Danny Djeljosevic doesn't stop thinking about comics. All comics: crackling cosmic punches, subdued glances from art-school girls, high-concept pop, intricate European breasts, Japanese speedlined inner monologue, cartoon teenagers eating hamburgers. He loves them all.
He writes them. He draws them. He writes about them. He talks about them.
This is what his brain sounds like.
(Thanks to Jamil for the inspiration. Um.)
(And, oh yeah, this is going to be mad NSFW, if you care about that sort of thing)
Comic books have a lot of problems, chief among them that there aren't enough dicks. I don't mean "dick" as in "guy who's a jerk," because you can just go on Twitter and hear about (and sometimes witness) all the dick behavior happening the industry (it usually involves a near-religious fear of digital comics) or even male characters, because lord knows there are enough of those to go around, too. When I say comics need more dicks, I'm talking about depictions of that weird organ that dudes have — the limpy noodle thing that sometimes gets all rigid given the proper situation.
It's not something one really thinks about, growing up as a straight male comics reader, because the goal is generally to avoid seeing dicks, the idea being that you've already got one and girl parts are always hidden by clothes and locker rooms, so they are the more desirable thing to witness. Never mind that, being a comics reader in grade school, you're probably not going to see those anyway.
In this seemingly male-dominated medium, there are lots of naked ladies and phallic imagery (and the odd bit of intentionally horror-inducing yonic imagery if you look hard enough), but few actual penises appearing. Chalk it up to overabundance of the male gaze or a fear of scaring off the less sexually confident readers or an active avoidance of potentially being labeled as pornographic, but I seriously think sequential art could use a few more dicks all up in it.
Now, I'm not saying I want to see if Ben Grimm's stalactite matches his sediment, but outside of corporate comics meant (supposedly) for children, I think we could stand to see some more representations of the human body — both sexual and non-sexual. And, hey, consider this — Watchmen is considered a major achievement in graphic storytelling, and it has male full-frontal in it. Granted, it's blue and radioactive, but a dick is a dick, amirite?
There's a reason I'm thinking about this, and it's not completely due to undiagnosed mental problems or even an urge to increase the instances that variations on the word "penis" appear on Comics Bulletin. Y'see, I was drawing thumbnails for my newest project, a self-published zine-type affair that addresses mainstream comics from the kind of outré perspective that only comes with doodling into the night whilst downing whiskey and Cokes. I wanted it to go to places that would make the average comic book vomit in terror (if stapled paper were, in fact, capable of vomiting), so I decided to draw a four-panel sequence of a character's dick getting hard. That's something I haven't seen in comics before — not even hentai, where the goddamn things practically erupt from men's crotches like the chest-burster in Alien.
I'd like to think with that artistic maneuver I'm capturing a particular zeitgeist (ugh), considering how often dicks have been popping up a lot more lately in left-of-mainstream comics. Casanova: Avaritia has a confluence of dicks (and the attached balls) in it, as Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá seem intent on depicting the male anatomy from every possible angle. The opening image of Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred has a naked guy in full dangling glory, navigating through the sewers. Even the Brian K. Vaughan surefire moneymaker Saga has a penis in it — attached to one of the TV-headed dudes, to boot.
Dicks are "in," ladies and gentlemen, and if you add the number of Johnny Ryan comics that have come out over the past year, this is more comic book wieners in the span of a year than I've probably witnessed in my entire comics reading career.
It's funny, I don't even think you get to see a dick in Preacher, even though in that series the things find frequent off-panel use. The closest we get is seeing a close-up of Herr Star's lack-of-a-dick and the various tubes and such that he has to attach down there to function. Close, but not enough. As if to make up for it, Crossed and (naturally) Dicks are flush with dongs. And there was that time in No Hero when Warren Ellis wrote his protagonist ripping out a dude's spine and fashioning it into a strap-on, but that's a completely different subset of things I'd like to see more of in comics.
Mostly, however, a dick is a joke — and not for no reason, the things look hilarious and straight dudes like to laugh at them or else they'll seem gay. It's this whole fascination delivered with a heavy dose of distance — I've been party to conversations where the topic is just how huge Frank Quitely draws Superman's package and I'm pretty sure the only thing people talked about after the Watchmen movie came out was the blue CGI penis.
I guess a lot of it is male gaze stuff, which is just another reason why we need more female comics creators. Which makes it sound like I'm discounting non-hetero female creators, but you shouldn't interpret any sort of orientation bias from that statement. I'm just thinking about diluting the male gaze by with more female-created depictions of men.
For example! I always felt one of the most transgressive moves in recent superhero comics was when Gail Simone and Nicola Scott teamed up for the dearly departed Secret Six. I pessimistically assume that fanboys would see that kind of girl-on-girl collaboration resulting in some superhero comics equivalent of The View, but Secret Six is actually awesomely hedonistic, full of as much sex and violence as DC Comics would allow, with all the men rendered as hairy, barrel-chested beefcakes. Scott is amazing at rendering attractive men and women — not attractive to the male power fantasy, just regular attractive.
(ganked from Flickr user Stormantic)
I don't really know how to end this column except to say dicks a few more times, so I'll just leave it at that and ask my readers: what's your favorite depiction of genitals in comics? Mine is Monsters by Ken Dahl. Homeboy's really good at drawing both dicks and vaginas — he don't discriminate.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine (drawn by Eric Zawadzski) will debut on April 2, 2012. It is sorely lacking in nudity.