Thursday, June 14, 2018

Land of Noe

Sister Juana from The Convent of Hell.  All Art Copyright © by Ignacio Noe.  

Part 2 of an occasional series on NBM's Amerotica and Eurotica creators and their work. 

Do people still laugh in bed anymore?  The way Joan Rivers might have advised us to?  "I said to my husband, 'My boobs have gone, my stomach's gone, say something nice about my legs.' He said, 'Blue goes with everything.'"  It was a joke; as with so many of the late comedienne’s barbs, aimed unerringly at ourselves.  It’s the kind of joke Argentinian graphic novelist Ignacio Noé (or simply Noe) would revel in retelling.

So much of Noe’s work is farce—comic, dramatic, crude, ludicrouswith a timely or timeless viciousness.  Facial expressions, scenarios, sound effects—there is so much we’re to laugh at until a situation takes a dark turn into incest, murder, mayhem, rape, all somehow meant to be as redemptive as it is madcap.  Rivers could be cutting; I don’t recall her drawing this amount of blood.  She also said, “I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking.  Could Noe make a similar claim?  Maybe few private thoughts could survive full airing in our present age of heightened alert to sexual malfeasance. 

The Convent of Hell (1997), illustrated by Noe with script by the late Ricardo Barreiro, also from Argentina, is set in the Convent of the Cloistered Barefoot Marionite Sisters “on the outskirts of the city of León” in Spain.  It opens with the censure of a young nun named Sister Inés by her Mother Superior, Sister Juana, and cohorts.  The year is 1951.  The young nun, who is bound, has presumably committed the sin of masturbation.  The device with which they intend to discipline her is a wooden screw dildo “as big as a donkey’s.” 

The sadism, as in the rest of Noe’s work, sits (un)comfortably beside the absurd.  The nuns look like seductive jackals, with painted lips, pencilled eyebrows and thick eyelashes.  The colours are vivid.  They drool as they inflict pain, their eyes glistening with the anticipation of it.

But evil, in the Land of Noe—or, at the very least, bad, hypocritical behaviour—is often identified with a mind to punish and lampoon.  And if the effects of this choice can’t be measured or gauged at a time when adult film actress Stormy Daniels has accused United States President Donald Trump of physically threatening her and her family’s safety if she revealed any details about their alleged affair, then they may never be.

Noe’s painted art is representational but also cartoony in The Convent of Hell.  It feels European, precise, yet full of abandon, excess, especially in the depiction of sex.  His eyes and lips are very vivid.  Other times, a sense of minimalism is expressed in the colours: they are just bright enough in a generally grey world.

This story is about the shady sides of themselves people hide: beneath Sister Juana’s habit are sexy bra, garters and stockings, but no panties—the better to show a neatly trimmed crotch.  After assaulting Sister Inés, Sister Juana shows no remorse.  She does what she does to get off sexually, not because of some perverse sense of punishing sin in herself or others.    

The earliest of Noe’s work available from NBM may be his weakest.  The translation by Robert Legault is serviceable, though this may reflect the limitations of the original script.  The graphic novel was apparently serialized in 8-page segments during different periods.  The seams, in story and art, sometimes show. 

There are gaps in the dialogue and lapses in logic.  That Sister Juana’s judgement remains largely unquestioned after the revelation of her dealings with the devil (Beelzebub, here, crossed between a donkey, goat and satyr with a frightening phallus to match) is odd.  Or is it?  As Mother Superior, she is never less than in charge.  In keeping with her growing power, strengthened through a dream-time connection with the forces of hell, the kind of sexual gratification she seems to be after is ruthless, insatiable and devoid of love—of spirit.  What terrifies others—the attack on a nun by hellish, tentacle-like members—turns her on.   Where others yearn for a spiritual union with Christ, she seeks a carnal connection with the devil.

In this way, Noe challenges notions of the erotic, of what we allow ourselves to accept as a legitimate relationship, and of what we relate to without condemning.  The mutual consent between Beelzebub and Sister Juana helps.  They are suited to one another.  But over-the-top sound effects (like an improbable SWOOSH when the beast sodomizes her) remind the reader not to be overly alarmed at the proceedings.  There is also an ending that maintains such lust rarely goes unchecked.

Noe’s work gets lighter as he gets older.  By degrees, I mean: there is an adolescent vibrancy to the art in all his self-penned books.  In Ship of Fools (1999), translated from the Spanish by Am, Noe refuses to take sex seriously.  The storytelling benefits, too, from not being episodic, even if the plot doesn’t quite convince.  The cargo ship of the title looks like a laughing penis or breast.  It is transporting mentally ill patients from Earth to Mars.  “It was hard to understand how the federal government got the colonies to take care of their mentally ill.  They accepted, in spite of risking becoming a human garbage dump.  It’s strange but a lot of weird things happen these days,” says the Captain, who narrates the story.  The patients, all “15 000 nutcases,” are safely in suspended animation.   That’s until the ship’s frustrated engineer starts waking up some of the more deviant and violent ones to have sex. 

Of course, the Captain has issues of her own.  She figures the only way to lockdown these psychopaths is by role-playing with them.  "I’ll become the object of their sick desires, this way they’ll come to me…and when they think they have possessed me I’ll…put them to sleep with my gun.”

The process of screwing her way out of her situation awakens the Captain’s mature sexual desires (and, perhaps, true romance and personal freedom on Mars).  As with The Convent of Hell, there is something disturbing about Noe’s treatment of such a storyline, even if the heroine is cast as dominant, as the one really using her sex as a weapon.  If we go with this reading, the question becomes unavoidable: “What’s Noe getting at about (un)earthly desire and the exercising of passion, particularly with those over whom one has authority?”  We quickly see, in all his books, how badly events unfold for those not in the thrusting position, whether man or woman.  And power dynamics can be swiftly reversed, leaving the fucker fucked, to put it plainly. 

Being in control is what’s important and a great turn on for Noe’s protagonists.  At one point, the Captain thinks of a homicidal escaped patient whose head is buried between her legs: “Poor thing!  He is so enthusiastic…  What do I lose if I wait a bit before putting him to sleep.[sic]”  But she learns what the protagonist in The Piano Tuner (2003) learns—repeatedly—in his escapades: that it’s all fun and games until someone else gets the upper hand on you, or already has it.    

D’Elia is the second-generation piano tuner of the title, again translated by Robert Legault from the Spanish.  The story's focus is his sexual exploits.  He says, “The work was no sweat, and paid me enough to indulge my vices.”   D’Elia will discover what happens when one’s hunt is turned into someone else’s attack. 

Noe has a greater sense of what should be clearly defined and what should be left sketchy in the illustrations here. Howard Chaykin's ornateness comes to mind in certain panels.  Yet the sex is portrayed in much the same exuberant fashion as in Ship of Fools, with plenty of groping and tonguing through a handful of positions, and abundant sound effects.  Sometimes, hands and faces look like those of puppets.  This may be a deliberate statement. 

Noe’s plotting is patchier than in The Convent of Hell.  This is less of a concern with these genuine vignettes.  From situation to situation, D’Elia’s innocence or ignorance is his undoing.  That’s the true interest of The Piano Tuner.

When a lady asks if she can count on his discretion, D’Elia says (with bobbing hard on), “Of course.  I’m a man of integrity.”  What he is, actually, is a failed artist, a pig, someone who looks and plays music like a man possessed with lascivious thoughts.  Whatever D’Elia attempts with the women he seduces ends very bizarrely and disappointingly for him.  This is where there may be more real story in The Piano Tuner (which has a sequel) than in Noe’s other work.  Life does indeed just happen, one action leading to another, with little sense of direction or control.  The Piano Tuner almost seems like too obvious a cautionary tale for our times.  D’Elia’s adventures become increasingly perilous, or unharmonious, as he goes along, with their underlying humour turning gloomy to downright somber.  Maybe his situation would be different if he finally chose to tune the piano in the room instead of the women who own them.  But for that he would first need to master his own instrument.

Last modified June 18, 2018.

· Robert is the critically acclaimed author of the NBM Amerotica titles Great MovesAttractive Forces and Stray Moonbeams.  His other books include the novel And Sometimes They Fly; the story collections Fairfield: The Last Sad Stories of G. Brandon SisnettIntimacy 101: Rooms & SuitesThe Tree of Youth, and Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; and the memoir Sand for Snow: A Caribbean-Canadian Chronicle.

All of his graphic novels are now available as e-books from NBM. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Vote for the Next Full-Color Pinup!

Vote for the Next Full-Color Pinup!
by Cornnell

Join my Patreon to Vote!

Make your vote count!

Time to vote for the next Full-Color Pinup! Who will it be? Velma was the last winner, can she do it again?!? Voting ends next Sunday, May 6th at Midnight! 
Join my Patreon before Midnight Tonight and Vote!

Join my Patreon before May 1st and get a free copy of Urban Jointz Vol. 1 plus, early access to the uncensored final art!

More to cum soon!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Erotic Art — Patreon Rewards Vol. 4

Patreon Rewards Vol. 4
by Cornnell

Patreon Rewards are Up!

Join my Patreon for Access!

Thanks to all my Patrons for your support! 

Join my Patreon before May 1st and get a free copy of Urban Jointz Vol. 1 plus, early access to the uncensored final art!

More to cum soon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Erotic Art — Mrs. Incredible “Peek-A-Boo!”

by Cornnell

You Naughty, Naughty Supervillains!

I see you…!

Another upcoming piece I should have completed later on today. Bidding on the actual art for “Peek-A-Boo!” starring my parody of Mrs. Incredible ends TODAY at 3:10:25 PM CST (Central Standard Time). Tier 2 and above Patrons get a discount off of the winning bid. Good luck!
More to cum soon!

PS   Join my Patreon, get a free copy of Urban Jointz Vol. 1 plus, early access to the uncensored final art!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Patron Rewards!

November Patron Rewards!
by Cornnell

Thanks to all My Patrons!

Your support keeps me going!

Thanks to all my Patrons for their support and patience! Check your email for links to your rewards! 
12 illustrations have been uploaded. More are on their way!
PS    All those who haven't joined my Patreon (yet!) join by midnight tonight and get a FREE copy of my graphic novella, Urban Jointz Vol. 1!
PS     Be on the lookout for more news on my upcoming WebComic, Michelle! Join my Patreon for more!

More to cum soon!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Shades of Greys: The Higher Cost of Comic Art

An early pencilled page from Great Moves’ title story.  
Art Copyright © by Geof Isherwood.

“Double your fees—starting tomorrow.  You’ll be shocked to find that the majority of prospects will pay your new rates without blinking.  Reason: 90 percent of writers charge too little—and you may be one of them.”   Robert W. Bly, “Earn More, Do Less”

“Critic or reviewer—a thankless job on most occasions since it is inclined towards finding fault.”  Carolle Bourne, “The Non-Role of the Critic”

Geof Isherwood was going to a comic show, and he was taking along some original art to sell.  Among them were finished pages from our joint NBM effort, my third graphic novel, Great Moves.  He was wondering if I wanted first dibs.

 I did.  But I didn’t have the money right then.  

"I'm in no hurry to sell these pages, so no rush," he wrote back via email.  "It's just so I know not to take them with me to the NJ convention."  

His asking price per page wasn’t high—to me; that may have been because I had a rough idea of what Geof charged for such work over the years—even to friends and colleagues like myself.  Plus, he’s a reasonable kind of guy: no nonsense when it comes to his business, yet not looking to jook out your eye, as Bajans would say, in sealing the deal. 


Life’s hilarious.  And not often without its thoughtful coincidences.  While Geof was bundling his pages and emailing me, a mutual friend was WhatsApping me about an ongoing online debate he was having and seemingly losing about the pricing of comic art. 

Michael “Mike” Bunn, a high school teacher, is a comic collector and aficionado of 40-plus years, and a regular convention goer for almost as long. Although he remembers the days when full-body sketches were free, and no one ever paid for an autograph in a comic, he’s not grumpy about there being a price tag on certain things these days.  He has paid for art at conventions and online; he respects and values the artists’ time and talent.  What’s been bothering him is the rapid and, to him, unaccountable hefty increase in prices over the last two to five years.

That’s it—in part.  To Mike, there’s more to this situation than having to pay higher prices for illustrations of comics characters whose stories inspired him as a boy (and still do).  He’s been worried that what he interprets as the overpricing of comic art is hurting collectors by making it difficult for the average convention goer, for instance, to acquire art.  Recalling the 1990’s black-and-white comics speculation and ensuing glut, he contends there’s an even higher price to be paid here.  He foresees a similar bubble bursting with comic art prices, resulting in a crash that may damage the future of comic collecting, hence comic publishing. 

Neither speculator nor rich, Mike’s just a guy who gets a kick out of getting art from pencillers and inkers whose work he admires and respects, whether he has to pay for it or not.  Yet many on the forum to which he often posts his views on this topic think he’s either crying down the artists’ right to make a decent living or complaining about what he wished he could afford but can’t.  There seems little interest in engaging his larger concerns about how the rise he’s seen in comic art prices may be affecting the North American comic industry beyond any single convention or commission.  And that’s got me a little concerned. 

Whether Mike’s right or wrong (he and I differ somewhat on what may constitute fair pricing), this apparent unwillingness by a number of those who post to have a dialogue or conversation with him, no matter how courteous he is, no matter how often he says he’s not about being contentious, rather enquiring, is somewhat baffling, though maybe not so unexpected. 

I welcome and appreciate healthy and open debate, especially on matters that are uncomfortable to us all.  Yet there’s a growing need in our times for respectful discussion: discussion that rises above personal border skirmishes that employ bullying, hate-mongering and misinformation as common tactics.  There seems to be a proportional relationship between our lack of interest in what others truly think and our ability to access their thoughts and ideas—and I mean on a range of topics. 

Contrary to what some may believe, I haven’t written the comics I have because of a love of erotica.  I have written the comics I have because of what erotica in this medium permits me to exchange with others about the human condition.  Comics have long had their own way of influencing people’s behaviour for the better, be it their level of tolerance or acceptance, but also their curiosity and understanding of the ways of men and women and how we interact, how we honestly communicate.


Back to this whole issue of the current cost of comic art: it’s a subject I also relate to as writer and editor.  A freelancer since I was 19, I still consult rate schedules set by The Writers’ Union of Canada (of which I’m a member), by Writer’s Digest’s annual Writer’s Market, by other seasoned and established colleagues in the publishing industry whatever their jurisdiction….  I’d like to learn more than I have so far from comic artists about how they calculate their own rates for commissions, particularly at conventions.  I’ve never left a client wondering how I arrived at a rate I was charging.  And if the client couldn’t pay what I was asking—or I couldn’t accept what the client was offering—at least we both knew why.

Even if it’s generally understood (though not always respected by those who would hire me) that I, as a freelance writer or editor, seek to make a decent wage, and that I trained (or have serious talent or skill or experience) in the service I’m offering, this can’t be the totality of my justification for my rates.  What constitutes a decent wage for the kind of work I’m expected to do is the real issue.  Next is what my time is worth, according to the market and my own measured estimation.
These are not issues either comic fan or comic artist should avoid discussing, client to contractor.  High or low, an artist should be able to reasonably demonstrate how he or she arrived at his or her rates, even if they are non-negotiable.  Non-negotiable is one’s prerogative, of course; unaccountable or arbitrary simply leads to a disgruntled and disaffected public.  Not to mention a confused one.

Does the reticence or inability exhibited by some fans to question critically the pricing of some comic art produced for conventions or commissions stem from fear?  If so, fear of what?  Their true ignorance of rates?  Of appearing to be against genuinely long-suffering and exploited comic artists, or of being blacklisted by artists they might commission?  And if—if—this pricing issue is or may be in some way affecting or lessening people’s enjoyment of comics or collecting or conventions, then what’s wrong with bringing the conversation a little more into the light?  Has any industry survey been conducted, of both comic artists and fans, asking them if comic art prices have been too high, too low, just right or reasonable, in their opinion?  Is it possible to separate the price of a piece from the personality, the “big-name artist,” that produced it?  Who or what is really driving demand in today’s comic art market?  Are these forces beneficial or inimical to the industry’s survival?

I’ve collected comics for 40 years as well; I still read them, reference them, occasionally write them.  I care deeply about the medium, as an art form and a business with multiple spinoffs.  Whatever the answers, it’s worthwhile to consider the questions. 

· Robert is the critically acclaimed author of the NBM Amerotica titles Great Moves, Attractive Forces and Stray Moonbeams.  His other books include the novel And Sometimes They Fly; the story collections Fairfield: The Last Sad Stories of G. Brandon SisnettIntimacy 101: Rooms & SuitesThe Tree of Youth, and Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; and the memoir Sand for Snow: A Caribbean-Canadian Chronicle.

All of his graphic novels are now available as e-books from NBM.