Warning: illustrated naked body parts below
Remember those … physical responses, loins-wise, watching Jane Fonda do her spaced-out striptease at the start of Barbarella? Maybe it’s a formative memory of Raquel Welch or Stephen Boyd scissor kicking through Fantastic Voyage that causes some rising action, even now. Welch and Boyd may not have had Paco Rabane and Jacques Fonteray — cinema’s greatest fluffers — in charge of their costume design, yet those tight white wetsuits are … memorable. Cartoonist Katy Skelly remembers the titillation, the slap and tickle nature of those films, lovable for the duality of their innocent innuendos and their frustrating lack of release. To all that blue ball nostalgia Skelly says fuck it, let’s get dirty.
First published in the comic slut category on Slutist.com, Agent 8 is a series of seven erotic comics starring the sexplorer (sextronaut?) the titular (natch) Agent 8. Skelly takes all the soft-porn-spacey-sexy-time of 60’s sci-fi cinema and gives it some sack, a vag (rhymes with badge), cocks and cunts, lips and asses. Mature? Sure. Erotic? And how! Degenerate? Not even close. Like Skelly’s contribution to the erotic comics anthology Thickness, Agent 8 strays from heteronormative expectations. So there’s more masturbation (with mushrooms), cunnilingus, fellatio and fingering from a skeleton (there’s a boner joke in there somewhere) than what Barbarella would call “penetrative intercourse.” And so what? It’s all sex-positive, sex-affirmative sex in the spirit of the sexy-space-babe-ness of what makes Barbarella (the comic and the movie) so alluring even today. Never skimp on or underestimate charm.
Skelly’s cartooning holds a magnetic quality, it attracts with a thin, but confident line, its easy appeal betrays the years of practice it takes for an artist’s marks to become so secure. The sexiness of Skelly’s figures comes from the subject matter (duh) and from an inherent, under-the-fingernails kind of maturity to know what’s sexy. Like some Debbie Harry who goes from punk priestess to disco diva to hanging with Giger, Skelly understands the mutability, the fashion, of sex. Fonda and Welch can play (somewhat) demure characters — their off-screen actions left to febrile adolescent imaginations — because their sexiness is imprinted, a known. The same imprinting makes Agent 8 erotic instead of some male fantasy fuck book or like so many mainstream superhero comics. Agent 8 implies sexiness and Skelly knows from sexy.
The joy of erotica comes from restraint and a lack of physical intimacy (voyeurism) as much as from the sex itself. On its face, the analysis of a blow job misses the point; however, endow said blow job with a few degrees of separation and the meta-ness (not to mention the subtlety) becomes as apparent as … well, a raging hard-on.
Agent 8 receives a video call from a friend. They exchange pleasantries and then 8 asks her friend about her new bf. She tells 8 he’s over and asks, “wanna see?” — a loaded question, for sure. Skelly draws this entire exchange without panel borders. On the first page, 8’s body floats in space, the emptiness opens up the page and creates a sense of space and (outer) space. On the following page Skelly draws only the two women’s heads as they would appear to one another on their video chat, a couple of heads floating in the æther. The page turn reveals six square panels in which 8’s friend — who has cat ears, but doesn’t appear to be a cat (no tail, but a ‘cat’s ass’ ass) — pulls a book off of her boyfriend’s lap, unzips his fly and goes down on him. Skelly frames the bf so the tops of three of the panels cut off his head — not that one, the other one — he’s strictly incidental to this scene. In the second to last panel (sorta’) cat-girl looks up from her ‘work’ with a mouthful of cock and stares straight back at 8. This isn’t about a blow job, it’s about giving the viewer (the reader and 8) what they want. “Wanna see?” On the last page Skelly draws 8 (again sans background) her laptop on her knees, cigarette in hand and wearing the cutest side slit riding boots as she watches the act come to a close. “Gotta clean this up … later!” says cat-girl. 8 thinks, “he seems nice …” Like Roger Vadim, the director of Barbarella and Mr. Fonda at that time, cat-girl had it all planned out, she knew her audience and gave them what they wanted, a thrill.
Skelly’s cartooning possesses more than style, it’s got an aesthetic, a Skelly-ness. Her influences, especially when it comes to film and fashion, are easy to spot. How she filters with those influences is what makes her such a singular storyteller. Agent 8 earns the ‘18+’ on its cover. It is mature, it’s also honest. If there were more Agent 8’s, more honest and sex positive comics would benefit comics and, you know, life. Imagine equality from erotica. Go figure. Skelly’s gift as a cartoonist is she knows what Robert Fripp meant when he told David Bowie and Brian Eno that the difference between pop and rock-and-roll is, “with rock and roll, you might get fucked.”
For more Katie Skelly comics visit her website.