With the waning days of summer, it's time for folks to make those final trips to the beach.
Over in the DC Universe, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and their cohorts are trading capes and costumes for bikinis and trunks in one of the more bizarre comic stunts in recent memory: G’Nort’s Swimsuit Edition, which hit shelves this week.
DC’s original title for this issue was G’nort’s Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, which of course rhymes with the primary inspiration: the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. And like the latter, it’s an excuse to pack the pages with famous figures in barely there beachwear. Only this time, they’re not human models, but some of the world’s most famous superheroes and villains.
What's a G’nort?
Although he has yet to appear in any live-action DC films, G’nort is a dog-like alien who has been a comic relief Green Lantern character since 1988. G’nort is also one of the characters featured in the centerfold, courtesy of artist Simon Bisley. The other two randomly inserted centerfolds, include Nightwing and Batgirl together by artists Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sánchez, and Poison Ivy by Jen Bartel.
Why a Swimsuit Edition?
Yes, this may seem like a ludicrous idea for a comic book, and a far cry from the days when Adam West’s Caped Crusader wore his swim trunks over his Batman costume. However, G'Nort's Swimsuit Edition is the revival of a tradition that began decades ago, popularized by DC’s top rival: Marvel Comics.
The Marvel Age of Swimsuits
The comic book magazine Amazing Heroes was the first to hit on the idea of copying SI’s swimsuit issues in the 1980s. But since Amazing Heroes was published by Fantagraphics, it didn’t feature characters as recognizable as Marvel or DC. In 1991, Marvel released Marvel Illustrated: The Swimsuit Issue, which featured several of the company’s most popular heroines in bikinis as drawn by many of the top artists of that era. It also openly parodied many of SI’s features and advertisements.
For the second edition in 1992, it was given a new title: Marvel Swimsuit Special. That issue also played up the exotic locations for the various pinups, which included Wakanda in '92, Monster Island in '93, the Moon in '94 and Madripoor in '95. Each annual issue also upped the number of Marvel’s male heroes who were featured in increasingly revealing swimsuits. So both the men and the women were more sexualized than usual.
After 1995, Marvel shied away from publishing any additional swimsuit specials. An attempt to revive them was made in 2019 when Marvel Summer Special was solicited to comic shops. But it was subsequently canceled before publication.
Diving in with DC
Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and cover artist Adam Hughes are the only veterans of Marvel’s swimsuit specials who lent their talents to G'Nort's Swimsuit Edition. The rest of the artists include Nicola Scott, Mikel Janín, Jeff Dékal, Daniel Sampere, Gleb Melnikov, Derrick Chew, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Emanuela Lupacchino, Joëlle Jones, Megan Huang, Terry Dodson, Babs Tarr, Pete Woods, Joe Quinones and Otto Schmidt.
The majority of the pinups in this special are previously published variant covers that have been repurposed for this swimsuit stunt.
“All of DC’s editors have been wanting to figure out a way to show off our swimsuit covers for years,” DC Group Editor Katie Kubert tells Yahoo Entertainment. “And when we cracked putting them into a swimsuit special with a rather poignant host, alongside some amazing centerfold images — that idea came to us from the wonderful Clark Bull — we knew we had to get this out into the public as soon as possible!”
Kubert adds that the “characters and concepts were chosen at that time based on the degree of fun we could have with them. Playful images that were sunny and sexy — and sometimes silly — by artists who shared a love for the DC Universe. When it came to picking the ones for this issue we looked to represent as many characters as we could, and dug into our recent archives to find covers that, even if they weren’t a part of the Swimsuit Variant program, showcased a range of our best and brightest super-Villains and super heroes."
Writers Julie and Shawna Benson and artist Meghan Hetrick contribute an original story in which Batgirl, Huntress, Black Canary, Vixen and Poison Ivy wear swimsuits while taking down Penguin, who has nefarious plans for a Gotham City beach. And Penguin has the dubious honor of being the only character in this issue to appear naked when he briefly escapes by shedding his old-fashioned swimsuit.
But don’t worry, there’s nothing in this issue that wouldn’t be published by SI itself. Therein lies the problem, because this swimsuit special seems very tame compared to the Marvel specials from three decades ago. The most notable change appears to be DC’s willingness to cater to female and LGBTQ readers with an even greater emphasis on the male characters. You may never see so many hairless chests again, and one of the pinups even features Bruce Wayne’s chest hair waxed into the shape of a bat symbol. The issue also reprints a short story by Steve Orlando and artist Paul Pelletier featuring one of DC’s most prominent gay couples: Apollo and Midnighter.
What are the fans saying?
So far, the early responses to G'Nort's Swimsuit Edition have been divided. Some appreciated its playful tone, while others negatively compared it to Marvel’s swimsuit specials.
Nubia and Vixen for Dc’s Swimsuit comic….. I’m about to faint. pic.twitter.com/cKBAu6DlnM
— LULU DAY (@blackncomictwit) August 30, 2023
DC continues to deliver swimsuits specials that just really aren’t that fun or even sexy.
Heck G’nort isn’t even actually featured here in one new story we get & they just recycled an old midpollo story.
Anyway X-men did it better decades ago pic.twitter.com/6KaGYXir4g
— 🏮💚 ✡︎ Al-Tired-DemiDude (@GreenHalover) August 30, 2023
Regardless, some fans have embraced the special for what it is.
The day has arrived, DC fans. I don't know if it's most accurate to call G'NORT'S SWIMSUIT EDITION a "must-read" (closer to a "must-behold"?) but either way, it's one that should NOT be missed. For... several reasons.#NekkidPenguin pic.twitter.com/Ff0RK01Nbr
— Andrew Dyce (@andrewbdyce) August 29, 2023
Back to the beach?
It’s worth noting that the pinups in G'Nort's Swimsuit Edition are not in continuity, so DC doesn’t have to explain how they fit into ongoing storylines. Even the original story by the Bensons and Hetrick appears to be a one-off that is completely disconnected from the comics’ current status quo. It’s just meant to be fun.
The only question now is whether DC will revisit the idea next summer. And that is ultimately going to come down to how well it sells. Who knows, maybe fans of the Snyderverse are ready to embrace the DC Swimverse?