Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
In my personal life, I’ve rarely been in a position to critically evaluate pornography; I’ve usually only been a slightly ashamed consumer. Perhaps what makes pornography somewhat resistant to criticism is the intensely personal, private, and intimate relationship individuals have with it: it is usually something one watches all alone (or perhaps with a partner), and everyone has their own particular fetishes to “get them off.” However, considering the huge amount of business porn does in the U.S. alone, it is also an interesting site for exploration of the various things eroticized by a culture.
Sticky proved something of a challenge for me. It isn’t the type of material the average heterosexual male consumes: Sticky is a gay porn comic. It is difficult to gauge how “hot” something sexual is if it’s a particular type of sex one doesn’t have much interest in; I’d have the same difficulties with a bondage book or a book about foot fetishes, it’s just not my bag. But of course that is only one element of erotica, and Sticky proves worthy of attention even if you aren’t looking for sexual stimulation.
Most interesting about Sticky are the characters. Lazarov and MacIsaac try hard to create characters that don’t fit into stereotypes about what a gay male should look or act like. Granted, there’s little backstory given to the characters in any issue, but the reader can draw tentative conclusions. First off, physically speaking, these aren’t effeminate “queens”. Almost all the men depicted are, well, manly. Issue #1 features two handsome guys who meet at a street market. Issue #2 has a jilted cowboy hook up with a burly security guard on a Springer-type TV show. And Issue #3 takes place at a Halloween party as a monk and a pirate (no jokes, please) play “Trick or Treat”. These are barrel-chested, muscular, handsome, rugged men who just happen to like other masculine men. Nor do they seem to be the kind of damaged, guilt-ridden, closeted gays often seen in TV and movies. They are, for the most part, happy, average guys leading happy, average lives. Sex is just a normal, fun part of their lives.
And isn’t that how it should be? Sticky is free from the drama and politics that seem to crop up whenever homosexuality comes up in the media or entertainment. But by abandoning political screeds or stories about shame, secrets, family acceptance, and all the other storylines that are used over and over again, Lazarov and MacIsaac make a powerful political statement: this is normal. Two men engaging in consensual sex isn’t going to pervert your children, destroy your marriage, or tear apart the fabric of society. It happens all the time, whether you like it or not, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Also, the openness of the sexual acts in these books erodes some common prejudices against gay men. There is no real top/bottom distinction in Sticky; the men are open to multiple forms of sexual play. This flexibility destroys the idea that sex must feature both dominant and submissive participants and also shows that homosexuality does not have to be about power or about one man becoming somehow “less” of a man. Sexuality here is instead open, playful, and mutually pleasurable.
This review should probably conclude with some comments about the production quality of the books. The art is in black and white, and Lazarov plots the books with no dialogue, leaving the storytelling completely to the visual aspect. While MacIsaac’s art flows well, I think for erotic material some dialogue is warranted, as the solely visual aspect might leave some cold, especially since this book is being marketed not only to gay men but to straight women as well. Also, while MacIsaac is a talented artist, there is some awkwardness in proportions at times. Even leaving aside the improbability of all these men being ridiculously well-hung, certain… appendages seem to change from nine inches to fourteen and back to twelve in the space of a few panels. But, perhaps I shouldn’t admit to have been looking that closely at those parts.
All in all, Sticky will probably have a limited market, as comics, even erotic ones, have long been skewed toward fulfilling heterosexual male fantasies. Still, there is not much gay male erotica on the comic book market to my knowledge, and Sticky will probably find a welcome audience for those waiting for something to replace John Blackburn’s famous Coley series. And as in any medium, a diversity of material and of readers only adds to the richness of the artform.