Queerotica is -obviously- a comics anthology that could be read very much like essays on what is queer and what is erotica. That was the concept behind this gathering of lgbtq artists; to express this intersection each in their own way. There were written answers to this question posed by the creative team of the project, too, but they were ommitted to let the comics speak by themselves, as the introduction informs us.
Now, the book does contain sexual activity: one would expect it from the title. The gorgeous pink and purple cover with all these hands linked suggest queerness, intimacy and perhaps naughtiness. Yet I have to underline that someone shouldn’t expect the same thing as what one gets from Smut Peddler. Nevertheless, Queerotica doesn’t lack beautiful artwork and romantic playful stories with a modest representation of different body traits . It’s just more than that and in that aspect it’s certainly interesting.
Before discussing about the contents themselves, I’d like to comment on the design of the book, since I believe that first impressions are important and in a visual medium like comics image does play a big role. I’ve already mentioned that the cover is certainly eye-catching. The same goes for the table of contents- the font used is attractive and gives a warm, personal feeling.
Additionally, the whole book is inked in purple. This might have looked awesome on a light grey or light yellow paper but it can be tiring against the vivid digital white of the pdf- the only available option at the moment (the risograph prints sold out). This is something I’d like to be different along with the unpleasantly huge margins surrounding the pdf covers and the almost non-existent space between the ‘table of contents’ and the top edge of the page.
Let’s get to the juicy parts, though. We are presented with 5 pin ups and 11 short comics. The first pinup spreads to both pages and shows a supernatural orgy in a cemetery- it’s seriously one of the weirdest welcomes I’ve encountered. I’m not sure if the artist was defining ‘queer’ as literally ‘weird’ and not something positive (something derogatory, something outside of herself) or if she is having artistic fun. This is the case where the accompanying text would have been very enlightening. Apart from that first one, there is the pinup by Fiddlestyx that embraces a similar fantastical approach, but the rest are down to earth and explore a more kinky area. If you ask me for my favorite one it’s Rachel Duke’s contribution- very confrontational and unconventionally beautiful.
The three pieces I fell in love with and the ones that got me excited erotically were Headspace by Allie Kleber and Ivy Weine, Gentleman’s Gentleman by Fyodor Pavlov and The Fisherman by Lawrence Gullo.
- Headspace features a black lesbian and a fair, freckled genderqueer person who engage in light BDSM to relax. I like the way Nicole’s curls are drawn. The hatch lines create perfectly a cozy atmosphere, a bubble of time and space in which the liberating sexual play takes place. They show us the fuziness Cory experiences.
- Gentleman’s Gentleman is a wordless hymn to gay sex. In a luxurious retro environment with art nouveau aesthetics two handsome men behind the closed doors of a mansion get naked and make love passionately. And at the end one of the partners makes breakfast for the other. Lovely steaming stuff.
- The Fisherman is about an outcast -probably because he is gay- who finds himself attracted and saved by a merman. Yes, interspecies sex, which I found oddly alluring.
I find it amusing how the last two are made by husbands. The stories somewhat compliment each other as they star protagonists of higher and lower class and at a different degree show the social stigma that comes with a queer identity and the secrecy around it (the gentlemen meet at night). The art styles are not very far from each other and tenderness is expressed in both comics.
The rest of the comics are more food for thought than arousing material and either talk about partner communication and experimentation or deal with gender identity and issues of confidence.
- Arbiter and The Bird as well as Are You Sure? show the efforts of couples with one of the two partners being asexual/demisexual. Intimacy is there but everyone has their own pace, limits and preferences. In Are You Sure? one person says that ze is neutrois/neutral so here gender identity is a source of confusion for zir gay partner but what matters is their feelings and how everything works out in the end. I must admit that Are You Sure? wasn’t my cup of tea with all that blank space, the speech bubble stylization, the lines of a notebook -intentionally?- being visible and the abstract at times dialogue.
- Oral Sex has to do with the akwardness of dirty talking, how it can be funny or offensive depending the person, and how apologizing and affectionate words mend such issues.
- Nothing in This World touches on the topic of polyamory. Lauren doesn’t agree with her boyfriend’s sexist views of monogamy and breaks up with him. Asa, the woman she almost kiss, shows up again in her friendly circle and asks her out for the night. It takes some reconsideration from Lauren to sleep with Asa.
- To Share is a short autobiography of Morgan’s life, loneliness and confidence.
- The Outlaw is a fairy tale affair between a queen and a genderqueer fey who has stolen her jewellery many times. The fay challenges the queen’s views of gender and sexuality.
- Wrappers is the second most bizarre thing in this anthology. It is about a blind date between two people from a fantasy world where humans have totally different sexual anatomy and gender rules. The message of the story seems to be that if you are willing and open-minded there are plenty people with whom one matches.
- The comic with which the anthology closes, Somnata by Sasha Steinberg, is a dance with three dancers. Honestly, I coudn’t comprehend it and the 9-panel format for every page made it rather dull.
If you don’t strictly seek something to turn you on, Queerotica is an ok purchase. It’s surely unique and you get to support lgbtq artists.
You can purchase the pdf here.