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June 19, 2010: I've launched a new version of this website as a Wordpress blog. This version won't be updated anymore.
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Boy Meets Hero, the new stories
Pride High #6-7
Gay Erotic Art in Japan Vol. 1-2



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Entries for January 2009:
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Saturday, January 31, 2009
Review update
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Boy Meets Hero, the new stories

Author(s): Chayne Avery, Russell Garcia.

first issue cover Last year, I'd reviewed the fun Boy Meets Hero, where a young man named Justin fell in love with superhero Derek, code-named Blue Comet, only to discover he also had superpowers. The authors, Chayne Avery & Russell Garcia, have followed that effort with a three-part story, self-published in pdf format (you can order it here). Blue Comet and Fusion: Titanna Strikes sees our heroes fight against a really giant woman with a (straight) man-controlling jewel. Everybody's had days like that, I'm sure.
To complicate things, the other hero assigned to that task is a jock who needs to show he's not like that, you know. Even more complications follow when the horn-blowing straight guy falls under the spell of the giantess, and the gay heroes are the only ones who can save the day, with the help of Blue Comet's sister, still their best ally in all things.
Discussing strategy in mid-airAs with the first book, there are lots of cute moments here, as when a gay policeman gushes over the heroes, or when Derek and Justin spend a (mostly) quiet evening in a restaurant celebrating their anniversary. I must admit I found the voice-over commentary to be a bit annoying, especially since it kept breaking the fourth wall in a story that didn't needed that, in my opinion. Apart from that, the warmth of the characters and the earnestness of their desire to do good is the strongest selling point of this series. Although the art is not second-rate. The characters are well-defined, the compositions are dynamic, and yes, the guys are hot.
The third iteration of Avery and Garcia's series has begun alongside the new year, with an all-new (and free) webcomic, which you can read on their site. One page a week, for a story which seems to see the return of one of the bad guys they met in their first book.
Throughout all its versions, Boy Meets Hero has remained a fresh-faced, optimistic take on the superhero genre, with cute and trustworthy characters drawn in a clear, clean style.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009
Review update
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Pride High #6-7

Author(s): Tommy Roddy, Pat Pungpee, Robert Rivera.

sixth issue coverWhen a series has dozens of main characters, it's pretty easy to get lost. That's why I took the opportunity to reread the whole Pride High series when I received a copy of the seventh and latest issue. Writer Tommy Roddy and a big group of artists have been telling the tale of a gay-straight alliance at a high school for super-powered youngsters, against the background of a slowly-developping mystery surrounding the seemingly accidental death of one of the GSA members. The first issues showed the group, and especially the grieving boyfriend of the dead youth, coming to terms with the death, while the recent ones are opening up the scenery by involving various adult heroes and villains, including a group from under the sea. Roddy has created a complex world as well as engaging characters, and manages to keep a strong rythm to his storytelling, something that becomes obvious when one reads all the published issues in one session.
seventh issue coverThe one thing that makes it a bit hard to keep all the characters in mind is the variety of artists, or more exactly, the variety of art styles. Case in point, issues #6 (I'd missed that issue) and #7. In the sixth issue, artist Pat Pungpee gives us a manga-ish version of the characters, with slightly elongated bodies and faces, and a scratchy inking that seems to me both energetic and a bit unpolished. Contrast that with the latest issue, where penciler Robert Rivera and inker Polawat Darapong offer a very clean, realistic style (it made me think of Phil Jimenez's work). I must admit it always takes me a few pages to recognize the characters. But that variety doesn't detract from the fact that this is a well-conceived story, and that the character's changes and growth are as important as the plot of the unfolding mystery. One of the most interesting characters in that regard is a homophobic bully who's shown to mature over the course of the series.

a page from #6 a page from #7

It had been a while since the previous issue, so I hope the series is back on track and that Roddy and his artists will manage to give us more Pride High more often.
The whole series can be bought as pdf from the publisher (you'll find a preview there, too) or in print from Indy Planet.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009
Blog review
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.

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Gay Erotic Art in Japan Vol. 1-2

Category: erotica, illustration.
Author(s): Various.
Year of publication: 2003-2006.

Can you name gay Japanese artists? Sadao Hasegawa, Gengoroh Tagame...and maybe one or two others. I couldn't do much better than that before reading the fascinating books Gay Erotic Art in Japan, two volumes published in 2003 and 2006 by Japanese publisher Pot Publishing Co (the official page of the first volume is here, with samples), with texts in Japanese and in English.
The editor of these collections is, in fact, Gengoroh Tagame (I'm writing Japanese names in the Western order), one of the best-known Japanese gay artists, whose comics are full of burly guys hurting each other for love. In other words, he's definitely in the S&M tradition that seems to pervade Japanese gay erotic art (I don't know much about straight erotica art, but they obviously like bondage, too).

Go Mishima Tatsuji Okawa

In the first book, which includes about 140 illustrations, Tagame writes a long introduction about the history of gay art in Japan, as well as biographical notes about each of the artists whose work is included in the book (about half a dozen in each of the two volumes). We learn that at the beginning of the 60s, before there was any gay magazine, gay-interest articles and illustrations were included in a magazine specializing in "abnormal" (we'd say "minority" nowadays, I guess) sexualities, including "S&M, fetishism, homosexuality, lesbianism and transvestism"--which could explain why so many early gay artists, and some current ones, drew S&M scenes, from light bondage to blood and torture.  And then, there were members-only magazines, which means they had very small sales, like one called Bara ("rose"), whose name reappeared in the well-known Barazoku ("rose tribe") magazine, from 1971 onwards.

Sanshi Funayama Go Hirano

As for earlier art, like the classical illustrations from before the XXth century, Tagame contends they aren't really "gay" art, for reasons which show that he's an essentialist--or at least, that's how I understood them. Tagame also gives us the picture of a blend between Western influences (early Tom of Finland, Quaintance) and Japanese historical references (Samurai imagery, for example), with a balance depending on each artist. Tagame also discusses the subsequent evolution of gay magazines, and their increasing specializations, providing each of their twink-loving, bear-loving, S&M-loving readership with what they desired to see. He differentiates between two generations of gay artists, the first one drawing men with "a sorrowful look and a dark side", while the second one moved from "spiritual beauty to physical bodies". It's a thorough analysis which seems the indicate that comparing the decades-long changes in gay erotic representations between Japan and the Western world can reveal interesting differences.

Sadao Hasegawa Ben Kimura

second volume coverThe second book is a direct continuation of the first one (and with even more illustrations), with Tagame's introduction focusing on that second generation, which includes Sadao Hasegawa and Ben Kimura. He develops the way Western gay culture has influenced those second-generation artists, with the appearance of leather artifacts and sportsmen in their typical attire, from rugby shorts to jockstraps. Of course, Western culture, with its emphasis of bodily beauty--where, according to Tagame, Japan's classical art displayed none of that--had already found a place in Japan from the end of the XIXth century, the Greek and Renaissance art becoming known at that time. Tagame also gives his readers a few ideas about the way self-inflicted homophobia influenced the way gay people in his country imagined themselves through art and history, and found a good opportunity to fantasize thanks to homosocial environments such as sports and the army. The details may differ, but worldwide gay male mentality does have its constants.

Gym Gekko Hayashi

I'll add that these two volumes are beautiful books: sturdy hardcovers, they're presented in a slipcase, with a string signet and high quality reproductions. They're not cheap, but they're certainly worth it. Gengoroh Tagame indicates he'd like to do more books like that, so I hope he'll have the opportunity to showcase more of his countrymen's art. Some of them might do work which is too violent for me, but the general level of artistry throughout these books is absolutely incredible.
You can find both books at the Japanese online bookshop Rainbow Shoppers, here and here. If you live closer to France, you can find them at Les Mots à la Bouche, a Parisian gay bookshop, here and here.

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