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Nipples On Men!

This week’s F.O.O.M. Friday gets right to the point! (Two of them!)

FOOM #14 was all about Conan … and it is full of insightful and even scholarly commentary about what makes this character so great. It’s also an interesting time-capsule of an era when Conan was one of Marvel’s top-selling books.

By Crom, it's Foom!

But we don’t care about that.

We only care about the nipples. Men’s nipples!

I know this is a divisive issue. To judge by the Superbowl, America hates seeing men’s nipples. I don’t know how opinions might differ in the United Kingdom, but David Warner considered men’s nipples a waste of God’s energy in Time Bandits:

Comics have a complex issue with sexuality in general, but in classic mainstream superhero comics, it’s generally come down to women having (barely covered) naughty bits, while men don’t have them at all. Contemporary comics show plenty of skin, of course, so it may be difficult to understand how the original run of Conan the Barbarian by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith broke new ground by showing off shirtless heroes and scantily-clad wenches.

Even more remarkable, Windsor-Smith broke the seal on one of the more puzzling taboos in comics by having the temerity to draw nipples on men!!

Barry Windsor-Smith, Red Nails

yep, there’s some nipples, all right!

Why, you can practically hear the monocles popping out!

Not only did Barry blaze a trail, he even set a precedent!

Roy Thomas, from FOOM #14 (1976):

There were things for example, like having nipples on the male figure, which were not genrally done in comics before Conan and became part of it all. After Barry did them, I insisted that other artists like John Buscema and Gil Kane include them, even though they were reluctant to do so, or kept forgetting them. Sometimes I’d draw them on myself if the artist had forgotten, or have them added to a whole book not because I thought it was terribly important, but it was a consistency that kept the book being all of a piece.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of Roy Thomas drawing nipples on John Buscema or Gil Kane’s pages is obscurely delightful. It’s the professional equivalent of going through your comics as a kid and drawing mustaches (or … other things) on all the characters. It’s a scandal. It’s Nipplegate! And who was the poor intern who got their start in comics adding nipples to barbarian books at Thomas’ command?

But Thomas’ nipple continuity would go largely unnoticed, and it would be several years before comics would get its first genuine high-profile nipples-on-men controversy …

Bat Nipples!

That’s right — nipples on the Bat Suits, courtesy of director Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin! It damn near toppled the Republic back in 1997.

Somehow we survived. (It chased poor Batman out of theaters for the better part of a decade, though!)

See you next week for another F.O.O.M. Friday!

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About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published once a month or so at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on March 28, 2014, in FOOM Friday! and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. To me this sounds horrific. I’m a male (last time I checked, anyway) and I see no purpose in an artist drawing nipples on Sub-mariner, the Hulk, or Conan. I have them, and they’ve done me no good. Just kinda along for the ride.
    Evolution is kinda hit n’ miss.

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  2. Trick or tits? I’m all for women nipples… freedom for nipples!

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  3. Given the lack of nipples in the early Invaders comics I am surprised to learn Rascally Roy was behind theirappearence elsewhere.

    I have never understood the aversion men seem to have. Guys have ’em and IMHO it looks goofy to leave them off when drawing a shirtless male figure.

    No nipples on the batsuit is another thing all toghether. That’s just funny.

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    • I didn’t think about them one way or the other, until Thomas brought it up. Now … it occupies an uncomfortable amount of my attention. I really want to know which books have Aftermarket Thomas Nipples. A proper survey might be my most lasting contribution to fandom!

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      • The thing about Conan’s nipples….
        Is that they weren’t originally drawn by Barry Smith. When Roy Thomas got the pages for Conan #1, Smith had drawn Conan without nipples, which was the way men were always drawn. On seeing the pages, Thomas found it distracting that Conan didn’t have nipples, so he drew them in himself.
        So, we can all thank Roy Thomas for men having nipples…

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