Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good Girls, Bad Girls, 'BIG' Girls: Sexploitation in 90s Comics! (Part 1)


If there's one consistency in the history of comics, is that women have to have sex appeal. This is mostly due to the fact that the majority of the readers and creators were/are men. And let's face it, this was arguably THE biggest reason for 90s books to become such a HUGE success: Sexploitation!  We started noticing an increase on the level of sexuality in main stream comics during the early 90s. Some good examples: Marvel Swimsuit Specials, Jim Lee's X-Men (most notably Psylocke) and the come-back of the original femme fatale: Vampirella, who had a strong revival in this turbulent decade.
In 1992 Image was founded by the very artists that were pushing towards a more extreme and risque take on comics. By 1993 the portrayal of women in this popular media escalated to a whole new level. Now we had 'Super Porn Stars' with 'Super Powers' - Yeeeaaah! Fanboys went nuts! Now teenagers that didn't have easy access to adult magazines could pick up a comic from the local store and push just a hair of their imagination to get the same results. Older guys/men were no exception, everybody wanted a piece of it and they got it, with the best excuse in the world: "It's only a comic book." Genius!

Namorita from Marvel Swimsuit Special 1992, Sensational She-Hulk 1992 (Funny or sincere?)

Vampirella 1991 (Michael Kaluta cover, Psylocke from the pages of X-Men 1992

Human anatomy got re-created; from a thin or muscular body sporting a DDD+ cup that barely fits with an ass to go with it, to an abomination of Liefeld proportions, literally.
I remember going to comic conventions during this time period and it was all over the place. From the professionals in the business to amateurs from hell: bad girl art was everywhere! Big posters and cardboard displays of huge breasts bursting out of some uncomfortable outfit or held by a couple of magical straps that defied gravity, demonic lesbians, S&M girls that were supposed to save the planet from who-knows-what, etc. Men brains went back to their cave days as we handed the cash. Funny enough this was supposed to make women look stronger, bad-ass, and of course, a feminist's favorite word "independent." Comic book girls weren't there anymore to accentuate the importance of the male protagonist by having to be rescued, or as an excuse for the Hero to seek revenge. However, through all of that, it became clear that this was just a testosterone driven movement made by men for men. Nonetheless, some girls still chose to see these exotic vixens as role models of some sort, or found some kind of fascination in their appeal...

A company that was key in helping spread the plague of demonic "babes" was Chaos Comics. Their main title Lady Death was a humongous success and "opened the gates" to other visually similar titles like Purgatory and Chastity.
Lara Croft was huge (in more ways than one) when she first appeared in the 1996 smash hit video game Tomb Raider. She shared the same body type as the Super Heroines of the 1990s. Inevitably she was adapted to the comic book pages soon after. Her first appearance: a mini series where she teams up with Witchblade. Yes, Top Cow studios' Witchblade also became an instant winner for Image. Other famous Witchblade team-ups include Vampirella and [drum roll...] the Justice League!!!

TopPurgatory & Chastity just having a little 'girl talk' Liefeld's Avengelyne & GloryBottom: Tomb Raider & Witchblade and Lady Death

As I mentioned before, Vampirella enjoyed a big come-back in the 90s. She might not look like it, being a vampire and all, but she is a 'mature lady' who had her first appearance back in 1969 when both the cover and inside pages presented good art. During the 1990s, most notably, the books featured cover illustrations by some big names in the industry such as: Dave Stevens, Adam Hughes, Joe Jusko and even the great Fank Frazetta. Harris Comics understood very well the power of good art when it came to competing with other titles spread throughout the shelves. The inside art...well, that's a different story. Alternately some covers presented a live model donning the trademark outfit. But other than the attractive model, these covers lacked any kind of immersive experience as far as background art or any kind of exotic backdrop, which made the point that much more obvious. Others followed the trend of live models like Avengelyne and Alley Cat.This presented an opportunity for fanboys to meet their favorite babes at conventions, and for the creators to cash in on their followers' wet dreams come true. [Arguably!] Marvel and DC were just a tad behind their competitors when it came to the level of sexploitation, but there's no doubt they pushed it as much as they could.
Because of the subject matter titles with babes became instant collectibles and were exploited with a barrage of alternate and chrome covers, trading cards and Swimsuit specials. If you missed it, you had to pay a pretty penny to see "Lady Death" in lingerie, IF you could find it. Funny enough Wizard magazine prices were always too generous compared to the real collector's market which was way more brutal!

Other worthy mentions: Catwoman, Gen13's Fairchild, Barb Wire, Shi, Glory, Battle Chasers' Red Monica, WildC.A.Ts' Vodoo, Dawn, Danger Girl, Razor, Lady Rawhide, Spawn's Angela...The list goes on and on.


From left:Gen13's Caitlin Fairchild being all innocent, Catwoman with a conveniently torn outfit and Spawn's Angela


From Left: Battle Chasers' Red Sonj..errr..Monica and Dawn

Once it started, there was no stopping it. Even today some of these sex icons are still alive and well. A handful have grown beyond comic book media. As we all know Tomb Raider made it into a couple of major motion pictures with Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. Witchblade had a 2 season run as a TV series on TNT, which apparently didn't do too bad. There's also supposed to be a movie release for 2013. Barb Wire was made into a movie starring Pamela Anderson at the peak of her career. Vampirella got a straight to video movie release. Lady Death was made into an anime feature in 2004 and Darkchylde (WHAT???) will also be made into a movie for 2013 directed by John Carpenter.

Some kids get to meet Mickey Mouse, she gets Purgatory! (Pic from Cosplay.com)


When it comes to Worthless Childhood we have to find out if any of our investments on Bad/Good girl comics from the 90s are worth anything. Gentleman Troy is already working on a "Worthless Guide" for this genre. But before we reveal if your investment in such comics paid off after all these years, we want you to vote! Take our survey!


So tell us, out of this list, who was your favorite 90s vixen? Or in WC lingo: which one title did you invest the most in. The results will be revealed after 10 days! Please spread the word, we want as many participants as possible.


*It wasn't easy to decide who to leave out, but we purposely eliminated: Catwoman, Lara Croft and Psylocke from the survey due to the fact that they have way too many incarnations, and people might just vote for them thinking of a particular version that is really not relevant to this poll (e.g. Catwoman from Batman The Animated Series, Catwoman from Batman Returns, Catwoman from the 1993 DC series, etc.)


  1. Goooooooo Vampirella. So HOTTT!!! My best INVESTMENT!!

    1. Thanks Anonymous! We appreciate your enthusiasm! You didn't skip through the whole article did you? HA! We always welcome and encourage comments. By the way, If you vote for "Other" you can always leave a quick comment to tell us who you had in mind! Flare up!

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