200609211327This link from The Groovy Age of Horror Censored Essentials has been going around the internets for a few days. Apparently, when Marvel reprinted an Essentials version of the TOMB OF DRACULA magazine, they took it upon themselves to cover the naked boobies drawn with loving care by Gene Colan with wispy shreds of cloth. (You’ll note that the perky areolae have been left in place.)

Everyone has been yakking about this. Tom, Dirk, and best of all John Jakala.

Dirk goes on a fairly wide-ranging rampage about how mainstream comics today can’t be truy adult or child friendly but can only appeal to the twiight world of tweeners from the ages of 20-40. While we wouldn’t say that showing naked titties is the mark of maturity, it is instructive to see that 30 years ago, we were a bit looser and freer with our low-cost entertainment. While the sight of female frontal nudity usually strikes us as exploitive and juvenile, these pages somehow have an aura of Swingin’ Seventies Sophistication about them. Maybe it’s just that Colan was drawing in the era of real boobs, and not the hard plastic ones everyone seems to prefer these days. Ah, nostalgia.

At any rate, we’re not reproducing the panels here because we try to keep this site PG-13 on the visual side anyway. But the salient point to note is that in the 70s, Marvel published a line of black and white comics magazines sold on newsstands that were aimed at readers squarely over the age of 21. Marvel deemed it more proper to make the material all-ages…ish in a reprint which could easily just been marked “Mature” like the Marvel Knights Line, or RAWHIDE KID or something. Now go back to surfing your internet porn.


  1. I personally like the panels where the sensitive material is covered by wisps of smoke. Apparently Marvel has banned smoking except in cases where it covers the boobies. ;-)

  2. “While the sight of female frontal nudity usually strikes us as exploitive and juvenile [..]”

    While it’s not a serious enough thing to blog about (hey, I think female breasts are goofy-looking, but that’s just my weird-ass little trip, you know?), I nonetheless take issue with both charges.

    As not only a male of the species but a homosexual one at that, I have a somewhat unique vantage point on the question. If straight guys oggling pictures of titties is “exploitive,” exactly what is one supposed to make of, say, the beefcake shots occasionally posted to Dorian Wright‘s website? Is someone being exploited? If so, why? The tendency of straight males to enjoy both depictions and actual presence of nudity is a consequence of the fact that men are sexually aroused by visually erotic stimuli, and this doesn’t go away if the source of attraction is men rather than women, you know? We’re just plain built that way. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Moreover, this tendency stays with men for life, making it “juvenile”… how, exactly?

    When a young woman dolls herself up in makeup and slinky clothes for a date, who exactly is “exploiting” whom? And if women are allowed to exploit mens’ natures in such a fashion — and I should quickly add that I’m all in favor of that, too — then why shouldn’t straight men have the right to “exploit” their own susceptability to visual stimuli with erotic or pornographic imagery?

    Please understand, I’m not trying to accuse you of anything more than seeing male sexuality through a woman’s eyes — hey, we’re all of us mildly evolved apes, and men are just as foolish in different ways, if not moreso — but I have to tell you, Heidi: Every time I hear a woman complaining about men’s capacity to enjoy a bit of exposed flesh as though there was something wrong with it, the inevitable first thought that pops into my mind is “Thank God I’m gay.” Seriously, if I had to put up with nonsense like that from people I found sexually desireable, I think I’d have gone mad by now.

    No, what’s “exploitive” is this neo-virginal, all-sizzle-no-steak crap being served up to people too timid or repressed to know better by cynical bastards who are all too calculating in their manipulation. What’s “juvenile” is settling for this crap when better, more imaginative and more erotic depictions of sexual expression are freely available.

    Of the pictures I posted on today’s blog entries, the healthiest by far was the Slut Girl drawing, a frank and joyous depiction of sex that I genuinely admire despite not being particularly aroused by. Slut Girl is a better comic book that 52. Small Favors is a better comic book than Civil War. Colleen Coover is a better, more joyfully sensuous artist than will ever be permitted to appear in a mainline Marvel or DC title, and it ain’t because she’s a woman. It’s because she’s a skilled pornographer. Porn kicks ass.

  3. We meet again, Mr. Deppey!

    I’m not going to get into the whole male gaze thing, here because it’s too complicated and beside the point. My point was a simple one:

    Showing topless women is 99% of the time simple titilation, not any sign of MATURITY of theme or purpose or intent.

    I dunno how much material aimed at young horny straight men you take in every day — considering the fact that it runs our culture, probably a LOT — but showing women in sexual situations is a simple shortcut for saying “hey boys, get a load of those knockers!” not “Hello, my name is Kevin Huizenga.”

    I agree with you that bowdlerization is for the birds and embracing and acknowledging our interest in viewing images of potential sexual partners of any gender is a sign of maturity.

    This TOD changes have been linked to everywhere and I forget where I read the idea (maybe John Jakala?) that after Marv Wolfman had left — to take an editorial job at DC — they were trying to “spice things up” with more titties. Marv, Roger Stern and the entire crew are around — except for Archie Goodwin, alas — but I’m guessing that their motives here were NOT to present mature, compelling stories about human nature challenged bu the supernatural, but to play on the time tested erotic appeal of Dracula and girls with big knockers.

    Russ Meyer thought he was an autuer making films about ideas — and indeed in some ways he was — but his ideas will always be #3 in terms of his interests.

  4. At the very least, make it available in it’s original format. More and more I fail to believe that in this day and age of endless reprints and endless variations upon the same things (I.E. Star Wars DVDs) we still don’t have full choice on many great items. Old comics are still censored or “remastered”…current favorites like Cho’s Shanna didn’t even come out in the original way they were drawn…DVD’s like Fantasia are censored…and the very American (yet grossly naive in it’s delivery) Song of the South is readily available all across the world…except here in the USA.

    We’re still the Puritains that colonized this damned country.

  5. As I’m fond of saying, America is founded on the freedom to be repressed.

    Literally. Remember what kind of persecution the Pilgrims were fleeing.

  6. Dracula, the Bram stoker thing, is very much about sex, repressed and primal sexual urges, seduction crossing over into rape, the loss of virginity etc.
    Riffing on it without showing some skin is kind of missing the point.

  7. I understand that fleshy bits are used for dumb commercial purposes all the time, and I can appreciate that an excessive usage of same in public places is both annoying and a violation of the social contract. I disagree, however, that maturity has anything to do with it — if adults didn’t like it, it wouldn’t work, now would it? If anything, I’m pissed that there isn’t more beefcake available in my entertainment, and I don’t think this makes me “juvenile”; it makes me a typical adult male.

    Material that features excessive cheesecake simply tells me that I’m not the target audience for the work in question, is all. If it bugs me that much, I’ll simply stop watching/reading/whatever. The fact that there aren’t any superhero comics targeted my way doesn’t mean that I’ve been dealt a disservice; it just means nobody’s interested in catering to my desires at the moment. At worst, it’s a lost sale for them and a nudge for me to make my own damned superhero books, if it sticks in my craw that much.

    I can see these sorts of arguments being made about billboards, or TV commercials aired on primetime network TV — again, those are public spaces, we do have obligations not to pollute them with inappropriately sexual material, and yes, all too many people are violating that civic responsibility these days — but personal media that you went out of your way to purchase? Either be a smarter consumer and read the reviews in advance, or start buying media that’s more likely to cater to your desires rather than those of some sheltered kidult.

    I have no problem with lowbrow culture; some of my favorite culture is lowbrow culture, and even a sex-and-violence wallow in the gutters can be pulled off with charm and panache. If anything, I find the changes in the Dracula book ripe for mockery because the notion that today’s kids will pick up a dated, kludgy ’70s vampire comic of their own volition strikes me as more than a little dubious. I don’t think that’s Marvel’s principal audience, and I find it hard to believe that Marvel does, either.

    That said, I’m not a mindreader, so I can’t tell you with certainty why Marvel made the changes it did. I will say that if I were a parent, that little strip of cloth in the image I chose to run wouldn’t make the work any more acceptable for kids, so far as I was concerned. If Marvel wanted to make this an all-ages collection, it shouldn’t have included the altered stories at all.

  8. And yet at the same point, it was all very sublimated in the original novel – while you can certainly assume that three hot chicks are giving Harker’s little mister a good time, it is never explicitly stated. Seduction and eroticism is a lot like horror – primal, and sometimes much more powerful when NOT fully shown. Both has its uses, but I think frank use of titties in Dracula is gilding the lily. Not that I think the comic should have then been censored in the reprint – let’s show it as it was – but to say that Dracula needs the tits is to give the tale over to people that don’t know the difference between a truly sensual striptease and a $5 lapdance.

  9. “I’m pissed that there isn’t more beefcake available in my entertainment, and I don’t think this makes me “juvenileâ€?; it makes me a typical adult male.”

    Make that “typical adult gay male.” I suspect the typical adult male probably doesn’t care about the beefcake.

  10. what markus said.

    and it’s “great” that, while the girls boobs have been covered, nothing’s been done about her body being put through a grinder [or whatever that was] and all the other scenes with blood.

    that’s what impressed me more upon reading this kind of Horror story as a kid: the gore, not the boobs, which were kind of a relief to the tension and tipically “Satanist” imagery of the 70’s. in sexually-repressed cultures, representations of violence is always so much more tolerated than representations of sex…

    censoring those shots make them look all the more mature in today’s light, no matter how contradictory that may sound. what good does a dogmatic rulebook things like killing a Kurd couple for a 6 minute sex video recorded on a cellphone? it makes their “crime” all the more special, not to say rebellious.

    and us all the more nostalgic for a time when all those cool things were OK, which sucks. there’s no point in republishing those comics if not in the original way they were conceived. I could have taken digital coloring, but thisis just plain stupid.

  11. Does showing the boobies make it more mature?

    It depends on your frame of mind and how old you are. If you were a male teen ager when these came out and you were able to see/read these books without pointing and giggling at the naked women, then you might *feel* more mature than you did when reading Hulk comics the week before.

    But if a male reader sees the book and thinks “HOLY SHIT THESE GOT TITS IN THEM!” and make a big deal out of it to people, then no, reading the books doesn’t make you more mature.

    Which reader TOD was aimed at is only somewhat relevant. I’m sure Marvel wanted all the readers they could get and probably didn’t care which group, just as long as it didn’t get them in trouble. But that the boobies & naked women scenes weren’t drawn in a centerfold like fashion, indicates the creative team (including the editor) were leaning more towards the mature camp. Maybe they didn’t want to get in trouble and/or they knew they’d get “TITS!” group anyway, just by virtue of showing them when other comics did not.

    But yeah, somebody at Marvel is conservative when it comes to nudity and wants the boobies covered up. I don’t agree, especially in reprints.

  12. Jamie: No one’s arguing that the display of tits in a situation where a character is supposed to be naked is “mature”; I’m merely arguing that it isn’t immature. It’s not really an either/or thing. I’m also saying that unless it’s specifically part of the gag or somehow necessary to the story, not showing nudity in a nude scene is goofy and juveline. I mean, that’s the point of a nude scene, right?

    I’m further arguing that even obviously prurient uses of nudity shouldn’t be seen as morally suspect or the product of a feeble mind, and that adults like nudity as much as teenagers — men obviously more so than women, given the way their sexuality is easily triggered by visual stimuli, but I would imagine that many women wouldn’t exactly object to more displays of appealing male nudity.

    Beautiful naked people are an inherently good thing. This isn’t exactly an original thought, here. Why do I even have to say this?

  13. Well, i feel irked by the implication that seeing a naked woman in a comic is wrong and immature. Guess what? I am straight, heterosexual, and I find the female form the most beautiful thing on this planet.

    While, say, i would get upset if Hermione flashed her knockers in a eventual “Harry Potter” comic book, it’s only right that in a dracula pulp comics there is blood and tits. If you don’t like it , don’t buy it. In the Renaissance the was a guy named “il mutandaro”, who’s job was to paint underwear on angels and other characters on the sistine chapel, because it offended the “civil” sensibilities. Nice to see that things don’t change.

    I am appalled by the straight-edge feminism where no matter what female nudity in the media is wrong. Because,well, it’s not. Why don’t we give more clothes to the “300” actors, eh?


  14. Whoa buddy, I didn’t say “Wrong.” I just said it doesn’t mean mature. I don’t think the art should have been changed. Vampire comics need boobies.

    And no one, me included, said my posting all those 300 pictures was “mature”.

    BTW, the next person who suggests to me that men and women are objectified in the same way in our society is going to get an ass whuppin’. Both are objectified, but in vastly different proportions and ways.

  15. There have to be differences because there was a worldwide celebration of bemused pop culture writing on the subject of Harry Potter showing his dingle in a production of Equus, but one person’s random suggestion of “Hermione flashed her knockers” has made me want to never read the Internet again.

  16. Won’t everyone be so entranced by the sight of her heaving bosoms that they pay no attention to the vampiric violence?

  17. I don’t care that people may think that the material is immature because of the nudity and violence – that is the a given when you’re dealing with exploitative material. What offends me most is that Marvel is censoring material that in the 70’s was acceptable for newsstand distribution. I want to know who thought that they had to CENSOR a title called TOMB OF DRACULA.

    Guess what? TOD is SUPPOSED to be offensive and horrific and exploitative! That’s what made those stories so great.

    But it damn sure shouldn’t be censored – especially in an archive book series marketed as “Essential.”

    It’s wrong and stupid and ultimately wasteful of the brand.

  18. Hi, I run a website and Podcast called Around Comics. We were very interested in this story, so we contacted Gene Colan for a response to this.

    You can see it here.

  19. Nudity exploitation and juvenalia is all in the eye of the beholder and the context.

    In case no one has figured this out yet, I’m a contexualist and a relativist.

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