In their latest of a month-long spotlight on great LGBTQ stories, CSBG shows a new graphic novel spotlighting gay science fiction romance
Today, we spotlight the new gay erotic graphic novel, Tapstuds.
This is Universal Love, a month-long spotlight on LGBTQ comic book stories that I have enjoyed over the years. This isn’t meant as a “Best Of” list, since there are so many great works out there, and so I’ll spread the love around a bit, as it were.
I have been writing about Dale Lazarov’s gay erotic graphic novels for over a decade now, and I really admire his willingness to keep providing great gay erotic comic book content in a world that makes that incredibly difficult to achieve, as there are constant burdens on people who produce erotica to deal with whatever happens to be the whims of the internet providers on that given moment, not to mention that even within the LGTBQ sphere, erotica can often run afoul of “respectability politics.” Lauren Rowello wrote a nice piece in the Washington Post last year on a similar topic and I thought it applied well here, as well, “Respectability politics demand that queer people assimilate as much as possible into cis- and heteronormativity, hewing to mainstream cultural standards. Members of the queer community have internalized those norms to the point that we judge ourselves by them, and then criticize and ostracize others if they don’t uphold them, too.”
In other words, it is cool to do a gay comic, provided it is not erotica. It is unfair and unreasonable, especially when obviously there is a market for these works, as noted by the aforementioned fact that I’ve been writing about Sticky graphic novels for over a decade now. However, it is still a difficult task to be allowed to reach that market, and I have to give a shout-out to ComicMix, as well, for publishing the latest graphic novel by Lazarov and artist Dustin Craig (who both drew and did the color art for the project). The graphic novel, Tapstuds, is currently on Kickstarter, and it has already reached DOUBLE its original funding goal, but obviously there are stretch goals, as well, so be sure to give it support if you’re interested.
One of the trademarks of Lazarov’s work is that the comics are sans dialogue. This is similar to the iconic work of Touko Valio Laaksonen, now better known by his nom de plume, Tom of Finland, who famously did gay erotic comics without dialogue in the 1960s and 1970s, most famously being his leatherman character, Kake. Notably, having the books having no dialogue allows the books to be sold all over the world without having to worry about translations.
Besides the whole “no dialogue” thing, another area that Lazarov’s work reminds me of Tom of Finland is in the sheer JOY of these stories. Kake was always a delightful fellow just down to have a good time and that is the sort of vibe that Lazarov’s comics almost always have, as well. Lazarov once described his work as “wholesome,” and I love that term, as that really does describe these stories – they’re just nice stories about interesting people who also happen to have a lot of over the top sex, as well.
The overall concept of this particular graphic novel is a general science fiction theme, with three different stories written by Lazarov and drawn and colored by Craig. As you might imagine, when you’re dealing with a silent work, there are certain tricks of the trade that you can use to get a story across without use of words and in the opening story, “Sexual Diplomacy,” the tool of the trade is a coin that is used throughout the story, which is about an envoy from Earth visiting an alien world ruled by a sort of old school Elizabethan-style alien king.
Naturally, as you can tell from the title of the story, the diplomacy mostly involves them having a lot of sex, but it also involves the coin toss, which is a really charming part of the story. There’s also an interesting wistfulness of the story, as well. A common trend in Lazarov stories is that the characters really do CONNECT, and that reads through in this opening tale.
The second story is a good deal more complicated, narrative-wise, and it really challenges the strengths of Lazarov’s art direction and Craig’s pencils, as it is a story of a time-traveler who gets a kick out of having sex with people throughout history. This, of course, leads to a number of amusing sight gags of the time traveler hooking up with guys from all over history. Then there is an interesting twist when he ends up in fin de siècle Paris, which is an awesome phrase to use to say basically the “Victorian era,” where he runs into a guy with a steampunk time machine and the two have a chrono-romance…
It’s such an amusing mixture of different tropes all into one steamy package.
The final story, “Love Machines,” sees two sex robots being brought in for repairs and fall in love with each other and run away with each other…
This is probably the best example of that wholesome flavor that I was talking about. This is really just a charming little love story about two robots who find that they are what is missing in each other’s life. It is a sweet tale, just with plenty of sex, as well. Craig, by the way, nails that over-the-top nature of the erotic romance scenes very well, definitely fitting in well with the history of Sticky graphic novels (this isn’t some reserved sex stuff, it’s intense).
For over a decade, Dale Lazarov has been supplying the world with charming gay erotica and I hope that he never stops.
If anyone else has a suggestion for a great LGBTQ comic book, feel free to send in suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed).
He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo.
He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References.
Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you’d like to see featured at email@example.com!