Words by Stephen Lowther 15 April T he humble comic book has evolved since its early days as a cheap, throwaway entertainment medium aimed squarely at children, whose images helped them to learn to read.
Just as books, films and television cater to a wide audience and age ranges, so do 21st century comic books and graphic novels, as diverse today as they have ever been. The American comic book has conquered the world of entertainment through films, television, the original comics and endless collections reprinting them as books.
Comics and graphic novels also enjoy healthy industries in France, Italy, Japan and South America, with the UK quietly also continuing what was once a major part of its publishing industry. The medium is no longer confined to print either: a lot of work is being done digitally, the internet giving creative freedom to anybody with a computer and the necessary skills.
The history of graphic novels is fascinating, as trends come and go, with comics reflecting and commenting on changes in society; attitudes to sex being a prime example.
Eroticism was already prevalent in early pulp magazines, such as in Doc Savage, with ripped shirts or a complete lack thereof revealing a toned and taut torso, as well as Conan the Barbarian or Tarzan and Jane with lithe, athletic bodies wearing very little in the s. All have exaggerated physical attributes and very revealing outfits. Did, and do, these pulps and comics provide fairly innocent erotica for teenage boys unable to buy real pornography? Looking back, primarily at American comics, sex covers a wide array of subjects.
Even Wonder Woman, one of the most powerful characters in comic history and widely considered a feminist icon, was initially introduced as the secretary to the Justice Society of America. MORE: Infographics existed before you thought they did. Violence, gore, vampires and zombies were also objected to by Wertham.
Slowly things began to change. This more adult audience enabled them to produce more adult material. Underground comics featured drugs and sex. Society was changing.
Bisexuality was explored in Strangers in Paradise — ; unstable gender in Legion of Superheroes 31 Gay characters are fairly commonplace in comics these days: Apollo and Midnighter in Stormwatch ; teenage lovers Hulkling and Wiccan in Young Avengers ; Kevin Keller in the bastion of teenage heterosexuality, Archie Comics In Europe, Milo Manara and Guido Crepax published highly regarded erotic graphic novels in Italy from the s to the s.
The medium has continued to expand.
People can tell their stories of battles with cancer, mental illness or AIDS through a graphic novel. The raised funds for London Lighthouse in Nowadays, sex is often treated in an intelligent way in graphic novels: one part of a complex whole. Women are resourceful, intelligent, powerful and independent. LGBT characters are commonplace role models not defined purely by their sexuality. Masturbation, online dating, and sex education all feature in this series of stories: The Rules of Sex. Find out how architecture impacts your health in Living with Buildings, open until March We use a third party provider, dotdigitalto deliver our newsletters.
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Attribution 4. My Desire: Intimate Confessions 4, Source: Comic Book Plus. Erotic comics Eroticism was already prevalent in early pulp magazines, such as in Doc Savage, with ripped shirts or a complete lack thereof revealing a toned and taut torso, as well as Conan the Barbarian or Tarzan and Jane with lithe, athletic bodies wearing very little in the s. Source: Pulp Covers. Wonder Woman covers from the s.
Source: Word Press. Selection of Wonder Woman comics from the s. Seduction of the Innocent.
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Source: Bleeding Neon. Gay Comix 1 Sept. Artwork by Rand Holmes. GayComix 1 cover art by Rand Holmes.
Spider-Man and Power Pack cover. Source: Wellcome Collection. Things have indeed changed since the s. About the author. Stephen Lowther. Stephen is a Cataloguing Librarian at Wellcome Library.
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