Sexiest Tomb Raider Comic Book Covers
It All Began as Good, Clean Fun in a 1996 Video Game
Lara Croft, the attractive, athletic, intelligent, strong-willed & elegant protagonist of Tomb Raider video game fame, was created by Toby Gard, the lead graphic artist for Eidos Interactive until 1997. The character was originally inspired by the Indiana Jones archeologist and adventurer franchise as simply another run-of-the-mill male character in a male-dominated industry featuring, like Jones, a whip and a hat. Core Design co-founder Jeremy Smith, however, felt that the character was too derivative to be original, so Gard changed the character’s gender to work better from a design standpoint, inspired by Virtua Fighter, a popular video game in which he noticed that players frequently selected a female character (there are two available in the game) for every match.
Gard also elected to counter stereotypical female characters, which were either clichéd brainless bimbos or iron-fisted dominatrixes. Gard’s final design for Lara Croft is recognized worldwide simply by her novel appearance: brown eyes, small amber/red round sunglasses, reddish brown hair (typically word in a braid or ponytail), skin-tight turquoise singlet, form-fitting light brown shorts, suggestive calf-high earth-colored tactical boots, tall white socks, fingerless gloves, tactical backpack, sand-brown tactical belt and modern twin semi-automatic pistols. She speaks several languages and, like Indiana Jones, travels the world in search of forgotten archeological artifacts in exotic locales infiltrating dangerous tombs and ruins. Gameplay generally focuses on exploration of environments, solving puzzles, navigating hostile environments filled with traps, and fighting enemies. Although her biography has changed throughout the series of video games, two details have not changed: Lara is the only daughter and heir of the aristocratic Croft family.
Tomb Raider, Lara’s first appearance, began development in 1994 and was released to unexpected acclaim and financial success in 1996, encouraging the once financially-beleaguered Eidos Interactive to adopt a grueling annual schedule for new Tomb Raider games for the next four years. At the same time, Gard no longer had full creative control and was saddened and disappointed by the use of the character’s sex appeal to market each successive game. Gard left Eidos Interactive/Core Design in 1997. Despite franchise-long controversy over the use of Lara Croft’s sex appeal for marketing, Tomb Raider games by 2022 have sold over 88 million copies worldwide, each generally well received by the public and critics.
In addition to the video games for numerous platforms – including Windows PCs, Apple Macintosh PCs, multiple iterations of Sony Playstation, Microsoft X-Box, Nintendo Gameboy Color and Advance, and iOS and Android-powered smartphones – the Tomb Raider franchise expanded to the big silver screen with three full-length feature films. The popular (and properly proportioned) Angelina Jolie played Lara in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), which was a box office success, and its sequel, The Cradle of Life (2003), a domestic box office flop. In 2018, a reboot titled simply Tomb Raider which starred Alicia Vikander as Lara attempted to introduce a new generation of gamers and fans to the popular character but was, like the 2003 film, a domestic flop. Despite the reboot’s failure at the American box office, a sequel was announced with a projected release date of March 2021. Unfortunately, the film was delayed due in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to face difficulties as the project moves forward.
Amid all this decades-long success, Lara also made the leap to our favorite, full-color medium: comic books. Lara’s first appearance in comics is in Top Cow’s Tomb Raider/Witchblade one-shot in December 1997. Exactly two years later, in December 1999, Top Cow launched Lara’s first solo series, Tomb Raider. She has since been featured in two additional solo series, several crossovers featuring Witchblade and Darkness, and more than two dozen one-shots and mini-series. Top Cow published hundreds of variant covers for its many Tomb Raider comics – two decades of comics – until 2014, when Dark Horse acquired the license.
Undoubtedly, sex appeal has fueled the popularity of the character of Lara Croft, which holds eight Guiness World Records: the Most Successful Video Game Heroine, Most Recognizable Female Character in a Video Game, Most Detailed Video Game Character, Most Official Real Life Stand-Ins, Highest Grossing Computer Game Spin-off, Most Successful Live-Action Transfer (all in 2010). Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Lara Croft, and Most Magazine Covers for a Videogame Character (the final two in 2016).
Few would deny that Lara has been a significant character in video game history and popular culture. She is one of the earliest sex symbols in the gaming industry to achieve widespread and noteworthy attention, despite competing opinions that the character is both a positive agent for change in video games but a negative role model for young girls.
The Top Cow comics are perhaps the most popular with collectors for the simple fact they leverage the character’s sex appeal. Top Cow produced several hundred titillating and limited variants by some of the industry’s most salacious artists, including Adam Hughes, Tony Daniel and others.