Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sex in the Comics

'Sex in the Comics' by Maurice Horn
Chelsea House 1985

‘Sex in the Comics’ was published in 1985 by Chelsea House. The hardbound edition is a well-made, quality book, primarily illustrated in black and white and graytone text, with two sections of color illustrations. 

The contents might have been considered provocative and hard-core in 1985; however, by 2014 standards, this is probably an 'R' rated compendium (or perhaps a softcore 'X'). Needless to say, modern teenagers would find its contents quaint, if not mildly amusing.

Maurice Horn published a number of books throughout the 70s and 80s on various aspects of comics and graphic art, including The World Encyclopedia of Comics, Women in the Comics, Contemporary Graphic Artists, and 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics.

‘Sex in the Comics’ is an overview of this topic in both history and geography. The initial chapters look at sex in 19th and early 20th century newspaper strips, such as ‘Bringing Up Father’. Other chapters examine comics in the pre- and post- WWI period, as well as the advent of soap opera strips, like ‘On Stage’, which I remember reading in the pages of the the Sunday New York Daily News as a kid in the late 60s and early 70s.

For fans of sf and fantasy, the two corresponding chapters: 'Spaced Out Sex' and 'Sex and Fantasy', will be of greater interest. While inevitably dated, these chapters give a good summary of these genres as they stood in the mid-80s. 

Works by European artists, many of whom are very familiar to readers of Heavy Metal, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella, are prominently covered in these chapters.

Other chapters cover sex in underground comix, superheroes and sex, and ‘satirical sex’, (whatever that is).

The book’s two color plate sections, one inserted mid-way in the book, and the other as part of the appendix, offer very good reproductions of selected pages and panels from both well-known and more obscure works.

The appendix, ‘A Comic View of Sex Around the World’, features a large section of excerpts from comics from the USA, Europe, South America, and Asia. Again, while dated, there is some interesting material showcased.

Fans of comics will want to pick up a copy of this book; used copies in hardback and trade paperback editions are available for reasonable prices online.