Glory Hole In One: A NSFW Comic Book Review & Interview

3 Comments 🕔05 May 2014

I love it when people send me stuff in the actual, physical mail. It makes me so fucking happy; words really cannot express the level of childlike joy I experience. I also love it when people value my opinions and ask specifically for them, as if what I think holds some kind of heavy mystic weight. That makes my ego feel all warm and fuzzy like. So imagine my face upon receiving a thick zine-like package in the mail with a note attached that started with “…enclosed for review” ?! It looked a little something like this:

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What I received was In Pace Requiescat, a NSFW comic based on Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” written by Sean T. Collins and illustrated by Julia Gfrörer. Now to be perfectly clear and transparent, my interest in comic books stretches about as far as Christian Bale’s wingspan as Batman. However, my love for sex and Edgar Allan Poe beats with a love that is more than love. (Do you see what I did there?) Having an 18+ sex comic about a glory hole BJ based on the work of the master of poetic morbidity mailed to me personally is like an easy gift from the Internet jobs gods. My review? It is awesome. Why is it awesome? Well, I don’t really know how to write about comic books because I don’t have much knowledge on the subject to draw from. I get really irked when people who clearly don’t know jack about music write “reviews” of my music. So with that in mind, I decided it’d be more interesting to get in touch with the people who created this deviant dork extravaganza and ask them some extremely basic questions.

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Hey guys! So I loved the comic you sent and am finishing up a little write-up/review about it. I just have a few basic questions for you. Who did what?

Sean T. Collins: I wrote a loose script; it contained the dialogue and the specific actions and images to accompany them, but it didn’t specify page numbers or panel layouts, which I wanted to leave in Julia’s hands.

Julia Gfrörer: Sean provided most of the blocking and gestures with which Montresor punctuates his speech, but he left the page layout and pacing to me. I like to make my comics strictly gridded and very roomy, and I heavily indulged both of those tendencies here–in the moments where Montresor delivers a slow, thoughtful monologue to the wall, or the interminable pages of blowjob, the repetitious imagery and the silent panels where even small actions are broken down to even more specific small progressions, a sense of obsessive fatalism, a ponderous scrutiny emerges: “This is happening. This is still happening.”

So I drew the comic, and also published it, which is to say I shrank the drawings down and had them printed on pink paper and stapled. The cover image was also Sean’s idea.

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How did you meet and/or start collaborating?

Sean: Our first interactions were professional — Julia sent me her comics and I reviewed them. It just so happened that I thought her comics were incredible, and she really appreciated what I wrote about them. Eventually I interviewed her as part of a column I had at The Comics Journal about up-and-coming cartoonists, but we didn’t start chatting on any kind of consistent basis for quite a long time after that. I’d pitched Julia on drawing something for me before — I’m just a writer, so I rely on people with cartooning careers of their own to get any comics made — but we’d become friends by the time I struck upon something that really compelled her, and this was it.

Julia: Sean and I had an established rapport by the time In Pace Requiescat came around, but I pretty much never collaborate with anybody–my attitude is that I write my own comics reliably and well, I know I’ll be easy to work with and there’s a market for my stories, so why would I bother involving someone else?–so it would be an understatement to say I was skeptical when I first received the script. My reaction on opening it and realizing the premise was, “Who does this guy think he is?” By the time I finished it my jaw was in my lap. I think I emailed him from my phone, sitting behind a convention table, more or less demanding to draw it. It really impressed me. I never would’ve come up with this story on my own.

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What inspired you to make this Poe Porn (lol)?

Sean: Julia and I have a lot in common, and one of those things happened to be a fascination with this particular Poe story, which we’d both read at an impressionable age.

Julia: I felt like Sean’s script was such an effective interpolation of the original story because in a sense it wasn’t radical at all, its constituent elements are entirely native to the source material. There are hints of regret, of reluctance, almost tenderness, supporting the maniacal sadism. The meticulousness with which Montresor inflicts the final act of cruelty on his friend already carries an erotic undertone–maybe not all readers experience that, but Sean and I didn’t invent it.

Sean: In “The Cask of Amontillado” I recognized a link between the genres of horror and pornography. Both frequently rely on a sense of certainty for their visceral emotional impact: When you begin to read or watch a horror story, you know that a terrible thing will happen, and frequently so does the character to whom it’s going to happen. In pornography, as in sex generally, you know that when your partner begins touching you, you have entered into a process that will end with you briefly losing control of your own body, unable to think of anything but the pleasure your partner is effectively forcing you to experience at the expense of everything else. In both cases that certainty is magnetic to minds trapped in our unforgivingly inconstant and unpredictable world. Dread and eroticism are two sides of the same coin neither of us can stop flipping in the art we make or consume.

Julia: Right, I rarely respond to a sex scene that doesn’t have some foreboding attached to it. The sense that the world has stopped and what’s happening right now is the only thing that matters or exists is romantic, but it also feels like something on the verge of panic.

Sean: “The Cask of Amontillado” and Montresor’s revenge scheme both depend on that certainty — on Montresor letting Fortunato know exactly what’s happening to him, and exactly what will continue to happen to him until he dies. There just came a day when I wondered what would happen if Montresor’s mental circuit overloaded and that horrific mastery over another human being became erotic mastery over the same person. This was the result.

We hope to do more Poe-nography together, actually. We’ve been talking about “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Julia: “The Pit and the Pendulum” seemed a little on the nose.

Do you have any particular interest/attachment to NSFW themes that you want to expound upon? Is it a fluke happening relative only to this comic or something deeper? Sean mentioned something to me about your mutual involvement and/or interest in BDSM.

Sean: Sex is a huge part of both of our careers, though in my case I went a long time without realizing it. It wasn’t until a group of close friends categorized my work as a comics critic as falling into three categories — the intellectual, the guy who cares about fight scenes, and the pervert — that I realized how central depictions of sex that fell near my own erotic ideal were to my appreciation of the form. Since then I noticed it cropping up in my work as a TV critic, too; my writing about Mad Men and Downton Abbey, to take two examples, has often focused on why those shows are so frequently hot to me. Comics are really good at stretching out time, at conflating anticipation and action by placing them in the same little boxes of spacetime, and that’s very much where my bread is buttered. So yeah, if you look at my comics, probably 4 out of 5 are concerned with sex in one way or another, and some — my collaborations with Jonny Negron, William Cardini, Colin Panetta, and Raymond Suzuhara — are quite explicit in that regard.

Julia: I kind of had to have it pointed out to me, too–the reviews of my first longish horror comics, Flesh and Bone and Too Dark to See were so insistent that there was this uniquely grim and explicit approach to sexuality in my work, I think it came across as almost utilitarian, because what I’d really been trying to do was chase down the parts of the story with the most pathos emanating from them, the sex wasn’t just an end in itself. The story was written to give the sex a reason to happen (literally–I almost always write the sex scenes first), but the sex also illuminated the rest of the narrative, the sex allowed the story to fully happen.

As it’s developed, my work has tended to dwell pretty heavily in areas of ambiguous sexual ethics, emotional violence and power dynamics in romance, so In Pace Requiescat is very on-brand for me. Most of my comics include explicit sex scenes, but this one turned out to have the most impressive ratio of erect penises to panels overall, which is really saying something.

Sean: Actually, now that I think about it, Julia and I first appeared in a book together with separate contributions to the third issue of Ryan Sands & Michael DeForge alt-erotica anthology Thickness. And the thing that struck me the most about the first comic of hers that I read, Too Dark to See, was that its opening sequence was the single hottest thing I’d ever seen in a comic. That’s how I led the review!

Julia: I ended up using a line from that review as my bio on my facebook fanpage.

Sean: With regards to BDSM, Julia once said a fascinating and transformative thing to me, which is that a drive to relentlessly positivize everything about sex ignores our own often unpleasant feelings about our embodied lives. People talk about these things, she told me; people might as well fuck about them too. It had never occurred to me that one could fuck about anything. Under that rubric, sex becomes an extension of conversation, and can be just as challenging and confounding and rewarding — only arguably more so, because you get to cum at the end of it. BDSM can enable you to fuck about the need to trust your partner so totally that even the infliction of pain can be an act of generosity and love. It can enable you to fuck about the compulsion to turn your brain off completely and become a thing for the use of another, after a lifetime of being forced to be an agent, a subject, in a world that’s rarely forgiving of mishaps and mistakes. And it can take your shittiest feelings and convert them into pleasure. These qualities are both vital and fun.

Julia: Even making this comic included an aspect of consensual power exchange, in that I so rarely collaborate with anyone–I take commissions, but I don’t get emotionally invested in them the way I did with this–and it was both a liberating and abject experience to let someone else call the shots. Anyway, I think we were both really pleased with how that worked out and immediately wanted to do it again.

Anything coming up in the near future?

Sean: We’ve got a four-page horror comic called “Hiders” in the forthcoming 3D issue of Study Group Magazine, an anthology of comics and comics criticism. We have a couple of other collaborations simmering right now, and Julia in particular is always working on new solo material.

Julia: Right now I’m busy with a new mini about the Diocletian Persecution that should be out by summer, as well as a couple of anthology pieces (one of which Sean is writing) and a big multicolored silkscreen poster design for Hydra Head Records.

Is there balm in Gilead?

Sean: No. Julia often says that there is no God, but even if there were, He wouldn’t give a fuck about your feelings. Chinx Drugz as demiurge. But once you show up in Gilead and come up empty-handed, you’re free to dig into your own brain and body and bleed out whatever balm you can.

Well that certainly clears a lot of things up! Thanks.

Buy a copy of “In Pace Requiescat” for yourself here.

About Author

Hether Fortune

Hether Fortune

Hether Fortune is a musician/artist/writer/freak currently based in Los Angeles. She is best known as the leader of her band WAX IDOLS and for making people feel uncomfortable. http://hetherfortune.tumblr.com/

3 Comments

  1. 🕔 7:26, 11.May 2014

    Jack Connery

    A delightful mix of the educational and the erotic. Congratulations on making Kinknote.com’s Top 10 Blog Posts of the Week!

    reply comment

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