Comic Docs: STRIPPED & Sex in the Comix


The comics documentary, STRIPPED, was released last week and I’m looking forward to finding the time to watch the whole thing. It’s getting a lot of press for featuring an interview with the reclusive Bill Waterson, but looks well worth viewing for the sheer number of interviewees alone (over 80 people) including cartoonists from the old guard like Cathy Guisewite, webcomic producers like Kate Beaton and historians/theorists like Scott McCloud. There are a couple good reviews up on BoingBoing and Esquire.



The other film I wanted to write about is a documentary about erotic comics, Sex in the Comix, directed by Joëlle Ooserlinck. You’ll have to brush up on your French to watch the entire embedded film. (There’s also a German language video if Deutsche is more your speed.) Despite being released in 2011, it appears that the North American distributions rights to film haven’t been picked up yet; unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere you can purchase it.

Hosted by Molly Crabapple, Sex in the Comix focuses on erotic comics in America, Europe and Japan. It features interviews with giants like Milo Manera and Robert Crumb as well as contemporary artists like Bastien Vivès and Aude Picault. The documentary categorizes erotic comics into different genres (e.g., autobiographical) and invites creators in each genre to share his or her views on why they make erotic comics and the perspectives and themes they are trying to express in their work. The film also explores the history of censorship and its impact on comics creation. (One even wonders if censorship might be a factor in why this film has not received wider distribution.)

Overall, the documentary provides a good overview and introduction to mainstream erotic comics but given its breadth, it doesn’t have time (the film is under one hour long) to go into much depth in any given area. There is some coverage given to homosexual and women’s erotic comics but I think every single creator interviewed was white except Suehiro Maruo. I also wish that the creators of all the art featured in the film were identified with captions. While I recognized most of it, there were some comics that looked interesting that I would have liked to follow up on.

What I did like was the general consensus among the interviewees about how comics is such a great medium for erotica. Representations of sex flourish in comics, perhaps even more than in film and photography, because on the page, the erotic imagination has no limitations. Comics can present erotic realms that are utterly divorced from reality, where realistic mores, restrictions and concerns do not have the same bearing, if they are present at all. The medium offers the ultimate playground for id and appetite and the wide variety of artistic expression packed into this short doc attests to that.

Hopefully, we will see this film released in North America some day.