By Hunt Emerson & D. H. Lawrence (Knockabout Publications)
One of the oldest and best proponents of comics for grown-ups in this country is Knockabout Comics, who have been bringing us new strips and publishing some of the best material available from around the world for longer than I care to remember.
This offering is a classic of controversy twice over. The obscenity trial in 1960 of a novel that had been banned for three decades smashed the power of the Obscene Publications Act and in many ways ushered in the liberalities and freedoms immortalised as the “Swinging Sixties”.
In brief, and as you’re all probably too young or too demure to have read the book, the plot concerns the choices of Lady Constance Chatterley to provide an heir for her husband, crippled and left incapable due to wounds suffered in the Great War. To the horror of all, her sexual licence, grudgingly granted by her desperate husband, leads her to a coarse game-keeper, rather than the aesthetes and thinkers of her own class, as imagined, tolerated and initially, provided by her impotent spouse. The novel is beautiful, iconoclastic, passionate, challenging and memorable.
There’s not that many laughs in there, though.
All of which just makes the cartoon adaptation by Hunt Emerson all the more amazing. In this slim monochrome tome he manages to synthesize all that desperation, despair and struggle for personal, emotional and social liberation into a story bursting with the vitality of sexual release, and redolent with the heady perfume of true love as it triumphs over the freshly discredited monuments of class, pride and duty. He also actually adds to the mix by illustrating that sex is not only fun, but, By Gawd! it’s damn funny to watch.
Hunt Emerson is one of our greatest comic strip creators, and his slightly skewed reinterpretation might not to the tastes of some Lawrence purists, but Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an honest piece of work, masterfully accomplished. His take is true to the spirit of the original but is seasoned with the modern sensibilities of generations who have grown up allowed to talk about and even joke about sex. He also gets away with drawing naughty bits without getting the entire comics industry sent to prison. Hoorah for freedom!
© 1986 Knockabout Publications. All Rights Reserved