WARNING: The following list deals with subject matter not appropriate for children. Reader discretion is advised.
While obviously there have been comic books about sex in the United States since the beginning of the 20th Century, these comics were almost always simply Tijuana Bibles, childish attempts at drawing popular celebrities and comic characters in sexual situations to appeal to the lowest common denominator. When it comes to actual good comic books involving sex, the American comic book market has lagged well behind Europe and Japan, where comic books about sex are quite common.
However, as the years have gone by, there have been a number of good pieces of comic book erotica released from American comic book companies and that number has been growing steadily in recent years as the taboo element of these types of stories has begun to fade (although, again, not to the point where any of these comics would be safe to read at work). Here, then, are 15 great NSFW comic books from American creators and/or American comic book companies (in chronological order).
15 LITTLE ANNIE FANNY
After creating Mad for EC Comics, Harvey Kurtzman left EC to create a humor magazine for Hugh Hefner's Playboy line of magazines called Trump. The magazine failed very quickly due to cash problems by Hefner, but an apologetic Hefner gave Kurtzman free office space where he tried to launch follow-up efforts. In addition, Kurtzman kept pitching Hefner on features for Playboy and finally, Hefner agreed to publish a sex parody comic series within the pages of Playboy called Little Orphan Fanny (a parody of Harold Gray's famous comic strip, Little Orphan Annie).
Drawn by Kurtzman's longtime collaborator, Will Elder, the strip followed the naively optimistic Fanny into various funny situations where she would invariably end up naked. The strip ran from 1962 to 1988, so Kurtzman was able to parody the entire sexual revolution as it happened. Little Annie Fanny was likely not as sharp as Kurtzman's earliest satirical efforts like Mad or Fanny's direct descendant, Goodman Beaver (especially since Hefner had script approval and he routinely pushed for more titillation), but it was still a great comic by two comic book masters.
XXXenophile was a comic book series that Phil Foglio wrote and drew (with a number of different inkers, typically some of the best and brightest comic book artists of the era) in the late 1980s through 1995 that was an anthology series of sex stories with a sense of the absurd mixed in. Take the featured image here, for example, which shows a woman practicing "safe sex." The comics were upbeat tales of sex, as Foglio noted that he had no interest in writing any sort of problematic sex stories.
There was a lot of humor in the comics, but one of the biggest parts was that you could very often feel the love in all of the stories, no matter how bizarre they were. The comics were clearly pornographic, but in an adorable, romantic way. It was also interesting to watch Foglio himself evolve as the series went on, as he initially developed the series from a heterosexual male perspective (straight sex and lesbian sex) but eventually worked in gay sex, as well.
13 BLACK KISS
Black Kiss was a controversial comic book series that Howard Chaykin released in the late 1980s (and has been reprinted a number of times since at various comic book companies, with Dynamite Entertainment being the most recent one to reprint it in 2010) as a sort of response to the call for warning labels in comics at the time. Chaykin was the writer/artist on the popular American Flagg series, but where that series would just hint at sex and violence, Black Kiss would go out of its way to depict them fully. This was a major shock in 1988, coming from such a creator as Chaykin. The comics ended up being released in black bags, like adult magazines.
The story is a hard-boiled tale of Cass Pollack, jazz musician on the run after being accused of killing his wife and daughter. In exchange for an alibi, he agrees to locate a historic pornographic film from the Vatican's porn library. As it turns out, the film is tied up in some ritualistic horror stuff and there are many different factions trying to get their hands on it, with Pollack caught in the middle.
Strips was an early comic book series written and drawn by Chuck Austen for Rip Off Press that started in 1989. It starred Zack Mackinerny, a talented comic strip creator for a college newspaper and the sexual misadventures that he and his friends get into on campus. The other main character is Kenna English, a girl who has a big crush on Zack, but can't seem to get him to pay attention to her, as he ends up dating (and having a lot of sex with) her roommate instead.
Zack is a bit of an oblivious jerk, but he's a charming enough character that you can't hate the guy too much and Kenna is engaging enough for both of them (plus the other supporting characters are all interesting in their own way). Sadly, the comic book series ended on a cliffhanger, with Kenna apparently planning on becoming a stripper to pay for her tuition after the school canceled her financial aid.
In 1990, Fantographics Books launched Eros Comix, featuring pornographic comic books and other erotic materials. Presumably to help promote this new endeavor, one of Fantographics' most notable comic book creators of the 1980s, Gilbert Hernandez, from Love and Rockets fame, did a pornographic comic book miniseries for the line called Birdland.
Birdland starred a married lawyer who has having affairs with two strippers, while his seemingly stuck up wife is having sex with her patients while she hypnotizes him. Meanwhile, his wife's sister is also obsessed with him but his brother (who is also sleeping with one of the strippers) is obsessed with his wife. The whole thing goes to a crazier level when aliens abduct the whole crazy group and the series ends with a series of strange erotic stories (dinosaur sex!). It's a bizarre comic, but Hernandez is so talented that it still works. He later worked the characters into his other comic book works, but in grimmer fashion.
10 SMALL FAVORS
Another comic book originally published by Eros Comix was Colleen Coover's Small Favors. It starred a young woman named Annie and Nibbil, who was essentially Annie's own personal Jiminy Cricket, only a sexy shapeshifting sprite instead of a cricket. And while Nibbil was assigned to be Annie's personal conscience so that she would keep Annie from touching herself and having sexual fantasies all the time, Nibbil instead gladly joined in with Annie on all sorts of sexual misadventures.
Just recently collected in 2017 into one big hardcover by Oni Press, Small Favors is truly the most adorable adult comic book that has ever existed. Dubbed by Coover as "Girly Porno," Small Favors is a sex-positive fantasy adventure that is really more of a romance comic book about Annie and Nibbil's relationship than anything else. The final issue is especially romantic, as mid-way through the series Annie and Nibbil meet a shy girl named Sage who joins them on their sexual adventures and in the final issue, Sage gets a girlfriend.
9 THE PRO
Garth Ennis famously is not much of a fan of superhero comic books, so a lot of his comic book work has involved making fun of superheroes, with perhaps his most famous example being Hitman and his most extended anti-superhero riff being The Boys. His most audacious piece of superhero mockery has to be 2002's The Pro, by Ennis and artists Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. The concept of the comic is that a Watcher-analogue, the Viewer, gives a prostitute super powers to see if she will become a superhero.
She does end up becoming a superhero, of sorts, but not before first using her powers for sex and for also making the other superheroes around her look like morons as she brutally tears into their preconceived notions about sex and morality. It's a sharp rebuke of the superhero industry, but at the same time, there is a good deal of heart mixed in with the graphic details of the comic, which is the case for all Ennis comic book stories, really.
Dale Lazarov's current imprint of gay erotic graphic novels, Sticky Graphic Novels, is named after his first major work, Sticky, which he wrote with artist Steve MacIsaac. Sticky, originally a miniseries for Eros Comix, is a prototypical Dale Lazarov comic book story, meaning that it is a collection of character-driven sexual adventures without dialogue (so as to be able to appeal to a universal audience, as there is no need to translate the comics for other markets). That's been the message of Lazarov's graphic novels in the years since, sex-positive, character-driven graphic novels of attractive men having sex.
Seeing as how the stories are without dialogue, MacIsaac has to deliver on the character ideas established by Lazarov, which he does beautifully. He is a skilled sequential artist who also excels at drawing the human form, which is obviously important when the comic is about people having sex. Sticky tells four short stories of men meeting up in different circumstances, like a cowboy dumped on a talk show ends up going home with a security guard from the show.
7 LOST GIRLS
Placing Lost Girls on the list chronologically is a bit tricky, since the story began in 1991 but only the first few parts of the books were published until 2006, so it's really more like a 2006 release. In any event, written by Alan Moore and drawn by his future wife, Melinda Gebbie (they married in 2007), the story was very much a precursor to Moore's classic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in that it stars Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Dorothy (from The Wizard of Oz) and Wendy (from Peter Pan) as they meet in a hotel resort in Austria on the eve of World War I.
Like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the characters are all based on the ages that they would be presuming they aged normally from the year that their story came out. So, for example, Alice is much older than the other two. So assembled, the three women tell erotic stories that are based on the fantasy stories that each originated in, such as the very clever "shadow sex" that Wendy has with her husband in the book. They also have erotic encounters with other residents of the hotel.
6 SIDE BY SIDE: JOURNEY OF A SMALL TOWN BOY
Mioki's Side by Side: The Journal of a Small Town Boy is the story of two best friends, Rick and Evan, growing up in one of those prototypical toxic small towns where a gay kid like Rick is made to feel less-than for being gay. The one thing that makes his life bearable is his best friend, Evan. He accepts Rick for who he is and never makes Rick feel bad about himself. When Evan leaves for the city (as he just cannot stand the town, either), it is heartbreaking to see Rick left without his friend.
Then Evan basically saves him from drowning by bringing him to the city, where they become roommates and where Evan comes to terms with the fact that he is gay, as well. It is a beautifully romantic comic book of two friends making things all right for each other. There's also lots and lots of sex in the comic, especially when Rick and Evan finally [SPOILER].
5 CHESTER 5000
Chester 5000 by Jess Fink is a brilliantly inventive story about a sexually insatiable wife, Priscilla, during the Industrial Revolution. Her husband, Robert, decides that the only thing he can do to keep her satisfied is to build her a sex robot, Chester 5000. However, he ended up building Chester a little too well, in that Chester quickly falls in love with Priscilla and when she is treated to his kind, thoughtful behavior towards her, Priscilla soon finds herself in love with him, as well.
Robert tries to keep the two lovers apart but in the end, Robert comes around (especially when he falls for the woman who he tries to sell Chester to after taking him from his wife). That Fink is able to tell this story so beautifully without any dialogue is a testament to her great skills as a sequential artist. The sex throughout the book is also quite inventive, especially all the various attachments that Chester has at his disposal.
The first thing that you notice about Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski's Sex are the stunning covers for the books, which presumably owe a lot to the brilliant eye of the designer for the series, Sonia Harris (who also comes up with the powerful chapter headings for each issue). Sex has some of the best covers that you'll see from any comic book series. Then, of course, you notice the story, which is an exploration of sex through the eyes of a retired superhero.
The man, Simon Cooke, is basically a stand-in for Batman while the rest of the cast serves as similar stand-ins for other notable Batman characters like Catwoman, Robin and the Joker. Only instead of having the book revolve around violence like most superhero comics, it instead revolves around sex. Cooke's transition from the black and white world of superheroes to the grey world of post-superhero life has been extremely engaging.
3 SEX CRIMINALS
Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, tells the story of Suzie and Jon and their transition into the world of sex crime. Sex crime in this context, however, is a lot different than you might expect. You see, when Suzie first experienced an orgasm, time and space froze around her in a burst of colors. She had no idea why this happened only to her, but she grew to live with it -- until she met Jon. When they had sex, they learned that they both had this ability. They decide to use their powers to freeze time and rob a bank to help save the library where Suzie works.
This, though, alerts a group who considers themselves the "sex police," and Suzie and Jon soon fall down the rabbit hole of meeting people with similar powers while trying to foil the plans of the "sex police." It's a heartfelt yet routinely hilarious comic book series that is one of the top ongoing comic book series around period. It is, however, very NSFW.
2 OH JOY, SEX TOY
Erika Moen first started to get attention for her diary webcomic, Dar. The most interesting part of Dar was typically the sex discussions, as Moen always had a real knack for translating complex ideas about sex into their easiest-to-understand form, while being adorable about it. That became the impetus for her current series, Oh Joy Sex Toy, which she draws and co-writes with her husband, Matthew Nolan.
Oh Joy Sex Toy is a sex positive comic series that explores and explains pretty much any aspect of sex that they feel like covering, from discussions of various kinks to sexual education to, of course, reviewing sex toys. Moen is such a talented storyteller that she takes the skills she used so beautifully on Dar to make this charming series a must read for anyone interested in sex at all. It's especially interesting when Moen and Nolan tackle a particularly complex or controversial kink, like cuckolding.
1 THE DISCIPLINE
Unlike most of the books on this list, Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez's The Discipline is not about sex, really. Originally intended as a Vertigo comic book, when they passed on the book, it eventually ended up at Image, where Milligan and Fernandez tell the story of a young woman named Melissa who gets sucked into the secretive magical underworld battle between the Discipline and the evil Stalkers.
Melissa is someone who has already transformed from a problematic background to a member of the upper class Manhattan elite, so it is shocking how well she transitions to this new, strange world (even as she literally transitions into a new magical physical form). While the story is about the ancient battle, it also involves a whole bunch of sex. Fernandez's art is at its noir best with this dark and compelling comic book series.
What's your favorite comic book about sex? Let us know in the comments section!