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Milo Manara: The Golden Ass (Part 2)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Milo Manara (Part 2)

While Milo Manara has produced numerous comics featuring historical subjects, such as his and Alexandro Jodorowsky's The Borgias (2004, 2006 & 2008) and his collaborations with Hugo Pratt on Indian Summer (1983) - set in days of early puritanical US settlers - and El Gaucho (1991), it's erotica that he's most renowned for.


Many of the award-winning Italian creator's comics include themes of bondage, domination and humiliation, voyeurism, the supernatural, and the exploration of the sexual tension lurking beneath various aspects of society. Manara's work varies in explicitness, but the general mood is playful rather than misogynistic (although many have contested this). There's a sense that Manara loves women, and depicting the female form, and his skill in creating a certain tone has helped to give him an air of artistic respectability, regardless of the subject matter.


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His classic erotic titles have included the four-part series Il Gioco (1983, translated as Click), about a device which renders women helplessly aroused at the flick of a switch, and Il Profumo dell'invisibile (1986, translated as Butterscotch), about the invention of a body paint which makes the wearer invisible. Other erotic comics include Hidden Camera (1988), Three Girls on the Internet (1998) and Manara's Kama Sutra (1997), which also became a CD-ROM game. A common thread through much of his erotica is the appearance of women seemingly as victims, but who actually turn out to be the ones in control and come out on top.


Considering all this it's hardly surprising that Manara created an erotic adaptation of Gulliver's Travels (Gullivera, published last month) and even produced an adaptation of one of literature's earliest erotic farces, The Golden Ass. Originally titled The Metamorphoses and written by Apuleius around 158-159 AD, it's the only Ancient Roman novel in Latin to survive in its entirety. The Picaresque tale sees the narrator, Lucius, transformed accidentally into an ass, as he embarks on a quest for magic and redemption.


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First published in 1999, Manara's adaptation is remarkably faithful to the original, combining or missing out only a few of the inset stories that add nothing to the main narrative. This August's completely uncensored edition still manages to shock and surprise even today's audience with its tongue-in-cheek parody of bestiality. It's a testament to his storytelling ability that he manages to compress 300+ pages of prose into just 56 pages of lushly painted sequential storytelling without losing any of the essence and vitality of the saga. 


Unfortunately Manara's own work has suffered when adapted, as it has been, into several poorly animated and badly acted live-action TV series and low-budget films like Click (Le Déclic 1985 & 1997), City Hunters (2006) and Butterscotch (AKA The Erotic Misadventures of the Invisible Man in 1997)


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But regardless of these adaptations, Manara still stands out as one of, if not the, world's greatest erotic comics artist and The Golden Ass is one of his finest works.


--Tim Pilcher


In Part 3 We'll look at Pandora's Eyes and his history of collaboration with other creators.

Tags: Across the Pond