In the Gutter: State of Erotic Comics

The state of erotic comics, to put it lightly, is in turmoil. At no other point in the medium’s history has it been hit harder by factors including (but not limited to) censorship, economics, and perhaps its greatest threat yet, the catastrophic impact other media continues to have on the art form.

The comics’ industry in general has seen some hard times as of late. Its audience continues to grow older, and still the industry has yet to figure out a way to bring in new readers. The readership shrinks ever more into nothing but a small band of ancient old timers who have been reading the books since they were children in the fifties and sixties. Year by year more and more of this generation kick the bucket.

Fantagraphics/Eros Comix has all but halted the release of any adult material, aside from the books which have established themselves as sure fire bread winners. In the early nineties, Eros put out a slew of adult titles every month. At present one can scarcely hope to find a single adult release per month. This has led to a staleness of the genre, and with a lack of material to choose from, otherwise loyal readers have been forced to seek entertainment elsewhere–after all, not everyone can find something to enjoy in “Housewives At Play,” the highest selling adult comic at the moment.

Enter the internet, with just one click of your mouse you can unleash a treasure trove of porn, enough to last you a whole lifetime. It used to be that erotic illustration was popular due to the limited amount of hardcore images available to the masses. This has changed dramatically. No longer does little Johnny hide a “Playboy” under his bed for some late night entertainment, but instead is at the keyboard furiously downloading adult content while his parents are away.

We must not blame adult video for the downward spiral which erotic comics has entered—we can only blame those who deal in erotic comics themselves, with Eros Comix coming in at #1.

Fantagrphics has never been interested in publishing adult comics, they simply started the Eros line as a money making venture in order to fund the publication of their pretentious artsy books that nobody ever buys. Thus, they’ve treated adult content as second class since the beginning, as an afterthought if you will.

After Fantagraphics acquisition of the rights to a number of classic strips including “The Peanuts,” the Eros line has been deemed to have fulfilled its function. Now Fantagraphics, which never wanted to get into the adult market in the first place, need not participate in it anymore, for “The Peanuts” pay the bills now. As a result of Eros shutting down, a vast number of wonderful books have gone out of print and will continue to remain so, as it appears Fantagrphics has no interest in resurrecting them. Recently, Diamond canceled the adult supplement to the “Previews” magazine, further signifying the end of erotic comics unless great steps are taken to offset the damage which has occurred.

What will ultimately save adult comics in America is the emergence of a new publisher—a publisher who does not treat erotica as throw away material, but instead invests heavily in a product the company behind it can be proud of. NBM often shines as a guiding light in these dark times for dirty books. The publisher produces high quality color graphic albums that any fan of sequential art can display in his or her library. Unfortunately NBM does not exclusively deal in adult books, but publishes all sorts of genres. Until a publisher emerges that puts the amount of work NBM does into the few adult books they do release each year, perhaps the best thing for adult comics fans to do is to make sure your favorite titles do not go out of print, whether through writing to a publisher, or just encouraging your buddies to pick up a copy of something you like. A little can go a long way, especially if you put forth the idea that these books are not merely just porn, but actually mean something and deserve better than being a nameless statistic in some bigwig head of marketing’s spread sheet.

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