The world needs a new Marvel Swimsuit Special. Not because the old ones were great works, and not because there's any shortage of cheesecake in the pages of superhero comics today, but because a new Swimsuit Special has the potential to be something wonderful. From a smart publisher, a book of pin-ups could celebrate the diversity of superhero sex appeal for a broad audience in a non-exploitative way, breaking down the old cliches about the genre. The world is ready for fun, positive, equal opportunity cheesecake and beefcake -- and Marvel has the artists to do it.

Indeed, two of those artists were already doing it. Anyone following Kris Anka or Kevin Wada on Tumblr will have noticed of late that they were working on a "secret" project that plainly featured Marvel heroes in swimsuits. Today, Anka took to Tumblr to confirm that he and Wada had indeed been working on a new Marvel swimsuit book -- but that they have stopped production after failing to reach an agreement with Marvel. The Swimsuit Special the world deserves is not going to happen. This is terrible news.

Anka posted the three pin-ups he's completed thus far -- Gambit, Hellion and Robbie Reyes, which you can see below -- and issued the following statement:

So. as a few of you out there figured out, kevinwada and myself were working on a Marvel Swimsuit book.

I write to you today with the somber news that after a few months back and forth with the powers-that-be, circumstances have arisen that have forced us to stop production on this project.

Kevin and I are currently looking into some way to salvage some of the pieces to do something with, but in the mean time, we thought we’d treat you all to the pieces we had finished so far.

While we are both disappointed that we can no longer work on this, there was no malice behind this decision. It is what it is. Although on the plus side, this now free’s Kevin and I up to some new things potentially this year, so who knows.


Wada followed up to say, "Enjoy these for what they are guys. Bummed we can’t do this officially, but hey, at least you have some fun images to look at."


Kevin Wada


Though these first three pin-ups were all of guys, Anka told his followers; "the swimsuit book would have been a total of 52 illustrations, split evenly amongst male and female characters. [W]e just hadn’t finished any of the women yet."

All evidence suggests that the project was initiated by the artists rather than by Marvel, but the artists reached out to the "powers that be" for approval to create and sell the book at comic book conventions. Plenty of artists working for Marvel do publish sketchbooks or prints containing Marvel characters, but, as is our understanding, Marvel (and other copyright owners like DC, Lucasfilm, etc.) only turn a blind eye to sketchbooks when they are informal enterprises and aren't based exclusively around their intellectual property. For something like this project, Anka and Wada would presumably need legal blessing. Evidently Marvel not only wasn't interested in publishing the project itself, but set terms that made it impossible for the project to continue as independent work -- as is Marvel's right as copyright owner.


Kris Anka


If Marvel doesn't want talent of this caliber on a project as fun as this, we can only shake our heads in the publisher's general direction. One thing that's notable about the three initial pin-ups is that they're sexy guys done right, and that is incredibly rare to see. As a brilliant man once said, male heroes are idealized in comics as strong; female heroes are idealized as sexual; and these portrayals are not equal.

We didn't get to see any of the finished pin-ups of the women -- Storm and Mystique were works in progress -- but being able to draw a sexy woman is comic art 101; based on these male pin-ups, this could have been a book that presented men and women as equally sexy in a way that the classic Swimsuit Specials never could. In those specials, most of the men were either frightening or comical; never playful, like Wada's Gambit, or sultry, like Anka's Hellion.

If you've ever been to a comic convention, you'll know that there's no shortage of pin-ups of female characters on sale. Obviously it's unfortunate that an attempt to give equal time to male pin-ups should fail in this way.


Kevin Wada


Perhaps the project could be revived if Anka and Wada were to dilute the Marvel content with other characters; or if the magnitude of Marvel's frankly terrible decision not to publish the book became so apparent that Marvel chose to backtrack; or even if Wada and Anka just published a book of pin-ups of people who happened to be wearing sexy Marvel Halloween costumes. For now, though, it seems the artists have abandoned the project, and that's a sad day for sex everywhere.

Marvel declined to comment for this article.

Update: Kris Anka has posted a clarification that the sketches were not for an official Marvel project; "They were for an artists’ sketchbook that Kevin Wada and myself were going to pitch to Marvel for approval. Kevin and I decided to pull the plug on this project, not Marvel." You can read the full statement on his Tumblr.