This is Explicitly NSFW and Contains Imagery That Your Parents Probably Won’t Want You to Look at Ever, So If It Gets You Fired/Grounded, We Warned You. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Also, you don’t have déjà vu—this article first appeared in 2017, and we’re bringing it back for the holiday. Hope your refractory period has passed.
The comic medium has a special advantage in depicting the myriad layers of human intimacy. Unlike prose, artists can shape and exaggerate the contours of the human body for visceral interpretations. Unlike film, illustration can assume a fantasy and objectivity that the human gaze wouldn’t afford two human actors. European erotica pioneers like Milo Manara, Guido Crepax and Jean-Claude Forest fully embraced that fact throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, but American mainstream publishers have been slightly more reticent to dive down the rabbit hole. Credit to the underground comix scene bolstered by Robert Crumb and anthologies like Tits & Clits, not to mention slightly more…direct works like Reed Waller and Kate Worley’s Omaha The Cat Dancer for breaking down the boundaries of sexual expression in sequential art.
But damn if the last 15 years of comics haven’t ushered a new comics sex revolution, elevated past the cis male perception to address gay, lesbian and trans perspectives. A dozen features alone could dissect the work of C. Spike Trotman’s Smut Puddler anthologies, Erika Moen’s Oh Joy Sex Toy or Collen Coover and Paul Tobin’s Small Favors. A strong argument could be made that no medium has made bigger strides to democratize eroticism in all of its sticky forms. It’s love, it’s connection, it’s lust and the eternal dance of biology seeped through ink and passion.
The list above analyzes comics’ high-water marks, the biggest, boldest moments (with a few indie gems) that proved how versatile and progressive comics can be when they dive under the covers.