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Canadian sex-ed comics are, like everything Candian, hilariously reasonable | Village Voice

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Canadian sex-ed comics are, like everything Candian, hilariously reasonable


Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Big Break Comics

Author: Paul McNally (words) and Chris Hlady (pencils/color/design)
Date: 1988
Publisher: The Committee on Unplanned Pregnancy, Winnipeg
Discovered at: Garage sale, Gimli, Manitoba

Representative True/False Statement:
“If you always have sex standing up, the semen runs out and you can’t get pregnant.”

So, Canada, our largest national park, is kind of like if NPR were a country, a place where reasonable people say reasonable things and then smile wanly and sit in silence, like everybody just gave blood or something.

Once, over hard eggs on toast at a Manitoba bed and breakfast, I heard a suburban woman from Toronto announce that her town had had a terrible gang problem. Being white American familiar with the silly things white people have to say on the subject non-white teenagers, I cringed in anticipation of whatever might come next: her theorizing about welfare leading to the collapse of the family, maybe, or a denunciation of “the black leadership.”

Instead, she said, “The city created skateparks and after-school programs and did everything it could to let the young people know how much we value them.”

The Canadians around us all nodded along. Nobody even called her a traitor.

That streak of empathetic horsesense appears throughout Big Break Comics, a breezy anthology of stories of teens, sex, and un-American reasonableness whipped up forManitoban sex ed programs.

Wonderfully frank quizzes stud the comic:


Authors McNally and Hlady contribute three stories. The first concerns a high school rock band called the Frotters, which is named for either the act of sensually rubbing yourself against strangers in public or the French verb “to chafe.”

Since they seem to hail from lower Manitioba, the name might refer to both: the thrill and ache of a life rubbed raw against North Dakota.

The only thing chafing at this Frotter rehearsal is singer Mike’s love for Angie, which grinds right up against his fear of multi-syllabic English.

For maximum impact, sing it in the voice of Barney.

Mike and the Frotters have won a chance at a club date in Winnipeg. He invites Angie to join him at his hotel, but she anticipates a serious problem: her mother, who is afflicted by the old-fashioned idea that teenage girls should not spend their weekends shacked up out of town with some shmoe Frotter who writes “I love you/and what we do.”

Sure enough, Angie and her mother blow up over this point.

But then something strange happens. We get this:

And, even more remarkably, this:

The exciting climax of this teen sex comic? A mother’s slow realization that of course her daughter will get to gettin’ to, so it’s best to share honest information about condom use.

By the end, the mother lets Angie head to Winnipeg for her weekend of Canadian lovemaking, that flat and anemic act that always culminates in a moment of reverence for the Queen.

Maybe they took this sex quiz together!

A couple pages later, a story set on a deserted midnight highway contains this dialogue exchange:

Jock #1: “You should have to get a licence to have sex. Think about it. Sexually transmitted diseases, AIDs, pregnancy . . . it’s more dangerous than driving.”

Jock #2: “Right. So you’d have to have a learner’s permit.”

Jock #1: “Yeah, then you’d need someone older with you when you practiced.”

Just like with their driver’s licenses, farm kids are the earliest to qualify for their Canadian Sex Cards.

“Let’s Go Outside,” a third story, offers a faintly harrowing account of a young woman’s escape from a pushy boy’s pick-up truck. He rips her clothes and then calls her a tease as she dashes away. A page later, penciler Hlady’s fractured panels stylishly capture a life in fragments.

In Canada thoughtful artists craft the sex-ed materials with an eye toward the complexity of human feeling. Perhaps one day they’ll wise up to what Americans already know: the people who should teach kids about sex are the people who are most terrified of it.

Not long afterwards the authors throw in this:

Even in sensible Canada, every comic book must include an act of vigilante justice!

Here’s the amazing “Game of Sex,” which is based on Snakes & Ladders, the colonial English name for Chutes & Ladders:

Can you make it through Canadian puberty unscathed by STDs or snakebites?

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