life. Really heavy stuff. 😅

Does @blewitt have an 'under the counter' stash that only special customers have access to? I'm no expert on comics, but a lot of female characters seem to basically go around in underwear anyway. When your audience is largely teenage boys you go with what sells and what you show is just more blatant.

This time period that Mike talks about was simply ripe with these types of characters and books. I have endless boxes choc full of similar stuff. Mike would lose his mind. Lol

He's not wrong. Every publisher (except DC -- I've literally never seen any kind of Swimsuit/Lingerie book put out by them) in the 90s did at least one pin-up book like this. Often with multiple variant covers or other goodies.

If I do a part two, I'm definitely dragging out the Glory/Avengelyn ones that had live cover models, and the Razor Swimsuit Special. I know how much you love your Image and London Night books. :D

Lol. Man, there were soooooo many badgirl books. Lady “whatever’s”…lol

I remember when the 1st Lady Death series came out. That beautiful Chromium cover. Speaking of, I kinda wish someone would bring back the Chromium cover. Publishers have been dabbling in lots of the gimmicky covers again, but no Chromium. That was the shit!!!

Of course I’ve seen the CFD one!!! Lol.

Funny thing is I actually just sold one of those Marvel swimsuit Mags a few weeks back. I think I have a couple others still in the magazine boxes.

Great write up homie. One day I’ll get to the Indy restock. I’m working on Marvel currently and I’ll be done with letter A today after a couple of weeks. Shit takes forever. After Marvel, I’ll be doing my Indy restock. So you got some months to wait…

Holy cow, you have? You're the only comic guy I've met who even knew what CFD was. That's awesome! (Maybe...? For certain definitions of 'awesome'...?)

I most certainly gave. I might even have one in the shop somewhere. The Indy section will be done after the Marvel restock, but I’m only on letter C of Marvel, so it’s going to take some time. Lol.

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