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Poison Ivy, in her bathing suit with a stylish gold belt, reclines on a bed of man-eating plants. Image: Jen Bartel/DC Comics

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DC’s swimsuit special artists on making superheroes recognizable but sexy

Get a sneak peek at one of three random centerfolds of G’nort’s Swimsuit Edition issue

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

The idea of a “superhero swimsuit” is admittedly redundant. A lot of them are practically wearing swimwear anyway! But that’s the scintillating irony at the heart of the superhero swimsuit special: Everybody knows this is kind of ridiculous from the get-go, so why not have fun?

It’s also demonstrably true that a good superhero redesign can be just as electrifying as a great superhero story, and just as challenging to pull off. DC Comics will be paying tribute to that challenge with — what else? — G’nort’s Swimsuit Edition.

The oversize issue will feature a reprinted story from the company’s 2020 summer special, as well as a new eight-page short featuring the Penguin in, quote, “the tightest bathing trunks you can imagine.” But most importantly, it’ll collect dozens of DC’s summer-themed variant covers — at least, the ones that feature swimsuits — drawn by dozens of the company’s top artistic talent.

And here at Polygon, we wanted to know: If so many superheroes are already in their unitards and trunks, what makes for a recognizable, stylish (and maybe even sexy?) superhero bathing suit?

So that’s exactly what we asked seven of the artists whose work will feature in this actually illustrated swimsuit special. Read on for their art, their answers, and an exclusive reveal of one of G’nort’s Swimsuit Special’s new additions: a fold-out pinup poster, just like that other special issue that rhymes with G’nort’s G’Illustrated.

Dick Grayson shields his eyes, looking up from where he’s standing in sparkling water, with a very small Nightwing-patterened set of drawstring swim trunks on, that highlight his butt very well. Image: Nicola Scott/DC Comics
Catwoman, wearing a black bathing suit, gloves, and goggles, pours herself a glass of champagne on a yacht surrounded by unconscious crewmen. Image: Terry Dodson/DC Comics

Nicola Scott: I have two different answers, one cheeky, one not, both honest: It’s gotta fit in all the right places, and it really helps if the cut speaks to the character and their taste.

Terry Dodson: I try to make a swimsuit that echoes the character’s costume or namesake—so it isn’t hard for the reader to instantly recognize the character. For Catwoman, I kept the shapely costume plus the black fabric. And what I really pushed was adding a sash that mimics a cat tail as it runs behind Selina on the cover.

Poison Ivy, wearing a fringed two-piece bathing suit, looks over her shoulder and holds up a drink in a coconut shell on a tropical beach. Image: Sweeney Boo/DC Comics
Wonder Woman shields her eyes from the sun, wearing a bathing suit on the beach as doves flutter around her. Image: W. Scott Forbes/DC Comics

Sweeney Boo: It’s all about shapes, what’s flattering but not boring, and sexy without being outrageous. For Poison Ivy, I wanted to do something flowy, with movement, just like a plant!

W. Scott Forbes: There shouldn’t be a need to overcomplicate a swimsuit — it still needs to serve a purpose. When I was designing Wonder Woman’s swimsuit, it was important to create something that accentuated her strength along with incorporating the visual elements that define her (red, blue, white stars and gold!). I particularly loved the idea of a two-piece bathing suit that, at first glance, appeared to be a one piece.

In a loud-colored swimming onesie, beast boy tans on the beach, holding an ice pop and accompanied by Krypto the Super-dog and Bat-Cow. Image: Francis Manapul/DC Comics
Batman and Superman stand like models, each wearing rather short swim trunks in the colors of their costumes. Batman is wearing sunglasses and a very expensive watch, and his chest hair is subtly trimmed in the shape of the bat symbol. Image: Babs Tarr/DC Comics

Francis Manapul: I’m not one to give fashion advice, so I’ll give super dad advice. I remember reading an article about color safety in the water; it’s all about visibility. Bright, vibrant colors are the way to go and steer clear of blue and earth tones! Beast Boy definitely got the message.

Babs Tarr: I was inspired to make my piece feel like a 1960s fashion illustration, from the fits all the way down to the textures in the piece. I was asked to do the cover of World’s Finest, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, two mature men in their 30s. What would they wear to the beach...? I thought to myself.

I also had just watched a lot of White Lotus season 2, which made me think of Bruce because he feels like the type of guy to vacation in Italy (RICH). His fashion tastes would be dark, of course, and matching sets are very in right now. I didn’t want to put him in a mask because OH MY GOD ITS THE BEACH IT WOULD BE SO HOT, CAN YOU IMAGINE?! So to make these two men who are VERY similar in character design stand out, I gave Clark his classic hair curl and — for a little bit of the “lols” for myself — I gave Bruce a subtly sculpted bat symbol in his chest hair, just so they stood out from each other a little more. I also gave Bruce an expensive watch and put the Wayne logo on it, plus some very (let’s be real) expensive sunglasses b/c he probably has a stylist that puts him in very nice things.

The short short bathing suits on the boys was just for me ;)

Aquaman pushes his hair away from his face, accentuating his many muscles, as he stands shirtless in a tidepool, wearing green pants and a belt with a buckle shaped like his symbol. Image: David Talaski/DC Comics

David Talaski: For Aquaman, no shirt, no shoes, no bathing suit needed! Everything’s swimwear when you’re always wet. His bathing suit (does he even wear one??) should show off his best assets, and by assets, I mean his superhero belt.

Poison Ivy, in her bathing suit with a stylish gold belt, reclines on a bed of man-eating plants. Image: Jen Bartel/DC Comics

Artist Jen Bartel crafted this centerfold poster of Poison Ivy, one of three randomly selected centerfolds that readers will find stapled into their copy of G’nort’s Swimsuit Edition. The book itself will hit shelves on Aug. 29.


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