Sunday, September 23, 2012

Guido Crepax: Getting Mainstreamed

A panel from Guido Crepax's graphic novel version of The Story of O. Image source: Flavorwire. You can get The Story of O and other Crepax works on Amazon, but they are freaking expensive. I have seen some listed as low as $20 but I would say, "buyer beware."

The flying monkeys, bless their leathery little hearts, brought in an interesting article on Guido Crepax. The article itself is a worth a read but the part I found most interesting was where the flying monkeys found it: the Comics Alliance website.

The Comics Alliance website deals with comics of all sorts, but it gives a lot of attention to DC and Marvel comics, in addition to webcomics, and also has no problem with dealing with adult comics like Crepax's work. Batman and Superman are commonplace topics, but Fetishman has shown up as well. And Guido Crepax.

Now if you'll read the article you will find many references to Crepax's powerful visual style, etc., the way he was one of the first to really use page frames in a different and unique way to tell his story. And that's true. But his title is "Bianca Fails As Bondage Porn" which admits that much of the appeal of Crepax's work is its bondage element. And he's right about the power of Crepax's work. But only partly. And he's wrong about Bianca failing as porn.

You can see why in the panel from Crepax's Story of O that leads off this article. Crepax absolutely minimized the text in his stories, a good thing for us English readers because he is French and his characters' text speech is French. In this particular panel there's no actual speech, just muffled groans and screams, as all of his characters are gagged.

Speech is also not very necessary because the characters in his stories barely relate to each other, their eyes are out of focus in some middle ground almost always, even as they speak to one another. They all appear to be engaged in internal reveries, even when they're talking to each other. Which they don't do all that often.

The thing is, you can see Crepax's talent in that Story of O panel ... the images are raunchy and yet filled with erotic tension. Look at the hands on the woman being branded, even if he did not include text to show she is screaming, you would know how she is responding to being branded. And the way the woman's lips twist around the gag. And the way the other woman's eyes are so intense over her panel gag. And the way the weight of the woman's butt sags against the tight leather straps that hold the dildo plug in her ass. All done with just pen and ink.

Being forced to stick to the narrative structure of The Story of O helps overcome Crepax's great weakness as a storyteller. His skill as an artist and visual storyteller is like having a powerful sports care capable of moving at great speed, turning on a dime and braking to a halt in a second ... but as a storyteller, he drives that sports car like it's a clown car. He's all over the place. The guys has a weakness for dream imagery, which DOES give him freedom to use his powerful abilities as an artist, but the narrative splinters and fractures and you're left with a story that is no story, just a succession of images. Which is kinda what "Bianca" looks like.

And on a personal level, I find his style of drawing faces kinda repulsive at times. Take the face in the upper left of the Story of O panel. I THINK what Crepax was going for was a French fashion model look with wispy fine hair and a delicate face. But what I get from it is an older woman with sunken eyes, sunken cheeks, very tired, and just not that interested in the proceedings. Not erotic at a all.

Furthermore, the "lion tamer" frames in Bianca ... as a guy who likes bondage imagery ... they work JUST FINE as bondage porn, thankyewverymuch.

And the great thing here is, I can have this discussion about Crepax's work based on an article on a mainstream site and have it be about Crepax's style and technique as a storyteller and artist and not have it be only about the BONDAGE BONDAGE BONDAGE BONDAGE just because a lot of his work contains bondage imagery. Bondage may well be mainstreaming, and that's a good thing. Being able to talk reasonably about things instead of being overcome by the sex fear hysteria common among social conservatives (see this post for some great examples) will make us all mentally healthier.

The group has a site called The Training of O that has some very nice bondage imagery too. Quite possibly inspired by the Story of O. By the way, that's Ksenia Solo clone Ashphyxia Noir hanging in those ropes and getting her brains trained out.


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