15 June 2010

Panel Laughs: Battle of The Bulges, MARVEL SWIMSUIT Style -- But They Only Nailed The Ads (13 & 14)

In the 90's, comics were a runaway train racing South even before the 'bubble burst,' and  Marvel's Sports Illustrated  impersonation only greased the industrial track - and probably more poles than Nielsen.  From 1991 to 1995, Marvel Comics' annual Illustrated Swimsuit Specials presented page after page of big boys with bulges and more superheroine T&A than a Rob Liefeld comic. Fittingly, the first Special featured members of the publisher's premier and woefully under-clad super-team, the Avengers -- and  several of the Avengers' members to boot.  For the money, our  favorite shot has to be Adam Hughes' Janet Van Dyne aka the size-shrinking Wasp, pictured ironically here between the unmistakable manhood (manhoods? men-hood?) of Wonder Man (truth in advertising for days) and mister stars and stripes forever himself, Captain America, two dudes who suffer not from any shrinkage.
To be fair, the Specials didn't take themselves completely seriously, a fact especially evidenced by the slightly subversive phony advertisements  and tongue-in-cheek articles peppered between their pin-ups.   We think they're rather clever -- fake ads augmenting the illusion that the fictional Specials are real, while making valid, real world  points on issues usually over-looked for fictional characters. Thanks (or no thanks) to Mike Zeck's ability to draw Canadians dripping sweat,  it's a challenge not to imagine how a stanky wet Wolverine smells. (And you gotta love the deoderant -- import, maybe?)  Thor's hammer ad is a whole 'nother horse, of course.  Marvel's golden boy gets one page full of double entendres  and a look that leaves little doubt this is one Thunder God who's more bent than the nails his hammer fails to, well, nail.  
(To enlarge, click Right)

Even twenty years later, Marvel's faux marketing succeeds with the satire -- which, by the way, was also more the Swimsuit Specials goal than lending their hand to a monkey-punching fan base. But the proof's in the pandering, and Marvel's messages were mixed. In the battle of their Swimsuit bulges, Marvel Comics got cock-blocked -- by themselves.
Wolverine & Thor [via]

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