Shirtless Bear-Fighter is not simply the attention-grabbing title of an upcoming Image Comics series from co-writers Jody LeHeup & Sebastian Girner and artists Nil Vendrell and Mike Spicer — it’s also the name of the main character, and a peek into the premise. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is going to fight some bears, and you better believe he won’t be wearing a shirt while doing it.
It turns out, even pandas — arguably the most adorable member of the Ursidae family — won’t escape his wrath, and CBR has the proof: this delightful painted cover for issue #4 by multiple Eisner Award-winner Paolo Rivera.
Aside from being as lovely as one would expect from Rivera (known for Daredevil, Mythos and The Valiant) and as bizarre as you’d expect from Shirtless Bear-Fighter, the cover is also an homage to the “men’s adventure” genre of magazines popular from the ’40s to the ’70s — pulp periodicals with transparently macho titles like Man’s Conquest and True Men. Rivera’s cover does a fantastic job of nailing the mood and content of those covers, as do the phony article headlines — “Are you too sexy for your shirt?”
“Once you read the book you’ll discover that while, yeah, it’s pretty bonkers in the best possible way, there’s also a method to it,” LeHeup told CBR last month of Shirtless Bear-Fighter. “We’re riffing off a lot of classic genre tropes from ’80s action flicks to ancient myths to superhero fiction to tall tales and others… even a little film noir in there.”
Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 is scheduled for release on June 21. If the release schedule pattern holds, issue #4 — with the Rivera cover — will likely be released in late September.