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The release of the Deadpool movie marks the first R-rated movie based off a "mainstream" comic character in more than a decade. Although it has been wildly successful, initially there was a lot of skepticism about releasing an adult-targeted movie adapted from what are typically PG-rated comics. To get an R rating a movie must include things that are just not seen in mainstream comics: intense violence, vulgar language, and graphic nudity.

I know that Marvel has, in the past, experimented with R-rated comics via their MAX line, of which I have only read Alias. In included a generous helping of vulgar language and very strong sexual content, but stopped just short of showing e.g. Jessica Jones' nude body. This has me curious if that was a line that Marvel (and DC, for that matter) has ever crossed before. Unfortunately, none of the MAX imprint is available on Marvel Unlimited, so I can't easily check.

Has Marvel or DC ever published a comic (under any of their imprints -- MAX or Vertigo count) that included graphic nudity of any kind?

Since this question is inspired by an R-rated movie I'll define "graphic nudity" the same way it's generally defined by movie and TV ratings systems, as:

  • Female character with visibly and fully exposed breasts, or
  • Any character with visibly exposed genitals.
  • The nudity must be of a "sexual nature" (the MPAA permits "brief nudity" of a "non-sexual nature" in a PG-13 film.) IMO this rules out the obvious Dr. Manhatten full-frontal scene.

(In particular, exposed buttocks do not count, as those are apparently tame enough for network television.)

Note that I'm not talking about characters that are obviously naked in-universe, but where the artist has used shadow/environment/etc to maintain modesty. I'm aware of quite a few of those (e.g. the famous recalled Elektra issue, the "naked Thor" panel, etc.) Rather, I'm asking about panels where a character's nudity is clearly and unambiguously shown in the panel.


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Does Dr. Manhattan count? – Valorum Feb 22 at 0:48
Oh, it's definitely on the naughty – Valorum Feb 22 at 0:54
true, but that scene doesn't have frontal nudity, while the scene with frontal nudity is non-sexual. That's exactly the kind of "skirting the edge" that comics do all the time without quite crossing the line. – KutuluMike Feb 22 at 0:56
Howard the Duck came close once or twice, IIRC. – Joe L. Feb 22 at 2:38
Supreme Power on the MAX imprint. I can't exactly remember the specifics though. Someone can take it for their answer. – Radhil Feb 22 at 3:24
up vote 37 down vote accepted

Batman: The Killing Joke (DC)

In Alan Moore's graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) is paralyzed when the Joker shoots her. He then strips her naked, photographs her, and tortures her father Jim Gordon by forcing him to look at the photos.

On one page, we see a number of the photos, including one in which her breasts are visible (NSFW link to the page in question, along with the original, more graphic version, which the book's artist, Brian Bolland, was forced to tone down).

Censored version:

enter image description here

Since the book was published, there has been some debate over whether the Joker merely photographed Barbara, or whether he also sexually assaulted her. Either way, the graphic novel is brilliantly written - among the best Batman stories ever told - but it is also very disturbing.

Watchmen (Vertigo/DC)

Another Alan Moore masterpiece, which has a number of scenes that might qualify:

  • Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II nude, just after a sex scene (NSFW link)

    Censored version:

enter image description here

  • Dr. Manhattan nude, presumably having sex with Silk Spectre II (NSFW link)

  • The Comedian and a partially undressed Silk Spectre I - the Comedian is about to rape Spectre when Hooded Justice walks in and beats the snot out of the Comedian (possibly NSFW link 1, 2)

The Spectre, #9 (DC)

There are a couple of panels of a nude woman in a clearly sexual context (NSFW links 1, 2)

Censored version:

enter image description here


enter image description here

Hyperion/Supreme Power (MAX/Marvel)

Various issues contain nudity and sexual content, including this issue of Supreme Power (NSFW link). Thanks to Radhil for mentioning this in comments.

Censored version:

enter image description here


You said that Deadpool was the first R-rated movie based on a mainstream comic book character you are aware of; other such movies include most adaptations of Punisher, as well as Blade, and an R-rated director's cut of Daredevil (not to mention the upcoming Wolverine 3, and - in light of the success of Deadpool, probably a slew of other movies in the near future). Less mainstream comic book movies with an R-rating include The Crow, Kick Ass, Watchmen, Spawn, a couple of adaptations of Judge Dredd, Tank Girl, 300, Sin City, V for Vendetta, and From Hell, to name a few. Of these, you may have noticed, several (Watchmen, 300, V for Vendetta, and From Hell) are based on Alan Moore comics.

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Yeah, I didn't look all that hard at the Watchmen panel at first, it looked like the shadows were there to maintain modesty, but apparently not. Though the Killing Joke panel is the one that most surprises me -- Batman's a pretty mainstream character to have something like that show up. – KutuluMike Feb 22 at 3:35
@Mike - I was like 9-10 when I read it. I was NOT expecting to see that in a Batman comic. :) – Wad Cheber Feb 22 at 3:47
I honestly didn't realize Blade was rated R, I don't remember them being particularly vulgar or graphic or even glaringly violent, though I guess there was a lot of blood. – KutuluMike Feb 22 at 12:22

The Sandman (Vertigo)

I remember seeing exposed breast multiple times.

Some examples with "sexual nature":

  • Preludes and Nocturnes: 24 Hours (#6). Dee forces people in a diner to "get to now each other intimately" (not explicitly shown). After that, Judy's breasts are visible.
  • The Doll's House: Tales in the Sand (#9). Nada is fully naked (genitals are not shown) and has "sex" with a stone.
  • Dream Country: Calliope (#17). Calliope appears fully naked (genitals are not shown, but breasts are). She is being raped.
  • Fables and Reflections: The Parliament of Rooks (#40). Adam and Lilith are fully naked (genitals partially shown). Then they have sex.
  • The song of Orpheus - Chapter 4. The Bacchante are fully naked (breasts shown, pubis covered with shadows). They rape Orpheus.

I'm not sure whether this is sexual or not:

There are also some non-sexual scenes with nudity which are not so brief:

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You should probably mention that Vertigo is a DC imprint. – Wad Cheber Feb 22 at 2:18
@WadCheber Since the question says Vertigo counts, I thought it was clear already – Oriol Feb 22 at 2:21
D'oh! I missed that part. – Wad Cheber Feb 22 at 2:23
Anyway, Sandman wasn't under the Vertigo imprint until issue #47, so most of the examples above would apply even if Vertigo was excluded. Basically Vertigo was created to contain the stuff Karen Berger had been commissioning, including Sandman. – Steve Jessop Feb 22 at 11:51
Nudity but, unlike Deadpool, no masturbation. The Doll's House was going to have a reference, but as Gaiman recounted later, "It was immediately cut by the editor. She told me, 'There's no masturbation in the DC Universe.' To which my reaction was, 'Well, that explains a lot about the DC Universe.'". – Jon Hanna Feb 22 at 14:51

Watchmen is a pretty well-known DC comic and has a generous helping of graphic nudity, both film and book.

EDIT: Seeing you discount Manhattan and ask for explicitly sexual nudity, there's still a whole host of Alan Moore pieces that have sexual nudity. V for Vendetta and From Hell spring to mind.

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What about the sex scene between Night Owl and Silk Spectre in Watchmen? – HorusKol Feb 22 at 1:00

There is quite a bit of it in the Vertigo published Preacher series. The series is pretty extreme in a lot of other ways too. AMC is currently adapting it for a television series.

I'm not having much luck finding any images of the relevant panels online. If anybody knows where they could be found, I would like to edit this answer to add the relevant links.

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Ultimates 01 (Marvel) Iron Man and Black Widow have a sex tape that leaks out to the public. Graphic scenes from the tape are shown playing on screens in the Stark Mansion

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Savage Sword of Conan (mag)

I don't remember any specific examples, but I seem to recall that my young teenager brain was quite happy with the frequency with which breasts were displayed.

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..."my young teenager brain was quiet"... – Meat Trademark Feb 23 at 3:20

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