'True Porn' Comics Bare All

Panel sex: Telling stories of boredom, ecstasy, impotence, and onanism

I'm a comics virgin. Aside from Betty and Veronica, the Sunday funny pages, and the occasional Diesel Sweeties visit, I've looked at precious few, which is perhaps why True Porncaught my eye. The anthology popped up in stores like Toys in Babeland, featuring artists even I'd heard of, like Potential creator Ariel Schrag (name-checked in Le Tigre's "Hot Topic") and Michelle Tea collaborator Laurenn McCubbin. The stories ranged from hot and sultry to awkwardly endearing.

United by a "love for voyeurism," True Porn editors Robyn Chapman and Kelli Nelson have produced True Porn 2, published by Alternative Comics. These artists probe the erotic, frustrating, sad, or simply odd places sex takes us. If you're looking only for 38DD breasts, nonstop orgasms, and XXX action, True Porn is not the comic book for you. Why? Because that's not what real-life sex consists of, at least not all (or probably even most) of the time.

What I like best about True Porn is that even if the details differ, I can recognize myself in it. From the uncertainty of lying next to someone you've just had sex with but may never see again to the most erotic phone sex imaginable, it's all there, a wonderland of sex that is much more "true" than "porn." Not only do True Porn and TP2 offer crash courses in the world of alternative comics, they also show the complexity of sex.

What rules governed the stories they accepted? Chapman explains, "It had to be true, and about sex. Not about sex acts. We never tried to define sex. If you think something is sex, we'd probably agree. Making out counts; masturbating counts; abstaining counts; simply thinking about sex counts. In general, our stories range from somber to hilarious. Any titillating, pornographic aspect is secondary to the story being told." Working on the project has made Chapman, who's studying at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, re-examine her attitudes toward sex. "In [the first True Porn], I wrote about losing sexual interest with a boy I deeply loved. Our breakup was pretty devastating and fairly recent when I started drawing the comic. It's probably the most personal thing I've ever written, and not just because I'm naked on half the pages," she says. "Back then, sex was something sacred. Now I think it can be sacred, or boring, or fun. It can be whatever you need it or want it to be."

Seeking an "upbeat and positive" tone was one of their goals. "We knew we had some sober, even sleazy, pieces, but we didn't want a general air of ugliness," says Nelson. "The great majority of sex is enjoyable and recreational. We were very careful with the cover of both books to parse a sexuality that's perfectly commonplace but still exciting."

The cover of TP2 features a scantily clad woman peering through a peephole, a mostly accurate image for a collection sharing everything from "the highs to the lows of our most basic urge," as their promotional blurb puts it. It's the lows, or at least the in-betweens, that provide the best moments. Illustrator Laurenn McCubbin contributed "Perfect" to the first volume, a story about having sex with a gorgeous woman while her husband watches, then falling for her and having to walk away. There's a wistful "I should've known but it was worth it anyway" quality to her piece. For McCubbin, publishing it had some unexpected results. "I used to be pretty open about my life and sexuality," she says. "The only challenge came later, when people started telling me how much they liked my story. It kind of freaked me out at first, thinking, 'Wow, all these people have seen drawings of my boobies.' I hadn't taken that into consideration."

I'm not really sure whether Suicide Girls' Daniel Robert Epstein's assertion that "cartoonists have the most fucked-up sex life" is true, but the ones whose work is printed here take full advantage of the sex that got away, laughing at themselves or assessing what they might've done differently. If you're looking for something to exercise your mind as much as your libido, TP is perfect because it perfectly captures the confusion and uncertainty caused when longing and fantasy mix with reality. Ed Malys writes in "Yawn" about how sex makes him sleepy (clearly not the most attractive trait), while Nelson's "Sex Toys Made Me Crazy" looks at the pressure to have the perfect solo orgasm. Sex is not readily available 24-7, and neither is orgasm, but these authors aren't seeking solace or answers. Instead, they've turned their art into catharsis, taking time to laugh at (or about), mock, or simply isolate a moment in their sexual histories, rendered as absurdly, accurately, or adorably as they (care to) recall. TP addresses many of the sexual dilemmas people face: Am I normal? Why won't she sleep with me? What will the first time I (insert wild sex act here) be like?

These cartoonists, like the best short-story writers, often leave us hanging, and it's with a sense of disappointment that I turned to the next story, eager to know what happened next. Tasked with saying a lot in a small space, they've managed to tease out the key elements of their encounters (and also draw naked body parts in all their spread-eagled glory on occasion). Some, like Sharon Lintz's Pornhounds, chronicling her various smut-publishing forays, are only tangentially about sex. Comedian Liam McEneaney wrote about applying for a job in a porn shop to be a jizz mopper (really) at a smut shack. He had Chapman draw it for him. His one complaint? "My biggest beef, no pun intended, is that at the time when the story takes place, I was something like 450 pounds, and in the story I don't look that fat at all. Trust me, I was way more disturbing to look at. I look too cute!"

Manning Leonard Krull's "Ménage à Duh" is my favorite piece. He portrays himself as a lovably dorky punk rocker, complete with mohawk, tattoos, and piercings, who manages to evade three different threesomes with hot girls—his thought bubbles ("Fuck fuck fuck stupid stupid stupid stupid") and cluelessness are amusing and adorable, showing the other side of "every man's fantasy." If you've ever thought, "I can't believe this is happening" in bed, True Porn will show you that you're not alone.


Please visit rachelkramerbussel.com

Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
New York Concert Tickets
Loading...