Manga Sutra – Futari H, Volume 1: Flirtation

By Katsu Aki (Katsuaki Nakamura) (Tokyopop)
ISBN: 978-1-4278-0536-2

I don’t think I’ve offended anybody for a while now, so with St. Valentine’s Day fast approaching I think we’re about due.

Therefore, if you are made uncomfortable, easily offended or embarrassed by the mention of graphic cartoon nudity and sexual situations, or if you have any problems at all with the oddly coy forthrightness of manga, please skip this review and move on.

Otherwise this peculiar coagulation of earnest soap opera and sexual self-help manual might be worth a moment of your attention. You might even be interested and want to see more…

Billed as “the best-selling sex guide from Japan” this initial volume – of at least 5 to my knowledge – is more accurately a sweet but explicit soap-opera love-story – albeit related in a staggeringly clinical-yet-chatty manner.

Makota and Yura are just married, but unbeknownst to each other, both still virgins. In short narrative episodes we follow their stumbling first steps to a healthy sex life, peppered with diagrams, statistics and a disturbingly jolly commentary. And lots of hilarity…

The act and any experience-improving techniques themselves are almost of secondary importance to the telling of a sweet and innocent RomCom yarn, with unsubtly-vamping co-workers, interfering know-it-all siblings and inquisitive parents all incessantly queuing up with advice and questions and inevitably making an embarrassing situation agonisingly worse…

There’s lots of nudity and oddly graphic-yet-(self)-censored copulation on show (neither male nor female primary sexual organs are ever depicted – it’s assumed you already know what they look like and besides, the Japanese consider their depiction to be in poor taste) but in no way does this resemble any Western style of “How-to-Do-It” (better) manual where the emphasis is on dispassionate, clinical education and task-oriented elucidation.

Of course, I’m just guessing about the last bit – I’ve never needed a manual or even a map in my life, no, not me, nope, Nuh-Uh…

Seriously, though, this isn’t so much an educational experience as much as a fascinating and beautifully drawn insight into the acceptable face of Japanese sexuality, and as such has lots to recommend it.

Which I do, as long as you’re old enough and promise to stop sniggering…
© 1996 KATSUAKI. All Rights Reserved. English text © 2008 TOKYOPOP Inc.


By John M. Burns & Richard O’Neill (First American Edition Series)
ISBN: 0-912277-23-8

If you indulge in the wonders of comics for any appreciable length of time you’ll increasingly find yourself becoming something of an apologist.

“I just like the artwork.”
“They’ll be worth money one day.”
“It’s a metaphor for…”

You get the idea. I often end up having to explain away situations and depictions that might seem (or actually are) racist, sexist or – worst of all – painfully naff, and at first glance, this book and its contents might easily confirm most if not all of those charges.

But I’m not apologising and I urge you not to rush to judgements.

The prime reason for this is the illustrator. John M. Burns is an international star of comics but still remains largely unsung in his own country – which, considering the sheer breadth and quality of his output, is possibly the greatest compliment I can pay him. Britain has always been painfully ignorant of its comics heroes…

Born in Essex in 1938 he apprenticed at Doris White’s Link Studios in 1954 before moving on to Amalgamated Press where he worked on “Young Juvenile” titles such as Junior Express, Girl’s Crystal and School Friend, before graduating to the luxurious photogravure mainstream comic Express Weekly a year later.

After National Service (we used to conscript our young men for two years’ military training in those hazy Cold War days – just in case…) which found him in the RAF and sent to Singapore, he returned to comics in 1961, adapting Wuthering Heights for DC Thomson’s Diana and drew Kelpie in Odhams’ revolutionary weekly Wham!

Spreading himself far and wide, Burns followed Ron Embleton on Wrath of the Gods in Boy’s World and Eagle (scripted by Michael Moorcock – now there’s a strip crying out for collection), as well as The Fists of Danny Pike, Dolebusters and Roving Reporter. He was part of the inimitable and beloved artist stables working on the Gerry Anderson licensed titles TV Century 21 and its sister magazines – and particularly impressive on Space Family Robinson in Lady Penelope.

From 1965 he worked increasingly for newspapers, beginning with The Tuckwells in The Sunday Citizen, The Seekers for The Daily Sketch (1966-1971), Danielle in the Evening News (1973-74), George and Lynne (1977-1984) and The Royals – the official strip biography of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer (1981) in The Sun. He also too-briefly illustrated Modesty Blaise in The Evening Standard. You can see for yourself by picking up Modesty Blaise: Yellowstone Booty

He revived and worked on the legendary Jane for the Daily Mirror (between 1985 and 1989) and has intermittently worked on many others. He was selected to conclude Jim Edgar & Tony Weare’s incredible, immaculate long-running western Matt Marriot in 1977.

Burns’ TV-related work is magnificent. He has worked on licensed series for Look-In, TV Action and Countdown, illuminating the print adventures of UFO, Mission Impossible, The Tomorrow People, Bionic Woman, How the West Was Won and others. For Germany, he drew the strip Julia (also known as Lilli) and worked with Martin Lodewijk on fantasy series Zetari before in 1980 beginning his long association with infamous British science fiction comic 2000AD, where he has worked on Judge Dredd, Trueno, Nikolai Dante and his own Bendatti Vendetta.

He is also a regular adaptor of significant literary masterpieces, having already completed pictorial versions of Lorna Doone, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

So, what about Danielle?

1973 was the height of the much-maligned and deliberately misunderstood “Sexual Revolution”, with women demanding equal rights, equal pay and fair treatment (and isn’t it marvellous that they’ve got all those things now?). Contraception was becoming readily available, apparently everywhere bras were burning, and men thought that sex wasn’t going to be so expensive anymore.

It was a reactionary Male Chauvinist Pig’s Dream, and unrepentant, old-school stand-up comedians were having a field day.

I’m not sure how many of the various editors of daily and Sunday papers were supporters of the Women’s Liberation movement, or whether they simply found a great excuse to turn the industry’s long tradition of naked birds on the comics pages into something at least nominally hip, political and contemporary. I do know that an awful lot of new features appeared, with strident (if not actually liberated), forceful women who nevertheless still had hunky take-charge boyfriends in tow… but not for very long.

One of them was Danielle: at first glance an all-purpose fantasy saga in the sound tradition of Garth, but as the saga unfolded, one that developed beyond its superficial beginnings. The strip launched on Monday, September 17th 1973, introducing a willowy blonde heroine: a rebel against an oppressive regime, and one whose railing against the system resulted in her banishment.

Her crime? She had loved a man.

Danielle had returned to the planet Janus to overthrow her own mother, whose matriarchal dictatorship had kept men as subservient sex-slaves, and to rescue her truly beloved Zabal from the State Brothel he had been condemned to (stop sniggering).

Reversing many of the cherished trappings of Flash Gordon, Danielle fought monsters and militarists before she and Zabal escaped, using a magical Pendant of Power to leap into the chaos of time and space. From then on, the pair roamed the universe like buff, unclad Doctor Who extras, first landing in futuristic Britain in ‘Master Plan’ where the previous situation is utterly reversed and women have been drugged into subservient submission whilst a highly commercialised male hegemony rules virtually unopposed.

When Zabal’s head is turned by freedom and testosterone-soaked male dominance, he betrays Danielle until she unites with the all-female resistance and helps overthrow the Masters. Reunited – but not quite as trusting anymore – the nomadic lovers are then whisked by the Pendant to ‘The Dump’: an intergalactic penal colony where she is the only woman, before the space eddies tear them apart and Zabal is lost…

In ‘Dark Genesis’ Danielle lands on a desolate world where rejects from a super-alien’s genetics program attempt to save her from becoming their creator’s latest stock-breeder. After defeating the alien with old-fashioned common sense, the hapless voyager then materialises at a ‘Black Sabbath’ in 1660 Edinburgh.

Mistaken for a demon, she finds herself at the mercy of Puritan witch-finders and corrupt, debased officers of Cromwell’s New Model Army…

Appalling as these summations perhaps sound, Richard O’Neill’s scripts are a wry and canny counterpoint to the strident zeitgeist of the times. Brought in to overhaul Burns’ initial proposal, the ex-TV 21 editor imposed a studied balance to what was always intended to be a slight, escapist, lad-ish girly-strip with lots of ogle-worthy nudity and loads of fantasy action.

With deliberate overtones of H.P. Lovecraft and Philip José Farmer, the military historian added a knowing lightness to the proceedings which – married to Burn’s imagination and incredible monochrome line-work – resulted in a delight of self-deprecatory storytelling which is far, far from the exploitative, pandering lip-service it might first seem to be.

Nevertheless, the sterling efforts couldn’t save the feature. ‘Superstar’, the last story in this slim black and white, impossibly scarce volume, deviates from the established format as Danielle lands on a Hollywood film set in 1930.

Quickly co-opted by a zany movie director, she becomes a reluctant rising star before being reunited with Zabal who has been marooned on Earth for decades. Roaring along at a rather brisk pace and played strictly for gentle laughs, this final tale abruptly ended Danielle’s cosmic capers on September 14th 1974. Not included in this book is her 54-day revival from 1978, but I suspect that’s for the best…

Heavy-handed at first glance, but stunningly beautiful to look upon; this is a strip with plenty to say about the times it came from and perhaps one that might finally find a welcoming readership in these oh-so-perfect modern days, if only someone can resurrect and reprint it.
© 1984 Associated Newspapers Group. All rights reserved.


By André-Francois Barbe (Volksverlag)
ISBN: 3-88631-075-2

I’m not saying this is setting any precedent, but to be honest there’s so much great comic material I’d like to share, and it’s not just separated from us by a gulf of years and publisher’s timidity: Lots of it has simply never been collected in English language editions.

So when I rediscovered this mostly wordless little gem, packed away since our last house-move, I thought “there’s probably whole ‘nother generation of fans out there who have no idea such graphic wonders exist”… and this review of an actual foreign book is the result.

If you Google the name André Barbe you’ll probably see lots of stuff about “Shift-add correlation patterns of linear cellular automata” and the like.

I, however am talking about the other one, the artist and cartoonist fascinated both by sex and by the progression and sequencing of pictures which slowly transform from one state of meaning to another.

This André-Francois Barbe was born in Nimes on St. Valentine’s day in 1936 and became a cartoonist in 1958, selling his comedic work to Le Rire, Hara-Kiri, Charlie Mensuel and Pilote. Fascinated by science and history he was a potent political activist and produced varied pictorial works encompassing volcanism, palaeontology, cinema, opera, history and other seemingly unconnected arenas of interest. He could draw really, really well.

Barbe died on February 9th 2014.

Much of Barbe’s output is lasciviously erotic, with many overtones and similarities to the designs and vision of Vaughn Bodé, but the silent panoramas collected in this ridiculously rare tome indicate very personal obsessions.

The fascination with minute pictorial changes which lead to a total transformation, not just of the physical representations but usually also the mental or spiritual state of the subject – as well as the content – make his drawings and strips a mesmerising, languid journey of discovery. He also has a wicked, sly, sardonic sense of humour.

I honestly don’t know where or even if you can find examples of his work. Perhaps some of our European readers might be able to offer some suggestions? All I know is that this is brilliant and innovative use of the techniques that are uniquely the province of graphic narrative and sequential art, and that such visual virtuosity should be applauded, appreciated and seen as widely as possible.
Artwork © 1981 André Barbe and Volksverlag. All rights reserved or Alles Rechte vorbehalten, if you prefer…

Mondo Erotica – the Art of Roberto Baldazzini

By Roberto Baldazzini, edited and translated by Nicola D’Agostino & Serena Di Virgilio (Korero Press)
ISBN: 978-0-99333-743-7

Please pay careful attention: this art book contains stories and images of an explicit nature, specifically designed for adult consumption, as well as the kind of vulgar language most kids are fluent in by the age of eight.

If the thought of it all offends you, read no further and don’t buy the book. The rest of us can peacefully enjoy some of the most groundbreaking cartoon and gallery art ever created, without you.

Tomorrow I’ll write about something more socially acceptable, with mindless violence and big explosions, so come back then.

Roberto Baldazzini is an Italian illustrator, comics and mainstream artist whose works are deeply personal, immensely passionate and startlingly evocative. As such they have often been controversial. This electrifying hardcover compiles strips, commissions and gallery pieces created over the last three decades.

In colour and monochrome, this stunning retrospective of gloriously designed and delineated imagery recapitulates a true master’s fascinations: beautiful women, Pop Art, the golden age of cinema, Art Nouveau and those rare creatures who inhabit the borders and fringes of human sexuality…

This superb and long-overdue collection gathers and translates a mere smattering of his beguiling strip work and intoxicating covers – although any is more than welcome – but also includes a vast selection of the artist’s magnificent exotic and erotic paintings and drawings.

Following Nicola D’Agostino’s informative Foreword – citing influences such as Italian photonovels, fashion magazines, Hollywood and the comics trinity of Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and Hergé – we can metaphorically meet the craftsman himself through a candid, thoughtful and pulchritudinously picture-packed ‘Interview with Roberto Baldazzini’ before the extremely graphic narratives commence.

Baldazzini first started making waves in 1984 with period thriller Stella Norris, a feature he continued until 1992. Expanding his horizons, he began appearing in prestigious international magazines such as Glamour, Blue, Diva, Penthouse Comix and Geisha and from 1995 began concentrating almost exclusively on erotic comics whilst garnering a global reputation for his exquisitely explicit Ligne Claire-styled paintings. Even though his gallery status was constantly growing, he never stopped crafting comic strips…

Delivered in stark and meticulous monochrome, ‘The Ring’ is set at a glitzy party in 1950s Hollywood and deconstructively scrutinises a supposed theft and proposed seduction from the individual viewpoints of the participants: untouchable, predatory and promiscuous star ‘Mrs. Marjorie Dobrovsky’, rising, scheming starlet ‘Miss Phoebe Costello’ and secretive, over-attentive maid ‘Miss Rebecca’

‘Macao’ then describes the seamier side of Tinseltown as Stella Norris’ “evil twin” Greta explores the debauched lifestyle of a celluloid porn star in the era of black and white films and attitudes…

‘Divas, Dommes and Lost Girls’ focuses on some of the artist’s other signature characters; colourfully exploring select snippets of material from Baldazzini babes such as ‘Stella Norris’, ‘Chiara Rosenberg’ and ‘The Orphan’ before ‘Scene of the Crime’ reprints an astounding monochrome strip created in conjunction with Studio Sottsass for a 1988 architectural exhibition in Milan.

The content and themes of the artist’s work always pushed social boundaries: increasingly highlighting gender anomalies, bondage rites and fetishism. ‘Baldazzini’s Fantasies’ features one of his most challenging, controversial and funny pieces – a deliriously silly Who’s Whose of genitalia – after which ‘Seduction and Pain, Malice and Innocence’ opens a catalogue of his most exotic and esoteric eidolons. Broken down into mini-chapters we can see the many forms of ‘Sultrane’, assorted illustrations made for 18th century French classic Histoire de Dom Bougre, Portier des Chatreux in ‘Saturnino’ plus a stunning series of visions inspired by Aubrey Beardsley’s renditions of ‘Salome’

The extreme limits of fantasy and pleasure are then scrupulously detailed in images from ‘The Castle of Pain’ before plasticised product ‘Ines’ cavorts for the delectation of her clients…

A commission for architecture magazine Terrazzo, ‘Hotel Majestic’ again proves that location is as much a component of death and seduction as human nature, whilst Baldazzini’s ‘Exotic and Incredible Creatures’ segues into an examination of the artist’s most seditious tales and creations – the transgender, transsexual and trans-comfort zone depiction of the protagonists, antagonists and victims who inhabit tales of ‘Trans/Est’ and ‘Casa HowHard’.

The show closes with a fetishist’s dream as ‘The Education of Angela’ finds the star of Casa HowHard back in her singularly exclusive college and suffering strict discipline for her wayward nature…

Supplemented by a full list of Roberto Baldazzini’s Awards and Exhibitions plus a complete Bibliography to date, this tome also strives to keep the whimsy-factor high, and many of the stars are depicted as naked cut-out paper dolls, complete with suitably unsuitable outfits… This long-past-due celebration of a truly unique artistic pioneer is both beautiful and shocking, but also something no mature-minded devotee of graphic excellence should miss.
© 2017 Korero Press Limited. All rights reserved.

Mondo Erotica will be released on August 1st 2017 and is available for pre-order now.

Stuff about Sex for Guys Who Are Not Like, Total Idiots

By David Mellon (Top Shelf Productions)

Whilst not actually a graphic novel, I couldn’t resist adding this outrageous little comicbook essay to my St. Valentines Day celebrations, and wholeheartedly recommend it to any oldster who likes a gentle, knowing laugh or any young man in need of a little understanding pep talk before setting out to find a mate – either for a night, a while or a lifetime…

In the manner of a relatively non-judgemental older sibling, David Mellon talks frankly and in the most simple of terms on how to start having sex and the onset of adult relationships; dispelling myths, addressing if not positively coddling neuroses and especially bestowing actual useful advice (yes, really! Wash often and wear clean clothes!) to help nervous neophytes meet women and not nauseate them…

Beautifully rendered in accessible monochrome cartoons, Mellon takes us through the initial obstacle of ‘Shame!’, arguing that ‘It’s the Same for Everybody’ and claiming ‘Everybody Wants to Drop that Mask!’

Nothing is held back as the author sensibly deals with ‘Personal Hygiene’ and tackles issues such as ‘Premature Ejaculation’, ‘Masturbation’, the pros and cons of ‘Virginity’ and even asks the big question… ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’

Even the great imponderables get a look in as we examine ‘Normal’ and discuss ‘What Women Want’

Smart, sensible, unflinching but never harsh or mean, Mellon’s mature approach to an age-old traumatic experience and rite of passage should be mandatory reading in schools (but won’t be because of all the naked men and women he’s drawn here) as a serious aid to sex education.
Stuff about Sex ™ & © 2012 David Mellon. All rights reserved.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead

Adapted by Richard Corben, with Beth Corben Reed & Nate Piekos (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-356-2

Richard Corben is one of America’s greatest proponents of graphic narrative: an animator, illustrator, publisher and cartoonist, catapulting from the tumultuous wave of independent counterculture commix of the 1960s and 1970s to become a major force in comic storytelling with his own unmistakable style and vision.

He is equally renowned for his mastery of airbrush, captivatingly excessive anatomical stylisation and delightfully wicked, darkly comedic horror, fantasy and science fiction tales. In later years he has become an elder statesman of horror and fantasy comics lending his gifts and cachet to such icons as John Constantine, Hulk, Hellboy, Punisher and Ghost Rider as well as new adaptations and renditions of literary classics by the likes of William Hope Hodgson, Lovecraft and the master of gothic terror Edgar Allan Poe.

Corben didn’t sell out; American publishing simply caught up, finally growing mature enough to accommodate him, due in no small part to his own broad and pervasive influence…

Born in Anderson, Missouri in 1940, he graduated with a Fine Arts degree in 1965 and found work as an animator. At that time, the neutered comicbooks of the Comics-Code Authority era were just starting to lose disaffected, malcontent older fans to the hippy-trippy, freewheeling, anything-goes publications of independent-minded creators across the continent who were increasingly making the kind of material Preachers and Mummy and her Lawyers wouldn’t approve of…

Creativity honed by the resplendent and explicitly mature 1950s EC Comics, Carl Barks’ perfectly crafted Duck tales and other classy early strips, a plethora of young artists like Corben responded with a variety of small-press publications – including Grim Wit, Slow Death, Skull, Fever Dreams and his own Fantagor – which featured shocking, rebellious, sexed-up, raw, brutal, psychedelically-inspired cartoons and strips blending the new wave of artists’ unconventional lifestyles with their earliest childhood influences… honestly crafting the kind of stories they would like to read.

Corben inevitably graduated to more professional – and paying – venues. As his style and skills developed he worked for Warren Publishing in Eerie, Creepy, Vampirella, Comix International and outrageous adult science fiction anthology 1984/1994. He famously coloured some strips for the revival of Will Eisner’s The Spirit.

Soon after he was producing stunning graphic escapades for a number of companies, making animated movies, painting film posters and producing record covers such as the multi-million-selling Meatloaf album Bat Out of Hell. He has never stopped creating comics but prefers personal independent projects or working with in-tune collaborators such as Bruce Jones, Jan Strnad and Harlan Ellison.

In 1975 Corben approached French fantasy phenomenon Métal Hurlant and quickly became a fixture of its American iteration Heavy Metal, cementing his international reputation in the process. Garnering huge support and acclaim in Europe, he has been regularly collected in luxurious albums even as he seemingly fell out of favour – and print – in his own country. Through it all he has never strayed far from his moss-covered roots.

This particular tome gathers a recent return to adaptations of the classic Poe canon; all-new, 21st century, often rather radical reinterpretations of the troubled author’s greatest works, as published in The Fall of the House of Usher #1-2, one-shots The Conqueror Worm, The Raven and the Red Death, The Premature Burial and Morella and the Murders in the Rue Morgue plus some short tales originally published in Dark Horse Presents #9, #16-18 and #28-29; collectively spanning the period November 2012-April 2014.

The horrific hagiography – each tale attributed with its year of publication and adapted with the colouring assistance of Beth Corben Reed and lettering expertise of Nate Piekos of Blambot® – opens following an erudite, informative and compelling Introduction ‘Masters of the Macabre: Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Corben’ by university professor, author, Poe expert and comics scholar Thomas M. Inge and the mood-setting poem ‘Spirits of the Dead (1827)’ before the artistic extravaganza unfolds with aged, one-eyed crone Maggy as host and guide to the selection which follows.

In ‘Alone (1828)’ morbid, death-haunted Solomon discusses his distressing dreams with the intoxicating but strangely unmoved Liea whilst ‘The City in the Sea (1831)’ sees a shipwrecked sea captain forced to explain his recent dramatic actions to a dank and unforgiving tribunal who have markedly different views to him on what constitutes duty, business sense, cargo and humanity…

Many of these interpretations employ embedded lines of Poe’s verse, such as ‘The Sleeper (1831)’ which sees a well-deserved fate meted out to a rich philanderer who had his wife and her murderer killed to further his own carnal desires whilst ‘The Assignation (1834)’ examines a toxic relationship where husband and wife cannot live together… or apart…

‘Berenice (1835)’ is one of Poe’s most stomach-churning, nerve-jangling yarns and Corben does it full justice as bereaved Egaeus watches over the corpse of his recently-deceased betrothed. However, even in death he cannot turn his mind away from an overwhelming fascination with her perfect teeth…

The deeply unsettling story of ‘Morella (1835)’ reveals how a vain witch orchestrates her own death and resurrection as her own daughter to keep her husband properly seduced and in line, before focus shifts to ancient Greece and the inevitable approach of death amongst the warriors at a funeral: a wake tainted by the unquiet dead and an oppressive ‘Shadow (1835)’

In the luxuriously expansive The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)’ artist and traveller Allan is broaches a befuddling, bilious and deadly swamp to reach the ancestral seat of the ancient Usher clan and visit an old school chum.

Like the family, the vast manse is slowly dissolving into the mire that surrounds and supports it. The decadent, failing blood of melancholic master and obsessive portraitist Roderick Usher masks many bizarre behaviours, but not even that can excuse his vile attitude to his seemingly subjugated, clandestinely closeted, sumptuously seductive deranged sister Madeline whose essence he is determined to capture on canvas at any cost…

As he stares at the too-intimate pencil studies, Allan too is drawn to the girl: a feeling only intensified once they actually meet…

By secret means she makes the visitor aware of a unique plight and urges him to assist her escape but Roderick will go to any lengths to keep his sister with him and would rather extinguish the family line rather than lose her.

That is unless the repelled, rebellious Earth doesn’t reclaim the crumbling house and the decadent Ushers first…

Infamous for his dark, doom-laden horror stories, Poe was also a pioneer of crime fiction and next up is a grimly effective and trenchantly black-humoured adaptation of the debut tale starring French gentleman detective Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin and his partner in peril Beluc.

Here the dandified dynamic duo put their heads together to solve an impossible locked room mystery which resulted in the brutal dismemberment of two women in ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)’: a crime with a callous perpetrator but no culpable killer…

‘The Masque of the Red Death (1842)’ then returns to classical themes and supernal horror as plague grips the lands of regal Prospero. Faced with difficult choices, the lord opts to bring his richest cronies within his opulent castle to safely disport themselves in debauched revelry whilst the contagion burns itself out on the peasantry. Sadly, the foolish sybarite has made one grave and arrogant error which will cost him everything…

Under Corben’s imaginative purview, grim gloomy ode ‘The Conqueror Worm (1843)’ is transformed into a salutary saga of inescapable vengeance as proud Colonel Mann kills his errant wife and her lover but is tainted with a maggot that burrows into his body and soul.

Feigning innocence and ignorance, Mann salves his “tragic loss” by employing an itinerant puppet show for a family party but the mummers expose that most proper paragon’s sins before utterly consuming him, whilst in ‘The Premature Burial (1844)’ a close shave with attempted murder and molestation of the dead turns Lucian into a man obsessed with being buried alive and Arnold’s inability to forget his dead Lenore leads to an unforgettable encounter with ‘The Raven (1845)’ in a visual tour de force every inch as potent as Poe’s poem.

Wrapping up the journey into mysteries is a deft retelling of ‘The Cask of Amontillado, (1846)’ wherein aging Montressor at last shares a long-held secret with the wife of his old friend Fortunato, now missing for many a year.

As he guides her through his deep vaults, filled with the remains of his ancestors and his precious wine collection, gloating Montressor tells the increasing nervous widow of her husband’s ghastly fate and why and how the poor, bibulous buffoon vanished so completely that long-ago night…

Accompanied by a stunning Cover Gallery, this compelling collection of classic chillers is a modern masterpiece of arcane abomination and human horror no shock addict of mystery lover will want to miss.
Spirits of the Dead™ © 2012, 2013, 2014 Richard Corben. All rights reserved.

Angel Claws (Limited Edition)

By Moebius & Jodorowsky, translated by Thierry Nantier (Humanoids)
ISBN: 978-1-59465-012-3

Like vaudeville and comedy, the world of comics has been blessed with some incredible double-acts: seasoned professionals capable of astounding works individually but in close combination, fuelling and feeding each other until elevated to a sublime peak of invention and application.

You’ll have your own candidates, but for me Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, Goscinny & Uderzo, Lee & Kirby, Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima and Rosiński & Van Hamme all resonate as individual masters who respond to certain collaborations and combinations with unmatched brilliance…

One of European comics most impressive and controversial pairings was always Moebius & Jodorowsky and this recently revived dark confection is possibly their most daring and audacious co-creation…

Born in Tocopilla, Chile in 1929, Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky is a filmmaker, playwright, actor, author, world traveller, philosopher, spiritual guru and comics writer.

The acclaimed polymath is most widely revered for such films as Fando y Lis, El Topo, The Holy Mountain, Sante Sangre, The Rainbow Thief, The Dance of Reality and others, plus his vast and influential comics output, which includes Anibal 5, Le Lama blanc, Aliot, The Meta-Barons, Borgia, Madwoman of the Sacred Heart and so many more, created with many of South America and Europe’s greatest artists.

His decade-long collaboration with Moebius on Tarot-inspired fantasy epic The Incal (1981-1989) completely redefined and reinvented what comics could aspire to and achieve.

Acclaimed for violently surreal avant-garde films, loaded with highly-charged, inspired imagery – blending mysticism and what he terms “religious provocation” – and his spiritually-informed fantasy and science fiction comics, Jodorowsky is also fascinated by humanity’s inner realms and has devised his own doctrine of therapeutic healing: Psychomagic, Psychogenealogy and Initiatic massage.

He remains fully engaged and active in all these creative areas to this day.

Jean Henri Gaston Giraud was born in the suburbs of Paris on May 8th 1938 and raised by grandparents after his mother and father divorced in 1941. In 1955, he attended Institut des Arts Appliqués and became friends with Jean-Claude Mézières who, at 17, was already selling strips and illustrations to magazines such as Coeurs Valliants, Fripounet et Marisette and Spirou. Giraud apparently spent most of his college time drawing cowboy comics and left after a year.

In 1956 he travelled to Mexico, staying with his mother for eight months, before returning to France and a full-time career drawing comics, mostly westerns such as Frank et Jeremie for Far West and King of the Buffalo, A Giant with the Hurons and others for Coeurs Valliants in a style based on French comics legend Joseph Gillain AKA “Jijé”.

Between 1959-1960 Giraud spent his National Service in Algeria, working on military service magazine 5/5 Forces Françaises before returning to civilian life as Jijé’s assistant in 1961, working on the master’s long-running (1954-1977) western epic Jerry Spring.

A year later, Giraud and Belgian writer Jean-Michel Charlier launched the serial Fort Navajo in Pilote #210, and soon its disreputable, anti-heroic lead character Lieutenant Blueberry became one of the most popular European strips of modern times.

In 1963-1964, Giraud produced a numerous strips for satire periodical Hara-Kiri and, keen to distinguish and separate the material from his serious day job, first coined his pen-name “Moebius”.

He didn’t use it again until 1975 when he joined Bernard Farkas, Jean-Pierre Dionnet and Philippe Druillet – all devout science fiction fans – as founders of a revolution in narrative graphic arts created by “Les Humanoides Associes”.

Their groundbreaking adult fantasy magazine Métal Hurlant utterly enraptured the comics-buying public and Giraud again wanted to utilise a discreet creative persona for the lyrical, experimental, soul-searching material he was increasingly driven to produce: series such as The Airtight Garage, The Incal and the mystical, dreamy flights of sheer fantasy contained in Arzach

To further separate his creative twins, Giraud worked his inks with a brush whilst the dedicated futurist Moebius rendered his lines with pens. After a truly stellar career which saw him become a household name, both Giraud and Moebius passed away in March 2012.

Griffes D’ange was first published in 1994, during a period when the deeply spiritual Moebius was especially concerned with purging, honing and redefining his creative soul and artistic vision. One result of his divinations was this collation of sexually hyper-charged images accompanied – as was the earlier collaboration Claws of the Cat – by evocative poetic musings from his brother-in-graphic exploration Jodorowsky…

Stunning monochrome plates – rendered in stark monochrome lines – counter-pointed and augmented by terse, challenging, intentionally disturbing descriptive statements reveal the innermost workings of a recently-bereaved young woman who throws aside all pretences of convention to embark on a quest of personal discovery and awakening. Where the search takes her is the stuff of dreams and nightmares…

Fetishistic, scary, sexually explicit, deeply symbolic, confrontationally transformative and – as previous stated – reportedly a therapeutic exercise for the creators, Angel Claws is a stunning assault on the senses and traditional mores and morality to appal and delight in equal amounts… depending, of course, upon what your own upbringing brings to the feast…

Available as an oversized (406 x 305 mm) hardcover coffee table tome and in digital editions, this is a visual milestone no consenting adult connoisseur of comics should miss.
Angel Claws and its logo are ™ Les Humanoides Associes SAS Paris (France). English version © 2012 Humanoids, Inc., Los Angeles (USA). All rights reserved.

Skydoll: Decade

By Barbara Canepa & Alessandro Barbucci (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-736-7

Astoundingly barbed political and anti-consumerist satirical allegory Skydoll has been appearing sporadically since 2000. It’s the other work of frequent collaborators Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa (whose usual offerings include more family-oriented fare such as W.I.T.C.H. and Monster Allergy) and – although rendered in the subtly seductive anthropomorphic style developed and signifying decades of wholesome Disney cartooning – is a superbly strident attack on corporate consumerism, the media’s mesmerism of the masses, political expediency, religion and the power of the Catholic church, all wrapped up in the raunchy, beguiling trappings of super-sexy science fiction shenanigans…

Now most of the components thus far generated have been beautifully bound up in a gloriously oversized (284 x 212mm) full-colour hardback edition.

The subversive odyssey begins with the prose ‘Preface: ten years of Skydoll’: a bold declaration of intent by The Authors before we speed straight into the fantastic fantasy with ‘Volume 1: The Yellow City’ which introduces fetching, wind-up automaton Noa, asking God for a little fair treatment whilst working at the insalubrious Heaven Spaceshipwash. She’s not like the other beautiful dolls working there. Although she still needs to be wound-up every 33 hours by her owner, this alluring automaton seems to have a memory that doesn’t erase itself after a couple of days. This means she keeps thinking of difficult fresh questions to ask…

Furiously shoved back to work, Noa ignores the fabulously bland and vapid blatherings of TV talk show monolith Frida Decibel blasting out from every home and public broadcast screen, telling the populace of Papathea how good everything is now that they only have one Popessa in the buxom form of the divine Ludovica.

Once upon a time there were two True Vicars of God: Agape who embodied spiritual love and Ludovica who personified its physical expression. When Agape mysteriously vanished her corporeal partner became sole arbiter of the galactic empire the church controls, commencing a campaign of craftily concocted public miracles to pacify the increasingly irate and disillusioned populace.

It’s not really working though, and a rising tide of rebellion and resentment is just beginning to pop…

Our story really begins when two of Ludovica’s “Diplomatic Agents” stop at Heaven to get their starcraft properly shined before heading out on their top-secret mission. Old Jahu is especially keen on the diversion: everybody knows lusting after or even indulging in pleasure with a Doll doesn’t count as sin. The Popessa said so…

However, whilst lathering up the ship of some fervent fundamentalists at the head of the queue, Noa accidentally kicks off a small riot, even as across the city Ludovica’s latest manufactured miracle kicks into high-gear with mesmerising effect…

By the time the barrage of supernal glitz and gaudy glitter subsides, Jahu and young idealistic Roy are well on their way. They have no idea there’s a dazed and surprised stowaway aboard, with her crucial, life-sustaining key still negligently left in her back…

And on the rapidly dwindling planet behind them, Ludovica fumes. Despite getting rid of her rival, the sole Popessa’s grasp of power is still uncertain. The people still hunger for vanished Agape and there are rumours of rebellion. The anxious, power-mad pontiff has no idea how close to home the sedition reaches…

Aboard ship Roy has made a startling discovery. Unable to help himself, he turns the key in the inert innocent’s back and restores temporary autonomy to a vivacious creature he can’t help but like…

Doctrinaire Jahu is less sanguine but the mission is too important to delay. They can always dump the doll on the way home…

Noa is eternally curious, asking questions about everything. She is inexplicably especially moved by an illicit image of Agape the voyagers encounter in a space restaurant. It somehow triggers strange and terrifying visions and Roy has to physically restrain Noa. What happens next is regarded by the astounded onlookers as a miracle…

The story resumes with ‘Volume 2: Aqua’ as hints begin about Noa’s destiny and the unseen sponsors who seem to be guiding her destiny. The Popessa’s missionary ambassadors meanwhile land on the world without males: one successfully propounding a third spiritual way…

Governed by planetary Guru Gaia, the women of Aqua are steadily gaining support across the universe, supported and funded by their range of wellness centres and luxury goods which everyone wants to try. Roy is there to build diplomatic bridges between the Popessa and the completely antithetical Aquans in the cause of peace. He has no idea that Jahu’s orders are a little different. He always knew the only way to deal with heretics…

Noa inveigles her way into the official conference: she’s hopeful these strange women will have some insight into her own rapidly-expanding consciousness. She is stunned by what they do know and their connection to missing Agape.

And as Jahu goes about his bloody work, back on Papathea, bloody revolution breaks out…

The intrigue expands in ‘Volume 3: The White City’ when Roy, Jahu and the constantly-growing Noa return as triumphant heroes. When officially interviewed by the ubiquitous Frida Decibel the web of intrigue and damnation expands to encompass some very unexpected personalities, even as the empire stands poised on the edge of Armageddon and real miracles start happening in the most unlikely places…

A broad, vast, clever and frustrating unfinished epic, Skydoll is still unfolding at its own tantalising pace. There has however been plenty of sidebar and ancillary material released such as ‘Volume 0: Doll’s Factory’ which offers a sequence of prequel events to flesh out the main characters in another stunningly captivating art package.

Here a strange woman visits a factory and places something miraculous inside a doll in its final stages of manufacture, whilst ‘Heaven’s Dolls’ rewards the reader with information on the world and empire of the Popessa, affording insights into other Dolls such as Lovely Lou, Juicy Lee, Sandy Blue and God himself – proving just why he needed killing…

There’s also a hilarious Sky Doll ‘Psycho-grapho Test’ to further reveal how life and society really work…

This immaculate confection culminates in a huge collection of ‘Homages’: a breathtaking gallery of tribute images of Sky Doll and her chums by a staggeringly talented cast of fellow artists comprising Claire Wendling, Karla Diaz, Benjamin, Marguerite Sauvage, Mijin Shatje, Cyrille Bertin, Tony Infante, Bengal, Claudio Acciari, Tony Sandoval, Amélie Fléchais, Giovanni Rigano, Sefora Pons, Gradimir Smudja, Aurore, Augustin Rolland, Nenent, Guezav, Pierre-Mony Chan, Lucy Mazel, Véronique Meignaud, Matteo De Longis, Xavier Collette, Anne Cresci, Lilidoll, Jérémie Almanza, Lostfish and more.

Completing and concluding religious experience is a comprehensive feature ‘About the Authors’ and a page packed with ‘Acknowledgements & Credits’.

A phenomenal work-in-progress, Sky Doll is a superbly engaging exploration of erotica, iconology and idolatry: one no fun-loving, deep-thinking lover of comic iconoclasm should miss.
Sky Doll and all contents are © Editions Soleil/Barbucci/Canepa. This translated edition © 2016 Titan Comics.

Sky Doll: Decade will be in UK store from March 15th 2016.

The Erotic Adventures of Space Babe 113

By John Maybury (Soaring Penguin Press)
ISBN: 978-1-908030-16-0

I have to declare an interest before I review this splendid and long-awaited collection. John Maybury is, as well as a fellow survivor of the Comic Creators Guild and my editor on the Guild’s Annuals (still available at most Unicorn Fairs and any Galifreyan used-stuff emporium), one of many people I have taught in more than twenty-five years as a tutor of comic skills at various organisations ranging from the London College of Printing, through the London Cartoon Centre to the Cartoon Art Trust.

I think it’s only fair to state, however, looking at how few of those hundreds, if not thousands, of students have gone on to produce outstanding comic work, that we’d be deluding ourselves in assuming I had any effect whatsoever.

I’ve known John for decades both professionally, socially and on occasion alcoholically and feel the Convent-school-inculcated need to admit this long association. Of course you might say it’s no fault of mine if extremely talented and dedicated people congregate around me like shining planets around a dying sun contemplating becoming a big black hole…

Confession over, and so to work…

The Erotic Adventures of Space Babe 113 is a remarkably original and ferociously addictive landmark of comedic science fiction from a creator not content to simply tell stories, but determined also to constantly challenge himself in the process. Redolent with overtones of Barbarella (Jean Claude Forest’s comic more than the Jane Fonda movie), The Ballad of Halo Jones, Red Dwarf, Little Annie Fanny and a dozen other things I could cite to show off, this is the intoxicating tale of a sexy ingénue on a five-year commercial mission to the stars with a motley mob of misfits on the claustrophobic and muddled European Union ship Marco Polo.

Although nominally the ship’s Catering Officer, Space always seems to get the tackiest jobs – such as testing the fetishistic Off World Battle Garb – during a mercilessly mercantile mission to sign up new trading partners.

Perhaps it’s because she’s a bit of a “looker”, not that academically accomplished and reputedly far from chaste? Whatever the actual reason, the Earth-based overseer of this particular mission – Media Director 667 – has already increased company revenue streams by forward-selling the “adults-only” Ship’s Logs to broadcast franchises and so most of Space’s shipboard duties tend to end with her undraped and panting.

Regrettably for all the cunning entrepreneurs, although free, healthy and over 21, SB 113 has faithfully promised her boyfriend to stay exclusive until they’re reunited, even though that tends to make her a little short on patience and quite ready to stroppily protest the stream of strange orders perpetually foisted upon her by immediate superiors Lesbian Sex Officer Mrrf M’n’cha and Marketing & Sales Officer Star 406

At least she can share her woes with Laundry Officer Rince Cycle 335 – whose sympathetic ear almost makes up for his permanently sneering at her for being a glorified microwave-oven operator…

Not long into the mission the first crisis occurs after cosmic rays mutate the female crew-members’ underwear and only after a valiant struggle are the rampaging killer-skivvies ejected from the ship. Sadly, it does mean that the women might be stuck in Scottish Engineer’s hastily cobbled-together titanium-steel knickers or reduced to going commando, and further danger lurks since not all the deadly drawers have been banished…

Eventually stability returns in time for the planned rendezvous with the fabled ‘Lirka’ and on Marco Polo assorted crewpersons prepare for their first trade conference with the asexual Aardvarks. Tensions are high but at least all are confident that there will be no further assaults from treacherous or homicidal underwear.

Unbeknownst to most of the Terran delegation, however, lead negotiator Star 406 has been secretly instructed to use any means necessary to compel the Lirka to purchase human porn. She regretfully realises that in such an impossible situation she will need every possible advantage and that means the always-aggravating Space Babe 113.

Can two such widely differing species find some common ground to build upon? In the strangest, stickiest manner imaginable the answer is categorically “yes”, but sometimes getting what you want isn’t really a good thing, as can be seen when the conference devolves into a wild, narcotically-deranged strip-poker party…

Barely surviving the catastrophic aftermath of the all-too successful trade-conference with the androgynous ant-eaters, Space crashes a hastily procured escape pod onto a desolate jungle world dubbed ‘Foliage’ where she must eke out a lonely existence and pray for rescue. She has her snarkily sarcastic and judgemental new AI knickers to talk to, but other than them, is she truly alone?

At last convinced that something on the lush planetoid is trying to communicate with her, she undertakes an epic quest and falls for the oldest line in interstellar seduction. Is she the last hope for a dying race to return from the very edge of extinction, or is it just that Earth Girls really are Easy?

At least she’s still kept her promise, if you only count humans…

Rince had also ditched on the green world and before too long he and Space were rescued by U.S. starship George Dubya: a straight-laced, traditional exploration vessel which only releases “Family Viewing” Mission Logs. ‘Stones’ finds Media Director 667 – terrified of lost sales or shared profits – frantically informing his superiors of the disaster before determining to get his star back or get rid of her before the Yanks get all the cash and glory.

He discloses that Space’s knickers have an illegal patch and are operating without the curbs of the Three Laws of Lingerie: if necessary they can be manipulated and compelled to self-destruct…

Things are pretty desperate already aboard the US starship: Space has met the bosom-heavingly gorgeous archaeologist Dr. Standing Stones and, despite a complete lack of qualifications, has claimed to be one herself, ready and so-very-willing to join his expedition to the ancient world of ‘Sand’ spinning beneath them. She is hot, bothered and blithely unaware of EU Commands’ murderous plan, busily losing another ill-tempered battle with her surly underwear which cruelly claims it is no longer her size…

She is plagued by hot, sweaty dreams as ‘Mud’ then sees the history-hunters encountering one of the most powerful and ancient species in existence. Tragically the puissant Grand T’Kleep of Tyracus III understandably takes great umbrage at being used in a most unseemly manner for a moment of urgently needed libidic relief by the soft, curvy one and decides to put her entire race on trial. As the representative of humanity SB 113 must defeat the mighty Bolboi champion in a sacred duel which looks remarkably like mud-wrestling or her entire species will excised from existence 35,000 years before they began annoying proper civilised beings.

Good thing Space was Academy Champion three years running…

Meanwhile on the George Dubya the Americans have cracked the murderous coded message from MD 667 and begin countermeasures…

Chapter 7 slightly diverts to offer an ‘Origin’ revealing how a simple wannabe fashion designer encountered the wrong Careers Bot and ended up an unwilling astronaut Catering Officer, as well as her hidden history with the frustrated creature who became Media Director 667 before ‘Jet’ finds Star 406 fanatically attempting to complete the explosive sabotage mission even as MD 667 – under orders from his own boss – reluctantly leads a rescue mission to pick up his out-of-control minions as a fantastic, millennia-old plan of cosmic fiddling slowly, teasingly unfolds…

With star ships and space stations in imminent danger of destruction the explosive climax sees Space forced into extremely rash behaviour as she tussles with Star to save Dr. Stones and perhaps all of us thanks to ‘Wings’, common sense, good luck and sheer guts…

Raunchy, hilarious, surreal and astoundingly clever, but still deftly striding the right side of the line between charm and prurience, Space Babe 113 is not only great saucy smut and potent parody but also solid, big sky science fiction treated with all the irreverence it deserves and I for one can’t wait for her snooty talking pants to spin off into their own mini-series. Until that moment however this splendid, long overdue chronicle concludes with a few delicious shorts including ‘Space Babe’s Handy Guide to Lesbian Sex for Single Girls’ and ‘The Space Probe: an investigation of the Seamier Side of Sequential Art’.

There is a long tradition of sexy spacewomen in comics, films, TV and even novels and this gently racy, technically torrid tale ranks among the highest in those arenas. The humour is both broad and gentle, with much more of the Carry On movie rather than Emmanuelle about it, although many subversive side-splitters do sneak in, and there are oodles of deep-genre, comic book and computer techie in-jokes for those in the know.

Remember I said he liked to challenge himself? Although able to draw fabulously well in a variety of representational styles, John has sweetened the pot for us all by setting himself a daunting task. This is a glamour book which has successfully abandoned pseudo or mega-pneumatic realism in favour of reductionist abstraction which has echoes of Vaughn Bodé, Alex Niño and graffiti street art. It is to his credit that his diligence has incontrovertibly succeeded. She may just be large blobs of thick black and white, but she is certainly a tasty little minx.

Well-rounded, captivating and impossible to put down. Buy it and decide if I mean her or it, why don’t you?
© 2015 John Maybury. All rights reserved.

The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson volume 2: Demons and Angels

By S. Clay Wilson, edited by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-844-1

This book is filled with dark, violent sexual imagery and outrageous situations intended to make adults laugh and think. Please be aware that means nudity, images of extreme violence, sexual intimacy, excess of every kind and language commonly used in the privacy of the bedroom, drunken street brawls and – I suspect – school playgrounds whenever supervising adults aren’t present.

If the thought of it all offends you, read no further and don’t buy the book. The rest of us will enjoy some of the most groundbreaking cartoon experiences ever created without you.

Steve Clay Wilson was a pioneering trailblazer within America’s transformative Underground Commix movement: an uncompromising, controversial, in-your-face architect of the counterculture, constantly challenging attitudes and sensitivities whilst telling the kind of cartoon tales he wanted (or perhaps had) to. Something of a contradiction to those who knew him, charming, charismatic Wilson lived life to the full and took his art seriously.

And what art! Stark, complex, shocking, incredibly detailed tableaux jumping with modern Rabelaisian content: mesmerising scenes packed with intense multi-layered busyness, crammed with outrageous, iconic characters in constant surging motion – mostly combative, lewdly licentious and hilariously violent.

The manly hedonistic exuberance of frantic fighters rejoicing in the wild freedom as exemplified by bikers, cowboys, pirates, bull dykes and devils, augmented by other violent ne’er-do-wells, grotesques, human-scaled beasts and things which could be drawn but never described…

His work seethed and abounded with excess: monsters, mutilations, booze- and drug-fuelled romps populated with priapic plunderers and ravening beasts, dangerous and disturbed women and always, always unsettling scenes of society’s biggest taboos – sex and personal freedom.

Americans already worshipped violence; Wilson simply pushed the optics for that sacrament as far as he could, straight into surreal parody. Everybody who knew Wilson adored him, but around him they were usually a little nervous and stepped lightly…

The contemporary successor to Peter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch moved on to other artistic arenas when the Underground movement foundered but he never toned down or curbed his visions. In 2008 he suffered massive brain damage in mysterious circumstances and has been undergoing full-time palliative care ever since.

This second intimate, informative oversized (286 x 202 mm) hardback biography/graphic overview is compiled from previous writings and extensive interviews with the people he grew up with and who shared his eventful life.

Moreover each telling anecdote and reminiscence is augmented with photos, paintings, illustrated letters and private or previously unpublished artworks, with each chapter offering a wealth of strips, comprising most of his output from the decline of the counterculture in the mid 1970s to the graphic renaissance of the 1980s.

Before our hagiography of horrors resumes, fellow cartoonist, bosom buddy and contemporary fun-seeker Joe Schenkman paints a torrid word-picture in his Introduction: Where Eagles Soar, after which ‘From Underground to Alternative’ describes the slow painful end of Underground Commix and subsequent downturn in the massive sales its iconoclastic cartoonists enjoyed during the 1960s, whilst relating how the true survivors moved into other areas of expression and more legitimate publishing arenas.

The cultural pendulum swing actually benefited the most dedicated and talented artistic visionaries like R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez and Wilson, and this section looks at our wayward rebel’s easy shuffle into commissioned art, gallery-shows, covers and commercial illustration as well as his return to comicbook notoriety in the 1980s after being sought out by Steve Bissette and John Totleben for their horror anthology Taboo. “Wil-sin” more than lived up to his reputation…

Jam-packed with illustrations, this history is rounded off with more astounding strips and his manic, hyper-complex tableaux-spreads (he called them “Deep Scenes”) including ‘Angels & Devils’ and ‘Wanda and Tillie featuring Jesus’ from Zap Comix #6, (1973), as well as ‘Rough Trade Lib’, the apocalyptic ‘Futuristic Glimpses’ and convoluted shock-spreads ‘Dyke Pirates Rescue Their Captain from the Diabolic Doctors of Dover’, ‘Maarooouufffaaolloo’ from the following year’s Zap #7, whilst 1975’s 2 (Two), originally housed ‘Brutal Youths Trounce Lawful Citizens for Ticket Money’, ‘Suds Smut’, ‘Un Acte’, ‘The Possessed, Exorcists, Demons and Gurus in a Free-for-All’ and ‘The Captain Died Twice’ before the same productive year’s 2² (Two Squared) delivers the epic examination of social atrocity ‘Lester Gass – the Midnight Xenophobe’

The next essay concentrates on the legendary artistic collaborations of Wilson, Spain, Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Victor Moscoso, Robert Williams and Rick Griffin who periodically and competitively reunited through the 1970s and 1980s to release new material in an occasional anthology like no other.

Zap Forever!’ offers history and insight supplemented by a wealth of Wilson’s stunning and controversial material beginning with ‘Riot in Cell Block Number Nine’ assorted short tales of ‘The Checkered Demon’, ‘Travelin’ Assassin’ and ‘The Sawbones Sews on the Captain’s Ear Following the Fray’ from Zap Comix #9 (1978), ‘The Swap’ and ‘Star-Eyed Stella’ from #8 in 1975, whilst issue #10 (1982) featured the haunting ‘Bums and the Bird-Spirit’ and ‘Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates Sail Again!’

Also rousing ire and poking gorges are vivid Deep Scenes ‘Vampires with Their Dates and Victims Peruse Count von Sangre’s Basement Exhibition of Satanic Icons’, ‘The Checkered Demon and a Couple of Friends Relax in a Rustic Pub’, ‘Rotting Zombies Take Vengeance Upon the Pirates Who Had Shang-Haid Them’ from Zap Comix #11, (1985) offering the artist’s latest obsession and newest entries to his repertoire of grisly characters: zombies!

Back in educational mode ‘Wilson Abroad’ covers the artist’s life in beloved San Francisco bars and forays into book illustration – most notably covers and interiors for archival German editions of writers like William Burroughs – as well as the maverick’s European tours and booze-soaked trips to England and Scotland, augmented by a plethora of fascinating photos and commercial images.

This section includes a barrage of brilliant comics pieces which begin with the infamous Checkered Demon adventure-strip originally serialised in The Berkeley Barb newspaper from 1976-77 and later collected as The Checkered Demon #1 from Last Gasp.

These sordid sorties are followed by ‘The Checkered Demon Meats the Rotting Zombies Countess!’ (Weird Smut 1985), ‘The Checkered Demon Searches for the Perfect Pint!’, (Knockabout #2, 1981), ‘Captain Rosy Namrooth and her Crew Attempt to Prevent the Checkered Demon from Rescuing Star-Eyed-Stella and her Witch Sister through a Hole in the Hull’ (Boiled Owl #3 1981), ‘Give Me Them Pills’ (Jump Start #1, 1983), ‘A Gluetette and her Rotting Zombie Beau Discover the Little Syringe that Nobody Wanted’ (Jump Start #2, 1987), ‘The Checkered Demon and Deke the Blade Find the Dealer Dead in his Dank Little Room’ (Blatch #13. 1986), ‘Last Call!’ (Heck 1989), ‘Gems and Junk’ (Jump Start #2, 1987) and ‘Psycho Fat Boys’ from Too Fun Too Huge #2 1988.

A peek at the frequently controversial coterie of ‘Wilson’s Characters’ grants access to many unseen private works and unpublished material, neatly segueing into a mostly full-colour selection of works including ‘Babbs Crabb and Her Friend Bernice Meet the Male Chauvinist Peg!’ (Barbarian Women #2, 1977), the cover to Barbarian Women #2, front and back covers for The Checkered Demon #1, II (1978) and III (1979), Britain’s Knockabout #2 cover, The Ugly Head 1981 cover plus The Ugly Head from Yama Yama/The Ugly Head, the cover of Zap Comix #9 and front & back covers for both 2 (Two) and 2² (Two Squared) before this eclectic collection concludes with an invitation to view the artist’s middle years of ‘Domestic Tranquility’.

These social interactions are all accompanied by fascinating, rare illustrations such as fliers for ‘St. Pat’s Bash at Dick’s Bar’ (1984) and ‘Dicknic!’ (1987), plus 17 stunning Private Commissions, the cover to crime novel Blind Pig, and an album cover for ‘More Fun Than an Open Casket Funeral’ by The Accüsed from 1989, before the lesson endeth with a copious listing of Selected Works by S. Clay Wilson

Erudite, intimately informative yet utterly engaging, this superb collation, contrived and shepherded by the informationally insatiable Patrick Rosenkranz, offers unmissable insights into of one of the most important cartoonists in American history. Just like its precursor, this is a book no serious lover of the art form or devotee of grown-up comics can afford to miss.
The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson Volume Two: Demons and Angels © 2015 Fantagraphics Books. All comics and images by S. Clay Wilson © 2015 S. Clay Wilson. All biographical text © 2015 Patrick Rosenkranz. All other material © 2015 its respective creators and owners. All rights reserved.