By Andrew J. Adams
I recently reviewed my favorite comic book character costumes, which I broke down into 12 categories. While compiling it, I recalled several examples that didn’t fit, but have a soft spot in my heart for an aspect beyond design elements: costumes I found slightly erotic. Below are four such detours down memory lane.
Detour #1: For me, eroticism depends on the character. Sub-Mariner is practically nude, but he’s such an arrogant tool, he does nothing for me. Besides that, sometimes leaving a little for the imagination is much more attractive than letting it all hang out. I always found Ka-Zar sexier in his furry shorts and boots that when Marvel had him traipsing about in only a loincloth. For another example, consider these three Golden Ages Heroes: Samson from Fox’s “Fantastic Comics” #1-#23, Hercules from Quality’s “Hit Comics” #1-#21, and Red Rube from MLJ’s “Zip Comics” #40-#47. Samson, as you would guess, has shoulder-length, blond hair. But in terms of a costume, he wears naught but a pair of blue trunks and strapy Grecian sandals. By issue #10 he gained a similarly clad boy side-kick, David. That was all good and well, but the copious flesh got a bit dull from over-exposure. Moving on, we have Hercules. He also has shoulder-length blond hair and wears blue trunks, but also sports blue pirate-styled boots, and a blue cape. Getting there, but not quite. Finally, we have Red Rube. This Capt. Marvel clone (in terms of origin) wears blue military boots, red pants w/ blue piping up the outer legs, blue belt, red cape… and no shirt. Now we’re talking! (If only he had on gloves, though…) I almost created a 13th category called “Best Undressed” just to award it to him.
Detour #2: But those characters I discovered as an adult. As a teen, I remember reading whispers about a Marvel character called Adam Warlock, whose series was supposed to be pseudo-intellectual, tragic sci-fi. Except by ‘84 (when I got into super-hero comics) he was obscure, if not forgotten. But I still encountered the occasional reference and my curiosity was piqued. I envisioned him as a pale, black-clad wizard. (This was pre-internet so a fan’s only visuals were in the comics themselves.) Finally I tracked down the “Official Marvel Handbook” #14 (Book of the Dead part 2) and Good Lord! Quite an unearthly tan he’s sporting! He’s adorned in scarlet and eastern-influenced gold jewelry (with bare legs and arms) like a regal prince, but has a skull-shaped clasp at his throat and black shadows around his eyes like a Goth. And, of course, he had the prettiest pretty-boy blond hair waving in the imagined breeze. For some reason, I found him very erotic.
Detour #3: Going further back, I had a program from a “Doctor Who” convention in Chicago. (I didn’t attend, but it was given to me by my brother who knew I was a fan.) The program was digest-sized and had a one page, black and white illustration of a man with quite a physique. He had dark hair, a mysterious mask, shredded shirt, and dark pants. The drawing stopped just below the waist. And he had the most cocky grin you’ve ever seen, as if to say, “Yeah, I’m standing here with my shirt shredded. So what?” As a teen, I would look at that picture and wonder who was he? A random drawing? A pre-existing character? By my late teens I discovered it was a drawing by Will Eisner of none other than The Spirit! Since then, I’ve found the Spirit could be erotic at times, especially when Eisner worked the gloves and mask. Nothing hotter than a buff, shirtless man wearing gloves. (And a domino mask.)
Detour #4: But the sexiest image I ever saw was a reproduction of the cover of “Hit Comics” #5. It starred the Red Bee, who was featured in “Hit Comics” #1-#24. His costume changed every issue. But for the cover of #5, he was in all reds and pinks. The cover had a black background depicting murky depths. Red Bee was shackled underwater, wrestling a swordfish (while maintaining good posture, may I add). He wore a cute, red domino mask, a translucent pink, billowy blouse of a shirt, tight red pants and brown boots. What makes the overall picture magic is the detail in showing they are underwater: the way his shirt sleeves are swaying, the way his hair is gently dancing over his head. Plus, there are a series of air bubbles coming for his mouth, which is set in a determined grimace. Lou Fine drew one mighty fine cover here. And Red Bee looks magnificent! I stared at and traced that cover so often, it’s one of the few things I can now draw well free-hand. Based on nothing but that cover, I have a warm place in my cold heart for Red Bee.