Gay Comic Review: Manly

The Newbie and the Hot Librarian
The Newbie and the Hot Librarian

Art and Character Design: Amy Colburn’s art uses a very clean line and is easy to follow — there is never any confusion or hesitation for the reader in terms of what is going on and where to find the next panel. Dominic Cordoba’s coloring, while simply rendered, is bright and pleasing.

The character design leans towards the cartoony and, interestingly enough, is quite similar to what one usually sees drawn by Western gay men. There are all the usual “enhancements” to the male physique — huge cut muscles, perfectly shaped bubble-butts, extra large “packages” bulging in the pants. As I’ve said before, these enhancements aren’t really my cup of tea, but the look is so predominant in gay Western comics, I imagine I’m in the minority.

Colburn’s characters are expressive, often charmingly so — and her skill in making the inner life of the characters clear through those expressions is what keeps the conceit of using no dialog for the entire book afloat.

Characters: Well, none of them are allowed to talk, and they are mostly having sex, so don’t expect a lot of nuance. That said, all of them are good-hearted without a lick of meanness in them. There’s an older boxer and a younger boxer, a shy bald guy and a “hot” librarian, a clean-cut middle-aged cop and a blonde civic-minded bystander with a mane of golden hair.

We get hints at some deeper inner life, mostly as context for the way our couples couple — the cop and the blonde guy both seem closeted and approach each other indirectly; the bald guy is clearly new to the gay scene and has to learn to navigate it in pursuit of a guy he likes; the older and younger boxers have each fantasized about each other for some time, even though this is clearly their first meeting. But with the exception of the “hot librarian”, there is only so much depth to them — they all feel like types you’ve seen a fair number of times before. And I can’t really tell you what the librarian’s deal is, just that it seems like he’s got layers. I might have liked to explore them some (in a purely literary way, I assure you), but alas the need for immediate sex left little time for that.

The Cop and the Bystander
The Cop and the Bystander

That said, all the characters are likable and have their own distinct personalities — and the fact that they’re “types” makes this dialogue-less story easy to follow (and perhaps adds to the hotness for some).

Plot: The three titles of the three short stories are “Busted”, “Clinch” and “Hot Librarian”. Can you guess which characters appear in which stories? This book is essentially porn, so there is a level where plot is just a set-up for the sex. That said, there is time for a few surprises along the way — and it is here where writer Dale Lazarov offers us something a bit more enjoyable than your typical porn comic. As I mentioned above, the characters do feel like they have an internal life. And how the actual sex begins was not something I could have easily predicted. Again, due to the restraints of the author’s porn-with-no-dialogue conceit, the plot can’t get too complicated, but within those restraints Lazarov does a fine job.

Romance: Everyone likes each other. Everyone is sweet to each other. There’s kissing. There’s cuddling. There’s a real sense of equality between the partners. Due to the shallowness of the material, you aren’t going to get swept away with the romance, but there were definitely moments that made me smile. And the warmth between all the characters was frankly very refreshing.

The Boxers
The Boxers

Sex: Very explicit. You see everything and pretty much everything is licked or penetrated, usually both. Some guys are furry. Some are not. They all have large penises. Whenever there is anal sex, quite responsibly there is a visible condom. (And when a condom isn’t available, the guys play it safe.) Everyone takes turns doing everything — no one’s a top or a bottom (which I also found realistic and refreshing). And there are fountain-like cum shots so elaborate and copious they could serve as architectural decor.

Overall: This talk-free graphic novel clearly intends to be both hot and sweet. So far as porn goes, it is definitely sweet — and I found that pleasing. Whether you find it hot will depend on how much you like the character design, how much character development you require to actually want the characters to have sex and how much enthusiasm you have for explicit cum shots. It struck out for me on all of those accounts, but I know my tastes are rather singular. On their website, the publisher lets you review the first 30 pages of the book. This is a well-constructed, well-endowed and good-hearted porn graphic novel — if you like what you see in those first 30 pages, you won’t be disappointed with the rest.

Not age-rated by the publisher.

Plot summary from the publisher’s website:

Three stories intertwine, observing men doing what they love to do best!

Dale Lazarov’s sensual-sexual storyboard combined with Amy Colburn’s brilliantly drawn masculine figures result in a celebration of carnal desires! These stories get by without words, which allows the fantasies of the viewer to take flight.

Oh, us men — how we best love to have the sex…

Unfortunately for this man, I need a fair amount of character and relationship development for my fantasy to “take flight” and the constraints of this book offer only limited amounts of both.

The “no word balloons, no captions, no sound effects” format is an interesting one and, as a lover of words, I was curious why Lazarov made that choice. (And this is not the first work he has written in this style. Both STICKY and FANCY are written this way as well.) In email, he answered my question:

Even though the decision was made out of the necessity of marketing to multiple audiences who don’t share a common language for erotics, writing gay erotic comics scripts without captions or dialogue had a really powerful impact on both the process and the final scripts. It pushed me to write stories based on actions and gestures that reveal character as well as sexuality. Also, it saved me from having to invent sound effects for gay sex. πŸ˜€

As a publisher, I certainly can appreciate the international appeal such a format offers (and it is kinda cool to think that a Chinese reader might enjoy the book the same way that a Canadian reader might). And, as a writer of erotic fiction, I have occasionally also wished for deliverance from the chore of penning sexy sound effects (there really aren’t any, btw.) Lazarov does come up with inventive and successful ways to reveal character through actions and gestures — his experience with this conceit shows.

And yet, it always did come off as a conceit to me. There were moments where there clearly was meant to be talking, but instead we get pantomime. It takes a skilled writer to pull this sort of thing off at all — Joss Whedon’s Hush comes to mind — so Lazarov is to be commended. But I found I missed the words. It did make for a quick read (I was able to read the book twice in under an hour) — whether that is ultimately a good thing or not depends on how deeply you want to immerse yourself in the world of a book.

I like to be fairly immersed. This is one reason why video porn does almost nothing for me and why I can find multi-volume yaoi series so appealing. How much you will enjoy this book will depend on where your tastes lie. For what it is, it’s fairly well done. I’d just be curious to know though how much more Lazarov could have achieved had he been allowed to let his characters speak up.

For another view, Tina Anderson, who turned me on to the pre-release copy of this book, has a very balanced positive take over at Guns, Guys and Yaoi. (Oh, and she has pics from the book that show penis, if you’re into that sort of thing…)

Want to read more reviews like this? Don’t miss out! Subscribe and get them emailed right to you — for free!

Psst! Want a free full-color yaoi comic? Just sign up over at our Free Comic page and we’ll send you the download link!

Learn More!

Share

6 comments

  1. That damn Gynocrat and those penises! ^_^ You know, I saw my stats today, and it's embarrassing how many people clicked on those tiny thumbnails I put up, just to get a larger picture. :/ How disappointed they must be.

    I'm glad you read it, I enjoyed it. I'll likely pick up the book when it comes out – just to have it on the shelf.

    This is topic for another day:

    "Not age-rated by the publisher."

    Of course not, you know why? Because it doesn't say MANGA on it. It's likely listed as 'gay' first and so the bookstores wont even bat an eye about carrying it. :/ I touched on this yesterday when discussing the disadvantages of 'yaoi' and 'manga' labeling by erotic comic and fiction publishers.

  2. Originally Posted By gynocratThat damn Gynocrat and those penises! ^_^

    Oh, I think readers are really saying "Thank God for Gynocrat and those penises!" And it seems your clicks would agree. πŸ˜‰

    it’s embarrassing how many people clicked on those tiny thumbnails I put up, just to get a larger picture. :/ How disappointed they must be.

    Tease … πŸ˜‰

    I'm glad you read it, I enjoyed it. I'll likely pick up the book when it comes out – just to have it on the shelf.

    Yeah — I could totally see it being worth the purchase if the art turned you on. Like I said, not exactly my cup of tea, but I did certainly appreciate the sweetness factor — and, like I said, I found the equality and sharing of roles in the bedroom refreshing.

    This is topic for another day:

    "Not age-rated by the publisher."

    Yeah, I know. I think it's the old "books are for adults, but comics are for kids!" delusion we have here in the States. Well, maybe that's not all of it. You know what I really think it's about? Pictures. You can talk about sex all you want, but if you try to depict it visually? Then better make sure it doesn't wind up in the hands of kids. Too dangerous. (Movies have ratings, Video Games have ratings — books, not so much.)

    I think this even applies to the Gay books. I'll have to check out my local bookstore, but I think (so long as it's not strictly an "art" book) if there are pics, then it'll have some age-appropriate warning on it.

    But maybe I'm wrong about that. Well, an excuse to go check out books with the naked boys, I suppose…

    Anyway, I enjoyed your article on the subject. Here's the link for others to enjoy.

  3. @Alex Woolfson

    I thought I could redeem myself with Manly, since I sent you the Initiation and told you how awesome hot it was and then heard nothing but crickets. LOL! That was before I realized you were a rainbows and puppies fan. I suspected it, I just didn't want to admit it–it's lonely being the only pornhound at bloghigh.

    Have you read The Sound of My Voice yet? I think you'd like it.

  4. Originally Posted By gynocrat@Alex Woolfson

    That was before I realized you were a rainbows and puppies fan. I suspected it, I just didn't want to admit it–it's lonely being the only pornhound at bloghigh.

    Yeah, I'm a tough one to peg for that sort of thing. My very close friends can now do it with 99.9% accuracy, but it's taken them literally decades to figure out the strange way my libido works. I'm telling you it's not for the faint of heart.

    And it's not like I can't enjoy me some porn — good old "Judo Boy" by Kowmeiism gets my motor running pretty hot, but to try to figure out why that is is a little more complicated. (Hint: it's not about the ages of the characters.) Frankly, I think the "pornhounds" have it easier — there's just a lot more out there to brighten your day… πŸ˜‰

    Have you read The Sound of My Voice yet? I think you'd like it.

    You mean this? <img src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TmGKdQFoL._SL75_.jpg&quot; />

    No I haven't, but if you think I'd like it, I'll check it out πŸ™‚

  5. OH! I always enjoy your reviews. I was glad to see another one posted by yourself.

    With this thought: "I like to be fairly immersed. This is one reason why video porn does almost nothing for me and why I can find multi-volume yaoi series so appealing," you have helped me add a bit more definition to WHY the heck I find 'porn' (in it's traditional form) so laughable. (Srsly! I will sit there and read or watch a pure sex sex sex porn and just laugh at the absurdity. And yet I am completely and totally obsessed with most Yaoi, OEL BL, erotica stories and even the odd seinen or shounen story – like FMA or Hellsing or Kuroshitsuji or Getbackers or . . okay, maybe more than 'the odd' one.) Well, there you have it – as Alex said, 'I like to be IMMERSED in a story!' Yay! Well said.

    I'm impressed that the creators could create such 'distinct personalities' without words. I don't think this book would be on my top 100 list to read next simply because I like my stories to have a bit more angst and not a 'Everyone likes each other. Everyone is sweet to each other,' sort of story. But the unique concept has definitely put Manly at least ON my list.

    Thanks again for your fascinating thoughts!

  6. Originally Posted By ButterflyFomori
    OH! I always enjoy your reviews. I was glad to see another one posted by yourself.

    Hey ButterflyFomori! Great to see you here!

    I will sit there and read or watch a pure sex sex sex porn and just laugh at the absurdity.

    Yes, sometimes they will make me chuckle, too. Mostly, I just scratch my head going “Someone thought this was hot? Really?” But then, of course, I know a lot of folks do. And as I pointed out to Tina in another comment, I don’t always need innovative, complex storytelling or characterization to get my motor running — but I do need some appealing context, I do need to know what it is these characters like about each other, I do need to really believe they find each other hot and aren’t just earning a paycheck and, most importantly, I especially need to care about these two particular people having sex. And an author needs to work a bit, to immerse me in her world, to get me to care.

    even the odd seinen or shounen story – like FMA or Hellsing or Kuroshitsuji or Getbackers

    All right — I must ask — what’s your favorite pairing in FMA? (My tastes in manga and anime are also fairly singular, so I often am not familiar with most popular works. Thus, it’s cool when I actually know the characters of a particular manga and can actually ask that question.)

    I like my stories to have a bit more angst and not a Γ’β‚¬ΛœEveryone likes each other. Everyone is sweet to each other,Ò€ℒ sort of story.

    You know, it’s funny. As a puppies-and-rainbows kinda boy, I myself prefer happiness and cuddles in my reading. But in my writing, I put my guys through the wringer. In the latest book script I just wrote (and which we are starting art for now), “Tough”, my heroes are in mortal jeopardy and experiencing serious drama nearly every chapter (with breaks for a few rainbows and puppies here and there, of course). After reading the second to last chapter, one of my beta readers even asked me “Alex, thinking up this stuff, how do you sleep at night?”

    Well, I sleep just fine as it turns out. πŸ™‚ But there has to be part of me that gets off on the drama as well. Otherwise, I wouldn’t write it…

    But the unique concept has definitely put Manly at least ON my list.

    Well, you’re going to have to let me know what you think then. πŸ™‚

    Take care!

    Alex

Leave a Reply