Following on from the success of the first Erotic Comics volume, which examined the early history of the genre, Tim Pilcher's second volume concentrates on the period between the 1970s and the present day. Divided into five main sections, he takes a closer look at adult comics in the US, Europe and Japan, gay and lesbian titles before ending with the most contemporary development to date; online comics.
Once again, this is a sumptuously illustrated, beautifully produced which, like its predecessor, delves into various sub-genres of comics that have received plenty of attention, good and bad, but not as much in the way of critical examination. In each chapter, Pilcher charts the evolution of sexually themed comics, along with the obstacles they had to face; from the rise and fall of the Comics Code Authority in America and the expansion of mature titles in the mainstream market, to the introduction of Clause 28 in Eighties Britain, banning the 'promotion' of homosexuality and the obscenity trials of UK underground publishers.
There are many recognisable names featured in depth as well, such as Robert Crumb, Hunt Emerson, Howard Cruse and Milo Manara, along with others that readers may not have encountered before. One of the more unfortunate aspects of erotic comics, as self-confessed 'porn snob' Alan Moore explains in his foreword, is that, “Pornography is very much like adolescent poetry: there's a great deal of it about because it is a very easy thing to do, and much of it is absolutely fucking dreadful because it is very hard to do it well.” Pilcher has selected some of the very best examples and while not all of it may to the reader's taste, there's no denying the talent behind it. Erotic Comics Vol 2 provides a fascinating insight both into the evolution of comics and of society's perception between the 'erotic' and 'obscene', whilst offering a tantalising glimpse of how the genre continues to build on this foundation as it follows technology into the future.
Review by Melissa Hyland.
Erotic Comics: A Graphic History, Volume 2: From the 1970s to the Present Day by Tim Pilcher. Ilex Books 978-1905814374, 8 January 2009.