Warning: Magenta: Noir Fatale, is, according to the publisher, “for mature readers.”
And warning: you may get TMI about the reviewer from this review, though that seems only fair, since the writer/artist of Magenta: Noir Fatale, Nik Guerra, lays out his desires and fetishes in this erotic graphic novel.
Normally in graphic novels I get annoyed when the story takes a back seat to the art, but in this case, I don’t care—the story is just an excuse to get picture upon picture of hot strong women in hot lingerie in hot circumstances. The main character, Magenta, of the title, is a raven-haired femme fatale dressed more like a dominatrix who, along with her blonde sidekick Lucretia—or, Lucry—act as both Robin Hood-ish thieves and amateur detectives, in addition to photographing each other and selling the pics to porn shops and magazines.
But again, this isn’t about the story. This is about studies in the female form. More importantly, since the story is set in England in the 60s, it’s about nostalgia for a certain time period, and a certain type of woman that probably never really existed (alas). And, a certain look—thigh high stockings and garter belts, obscenely high heels, corsets, missile-like bras, big (like, really big) hair, collars, necklaces, all kinds of jewelry and fancy dresses, and panties that still actually cover the juicy butts.
It’s also about ‘underground-ish’ fetishes, in the style of photographers like Elmore Batters and Roy Stuart, and found in the late great magazine Leg Show, edited by the great Diane Hanson (full disclosure: I wrote for Leg Show). For those readers that still don’t know what I mean, I mean fetishes about not just clothing, but women doing certain things and acting certain ways. In these pages you will find a blonde dominatrix speaking with a German accent, women wrestling and catfighting, women blowing cigarette smoke in men’s faces, close ups of nylonned feet, women with guns, women in uniforms, whipping, and bondage bondage bondage.
What’s interesting, and what’s erotic, is the element of both nostalgia and kitsch. The old-fashioned undies seem, and maybe are, kitsch-y, but I think Guerra, and I, and many people (male and female), in a time when thongs are ubiquitous, long for a more teasing kind of sexiness, and the publishers in their press release correctly identify the “resurgence of vintage burlesque” shows (which are put on and organized by the women themselves, frequently, in Portland where I live) shows this desire. Or, the desire to desire in a certain way. Or, the desire to be desired in a certain way.
Magenta and Lucretia are nods to Wanda and Booful from the Oh Wicked Wanda erotic comics that appeared in Penthouse magazine in the 70s. Magenta is a bit more realistic than Wanda—she’s not necessarily super smart, but neither is she dumb or naive. What makes her sexy, attractive, is her attitude. She’s confident, and dismissive, and isn’t looking for love, or even sex (although she may have both in Lucretia, their relationship one thing that’s never made explicit—just friends?) though she will use the allure of it to get what she wants. Yes, you could argue that what power she has comes from playing to male desire, which only works because men have the power in society. And, that looks don’t last. But I think Magenta would say, “If you’ve got, flaunt it.”
The artwork is gorgeous. The women are gorgeous. The underwear is gorgeous. Guerra obviously loves his subject matter, he puts a lot of attention into the details. When Magenta wears arm-length black gloves, they have wrinkles. Her hair always has waves and curls and light and shadows. When she wears a bra, he gives a little indent in her skin around it to show its tightness.
The result is erotic. When I can go to PornHub and 4Chan and find all kinds of depraved acts on video and see pictures of all kinds of orifices in various stages of use, the black and white artwork in Magenta is refreshing, and beautiful. To be a little crude: I might masturbate to online porn, but it’s not erotic. Guerra reminds us that ‘erotic’ isn’t about proceeding straight to fucking, it’s the tease, it’s the wrapping of the present, it’s the denial, and it’s the engagement of the imagination.
I mean, that’s what art does—gives us something beautiful that engages our imagination, so that we fill in some of the still-covered parts with our own creative thoughts. Art is a reciprocal act, between the artist and the viewer/reader/listener. Erotic art like this just makes the process explicit.