Marvel has had a couple good years. For the first time ever, Spider-Man is part of the Marvel Studios playground and the publisher now has the exclusive rights to develop Star Wars comics. As exciting as those things may be, the cream of the crop is the introduction of a Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Now, for generations to come, young kids will interact with characters who – just a few years ago – were essentially unknown by 99 percent of the U.S. population. If that’s not a victory in terms of long-term customer acquisition, I don’t know what is.
Not everything is perfect for the company though. On the film side of things Marvel may dominate the competition, but when it comes to comics DC Rebirth has pushed Marvel down the sales list. Despite all that, the publisher sure has come a long way since declaring bankruptcy in 1996. Not only did they build a movie studio from nothing, but they were acquired by Disney, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world.
There’s no better time to look back at some of Marvel’s most embarrassing moments than when they are riding high. Everyone has a few skeletons in their closet, and a major entertainment company is no different. So let’s take a look at 20 Pictures Marvel Doesn’t Want You to See.
20. Captain America 69 Cover
Marvel has had its fair share of inappropriate covers – some of which you’ll see further down on the list – but this might be one of the weirdest. In an homage to Gulliver’s Travels and the central character’s exploits with a miniature race of people known as the Liliputians, Captain America can be seen on a mysterious island with a tiny group of people called the wee males.
There’s nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from Gulliver’s Travels, but things get weird when you notice the giant hand exiting the cave. Sure, it’s supposed to look ominous and add to the idea that Captain America is at risk here, but ultimately it just looks perverted.
19. Superman Holding Cap’s Shield and Mjölnir
Captain America and Thor may core members of Marvel’s trinity, but it seems Superman has them both beat. The ’90s and early 2000s saw a few different Marvel/DC crossovers take place, but the crown jewel of the bunch is Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s JLA/Avengers.
While the series starts with the two teams squaring off in a competition to save their worlds from being destroyed, both groups of mighty heroes eventually come together to stop Krona and Grandmaster’s games from destroying the Universe. After everyone is knocked down, it falls to Superman to save the day.
Avengers: Age of Ultron, may have persuaded audiences that Thor is the only person worthy of holding Mjölnir, but this comic proves that Superman is indeed worthy is even capable of using the mighty hammer in a fight. The moment may no longer be considered canon due to constantly changing continuities, but we’re sure Marvel execs still aren’t happy that Superman was the person who ended up saving the Marvel Universe.
18. Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal Chilling
At the moment, Marvel is keeping their movie and TV worlds as separate as they can. Add to the that the fact that Sony is still in charge of Spider-Man‘s movie rights, and things get a little bit messy for the house of ideas.
The Punisher – who actually debuted in Amazing Spider-Man 129 – is particularly in limbo. As the rest of the Netflix heroes band together for The Defenders, Punisher is out there carving his own niche in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The problem is, Marvel seems to be resistant to the idea of Spider-Man and Punisher ever coming together on screen. What makes that even more difficult is the fact that Jon Bernthal and Tom Holland, the actors who play Punisher and Spider-Man, are friends in real life.
17. Riri Williams Midriff Cover
Over the last few years, Marvel have changed the identities of all three of their major characters. Sam Wilson is Captain America, Jane Foster is (the worthy) Thor, and Riri Williams is one of the new Iron heroes running around the Marvel Universe. When Riri Williams, aka Iron Heart, was first being integrated into the Marvel Universe, there was more controversy around her introduction than any of the other updated heroes.
J Scott Campbell’s variant cover to Invincible Iron Man issue number one featured Williams, a 15 year old, featured the character wearing a shirt that exposed a large portion of her midriff. This sparked a huge outcry from fans online that tried to push back on the perceived sexualization of teenage characters.
Marvel quickly altered the cover as a result of the fall-out and promised audiences that she would not be presented as maturely in the series. In fact, right after the incident, Marvel even tweeted out a few pictures of Williams by Stefano Caselli that showed her in a more acceptable light.
16. Sue Storm Walking in on Namor
Reed Richards and Sue Storm are one of Marvel’s oldest and most beloved couples. They were the first superhero pair to get married and their love has survived cosmic battles, superhuman registration acts, and family drama. Despite how strong their relationship is, Sue Storm will always have slight feelings for Namor, the (naked) King of Atlantis.
Both Namor and Doctor Doom – easily Mr. Fantastic’s two biggest rivals – have feelings for Sue and no problem being forward. There have been quite a few moments throughout the character’s history where she is mentally tricked into being with one of them (and even a few more where she acts on her own free will), but in this image the look of inner-conflict is more noticeable than ever before.
She may be a loving mother and husband, but right here it’s pretty easy to see that she clearly has something else on her mind. For Sue, the expression “swimming with the fishes” carries quite the different connotation.
15. Edgar Wright and Ant-Man
Edgar Wright, the director behind Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver was attached to helm a live action Ant-Man film way back in 2006, two years before Iron Man came out. Flash forward nine years and Edgar Wright walks off the project and Marvel is forced to replace him with another director.
While the two parties maintain that it was an amicable split, things still seem a bit awkward. For anyone who’s seen Ant-Man, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of the jokes and sight-gags Wright developed were left in the final version. Wright has even come forward and said that he doesn’t plan on watching the movie or working with the studio again in the future.
Luckily, Ant-Man ended up being a success and Wright was able to go work on Baby Driver, a project he originally thought would only get made if Ant-Man was a success. So in the end, both sides won, but we just can’t get past the spectre of a Wright-directed Ant-Man movie.
14. David Hasselhoff is Nick Fury
When you hear the name Nick Fury, a picture of Samuel Jackson likely jumps in your head. Well, what if we told you that David Hasselhoff is actually the o.g. Howling Commando and that everything you’ve ever known is a lie?
That’s right, everyone, Mr. Baywatch himself played Nick Fury in a made-for-TV movie back in 1998. The core plot – which is basically the most ’90s thing you can think of – is Fury comes out of retirement to stop HYDRA from attacking Manhattan with a deadly virus. The only way HYDRA will stop is if the US government agrees to pay (cue Doctor Evil music) $1 billion. The government, unwilling to pay such an outrageous amount of money, has to rely on Fury to get the job done.
Not to nit-pick this terrible movie any more, but for some reason the creators thought it would be better to not include Dum Dum Dugan’s signature mustache and bowler hat. How are we even supposed to care about S.H.I.E.L.D. if there’s no bowler hat or mustache?
13. Quicksilver Squared
Fox and Marvel’s relationship is pretty complicated. Some of the characters, like the Fantastic Four, are exclusively available to Fox, but some fall into a weird limbo status. Quicksilver, who is associated with both the X-Men and Avengers, is one of the rare characters who exists in both studio’s cinematic universes. The only difference is the MCU version of Quicksilver is not classified as a mutant nor related to Magneto like Fox’s is.
Coincidentally, both actors who have become associated with the character were in Kick-Ass, another Fox adaptation of a Marvel-owned property. The MCU’s Pietro, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, played the title character while Evan Peters, Fox’s Quicksilver, played one of Johnson’s best friends in the movie.
12. Hulk 355 Cover
The Incredible Hulk isn’t always green. Originally, the character was supposed to be gray and a few years ago a red version was introduced to the Marvel Universe. But Hulk issue 355 might be the only time creators tried turning him into a rainbow….
The villainous foe is clearly a gay man, symbolized through the rainbow whip, and he is literally restricting Hulk. Not only does he look like an ’80s stereotype of a homosexual man – thanks to the sweatband and tank-top – but his dialogue is downright creepy. He tells Hulk not to struggle, but then says he will give him his wildest dreams.
If a cover like this came out today, the online backlash would be enormous. Fortunately, since then Marvel has moved in the right direction and introduced a lot of great, strong homosexual characters.
11. Generation X
Legion and the up-coming series The Gifted aren’t the first programs to feature a live-action depiction of the mutant community. In 1996, Generation X debuted on Fox to an extremely low amount of fan-fare. It was originally filmed as a pilot for a series, but ultimately it was only released as a TV movie and the cast was never given another opportunity to return to the roles.
The failure of a show, which was one of Avi Arad’s earliest Marvel projects, focused on Jubilee after her powers originally manifested. As if the movie didn’t have enough problems to deal with already, for some reason they decided to recast the Chinese-American character with a white actor.
The X-Men universe exists as a metaphor for the way minorities are oppressed in society. Erasing that minority character and simply making her someone who blends into society better feels cheap and antithetical to everything the X-Men stand for.
10. Captain America 39 Cover
Exactly 30 issues before Marvel showed us Captain America’s crotch almost being grabbed, it did something even more outlandish and offensive on a cover. In the middle of World War II, as racial animosity was bubbling up and the US government rounded up groups of Japanese-American citizens, Japanese people were presented in an extremely negative light (by both DC and Marvel as well as the larger entertainment industry in general).
The center of the image displays Captain America and Bucky going fighting their way through a Japanese power plant. There’s nothing wrong with showing American heroes fight foreign foes, but these Japanese soldiers are purposefully depicted in a dehumanizing light. The exaggerated facial features, particularly the big teeth, are meant to make the enemy look less like humans and more like beasts.
9. Santa’s Packing Heat
Let us preface this for anyone out there who was worried: that’s not the real Santa Claus.
Spectacular Spider-Man 112 may feature a silly cover, but it actually has a great story with personal, small stakes. A mall Santa who struggles with mental issues decides to flip the typical Christmas traditions on their head. Instead of bringing presents and joy to families, he plans to break into people’s houses and take whatever he can get. Unfortunately for him, he chose to break into an area under the supervision of the neighborhood friendly Spider-Man.
It may seem like a silly story, but it does a great job at expressing relatable fear to the audience. When audiences watch Spider-Man fight Doc Ock, there’s really nothing that pulls us into the book. But when we see him fighting to stop a mentally ill person trying to break into people’s houses, that’s something everyone can understand.
8. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch: Lovers?
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are the twin children of Magneto in the comics, but on the set of Avengers: Age of Ultron, things seemed a bit… off.
Not only did the two characters lose their classification as mutants due to the fact that Fox has exclusive filming rights over Marvel’s mutants, but the performers added a distracting layer to the movie. On top of the fact that both actors had awkward, inauthentic sounding East European accents, that Marvel cast Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen in the roles was slightly distracting.
The two performers, both of whom have a great backlog of movies, had previously been on-screen together as lovers in Godzilla. Normally something like this wouldn’t be a big deal or even distracting, but Age of Ultron came out literally one year later. Given the somewhat inappropriate relationship the twins have been known to have in certain comics, this is a little discomfiting.
7. Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
In the last few years, both DC and Marvel have dealt with controversy over how they present female characte, but the images coming out now have nothing on the Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Between 1991 and 1995, Marvel published a swimsuit issue that featured pin-ups of their characters (both male and female) in bikinis or speedos. Now fans of everyone from Mary Jane Watson to Gambit could hang “sexy” posters on their walls for their friends and family to see.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of fans thinking certain characters are attractive, but the books feel more like fan-fiction than real Marvel products. At this point, especially with how much larger the young female audience is for comic books now compared to the ’90s, Marvel will likely never put out another book like this.
6. The Losers Had Them First
The MCU may focus on The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but some of their best heroes are losers at heart. Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana and Idris Elba, also known as Captain America, Gamora and Heimdall respectively, are no strangers to comic book properties. The three were all in The Losers, a 2010 adaptation of a Vertigo comic created by Andy Diggle and Jock. For those who don’t know, Vertigo is an imprint at DC comics, meaning DC technically had them all first.
Instead of a team of superheroes, the Losers are an elite black ops squad sent to Bolivia to find and destroy a base operated by a local drug lord. When they are on their mission, they realize that their mysterious superior is out to get them and the team has to go underground to protect themselves and plan their revenge.
While the plot can’t be further from anything in the MCU, the familial bonds the team develops by the end of the movie are very reminiscent of the relationships shared between certain Marvel characters.
5. 1994 Fantastic Four Movie
Putting it bluntly, the Fantastic Four don’t have the best track record when it comes to live-action adaptations. It may be sad to say, but this cheesy movie directed by Oley Sassone is more enjoyable than any of the subsequent films that focused on them. The movie, which ultimately was never released, was even produced by Roger Corman, a man who is credited for starting the career everyone from Jack Nicholson to Francis Ford Coppola.
The script is terrible and the effects are laughable, but the actors are clearly engaged in the project. Unlike the later movies, where the actors seem more influenced in the paycheck than the actual material, the collection of D-listers Sassone brought together for this project seem genuinely engaged in the movie. No matter how awkward the story may be, the team still feels like a family of people that actually want to spend time together.
4. Daredevil Smells His Fingers
Matt Murdock, the Marvel Universe’s most trusted lawyer and resident Daredevil, is also a bit of a pervert. Murdock already has a reputation for being a ladies man, getting with everyone from Elektra to Black Widow, but normally he’s depicted in a classy, or even positive light. Sure, he’s had some relationships go sour and even had to fight a few of his exes, but none of the imagery has ever been this hilariously crass before.
Yeah, it’s possible that Daredevil could be smelling his fingers for any number of reasons, but the picture of him making out with Black Cat definitely implies that a certain… act took place. There’s certainly room for sex in Marvel comics, but this image just makes one of their characters look like a pervy teenager instead of someone with strong values.
3. Black Panther Fights the KKK
At this point, it’s pretty easy to consider Black Panther a politically charged character. Take a look at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ current run on the book and you’ll fall into a world dripping with symbolism and political commentary, but the character wasn’t always this way.
When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the world to the first African-American superhero, originally referred to as Coal Tiger, they didn’t intend for him to be a political character. In fact, his creation predates the formation of the Black Panther Party, meaning there was no political factors behind the naming of the character.
In 1976, T’Challa returned to the United States from exile to visit Georgia with his lover, Monica. When he’s there, T’Challa fights an active group of Klansmen and learns that they’ve terrorized people for generations. Unfortunately, Jungle Action ended two issues later with number 24 due to poor sales.
2. Literally Any of the Marville Covers
When people call comic books smut, they are likely referring to books that look like Marville. The swimsuit comics mentioned earlier, no matter how weirdly inappropriate they are, are just a rip-off the classic Sports Illustrated, but this is its own beast.
Marville is a satirical look at the comic book industry in general and spoke to some of the trends that were emerging in the early 2000s. Bill Jemas, the creative engine behind the series, clearly understood that the sexualization of women in comics was a rampant trend. These covers don’t need to be this sexual, but they were because Jemas knew they could get away with it.
Technically, there were seven issues of this series, but there are really only six comics. The final issue didn’t feature any panels or drawings, it was just a copy the submissions guidelines for the Epic Comics imprint. The other six are definitely worth checking out if you’re ever in the mood for some weird, satirical comics that Marvel would never publish today.
1. Heroes Smoking
Sometimes superheroes like sitting back to unwind with a cigarette after saving the world. Or, at least they used to.
Back in 2001, during Joe Quesada’s time as Editor-in-Chief at Marvel, he instituted a no-smoking policy that still exists today. Sure, some characters in the backgrounds or a few villains can be seen smoking, but anyone that the company deemed a positive role-model was banned from smoking.
Ironically, one of the characters they were most worried about was Wolverine– who is known for chomping on cigars all day long. Unfortunately for Marvel, Fox didn’t have to follow those guidelines when they were developing the first X-Men movies, and Wolverine is shown smoking throughout the series.
The Marvel movies that Disney releases have a similar no-smoking ban in effect. No matter how badly we all want to see Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury smoke a cigar on the big-screen, it’ll never happen, ladies and gentlemen. Hell, Nick Fury Jr. chews on beef jerky sticks all day to maintain the character’s signature smoking aesthetic.
Had you seen these pictures before? What do you think of them? Let us know in the comments!
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