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Committed: Neonomicon, Hellblazer & Fables… NSFW?

by  in Comic News Comment

For some reason I always thought I was immune to that whole “Not Safe For Work” thing people always squeal about. It isn’t that I’m completely shameless, but I really don’t care what my co-workers see me looking at online (excluding, of course, the horrible body modification links that Warren Ellis used to post.) Turns out I do have a sense of shame and it isn’t about the MAX or whatever R-rated comics there are, it is about the relatively cute one.

Unlike my colleague Greg, who reviews the comic books he reads the day after they come out (and it is impressive that he manages to get that all done), I don’t always get the time to read my weekly comic books immediately. Sometimes they sit around for a week or two, while I keep shoving them in different handbags in the hope that I’ll get a chance to read them on the bus or in a waiting room. I should qualify that I don’t usually let my weekly comic books sit around for as long as these did, but these are three of my favorite titles so I held on to them for a little while. They’re too good to rush.

Finally the other day when, after the busy whirlwind of work and WonderCon had died down, I found myself on a long boring bus ride. With deep anticipation, I pulled out the three comic books that I’d been saving; Hellblazer, Neonomicon and Fables. Admittedly these aren’t kiddies comic books, but they also aren’t usually that visually graphic. Sure, the stories can be explicit, but usually the art is relatively demure. While I realize that they’re recommended for mature readers, I really didn’t think that there would be anything too scandalous for my fellow bus riders to read over my shoulder.


Carefully I pulled Neonomicon out of my bag first, checking the cover for disgusting sea monsters (I have a weird phobia about them) or graphic sex stuff (so as not to offend my fellow passengers.) With the all-clear, I opened the comic. As expected, there was a naked woman on the opening page, but since she was entirely submerged in the water and there was nothing salacious going on, (the Swamp Thing-esque rape scenes being all in the previous issue) I relaxed. The old lady seated next to me looked a little concerned as she read over my shoulder, but basically it was much weirder than it was saucy. A nice mind-expanding issue, this was vintage Alan Moore, giving me a little bit of a peek into what my world would be like if I had access to a whole different reality. Filled with mind-expanding ideas and beautifully meta concepts, I finished the book satisfied and excited about the next issue.


Next up had to be Hellblazer. I couldn’t put it off any longer, I’d been gagging to read it – Milligan has had me on a nice little cliffhanger with this title for a while now and I love this book as much as I did when it started. In the past I’ve garnered some negative attention by reading this on the bus because of all the giant demons and gore, so I opened this with a little trepidation. I didn’t want to upset any sensitive religious folks reading over my shoulder if there was a horrible demon on the first page (which is all too likely.) I should explain that at this point the little old lady next to me got off the bus and a teenage boy sat down next to me. Unfortunately this instilled a false sense of security and I felt relaxed about potentially traumatizing him with some satanic imagery.

Of course, because life is a cosmic joke and the silliest thing that can happen, will happen, instead of something scary, for once (I think maybe for the first time ever) there was some really hot sex on the opening page. Full-on nudity between attractively drawn people in a well-described uncomfortable position, implying some pretty great orgasming.. Yeah. So that was a bit embarrassing. I thought the kid next to me was going to fall out of his seat. I turned the page so quickly that I had to go back later and read the content because I had no idea what was going on. It was definitely the beginning of an excellent story and I’m all for the graphic sex, I just wish I’d read it out of eye shot of a teenage boy.


With Neonomicon and Hellblazer read I breathed a proverbial sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that the last book was the always safe Fables. This sweet and strange fairy tale of a comic book might deal with some adult stories, but the art is almost always reliably child-friendly in a gothic sort of a way. The themes are complex, the subject matter is usually strangely adorable.

At this point I had to stand up to give my seat to someone with a kid, so I was hanging on to the bar by the doorway with two or three people looking curiously over my shoulder. “Let them!” I though jovially, “It’s safe little Fables.” Once again I forgot that life is a joke, at least I did until I opened the comic book to a first page of hot, naked, post-coital outdoor sex talk between Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf. A full page of them completely naked in the woods. Right… of course. I thought the old guy next to me was going to hyperventilate.

In the course of reading comic books loyally for years, it seems that I became complacent. I got used to the creative teams and the characters, without even meaning to I had began to treat the stories as if they were predictable. Like any ongoing relationship, I got lazy about my comic book reading and forgot that in actuality I really never  know what will happen next. Luckily, the most comfortable and familiar comic books are still more than capable of surprising and delighting and just like people, it is those nice, quiet ones that you have to watch out for.