With summer upon us, we thought it would be a good time to have some comic book fun in the sun by ranking some of the top summer covers. I started out thinking I would look for the best swimsuit covers, but since so many characters basically wear a swimsuit as their costume, it seemed kind of unnecessary. Look at Sub-Mariner, and Wonder Woman, and Flex Mentallo, and Vampirella, just to name a very few.
Who needs additional swim gear, right? Plus, with so many “Swimsuit Specials” appearing in the 1990s and 2000s, and many of them too risqué to post here (this is a family-friendly blog, after all), I figure if you want to find superheroes in bikinis and banana hammocks (well, there goes our G-rating), you can look them up yourself. Other than that phenomenal main image of She-Hulk by John Byrne that I couldn’t resist adding, of course.
So I shifted the topic to “Best Superhero Beach Covers” and made a rather startling discovery. There are tons of covers depicting sandy scenes in funny cartoon comics. From all the way back to the first American comic book – Famous Funnies – in issue #61 (August 1939), to Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies #8 (June 1942), to The Flintstones #29 (September 1965), the beach was apparently the place for hilarity and hijinks.
By the way, Bugs Bunny walks around without any clothes on in his daily life, but then he puts on a swimsuit to go in the water? How does that make any sense?
The beach was also the place to be seen in plenty of teen books like 40s favorite teen Archie #158 (September 1943). It continued with 60s teen movie adaptations like Dell’s Beach Blanket Bingo #1 (Jul-Sept 1965) which apparently invented wakeboarding from the looks of it. It continued with a recent version of 90s teen TV hit Saved by the Bell #6 (May 2016).
The beach was also the scene of plenty of war comics, ‘storming the beach’ and all. I mostly bring this up to show you this gorgeous Jack Kirby cover to Foxhole #1 (October 1954). A Day at the Beach indeed.
However, as much as those genres seem to like the beach, superheroes apparently avoid it. You would think I would have to sift through hundreds of covers to pick the best, but it was more like dozens. Maybe it has something to do with sand in the Speedo? The beach is not nearly as common a place for high-powered fisticuffs as say a city street, or an office building, or, for some reason, a snow-covered mountain.
Editorial Note – We did a Best Comic Book Covers with Snow
They do exist though. So, without further ado, here is my list of the top 13 (plus one) Superheroes in the Sand covers:
13) What The..?! #4 (November 1988)
Marvel’s comedy magazine played off the Fall of the Mutants house ad. Instead of dead bodies strewn about, Bob Wiacek and Hector Collazo give us a Mutant Beach Party with the sons and daughters of the atom soaking up some sun.
12) Ghost Rider #59 (August 1981)
You would think a guy known for his flaming skull would avoid large bodies of water, but that doesn’t slow the Spirit of Vengeance down in this action-packed Bob Budiansky cover.
11) Aquaman Vol. 1 #45 (June 1969) & Aquaman Vol. 7 (April 2016)
Of course, the King of Atlantis had to make an appearance, and we get a fun two-for-one. First, we see the Nick Cardy art with Aquaman lying dead on the beach and a young woman in the background mourning him. Then we see that same iconic costume storming up the beach and Mera in the background following her husband and liege in a Brent Booth/Norm Rapmund cover.
10) Sub-Mariner #18 (October 1969)
And you cannot have one King of the Seven Seas without the other, so here is Namor brought to life by John Romita, Sr. and Marie Severing. Well, maybe not so much life. I love the similarities between this cover and the previous Aquaman one, which came out just months before.
9) Wonder Woman #85 (October 1956)
As we have established, Wonder Woman was basically already in her swimsuit, but she is not going to be able to enjoy the water from inside that bottle. Artist Irv Novick even made sure she had her beach-ready strappy sandals on.
8) Peter Parker Spider-Man #85 (June 2002)
Are you as curious to figure out what is going on here as I am? Where is the other half of that lady? Why is there a random green bar sticking out of the sand? Is that little cartoon kid in the corner picking his nose? Kyle Baker certainly did his job making this cover jump off the rack at you.
7) Action Comics #85 (March 1951)
A tropical vacation with your very own private coconut juicer? Must be a dream come true for Lois Lane. Although, I am not so sure how she can be stranded on an island since “her Superman Friday” can, you know, fly. Those are the details for the writers to figure out, not cover artist Win Mortimer.
6) Secret Six #85 (October 2015)
How fun is this one? The latest iteration of DC’s Secret Six was a rag-tag group of villains that somehow managed to become a dysfunctional family. Here we see Black Alice by Dale Eaglesham and Jason Wright. She is just taking a little stroll on the beach with her bucket and shovel. Ah, the joy of summertime!
5) Captain America #224 (August 1978)
Ummm…this looks slightly less fun. Believe it or not, Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod drew Steve Rogers dragged out of the water because he had a wild night of partying and drugs. OK, he was drugged by someone else and left for dead, but still. Party on, Cap!
4) Justice League America #34 (January 1990)
The fun is back. From the BWAH-HA-HA heyday of the JLA, Adam Hughes shows us Blue Beetle and Booster Gold relaxing on the island nation of Kooey Kooey Kooey (seriously) much to Maxwell Lord’s dismay in the background. All while Major Disaster and Big Sir decide to relieve the casino of all its money. The times sure have changed.
3) Fantastic Four #97 (April 1970)
Another Kirby classic shows a nice vacation for Marvel’s Frist Family. Although it doesn’t look like it is going to stay nice for very long thanks to a certain lagoon creature. And I know the perspective is a little weird because he has his legs crossed, but is The Thing even wearing a swimsuit?
2) Marvel Age #70 (January 1989)
I love John Byrne. He is one of my all-time top three comic book artists (along with Jerry Ordway and George Perez), but he seems to have a real fetish for showing as much green She-Hulk skin as possible. The picture at the beginning of this article is just one example, and this cover for Marvel’s promo book is another one. The only reason she is with the West Coast Avengers is to get her close to a beach. I don’t believe she ever appeared in their book. If you don’t believe me about Byrne’s Shulkie fascination, just check out about 70% of the covers he did for her solo series.
1) Detective Comics #509 (January 1989)
It may have something to do with the era you grew up in, but Jim Aparo’s Batman is MY Batman. When I think of the Dark Knight, it is Aparo’s vision of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego that I see. He seemed more streamlined and athletic coming off of Aparo’s pencil. Although I usually don’t picture him tied up in the sand by Catman. There is probably a “cat in the sandbox joke here” but I’ll leave it alone. I am sure he is a tidy cat, anyway.
There you have it. If I missed any that you would have put on the list, tell me about it in the CPG Forums here: https://comicspriceguide.com/forum/topic12355-superheroes-on-the-beach.aspx?MessageID=21662#post21662
And the next time you see a hero on the beach, remember it because it doesn’t happen very often.
By Rob Otto