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September 28, 2017

Sex in the Comix


Joelle Oosterlinck - 2012
Doppelgänger Releasing Region 1 DVD

After kicking around for several years, including Youtube, Oosterlinck's documentary has an official U.S. release. Where it is of interest is in introducing a couple of European artists I wasn't previously familiar with. For under an hour, we have what is essentially a tourist's view of depictions of sex by a handful of artists mostly known through underground comics, including the best known of all, Robert Crumb.

The French filmmaker, Oosterlinck, has shown a past interest in art and artists, and related her, has made a documentary about Art Spiegelman, famous for depicting the holocaust with his graphic book, Maus. Molly Crabapple is a socially committed artist in her own right, who could well have been one of the subjects here. And yet, I felt like there was more to explore. Certainly there isn't much to add about Robert Crumb that hasn't already been revealed in Terry Zwigoff's documentary. More interesting for myself were the scenes of the German Ralf Konig, who used his comics as a way of dealing with the changes of gay culture, and France's Aude Picault, who has used part of her life to depict female sexuality, with fine line drawings of women who are not designed as male fantasy figures.

Along with how comics have been a reflection of their respective artists realities or fantasies, is an overview on how comics reflected societal changes, and and dealt with censorship. There is brief footage of Fredric Wertham, the psychiatrist who effectively ruined comics for over a decade with his book, Seduction of the Innocent, which linked comic books with various forms of juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior in 1954. More recently Wertham's book has been exposed for using shoddy methodology.

Another glance to the past is a fleeting look at the so-called "Tijuana Bibles", the compact comic books that depicted sex, sometimes that of Hollywood celebrities, or parodies of well-known comic book characters. Missing are looks at some of the erotic comics of the past, often centered on female characters, such as "Barbarella", "Modesty Blaise" and "Valentina". I would guess that for that person who never looked at a single issue of "Zap Comix", or browsed through the graphic books section of a bookstore, Sex in the Comix might be a good place to start.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 28, 2017 06:21 AM