Wicked Grounds, a coffee shop-cum-sex shop in San Francisco held an erotic comic book convention a couple of weeks ago. And rather a lot of fans of either comic books, sex, or both filled the place till it was rather… engorged.
Attending were the likes of Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumren), Justin Hall (Glamzonia, the Uncanny Super Tranny), Serena Valentino (Gloom Cookie), Greta Christina (Best Erotic Comics), Tristan Crane (How Loathesome, Comic Book Tattoo), and Storm (Princess Witch Boy).
And they even sold coffee.
This is an unusual event in that it bucks national trends. It used to be the case that sex sold in comics. It’s getting less and less true. These days adult comics are not only relegated to their own special, mostly unseen, section of Previews, but there aren’t even any print versions of the catalogue any more. Fantagraphics started Eros Comix as a way to fund the continued publication of the likes of The Comics Journal, Love And Rockets, Hate and the like, but now survives mainly on backlist and other publishers’ work. Certainly Robert Crumb’s Bible sells far more than Wendy Whitbread ever did. And movements by Marvel and DC to move into that kind of titillation have been repeatedly knocked back, with the Marvel naked comics disappearing and Frank Cho put back in his box. Even Avatar, famed for its history publishing soft-core supernatural comics have discovered that Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and Alan Moore sell better.
The soft core survives amongst its core base however, with the likes of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and some of the odder publishers that you mostly only see at conventions. Much of this is down I’m sure to an increased sexualisation in mainstream comic books – there’s less of a need to turn to XXXenophile when Emma Frost and Power Girl dress the way they do – in the same way the lad’s mag has reduced demand for Penthouse. And Empowered treads that tricky line between irony and unadulterated perversion.
And it’s is pure irony that at at time when there are less comic book seizures by the authorities, comic book publishers seem to push the limits less. The release of Dodgem Logic‘s Astounding Weird Penises mini-comic by Alan Moore was a shock, a throwback to a time of underground comix when this kind of Zap-like material was the norm. That it was so readily available then, but so rare now challenges the assumption that comics are indeed for grown ups.
Of course, there’s always the foreign muck to get your hands sticky over, or indeed spunk all over your back, producing reams of Japanese filth that can get you sent down for six months, or French BD erotica, all in semen-proof glossy hardcovers, but, you know, it’s all in French though isn’t it? It’s not quite as comic-shop available. And while there are some gloriously filthy webcomcis, this is one case where the tactile nature, portability and reading-in-bed-with-a-loved-one possibilities of printed comics gives it a true competitive edge. For now.
So we’re stuck (sometimes literally) to the small press, self-published titles that can fill a Kinky Comics Con. That there are some well known names there shows how
Are comics for adults now? Or are they only for big adolescents who are happy with Power Girl but would run screaming from anything Milo Manera touches. Apart from his upcoming X-Men comic of course…
Where has the actual honest, I’m all right jack, intelligent sex comic gone? Lost Girls is the most prominent recent example of that, and that was started in the nineties – although I must recommed the three volume set for sharded bedroom reading. Are faux-orgies in Batwoman comics and superhero fight scenes traced from Hustler all all we’re left with?
Sex comics can explore narrative possibilities that the lens-based passivity of traditional pornography almost always fails to. And while films have used CGI to match the imagination of superhero comic books from the sixties, pornography budgets just don’t have the scope what porn comics can achieve. Every porn comic can be a “big budget” number and all you need is a pen, some paper and a filthy mind.
If someone can find a way to push past the embarrassment, artistic and distribution factors, there might still be a fair chunk of cash on Wicked Grounds’ coffee table waiting to be picked up.
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