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Milo Manara: Pandora's Eyes (Part 3 of 3)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Milo Manara (Part 3)

Milo Manara is renowned as an auteur, writing and drawing the vast majority of his work, however he has collaborated with many other equally important writers and filmmakers over the decades including Spanish film director, Pedro Almodóvar on 1993's La Feu aux Entrailles (Fire in the Belly).

Manara's first graphic novel as an artist and writer was HP and Giuseppe Bergman, published in 1983. "HP" is Manara's friend, collaborator, and fellow Italian artist/writer legend, the late Hugo Pratt. Bergman had been created by Manara five years earlier (in 1978), for the French comics magazine A Suivre. The series became known for its combination of experimental narrative and explicit sex, and has been collected into six books thus far. Pratt and Manara went on to create another two books, Indian Summer and El Gaucho.


Manara also worked with celebrated film director Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita and ) on their graphic novel Trip to Tulum. Based on Fellini's unmade film script, the story is a tale of hallucinatory magic-realism. The pair went on to create The Voyage of G. Mastorna in 1992, which was only translated into English 20 years later.

Other notable collaborations included Alejandro Jodorowsky on The Borgias, Pierre Louys's Aphrodite, and Silverio Pisu's The Ape, a ribald adaptation of the classic Chinese text, Journey to the West.

It was a collaboration that won Manara his only Eisner award, in 2004, when he illustrated a chapter of Neil Gaiman's feted anthology, The Sandman: Endless Nights. This was Manara's second partnership with Gaiman, having previously illustrated a story about the Berlin Wall collapsing in 1990's anthology, Breakthrough. He worked on another American graphic novel, X-Women (2009), written by Chris Claremont, which proved that Manara remains as controversial as ever, inserting erotic subtexts into Marvel's superheroes, causing chagrin among certain fans. This recently caused a stir with his Spider-Woman cover.


That same year Manara worked with Oscar-nominated Italian screenwriter Vincenzo Cerami (Life is Beautiful) on Pandora's Eyes, proving the artist was as confident a collaborator as ever, and this shows in the way he follows the writer's direction, while adding his own unique flair. Cerami's script is less erotic and more thriller-based tale, and this updated edition is coloured for the first time by fellow Italian creator Francesco Gaston, creating a sombre, muted palate that matches the story perfectly.

Whether collaborating with others, or pursing his own artistic vision, Manara has always brought a unique sensibility to his work, a vision that ensures he will forever remain in the pantheon of the world's greatest comics creators.

--Tim Pilcher

This concludes our three-part series on Milo Manara. Previous parts can be read by clicking:
Part One - Gullivera
Part Two - The Golden ass

The new color edition of Pandora's Eyes is available in stores on November 23, 2016.

Tags: Across the Pond

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.


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.


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)


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

Milo Manara: Gullivera

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Milo Manara (Part 1)

There are few artists who are as divisive as the Italian artist Milo Manara. Renowned as an illustrator whose skill at drawing sensuous women and intensely arousing situations is unsurpassed, he has still managed to raise the ire of many, not least when he created a controversial variant cover for Marvel Comics' Spider-Woman #1 back in 2014. The resultant furor ensured that — whether you love him or loathe him — the one thing you can't do is ignore Manara.

Born in 1945, Manara was heavily influenced by classical Renaissance painters like Rafaello Sanzio and Paolo Veronese. As a boy, he even ran away from home to see an exhibition of work by the painter Giorgio di Chirico. Manara pursued studies in architecture and painting, but became intrigued by the emerging Italian underground comix in the mid-to-late Sixties, and the flourishing of emancipated female characters such as Jean-Claude Forest's Barbarella and Guy Peellaert's Jodelle


Manara made his comics debut in 1969 with Genius, a sexy noir comic book in the vein of the pulpy Kriminal and Satanik fumetti*. He worked for minor publications such as Jolanda of Almavia, a lurid historical fantasy strip, and the satirical magazine Telerompo, before he was hired by the children's magazine for boys Il Corriere dei Ragazzi to work with writer Mino Milani. He eventually transitioned to working directly with several top Franco-Belgian comics publishers, introducing his talents to a whole new set of readers.

Since then, Manara has produced over 30 graphic novels and art books — nearly all of which are now available in English. Manara's stories generally revolve around elegant, beautiful women caught up in unlikely and fantastical erotic scenarios, and his art style favors clean lines and lush watercolors. His adaptation of Jonathan Swift's famous political satire, Gulliver's Travels, titled Gullivera is no exception.

Swift's original 1726 novel is updated from the shipwrecked surgeon Lemuel to a modern nymphet student by the name of Gullivera. Despite the obvious sex change and more overtly erotic nature of the story, Manara surprisingly stays quite faithful to the original work, only omitting three of the many lands described. Even the sequence where the heroine "ingeniously" helps put out the Lilliputian palace fire is taken straight from the original book!


Originally published as Gulliveriana by Les Humanoïdes Associés in French in 1995, Gullivera was part of a movement of European creators tackling erotic comic adaptations, such as fellow countryman Vittorio Giardino's Little Ego (a saucy female variant on Windsor McCay's newspaper strip, Little Nemo).

Famous fans of Manara's include Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and Brian Michael Bendis, who called Manara "one of the greatest artists this planet has ever seen" and rightly so. His notoriety is such that in Italy he even appeared alongside an animated version of one of his female creations advertising Italian mattresses! 

--Tim Pilcher

In part 2 we'll look at Manara's work on The Golden Ass and several of his other famous erotic comics.

*fumetti: Italian word for comics.

Tags: Across the Pond

Across The Pond: Anibal 5

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

With the release of Anibal 5 later this month, we wanted to explore some of the history of the title. UK Liaison (and erotic scholar), Tim Pilcher, dives into the past to bring us something from across the pond.


By the time Alexandro Jodorowsky turned his hand to comics in 1966 he had already achieved more than most ever accomplish in a lifetime. Having moved from Chile to France—and worked as a poet, a playwright, performer, and with entertainment legends Marcel Marceu and Maurice ChevalierJodorowsky then headed to Mexico.

There he teamed up with surrealists Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor and created the "Panic" art movement. As Jodorowsky recalled, "The Panic Movement was kind of a joke. Topor, Arrabal, and I called everything we did 'Panic.' More than a theory, it was more like a brand."


As part of the Panic movement he created the comic Anibal 5 with artist, Manuel Moro. Originally published with Theorem (an imprint of Novaro) in Mexico in October 1966, the series featured a scantily clad, over-sexed cyborg secret agent, whose body contained all the weaponry he needed; a sort of super-spy meets The Terminator by way of Flesh Gordon. It was over-the-top, ludicrous, and camp. "Anibal 5 was an artistic concept not an industrial one. I did it for free for Novaro…The Publishing Director of Novaro was an admirer of my theatrical plays. I convinced him to create a sci-fi serial…at a time in Mexico when no one else was producing anything similar… We bet on the color, which made the cover price quite high, plus the theme conflicted readers."

The theme conflicted the publishers as well. The story—for the time—was sexy, and shocking. Jodorowsky was deliberately parodying masculinity and sexuality in a medium that was predominately thought to be "popular, childish, Mexicanista…" To ramp things up further, Moro based Anibal 5's look on Latino movie star heartthrob, Jorge Rivero, who Theorem then slapped on the cover.


The photo covers of "an actor I didn't admire, an imitator of James Bond, and on the back cover idiot bimbos" irritated the writer. "The editors, without understanding what I was doing, published the photo covers. I fought to change that and I obtained that from #6 the cover would be drawn by Moro. That was good, but it had a bad effect. The owner of Novaro then read my comic and, scandalized, they abruptly ended the serial…" halfway through the 12-issue run.


But scandal has never been too far from Jodorowsky, and two years after Anibal 5 was released a riot broke out at the Mexican premiere of his first film, Fando and Lis, forcing the director to flee under a hail of stones! The film was subsequently banned in the country. Jodorowsky and Moro went on to collaborate on another Mexican comic, Los insoportables Borbolla, before eventually parting company.

Then, in 1990, Jodorowsky returned to his very first comics project and completely re-worked Anibal 5 as a two-volume story. He teamed up with his long-term collaborator, Georges Bess (The White Lama, Son of the Gun) and ramped up the Panic movement's absurdist ideals in the story. Anibal 5 became a preening, pouting, prima donna, forced into ever more ludicrous scenarios by a bizarre, morally bankrupt organization, the European Defense Organization (changed from the original's Latin American Defense Agency). With increasingly ridiculous villains to conquer, and more expressive and creative freedom, Jodorowsky created a masterpiece that challenges, provokes, seduces and enrages contemporary readers, while simultaneously never taking its tongue of its cheek. It's truly a time to PANIC!

Anibal 5 arrives in stores September 30, 2015 with an MSRP of $24.95/£17.99

Tags: Across the Pond

The Most Deviant of Virtues

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tomorrow sees the release of Deviant Virtues, from Regis Loisel and Rose Le Guirec. UK Liaison (and erotic scholar), Tim Pilcher, weighs in with his thoughts from across the pond.


Regis Loisel is one of Europe's foremost comic creators who has established himself with such epic fantasy sagas as The Quest for the Time Bird (translated as Roxanna by NBM in the late 1980s) and his reworking of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan (Soaring Penguin). While both series featured adult themes, swearing and sexual elements, it wasn't until Deviant Virtues that he fully embraced the erotic genre.

What makes this book unique is his involvement with his wife, Rose Le Guirec (AKA Marie-Hélène Loisel). Until now Loisel had written most of his own work, but bringing his author-wife on board was a masterstroke of foresight.

Sexologists generally agree that men are aroused by visual stimuli, either through video, photos or imagery of all kinds, whereas women's arousal is more imaginative and driven by prose (as seen in the plethora of romance and erotic novels, most recently encapsulated in the phenomena of 50 Shades of Grey). What the husband and wife team have managed to do with Deviant Virtues is to appeal to both markets by cleverly blending both prose and imagery to create a unique story form. The book isn't quite a novel, but neither is it a purely illustrated book, but somewhere between the two.


Divided into three stories constructed around the central theme of ceremonies and rituals, the first tale, The Offering, is probably the most familiar to fans of Loisel's previous works. This sweet fantasy tale reads like an illustrated poem which has two simultaneous narratives—one in prose, the other in pictures—which compliment each other and provide a moving twist at the end.

In The Bonfires of St. John's Eve, Le Guirec uses the prose as introductory text and as chapter breaks, before Loisel moves in to complete the story in a series of silent comic pages that focus on the erotic aspects of the tale. This original form of pacing allows the reader to immerse themselves in the sexually charged scenes without being encumbered by word balloons or distracting text.

Finally, Ceremony explores the darker, deeper psychological aspects of sexuality, examining the dynamics of submission and domination. This is told in a more traditional illustrated story format with Loisel's artwork peppered throughout Le Guirec's prose, occasionally exploding into an orgiastic double-page spread of "deviance".


Like all excellent erotica, Deviant Virtues allows the reader to safely explore these fantasies, transposing themselves to the roles of the protagonists without fear of repercussions. Unlike most erotica it does so whilst appealing equally to both men and women. One wouldn't expect anything less from the perfect creative bonding of husband and wife.

Tags: Across the Pond

Dengue: A look behind the fever

Friday, July 24, 2015

It's often said that science-fiction is merely a reflection of our current society, a filter to examine current concerns and issues. That being the case, Rodolfo Santullo and Matías Bergara's Dengue couldn't be more relevant today. With climate change creating ever more extreme weather across the globe, it's almost inevitable that storytellers have started exploring this subject. But Santullo and Bergara's approach is far more subtle and sophisticated than the typical eco-disaster movies of 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow. Instead they looked at the more pragmatic results of an increasingly warming Montevideo, their home city—namely the increased risk of disease.


While other recent outbreaks, like the headline-grabbing Ebola in Africa in 2014/2015, attract more attention, dengue, or "bonebreaker fever," still manages to hospitalize around half a million people every year. While not nearly as fatal as Ebola (only 2.5% of all victims die) there is similarly no known cure and infection rates are growing. Once only found in the tropics, in recent years there have been dengue outbreaks in Florida and Portugal, thanks to rising temperatures, increased rainfall, and rapid unplanned urbanization. The interesting element of dengue is that contracting it once doesn't necessarily provide immunity. It's possible to contract other strains, which can make symptoms even worse and it's this starting point that forms the crux of Santullo's story.


Into this tense environment Santullo and Bergara introduce us to a sarcastic, jaded yet indefatigable cop, Sergeant Pronzini, and an ambitious TV journalist, Valeria Bonilla, as they try and resolve not only the mystery of thrice-infected dengue victims, but also the apparent conspiracy that keeps the city fearfully locked indoors, away from the epidemic. This original combination of police procedural, political conspiracy thriller, and science-fiction adventure mellifluously blend into a unique, and humorous, tale that rattles along at a pace. No wonder Spider-Man/Deadpool writer Joe Kelly calls it "a cool book" and screenwriter of AI: Artificial Intelligence, Ian Watson, agrees that it's "a powerful and deadly cocktail!"

Creators, Santullo and Bergara are part of the new wave of South American comic creators, such as Eduardo Risso, Gabrial Ba, and Fabio Moon, who are making big waves outside of their continent. Mexican-born Uruguayan writer, Santullo is a prose novelist, journalist, and the author of over 12 graphic novels, including two earlier black and white, historical books, illustrated by Bergara; The Last Days of The Graf Spee (2008) and Act of War (2010). The former graphic novel won the pair the First Prize in 2009's prestigious JC Onetti literary awards. Bergara has gone on to work on several major US comics, illustrating Sons of Anarchy for Boom! Studios, as well as stints on Scott Snyder and Stephen King's American Vampire.


But it's Dengue, the creative duo's first English language translation, that sees them really spreading their mosquito-like wings—telling a sophisticated, multi-layered tale full of fear, hope, and laughs against seemingly insurmountable odds. Fortunately in the real world, progress is being made with pest control trials in Brazil in 2013 appearing to suppress dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti or yellow fever mosquito by 96%. The battle between man and mosquito goes on. Whether we'll ever be able to live in harmony will have to be seen… bzzz…bzzzz… *smack*

Tags: Across the Pond

Across the Pond: Wonderlands UK Graphic Expo

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Across the Pond is a column written by Humanoids UK liaison Tim Pilcher.

This Saturday (30 May) I'll be at the inaugural Wonderlands: The UK Graphic Novel Expo in Sunderland. This exciting day is the brainchild of Bryan Talbot (Grandville, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes) and celebrates and explores the graphic novel format in it's many guises. I'll be interviewing graphic novelists such as Ian Edginton, Dylan Horrocks, Woodrow Phoenix, and Paul B Rainey about storytelling.

Plus Humanoids are taking part in The Current State of Graphic Novels and the Future panel where we'll be discussing publishing in the UK with fellow publishers, SelfMadeHero, Jonathan Cape, and 2000 AD/Rebellion, hosted by Paul Gravett (who wrote the foreword to Barbarella and the Wrath of the Minute-Eater). Come along and find out Humanoids publishing plans for the rest of 2015.

Plus, you'll be able to pick up some of our latest releases from the Waterstones stand including Redhand: Twilight of the Gods and Sanctum Redux, and advance copies of Child of the Storm and the new edition of The Incal before they hit the shops!

Best of all, the whole event is FREE! See you there!

When: Saturday May 30th 2015
Time: 10.00am - 8.00pm
Admission: Free
Where: University of Sunderland - CitySpace

Tags: Across the Pond

From Across the Pond: Angel Claws

Monday, April 6, 2015

The following column is written by Humanoids UK liaison and known counter-culture expert, Tim Pilcher, as he writes about his thoughts and opinions about Humanoids in the UK.

Jodorowsky and Mœbius have always been a creative team that challenges their readers' preconceptions. In The Incal they challenged the idea of what a "hero" could be; in Madwoman of the Sacred Heart they challenged the concept of religion; and in The Eyes of the Cat they challenged the nature of horror. Following in the latter's illustrated prose format, the auteurs went on to challenge readers' ideas about sex in Angel Claws.

Following the death of her father, a middle-aged woman explores the family house, embarking on a quest for sexual identity, which is both visceral and shocking. Every form of fetish and vice is explored, from sadomasochism and coprophagia to body-piercing and transgenderism, as she journeys from one metaphorical room to another.

In many ways it's the one comic that's closest to any of Jodorowsky's earlier films like The Holy Mountain and El Topo, using hallucinatory, dream-like imagery to explore the interior landscape of the human mind.


Mœbius's artwork is some of his finest illustrative work ever, lovingly rendering tender embraces and pierced genitalia with equal care and attention. While Angel Claws is undoubtedly salacious, it's hard to call this book truly "erotic," as just as the reader is becoming aroused the next page reveals something startling and unsettling before returning to more alluring scenes. This deliberate jarring keeps the reader on tenterhooks throughout, creating an oddly unnerving mood that could be described as "Lynchian."


Oscar Wilde once said "Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power" and like most of Jodorowsky's work, this poetic book is an allegory ­– a surreal quest for internal peace, reclaiming one's personal power, and ultimately transcending to a higher state of being, free from the Earthly desires that drive us.

So if you are an adult who is stout of heart and strong of mind, check out Angel Claws and see if it challenges your preconceptions. You may find liberation where you least expect it.

Angel Claws will be available through Diamond (Item Number: FEB151485) and can be ordered directly through your local comic store (as well as our own store) as of April 8, 2015 with an MSRP of $100.

Tags: Across the Pond