We were the last generation that grew up without the internet. Or, to put it another way, we were the last generation to grow up without porn a few clicks away. The last generation that was forced
into the old standbys, of sneaking into the medical and art sections of the library, if we wanted a gander at the odd bit anatomy. When cable channels were still scrambled. When, if you were of a certain tender age, you palpitated over begging your mother to rent a Sega Genesis game like Earthworm Jim
or an anime that might include nipples - but which was okay because, of course, it was just a cartoon. And those were safe for kids.
And another resource you might avail yourself of was, of course, comics. Not so much the mainstream stuff, though this was the middle of the era when breasts were growing and waistlines and costumes were shrinking.
It's Red Sonja Optimized, Reed. Didn't you read my thesis?
Comic books with nudity - and I basically mean the occasional bit of sideboob with a nipple - tended to be on the magazine rack, stuff like Conan the Barbarian
and Heavy Metal Magazine
. Not impossible purchases, if sometimes uncertain in content. So you can sort of imagine the surprise and delight, one day at Publix, when my brother and I convinced our slightly doddering grandfather to buy the Marval Swimsuit Special
It was...an experience. Hell, I had never seen a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Special
, so I had no idea what to expect.
It was...fun. A little juvenile. A little groan-worthy at some of the jokes. A lot of poking fun at the hormonal little shits buying these things. And also kind of gorgeous
. This book had to have been months in the planning, the solicits...this was a step or three higher than your normal comic book artwork. I like that as threadbare as the scenario was, there was
a sort of plot to these things, and we got a look at...well, a bunch of familiar characters having fun
and getting along.
And the whole enterprise was not just necessarily for male
readers either; there was plenty of beefcake on display for anyone that hit puberty and suddenly felt a little different from everyone else.
What I didn't always appreciate at the time: it was part of a trend.
That kind of blows my mind. I mean, you might not have seen a swimsuit special at your FLCS in the last decade, but for a brief moment in the 90s they really flourished. I think it probably says something in the commercial-driven nature of the industry that everyone seems to have hopped on board with the "Let's sell a swimsuit special aimed at teenage comic book readers" suddenly caught on for a couple years.