Hello again for another round of my column that once aspired to be monthly. Indeed, I had been planning to write a grand missive about the state of comics criticism, maybe under two pseudonyms, along with an itinerary of my Instagram mutuals who of course represent the future of the entire medium. But I got distracted by nobler endeavors like learning how to talk to girls, so the column is a bit late again. That’s fine. I think that I’m worth it.
Speaking of girls, while I was waiting – pining! – to find time to get back to writing this lovely column, a lovely zine arrived in my mailbox, issue 2 of Datura, an anthology edited by Sunmi and Mar Julia. Drawing on inspiration from josei and shoujo manga anthologies, Datura presents a gender-expansive selection of Girl’s Love comics interpreted by artists with wildly divergent styles and identities, affectionately placed on a spectrum by its editors encompassing “Girl Yaoi” and “Boy Yuri.” Rosemary Valero-O’Connell‘s stunning cover illustration of two dykes embracing, dark red lipstick and polished nails grasping a glass of wine with the same rouge depth, announces the tone of the stories within – intoxicating, dangerous, a little androgynous and entranced by femininity. Valero-O’Connell’s contribution to the anthology, a bloody and meditative sequence of lesbian sex, is as visually arresting as it is explicitly erotic. Lyle Lewis & [pigeon symbol]’s “My Type” and A.A. Pandya’s “Scorpio Venus” offer slightly cuter monster girl romances (plus one monster enby in Lewis & [pigeon symbol]’s story) which are earnest and sweet. The highlight of the anthology, however, might be remus jackson’s contribution, “Sitter,” a hot and heavy story about two ex-lovers hooking up again, years after one has transitioned. jackson vividly explores some truly vulnerable and tender queer feelings – how does it feel to hold the memory of loving someone who loved you for someone you never wanted to be? – while indulging in a certain amount of sexiness that really teases at the possibilities and lovely contradictions of transmasculine sapphism. The riso printing is a standout as well, subtle and legible reds and pinks lending that same colorful softness that makes Japanese manga anthologies for women and girls so alluring on a magazine rack. I believe the first issue is back in print as well. Worth your time.
As long as I have zines on the mind, I might as well mention another little gem that recently found its way into my grubby little mitts recently Gina Wyndrandt’s You’re The Center of Attention, another fine minicomic publication from the brilliantly curators at Kûs. Wyndrandt is best known for Someone Please Have Sex With Me, a graphic novel I would happily declare a cult classic, but to my friends in Toronto she might be better known for that Sonic riso print which has hung alarmingly close to my bed for several years. Wyndrandt’s comics offer bitter satire on her life as a fat slut and the desperate struggle which many of us fat sluts face to be sexy and loveable while feeling ugly and needy. You’re The Center of Attention is as biting and precise as ever, casting Gina on a game show where all her private embarrassments are put on display in exchange for the promise of fame and fortune. The humor is biting and confessional, Wyndbrant never tiring of depicting her base desires and least flattering angles, while prodding at the public exposure we subject ourselves to every day on social media, the hoops we put ourselves through to feel noticed – a gag where Gina is forced to read her search history to a jeering audience hits home pretty hard. It’s a funny little nightmare filled with ruthless caricatures, appealing watercolors, and bug cunnilingus. All anyone could want in a comic.
Finally… fuck it, I’m gonna level with you. I love zines, art comics, all those precious and beautiful things. But there’s more to life than micropresses, and this column has clearly dove into an erogenous zone. See, there’s one ongoing comic I’ve really been enjoying keeping up with lately, and it’s an ero-manga, Nana & Kaoru by Ryuta Amazume, which hentai juggernaut Fakku has been pumping out in hefty omnibuses since last year. It’s a BDSM comic that initially caught my interest for the sheer novelty of being a lengthy heterosexual smut manga without any (ahem) standard penetration and very little nudity. Nana & Kaoru follows the titular high school seniors, Nana the popular pretty girl on the student council, Kaoru the shy and nearly friendless pervert with a secret obsession with sadism, as they stumble into a private arrangement of sadomasochistic exploration, “breathers” to relieve Nana’s growing social anxieties. The two friends bond over these shared experiences, discovering feelings that are romantic as well as sexual and struggling to find the words for them. It’s a really compelling comic, definitely (ahem) stimulating for its intended audience but also enjoyable as an earnest romantic comedy that draws readers into the budding relationship of the titular bondage buddies. It’s also kind of fun to read as adult edutainment, like a cooking manga but for fetishes instead of food. Every couple of chapters introduce a new kind of play for the learning dom and sub to discover the ins and outs of together in extensive detail, realistic enough (by porn standards – don’t try all of this at home!) to have that satisfying patter of learning something new and practical while enjoying the story. There’s even a recipe for preparing jute rope! And the art is really nice – Amazume’s cartooning is really bouncy and expressive even with the slick sheen of ero manga screentones slathered all over everything, and while hardly a Guido Crepax there are some really inspired layouts throughout, tight insert panels scattered across splash pages to reflect the delirious excitement of arousal, anxiety, and self-discovery that comes with finding one’s way in kink. I’ve read my fair share of erotic manga, and I am honestly hard-pressed to think of another that sets out so attentively and affectionately why its characters like each other and why they enjoy their kinks. I do not take that for granted.
That’s it for this month. You can leave my erogenous zone. Comics history is over again. See you next time, freaks!