By Lambiek comicpedia
From the moment when comic artists first learned how to handle a pencil, many have used their talent to draw sexually explicit scenes, within cultures all over the world. For some this was just a juvenile phase, others have developed this particular interest into a professional production, to entertain and satisfy an audience of millions of fans of the graphic arts.
Comics with a sexual content are always bound – or at least influenced – by the current cultural taboos.
According to ruling opinions of what is tolerated, sexual comics will either be sold above or below the counter. While depicting bare breasts is not such a big deal in Western Europe, where female nudity is used for selling anything from shampoo to cars, but in America, naked breasts are associated solely with sex, and therefore banned from public display. In Japan, many sex comics (manga) deal with sex between or with underaged teenagers – the depiction of which is considered pedophilia in most Western comics. This goes to show that what is considered titillating in one culture, may be viewed as criminal in another.
For most artists, “erotic” means the depiction of what arouses their desire – which is usually a beautiful young woman or man, with little or no clothes on. Comic artists add to the sexually charged atmosphere by drawing their objects of desire in exciting stories. The artistic qualities of many erotic comics are very high, and many artists have earned themselves a respectable reputation in this genre. In Europe, the erotic scene is headed by names like Alex Varenne, Max Cabanes, Lorenzo Mattotti and probably the master: Milo Manara.
•Sex and humoristic comics
Sex and humor don’t mix too well in real life, but in comics they provide a complete genre, which allows readers to secretly snigger at sexually explixit scenes without risk of being associated with the perversity that accompanies hard core pornography. All through the ages, more or less talented artists have amused themselves by drawing well-known characters in compromising sexual scenes. Especially in the 1920s and 30s, there was a production of so-called ‘Tijuana Bibles’ or ‘eight-pagers’ – little comic books consisting of 8 pages, with a sex parody featuring film-stars or even comic characters. Most of the artists remained anonymous, but it is known that Wesley Morsecreated a few.
•Ero magazines in comicscomics
Many “men’s magazines” like Playboy or Penthouse feature humoristic erotic comics as well. A hit was ‘Little Annie Fanny’ by Harvey Kurtzmann, which ran in Playboy from 1962 until 1988. In Holland, we have the antics of ‘Willem’ by Aloys Oosterwijkin the magazine, Panorama.
• Ero 90’s
In the 1960s and 70s underground comics reacted to the implementation of the Comics Code by drawing comics about any controversial subject they could think of – mostly sex. Robert Crumband Spain Rodriguezare big names in this area.
In the 1980s, sex parodies on well-known comic characters, like the Smurfs or Lucky Luke, crept up again. In essence, these topics were much the same as the eight-pagers half a century earlier.
•S&M and Bondage
There’s a special ‘knotty’ niche in the comics world, as in the real world, for S&M and bondage comics that feature long-legged, high-heeled mistresses who feel compelled to discipline anything from naughty schoolgirls to high-powered businessmen. These stories can be anything from the soft bondage of Saudellito the violently sadistic scenes of Pichard… Stanton, Enegand Willie(in his book ‘The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline’) have brought this genre to artistic heights.
Some comic artists cater to several specific fetishes, such as feet, high heels, leather boots, nylon and rubber. Italian artist Franco Saudelli(together with his artistic wife Francesca Casotto, who often modelled for him) was a master at depicting feet in such a way, that even the ones that have no sexual interest in them, start to understand the fascination some others have.
The Japanese comics scene offers a special place for sex. Unlike the West, the East has an attitude towards sexuality which is a bit more tolerant and accepting. In Tokyo, it is not an uncommon sight to see respectable employees on their way to work in the subway reading a manga comic with sexual content. A quick survey will reveal that Japanese comic artists often combine well-written stories with sex and eroticism. Themes like bondage and sex between underaged youth are not considered taboo.
Some would say that there is no better way to get out of the closet (or amuse yourself whilst still in the closet) than by creating or reading gay comics. There is a wide variety in this genre as well: from the mainly sex-oriented comics by Tom of Finlandto the elaborate stories by Ralf König, which portray life of German gay men in the broadest sense. Where lesbians are concerned, they can be found in abundance in mainstream, heterosexual pornography – but a few of them cater especially to lesbian and bi-sexual women.