Justin Hall

Creamin’ for comics



Erotic comics are a special breed of porn. Unlike prose, they can show as well as describe. Unlike photos, they’re narrative. Unlike film, they have a limitless special effects budget. Comics are capable of everything from gritty, realistic detail to "yowza!" flights of fancy — perfect for the demands of erotica.

And yet good erotic comics seem in short supply. Despite a venerable history that stretches from the Tijuana Bibles of the 1920s to the wild antics of the underground comix movement in the ’60s and ’70s, porn comics have languished of late. Alternative and independent comics have been trending more toward asexuality. And gay male erotic cartoonists are only now struggling out of the shadow of Tom of Finland, whose comics of square-jawed, fascist-reminiscent leathermen and bikers have dominated gay erotic art in the same way that Tolkien’s imagination bound and gagged fantasy writers for generations.

Once you start digging, however, it’s remarkable the gems you can find. The fact that comics are so marginalized creates a kind of purity to the art form. Cartoonists aren’t motivated by fame and fortune, but rather by their passion for their stories and their art. The same is doubly true for erotic cartoonists, whose work is often an evolution of the naughty pictures they drew compulsively while growing up.

Here are a few of the most unusual, hot, and fun recent erotic comics collections to get your juices flowing.


Greta Christina, Editor

(Last Gasp)


A man stimulates the orifice of a bound mermaid with a twig, an infertile professor convinces a student to impregnate his wife, a dominatrix hires a gay masseur to fuck her boyfriend, a sadistic dom pisses all over her girlfriend, King Kong and Godzilla have hot sex in the ruins of Tokyo.

Best Erotic Comics, an annual collection of the best and brightest of kinky comics, is yet another reason to be proud of our sexy Bay Area, published as it is by legendary, local institution Last Gasp. Editor Greta Christina has assembled an impressive collection of literary smut comics that run the full gamut of sexual interests, from octopus sex to airplane sex. It’s especially refreshing to see straight porn side by side with gay and lesbian imagery — it allows the reader to understand sexuality as a spectrum of possibilities, and to see how hot the fantasies of others can be.


Gengoroh Tagame

(G-Project, 2007)


Odd as it may seem, the best bear comics porn in the world is coming out of Japan, a country with a noticeable lack of big, hairy men. Clearly the exotic has its erotic charms. Unlike yaoi — the popular manga genre in which female cartoonists create stories of gay male romance and sex for an audience of girls and women — bara is gay manga created by actual gay male creators and usually does not feature the yaoi breed of androgynous boys with big eyes and floppy hairdos, but rather burly, hypermasculine men.

No one is better at portraying these than Gengoroh Tagame, arguably the world’s greatest, living erotic cartoonist. His universe is populated with the hottest muscle bears outside of the Lone Star’s patio during Folsom Street Fair weekend, and they have a tendency to be tied up, humiliated, and fucked senseless. Pride is a recent trilogy of books from the master, detailing the gradual transformation of a cocky, hirsute hunk into an obedient slave by a buff, bearded professor. The books are full of all sorts of S-M shenanigans, with our hero being put through the paces, from extreme bondage and piercings to fistings and scat play. Tagame has yet to be translated into English, but he’s such an accomplished cartoonist that his work can still be thoroughly enjoyed.


Colleen Coover

(Eros Comix, 2002)


While lesbian imagery exists in various straight publications, there is an unfortunate dearth of true lesbian erotic comics. Colleen Coover’s Small Favors is a notable exception. Coover is an excellent cartoonist and clearly has a great time illustrating her two heroines, Annie and Nibbil, having wild, fun, and juicy sex.

Annie is accused of masturbating too much by her own conscience and is assigned a finger-tall guardian to stop her from getting jiggy with it too often. Fortunately, this tiny watcher winds up being a nympho herself, and jumps Annie at her first opportunity, leading to comics’ best introduction line ever: "Ummm … Hi, Annie! My name’s Nibbil! Gosh, I hope you don’t mind me fucking myself on your nipple!"


BiL Sherman



Occasionally you’ll stumble across some underground, barely-distributed mini-comic, put together by the creator with a photocopier and a stapler, that will take your breath away. BiL Sherman’s Wanky Comics is bizarrely brilliant, completely original, and about as underground as you can get.

While the subject matter of the stories in WC ranges wildly from horny unicorns and space-age sex clones to an inexplicably naked superhero and his quest for love, Sherman has a distinctive style that unifies the series. He draws like a thirteen-year-old with OCD and a hard-on, filling his pages with burly, hairy men. Each chest hair is lovingly and obsessively drawn, and the faces are rugged and expressive.

Sherman is unafraid to get both funny and surreal, a refreshing trait in porn comics. The "Mike Thorn and the Nine Satanic Statements," episode, for example, is a blow-by-blow illustration of a scene on a porn set, while the text underneath the images is taken directly from Anton Levey’s Satanic Bible, creating a strangely disconnected, campy, yet beautiful juxtaposition.


Gilbert Hernandez

(Eros Comix, 1992)


Hernandez is one of the creators, along with brothers Jaime and Mario, of Love and Rockets, arguably the single greatest American comic book. Rarely does such a world-class, literary cartoonist turn his talents to porn. Luckily, however, the highly prolific Hernandez created Birdland, a voyeuristic foray into the lives of strippers, bodybuilders, and horny aliens — and one of the classics of erotic comics.

Birdland introduces characters such as Fritz, the large-breasted, brainy psychiatrist with a lisp and a passion for guns, which Hernandez later incorporated into L&R. But while L&R certainly never shies away from sexual material, Birdland is unabashedly erotica, with copious cum shots filling the pages.

Though Hernandez identifies as straight, Birdland is in many ways pansexual erotica, with every type of coupling depicted. The final scene, in which the characters have a giant orgy in a spaceship, is one of the most oddly liberating and transcendent sex sequences ever conceived. After reading it, anything seems possible.



The Folsom Street Fair on Sun/27 is all about community, and one of the ways it demonstrates this is by donating a block of booth space to queer erotic artists, many cartoonists. This year’s little section of the Fair, at 11th Street and Folsom, is very exciting. Here’s some highlights.

Chuck Connor and Sean Platter: the duo’s Demonic Sex series pulls no punches with its depictions of satanic transformations and sexual hells. www.triplesixcomics.com

Dave Davenport and Justin Hall: An accomplished tattoo artist, Davenport uses his illustration chops to create horny werewolves, skate punk ghosts, and other wholesome characters in Hard To Swallow, co-created with Justin Hall (that’s me!). www.hardtoswallowcomics.com

Steve MacIsaac: As the co-creator (along with Dale Lazarov) of Sticky, MacIsaac offers sex-positive stories instead of the rape fantasies that often dominate gay porn. www.stevemacisaac.com

Bradley Rader: Harry and Dickless Tom is the story of two homophobic truckers who screw and then beat up fags. It turns surreal when one wakes up with a vagina. www.flamingartist.com

Sean Z: Sean’s Myth is a superb fantasy comic with complex plots, gorgeous color work, and big-dicked vampires. www.sean-z.com

See www.folsomstreetfair.org/art for more kinky artists.

Holiday Guide 2008: Graphic gifts


› culture@sfbg.com

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that the last few years have seen an impressive flowering of graphic novels and comic book art. These days, every self-respecting, well-read person should have a graphic novel or two on the shelf — and that makes this the perfect moment to give your fave loved one a comic as a holiday gift. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how about a present with both?


Watchmen changed the world of comic books when it debuted in 1986, ushering in an era of more serious and ambitious storytelling. Written by the revered Alan Moore, Watchmen uses the trope of superheroes to examine American culture. It won the Hugo Award that year (the first time a comic book had ever won a major literary award in America), was later named one of Time Magazine‘s "Best 100 Books of All Time" (the only comic book on the list), and is now being made into an movie. Watchmen dissects the superhero, revealing the elements of fascism, nihilism, and sexual obsession inherent in the genre, while always maintaining a sense of empathy for its characters’ humanity. It is beautiful, incredibly dense and intricate, and profoundly moving.

Watchmen: The Absolute Edition (DC Comics, 2008, 436 pages, $39.99) is a magnificent large-format reissue that beautifully shows off illustrator Dave Gibbon’s meticulous art, is completely re-colored, and has plenty of additional material. This is something that any geek would be proud to own.


Forget Harry Potter, Bone (Cartoon Books, 2004, 1300 pages, $39.95) is the bomb! Jeff Smith’s magnum opus is something truly rare in comics — a fully realized, all-ages fantasy story that balances thrilling adventure, humor, and lovable characters that develop and grow.

Three cousins stumble into a new land complete with dragons, a super-strong grandma, a princess with a destiny, a terrifying lord of locusts, and stupid rat creatures. As in the Harry Potter series, Bone becomes darker and more serious as the story progresses, but it never loses a delightful playfulness, both in the moments of comic relief and in Smith’s light, masterful brushwork. Bone can be found either as a single volume in its original black-and-white form, or as a set of color books from Scholastic Press.


Perhaps the best science fiction comic book ever produced starts off the way the best sci-fi stories do, with a simple premise that creates a ripple-effect of expanding consequences. In Y: The Last Man, all the males on the planet except for two die off from a sudden, horrifying plague, leaving poor Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand the last creatures alive with Y chromosomes.

Writer Brian K. Vaughn, one of the best of a new generation of comics writers and one of the principle writers for TV’s Lost, cut his teeth creating the Y saga, which has been seeping out in one-volume installments since 2003. He imagines a world without men in fascinating ways, but never lets the setting get in the way of a gripping, fast-paced story. Pia Guerra’s art is competent and engaging, and propels the story along at the same clip as the writing. The entire breathtaking story comes in 10 soft-cover volumes from publisher Vertigo for around $13–<\d>$15 each. A just-published comprehensive deluxe edition (Vertigo, 2008, 256 pages, $29.99) comprises the first five volumes, with the second installation scheduled to come out in May 2009.


There is a long, venerable history to comics biographies and autobiographies, from Art Spiegleman’s Maus to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (fabulous gifts all). I want, however, to point out an often-overlooked book that deserves its place in the canon, Phoebe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl (Frog Books, 2002, 312 pages, $22.95), which is one of the most compelling accounts of a troubled childhood that I’ve ever read.

Diary is not just a comic book. It weaves together graphic chapters with diary-form prose and illustrations to tell the story of Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old girl who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend before spiraling downward into drugs and abusive relationships.

It all takes place in 1970s San Francisco, and the city is an integral part of the story, from Minnie’s home in a Victorian flat in Laurel Heights to the world of gay hustlers and runaways on Polk Street.


Have someone on your gift list who loves the magical realism, multigenerational storylines, and fantastic characters of Gabriel García Márquez? How about someone who can’t get enough of cool-ass, punk-rock dykes? Well, I have the perfect graphic novels for you: Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories (Fantagraphics, 2003, 512 pages, $39.95), which chronicles the adventures of the denizens of a fictional Central American village, and Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories (Fantagraphics, 2004, 712 pages, $49.95) by Jaime Hernandez, which centers around two punk girls in the Mexican barrios of Los Angeles.

Both collect stories originally serialized in what is arguably the greatest American comic ever produced, Love and Rockets (and yes, that’s where the band got its name), which has been published somewhat consistently since 1981.


Ode to Kirihito (Vertical, 2006, 832 pages, $24.95) will blow your mind. Created in 1969 by the stellar Osama Tezuka, godfather of manga and anime (Japanese comics and cartoons), it was markedly more sophisticated and accomplished than anything coming out of the United States at the time. In fact, American popular culture is only now catching up to Tezuka — we’re just now getting translations of his works. Luckily, the new American versions are well designed and nimbly translated.

Kirihito tells the story of a plague that turns people into doglike creatures, and reads like a combination of a medical drama (Tezuka was trained as a physician), a panoramic 19th-century novel, and an existentialist treatise à la Albert Camus. Maybe your loved ones think that manga is all melodramatic kids with big eyes, spiky hair, and cute pets that shoot lightning? Ode to Kirihito will expand their view.


Best Erotic Comics 2008 (Last Gasp, 2008, 200 pages, $19.95) is trying to fill an important, ahem, hole in the world of alternative comics. As the current comics renaissance gains steam, it is becoming curiously less and less sexual. Compared to the wild antics of the underground cartoonists of the 1960s, today’s indie comics tend to be flaccid fare.

BEC 2008 aims to change all that, as the first of an annual series of anthologies devoted to showcasing the best of comics erotica and restoring sexuality as a centerpiece of the indie comics sensibility. Last Gasp, a venerable San Francisco–based comics and alt-media publisher and distributor, is putting out the series.

Impressively diverse on all levels, BEC 2008 features a young dyke’s first encounter with a vibrator, a dominatrix who hires a gay masseur to fuck her boyfriend, King Kong and Godzilla getting it on … there’s a little something here for every proud pervert to treasure. That’s the magic of the holiday season! 2


Isotope Comics 326 Fell, SF. (415) 621-6543, www.isotopecomics.com

Al’s Comics 1803 Market, SF. (415) 861-1220, www.alscomicssf.com

Whatever 548 Castro, SF. (415) 861-9428, www.whateverstoreonline.com

Comix Experience 305 Divisadero, SF. (415) 863-9258, www.comixexperience.com

Comic Relief 2026 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-5002, www.comicrelief.net

Justin Hall is a San Francisco–based comics artist and owner of All Thumbs Press (www.allthumbspress.com).

More Holiday Guide 2008.