Good Sex In Comics: Doin’ It Well
Years ago, Salt'n'Pepa sang "Let's talk about sex, baby! Let's talk about you and me! Let's talk about all the good things, and the bad things, that may be!" We talked about the bad things last week. So, yeah, let's talk about the good things now.
Generally, people dig sex. It's hardwired into our DNA. Thinking about it, planning to get it, having it, whatever. It's a pretty big deal. This is reflected in our culture through movies and fiction. This, of course, includes comic books. The question is, how do you make a story that's sexy, or about sex, and enjoyable without being insulting or offensive?
That's easy. As Laura said in her previous post, you own up to it and embrace the sexiness. Running from it, or making excuses for it just makes the whole enterprise look silly at best, and immature at worst. Taking sex (and sexuality) and treating it as a valid element of your story and embracing it can make for some good reading. If you want some examples, you're in luck, because two collections come out this week that got a little down and dirty, but actually end up being pretty good reads.On the surface, Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa's "Sky Doll" looks like the dirtiest Disney movie you'll ever see. The first cover features an image of a nude robot girl, her arms almost preserving her modesty, with a scared look on her face.
The cover of a recent issue featured the same robot girl, this time wearing clothes. To make up for it, her skintight clothing clings to her figure and her breasts strain against a thin ribbon that is probably doing more harm than good. Meet Noa, a robot built to serve the whims of society and the heroine of Sky Doll.
You could be forgiven for thinking that "Sky Doll" is just another dirty sci-fi comic. I mean, it looks like it at first glance, and there's plenty of nudity and sex inside the book, too. But, the story is something else entirely. Instead of a series of sexual adventures (or misadventures, considering how these stories usually go), "Sky Doll" is about exploitation. It's about the exploitation inherent in creating a race of sentient robots to service your every ridiculous need (Noa works at Heaven Spaceshipwash, a kind of T&A-based sci-fi carwash) -- and with an intentional flaw that requires them to depend on humans for their lives. It's also about people exploiting religion for personal gain.
And it's good. It's an adventure comic, despite the themes it works with, and it can be sad -- but overall? It's a fun book. There's a neat mystery introduced in the first chapter, a lot of weird characters to gawk at, and the writing and art are sharp and sexy. It works.
And it can work in superhero comics too. As mentioned before, most superheroic sexiness is... less than super. Not so in Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire's "Batman: The Cat and The Bat," which tells the story of the first meeting between Batgirl (the classic, redheaded one) and Catwoman, professional cat-burglar.
You do the math: one woman in tights plus one girl in tights divided by superhero comics equals sexy catfight. Of course, this is superhero comics, where "sexy" usually comes down to three words: boobsocks (the way that costumes individually wrap, lift, support, and separate each breast, nipple detail optional), pornface (the way a superheroine's face looks when doing everything from fighting to thinking to standing around), and gross (the way you feel after reading stories that include the previous two ingredients).
Nicieza and Maguire counter this trend by overdosing on something all those other books lack: personality. Every page is dripping with it. Batgirl grimaces, grunts, and grins her way through the fights. Catwoman scowls, purrs, and squints as she tries to escape from Batgirl. When Batgirl is forced to enter a nudist's club to chase after Catwoman, you can see the embarrassment turn to anger and the anger turn to determination. Later, it turns to childish glee.
Maguire's one of the best at facial expressions in comics, and he kicks it into overdrive here. It's almost necessary, as this book has all the trappings of crappy T&A superhero books: costumes with peekaboo battle damage, two women fighting, carefully obscured nudity, and scandalous situations. Nicieza's deft dueling monologues and Maguire's work on Batgirl and Catwoman's faces turns something that would've been creepy in someone else's hands into something genuinely endearing and, dare I say, a little bit sexy. It never comes across passive or porny or coquettish. It doesn't feel stereotypical or shameful.
There it is: two examples of comics that aren't afraid to be sexy. "Sky Doll" uses sex to play around with ideas, while "The Cat and the Bat" uses cheesecake to have a little fun. What they've got in common is that they don't shy away from it, or underplay it, or make any of the same mistakes that so many comics have when it comes to "sexiness." I wouldn't mind seeing more comics like these at all.