Anyone can draw dirty pictures. It takes a true artist to raise smut to an art form, to the level of “erotica.” Italian comic artist Milo Manara is such an artist.
Born out of the illustrator-led seminal graphic novel movement of the seventies (whose most notable output includes Métal Hurlant (published as Heavy Metal in the U.S.), Milo Manara’s first dedicated foray into erotica came in the form of a 1982 comic for Playmen magazine (Italy’s answer to Playboy). That comic, Click, included in Dark Horse‘s first collection of his erotic work, would define his career.
Click tells the story of wealthy young socialite (and politician’s wife) Claudia Cristiani, who, despite having a knockout body, is frigid to the point of being chronically averse to the mere mention of sex. Dr. Fez, the family psychiatrist, fascinated by this dichotomy, secretly implants a device in her brain to raise her libido and lower her inhibitions with the click of a remote control dial. He then follows her around town and dials up her libido in the most inopportune moments, in the dressing room of a high fashion boutique, at a social gathering in front of a priest, at home in front of the help. Each time the device is activated, she loses control and has to have sex with the nearest male, practically raping him in the process. Each misadventure tops the previous and it all reaches a crescendo with Claudia somehow accidentally ramming a huge valuable diamond up her pooper while pleasuring herself, and the diamond’s owner sending goons to forcibly hold her down and retrieve it. Did I mention this collection is very, very lewd?
Click 2 reintroduces us to Claudia, this time as a TV reporter tracked down by Faust, a James Dean lookalike P.I. hired by her husband, and given the Click remote to test her fidelity (and the limits of her depravity).
Click 3 finds reporter Claudia investigating a sex cult on a tropical island while being chased by hicks who divine the future through magic potion enemas.
In Click 4, a political rival’s incestuous niece and nephew scheme to use the Click device to publicly embarrass Claudia and ruin her husband’s political career. Along the way, Claudia defiles herself in a convent and with an entire soccer team.
In Rendezvous in B-Flat, a stand-alone tale, a loan shark collects on a bad loan by sending a goon to rape the debtor’s wife every day, on the dot, at six p.m. Eventually she succumbs willingly, and it oddly becomes a bizarre tale of unrequited love.
Finally, The Last Tragic Day of Gori Bau and the Callipygian Sister is a nautical tale of the destructive lust of a shape-shifting saytr.
It’s not as out-of-control as it sounds, and it’s all done in the light-hearted, bawdy tradition of Italian sex comedy cinema of the ’70s. A running theme in Manara’s erotic work is the folly of the bourgeoisie and you can see it in every public humiliation Claudia endures.
But the real beauty of Manara’s work is in his elegant, amazing linework. Manara hails from the same Franco-Belgian school as Tintin creator Hergé and Métal Hurlant‘s Jean ‘Moebius’ Girard (as well as Hard Boiled‘s Geof Darrow and Where’s Waldo‘s Martin Hanford), and you can see it in his simple, efficient ligne claire style.
And his women… Manara’s women are that purely erotic, breathtaking combination of angel and slut, free spirited, self-indulging, yet often blissfully unaware of their own sensuality and of their effect on the male populace.
In this collection, Dark Horse has chosen to remove the coloring from Manara’s original presentation in order to feature his linework, and while I don’t entirely agree with that decision, it’s a tiny quibble in what is otherwise a fine primer to his work. Once again, this collection is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re not too easily shocked, I recommend it for Manara’s linework alone, not to mention his ribald wit.
Milo Manara is awoken by one of his creations in this 2008 mattress ad.