Sex, comics, porn… they don’t go together in my mind. Setting aside porn (as a mechanical solution to a problem of mechanical societies, not something I find critically interesting), I still struggled to come up with comics that I’d call sexy.

Two works stood out from my shelves. The first, an American underground from 1972, shows its Catholic hero plagued by the penii of his mind. His unrelenting adolescent libido turns everything he sees into phalluses, which send out raybeams befouling all they touch. Especially churches. At one point he’s caught between two churches with a phallus-ray shooting ahead from his crotch (this is just before his fingers undergo penitization into rayguns.  And his feet). As he turns and lops off a steeple with the ray, he says,

“All I can do is hope the one on the left is Lutheran!”

The book’s Justin Green’s Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. It’s not sexy at all, just tortured by sex. And religion, or least how both infect the adolescent imagination. It’s a stunning work, the greatest of all the undergrounds. And it’s the best example of the debased confessional, the dominant strain of sex in American art comics: squeeze something embarrassing out of the pen and then hide publish the results.

The second work, Baudoin’s Terrains Vagues. If the tortured mix of sex and religion is terribly American, this book’s terribly European. A man & a woman, lots of talking, lying in bed naked talking. Sex, too. I think there’s some cigarettes, seashores, luscious drawings of old towns.  Cafes.

(I need to move to Europe.)

Baudoin abstracts everything with sumptuous brushstrokes. He constrasts their sweep with intricate pen-and-ink, just as he contrasts the sex with his protagonist’s introspection: “Quand je penetrais une femme j’avais l’impression d’etre un vandale commettant. Une profanation.” Their relationship’s falling apart, reflected in the narrator’s drawings of her.

I guess breakups aren’t that sexy, either.

Still, the book’s much, much sexier than any other comic on my shelf. (The closest comparison is Le Portrait, Baudoin’s companion piece of a few years earlier.) It also works on the artist-model theme, which has been around for centuries, if mostly unexplored in comics. Of course, comics doesn’t have the tradition of the model stripping down while the artist draws 450 portraits in tiny boxes every month.

Comics also have no tradition of seduction.  Once those 450 portraits are done, the moment’s passed. But a poem, painting, or just a camera can serve to get someone in bed, or at least naked. Donne’s poem “The Flea” or Goya’s Majas, whose myth I prefer to believe. Comics share more with the diary, where you write about how you felt when it did or didn’t work. Hence the memoirs and confessions, or just the secret fantasies of sexy trombones with TV sets for heads.

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