The Middle Ground #35 | Less words, more pictures?

Here's one of those questions that you know you shouldn't ask on the internet, but can't quite resist: Man, what's the deal with pornography, huh?

Okay, there's more to it than just turning into the comic press version of Jerry Seinfeld, I promise. What I'm really thinking about was what might be, for me, the most eagerly-anticipated book of 2011, Dave McKean's Celluloid.

For those of you who don't know what that is yet - I don't think it's gotten a lot of press, and I didn't really know much beyond its existence before getting the 2011 Spring catalog for Fantagraphics in the mail the other day - it's McKean's second solo full-length graphic novel (Cages being his first, but even that was serialized before its publication), 232 pages to be released in June, and described by the publisher as "a rare instance (especially among Anglo-Saxons) of a top-flight cartoonist working with erotic - even pornographic, to embrace the word - parameters, with the intent of creating a genuine work of art."

My first reaction to that: I can't wait to see McKean-created porn.

My second reaction to that: Oh God, I have Lost Girls flashbacks. Please, please, don't let it be that bad.

My third reaction to that: What is it about comics and porn?

There really should be more comics porn, surely (By which I mean, there should be more printed porn comics; I know that the internet is already full to the brim). I mean, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense; comics is a visually-led narrative medium, so why isn't there more of a porn market out there? Is it the dual stigma of comics as kids' material and porn being... well, porn, and never the twain shall meet? Is it that the direct market has proven to be - with some good reason, I think we'll all remember - skittish about selling adult material? Or is the long, dark shadow of Lost Girls really that oppressively terrifying that it just puts other creators off the entire idea?

(There is, of course, the strong possibility that there's a massive comics porn market that exists even outside of the "Previews Adult Catalog" that I have no knowledge of, a shadow market in the same way that porn movies exist on a parallel plain to mainstream movies, and I rely on you, dear readers, to educate me if that's the case. But, while I'm in parentheses mode, Lost Girls really is terrible. If you haven't read it, you really don't want to be wasting your time.)

Maybe it's my hope and optimism that Celluloid will be fantastic, but I suddenly find myself liking the idea of familiar creators approaching the subject of sex without the need for censorship (self or imposed) or relying on innuendo and suggestion. Maybe 2011 will prove to be the year when the comic industry doesn't necessarily grow up, but at least reaches that point where it starts hiding things under the bed and thinks about more adult things, hoping to get there eventually.

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