Pretty much as soon as superheroes were even a thing, we saw superheroes be sexualized in comic books. This eventually led to what is now referred to as “good girl art,” which was essentially pin-up models on comic book covers geared towards an older audience in the late 1940s (we covered some of those comic books in our look at the most scandalous comic book art of all-time). After a brief era of self-imposed modesty in response to the government threatening to regulate the comic book industry, the late 1960s saw a return to more sexualized comic book stories.
Here, we will count down the sexiest moments in superhero comic book history. Note that this does not just mean listing sex scenes, as while sex scenes have become more and more prevalent in recent years, not a whole lot of them are actually all that sexy. We’re sticking with just DC and Marvel Comics for the list because they’re easier to compare (independent comics have their own standards of sexualization that are hard to compare to DC and Marvel).
15. STARFIRE LOVES DICK
Nightwing and Starfire are a curious case. They were very sexually active at a time when superheroes really weren’t shown to be sexually active. However, at the same time, it was still the early 1980s, so much of what went on was subtext. When they were shown simply sharing a bed together in New Teen Titans (Vol.2) #1, people freaked the heck out.
They went nuts over just them in bed together. Not particularly sexy. Alternately, George Perez liked to draw sexy drawings of Starfire, but he did it so often that none really stand out that much…
So the pick for this list was surprisingly done by a fill-in artist. The great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez filled in for Perez while Perez was doing Crisis on Infinite Earths and Garcia-Lopez drew a sexy scene between Dick and Kory as she helps him move apartments.
14. GWEN STACY BREAKS OUT
When John Romita took over art duties on Amazing Spider-Man from Steve Ditko, he felt it only fair to keep drawing the book like Steve Ditko, in part because he assumed that Ditko would come back to the title. When he realized that Ditko was not coming back, he began to bring in his own style into the series.
He showed the readers Mary Jane Watson for the first time and Romita designed her as vivacious and extremely sexy. This was a threat to the established female character in the series, the icy Gwen Stacy, so in Amazing Spider-Man #47, Gwen had her answer to Mary Jane’s sexiness by thawing out her ice queen routine by basically destroying Mary Jane in “the great dance battle of 1967.” From that dance forward, Gwen was the love interest for Spider-Man for the rest of Stan Lee and John Romita’s run together.
13. EMMA FROST AND CYCLOPS GET DIRTY
From very early on in the history of the X-Men, Jean Grey and Scott (Cyclops) Summers were an established couple. The problem was that they were teenagers in a time when superhero couples were extremely chaste. So even when Chris Claremont took over writing duties later on, with the All-New, All-Different X-Men, while the “true love” of Jean and Scott was constantly re-iterated, it tended to be old school romantic (how many “I love you…with all my heart”s can you take?)
So, when he took over writing New X-Men, Grant Morrison had Cyclops have a psychic affair with Emma Frost, as he could have a passion with her that he never seemed to have with Jean Grey. Jean was his best friend. Emma was the lady who would dress up as Dark Phoenix in his mind for tawdry sex games.
12. HARLEY AND IVY KISS
Ever since they first teamed up together on Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have had an intriguing relationship, as it seems like it has been a case of the writers and artists pushing them as far as they could go without having them actually do anything sexual. Like, not even having them kiss.
Oddly enough, the first comic book that this changed in was the digital-first comic book series, DC Comics Bombshells, which was an alternate reality comic book series set in the 1940s! Despite being set back then, it was a very sexually progressive comic book, and Harley and Ivy’s relationship was given a chance to grow, including this passionate kiss that sent Ivy’s powers into overdrive.
11. FAST TIMES AT MUTANT HIGH
When it came to catering to Jim Lee’s strengths, one of the things that Chris Claremont made sure to do was to give Lee a lot of sexy women to draw, like introducing a sexy Asian ninja version of Psylocke. Lee certainly made the most of it, as sexy drawings of Psylocke soon became a trademark for the artist (including Marvel’s earliest Swimsuit Specials).
One of the iconic Jim Lee sexy Psylocke drawings occurred in X-Men #8, where Cyclops is caught checking Psylocke out in a scene reminiscent of Phoebe Cates emerging from the pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The interesting thing, though, is that “sexy bikini” Psylocke really isn’t all that much sexier than “regular costume” Psylocke…
10. MARY JANE’S KINKY SIDE
The late 1980s were a perfect storm when it came to Mary Jane Watson and her sexiness in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. Spider-Man had recently married Mary Jane and the writers were intent on showing that the newleyweds were a young, sexy couple. As a result, they ended up being very sexually adventurous in the late 1980s/early 1990s (their kinkiness was something that we spotlighted a while back).
At the same time, though, new Amazing Spider-Man artist Todd McFarlane ended up drawing Mary Jane as a lot more voluptuous than previous artists did (particularly John Romita Jr. and Ron Frenz). The combination of McFarlane’s sexy depictions of Mary Jane and the seeming mandate to make Peter and Mary Jane seem young and sexy led to a lot of hawt situations, with Mary Jane’s impromptu nude modeling session for Peter being of particular note.
9. BATMAN VS. TALIA
Batman: Son of the Demon was a 1987 graphic novel by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham that saw Batman teaming up with Ra’s Al Ghul to take down a mutual enemy. Along the way, Batman ends up married to Talia. She convinces him that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing and in a memorable sequence by Bingham, they consummate their marriage.
Talia ends up pregnant, but when she sees that Batman’s over-protective nature towards her is leaving him open for attacks, she convinces him that she suffered a miscarriage. They stop the bad guy and Talia then annuls the marriage (and then secretly puts their child up for adoption). Years later, Grant Morrison would follow the basic idea of this graphic novel to introduce Damian Wayne into the Batman titles.
8. NITE-OWL AND SILK SPECTRE FLY HIGH
Like pretty much all of the characters in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic, Watchmen, Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre are dealing with some deep and complex personal issues. Silk Spectre is dealing with the fact that her boyfriend, Doctor Manhattan, has grown so out of touch with his humanity that she can barely tell if she loves him anymore (in one sequence, he sends duplicates of himself to have sex with her). Nite-Owl, meanwhile, has been out of the superhero game for so long that he feels both literally and figuratively impotent.
7. APOLLO CAN PREDICT THINGS, TOO
The evolution of the relationship between Midnighter and Apollo was a fascinating one to watch unfold in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Introduced as the only two survivors of a Justice League analogue team, their creator, Warren Ellis, hinted at the possibility that the two were more then just friends before finally making it clear about a year after they were introduced. Their relationship proceeded until they actually got married.
Then the New 52 happened, and all marriages were wiped out, the two heroes had to start all over again, slowly getting together and then breaking up and then getting back together. Now a couple again, they shared a recent miniseries together where they were given a rare sex scene. In it, Apollo teases Midnighter about his ability to predict what his opponents will do next in a fight with his line on display above.
6. CATWOMAN HUSHES BATMAN UP
The year-long storyline, “Hush,” by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee and Scott Williams, was basically like “What if Batman fought all of his enemies in one year and did every cool idea that no one thinks we would actually do in a comic book?” One of those cool ideas was to have Batman and Superman get into a fight with Superman trying to kill Batman (Superman was being controlled by Poison Ivy). The second idea was to have Batman and Catwoman get together.
In Batman #610, Lee handled the sexual tension between the two beautifully (Jim Lee drawing sexy women is a hallmark of his work by now). As they tentatively reach out to another, Batman wonders if he will ever be anything but alone. Finally, they embrace in a wonderfully dramatic kiss.
5. SEX TUBERS… SERIOUSLY
In his first American comic book series, Alan Moore routinely blew readers’s minds with the story ideas he came up with on Saga of the Swamp Thing, including the major twist in his first full issue (he resolved the outgoing writer’s plots in the previous issue) that Swamp Thing was not a man transformed into a swamp creature, but rather an animated pile of swamp that thinks it was once a man!
Despite that revelation, Swamp Thing still developed feelings for Abigail Arcane and she, in turn, grew to love him. In Saga of the Swamp Thing #34 (by Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben), they finally expressed their love together by sharing a special tuber that he grew out of his body. The resulting “sex” was handled by stunning double-page spreads by Bissette and Totleben as their passions were expressed through a bonding of nature.
4. BLACK CANARY SPICES THINGS UP
After the success of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, DC was now more open to doing adult-oriented miniseries and graphic novels (this was the same change that led to Batman: Son of the Demon being published). Mike Grell chose to use that new approach on Green Arrow, as Grell revamped the character in the prestige format miniseries, The Longbow Hunters.
While the series was controversial for how it had Black Canary get tortured, earlier on in the series, Grell perfectly handled the relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary. They’re a couple who have been together for a long time and are very comfortable with each other, but also one where they are still willing to mix things up in the bedroom, like when Dinah wore her old Black Canary costume for Oliver.
3. AN ICONIC SHOWER
Speaking of how superheroes were sexualized very early on in the history of comics, in 1970, John Romita re-designed Black Widow and gave her a new, sexier costume. That new, sexier costume? It was basically just the same one that a superhero named Miss Fury wore in the 1940s.
The re-designed Black Widow then got her own feature in Amazing Adventures. Gene Colan took over the art duties for a three-issue stint from Amazing Adventures #3-5. Colan drew a very sexualized Black Widow in the series, whether she was wearing her costume (look at how even in her costume he basically drew her nude and expected the coloring process to hide his risque drawings)
Of course, then there were the times she was out of costume, as in the depiction of Black Widow getting out of the shower, which was a whole new level of sexiness for the era, and has become an iconic panel for old school Marvel Comics fans.
2. HAIRY-CHESTED LOVE GOD
In the early 1970s, the creative team of Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano helped to re-defined Batman and his rogues for a whole new generation. At the same time, they also introduced a new rogue: the international terrorist named Ra’s Al Ghul. Al Ghul was designed to be like the James Bond villain, Blofeld (while also incorporating the whole “daughter of the villain is the love interest” angle, with Ra’s’ daughter, Talia, becoming a recurring love interest for Batman).
In Batman #244, Batman duels Ra’s bare-chested in the desert. Batman is seemingly killed by a poisonous scorpion but Talia sneaks him an antidote. Batman then confronts Ra’s, who thinks Batman cannot die. After knocking Ra’s out, Talia asks if she will be imprisoned, too, and instead Batman gives her a big kiss. This is what Grant Morrison refers to as Batman’s “hair-chested love god” era.
1. THE SEX SCENE THAT CENSORSHIP MADE SEXIER
After slowly taking over the full-time creative duties on the “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Strange Tales, Jim Steranko began to experiment more and more with the series. Since Fury was based on the success of James Bond, Steranko wanted Fury to have the sex scenes that Bond had, as well.
Along the way, Steranko kept finding conflicts with Marvel’s self-censoring. When he introduced the sexy Contessa as a new love interest for Fury, they colored her in such a way as to hide Steranko’s detailed depiction of her bum. When Fury got his own series, the second issue had a wonderfully depicted, (in)famous love scene.
Marvel did a couple of edits, like put the phone back on the hook and replace a shot of them embracing with the even more sexually suggestive shot of Fury’s gun jammed into its holster.
What do you think is the sexiest scene in superhero comic book history? Let us know in the comments!