Erotic comics are adult comics which focus substantially on nudity and sexual activity, either for their own sake or as a major story element. As such they are usually not permitted to be sold to legal minors. Like other genres of comics, they can consist of single panels, short comic strips, comic books, or graphic novels/albums. Although never a mainstream genre, they have existed as a niche alongside – but usually separate from – other genres of comics.
During the mid-20th century, most comics were produced for children, and in North America the contents of most comics were constrained by the Comics Code Authority to be suitable for children. Consequently, erotic comics have sometimes been subject to criticism and extra scrutiny compared to other forms of erotic art and storytelling. Additionally, the application of laws against child pornography to materials featuring fictional characters with no legal ages, have varied internationally.
Erotica has been a feature of comics almost since the medium was developed. Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, and other aristocratic subjects were caricatured in sexually explicit pamphlets such as The Royal Dildo and The Royal Orgy.
In modern times, European countries have generally been liberal in allowing sexually explicit material in comics. In the 60s censorship in Italy led to comics for adults called fumetti neri that were filled with explicit pornographic scenes. Creators such as Milo Manara started as artists making those comics have produced a body of erotic comics since the 1970s. German cartoonist Ralf König began producing explicit gay-male comics in the 1980s. Belgian Tom Bouden has produced several albums featuring the sexual adventures of young gay men.
Some of the earliest erotic comic books in North America were so-called Tijuana bibles, which first appeared in the 1920s.They were typically eight-page black-and-white pamphlets featuring artwork that ranged from very good to very crude. The subject matter was usually sexual adventures of well-known comics characters, political figures, and movie stars, produced without permission. Sold under the counter in places such as tobacco stores and burlesque houses, millions of Tijuana bibles were sold at the height of their popularity in the 1930s. They went into a steep decline after World War II and by the mid-1950s only a small trickle of new product was still appearing on the market.
Men's magazines of the second half of the 20th century were common venues for erotic comics, particularly single-panel gags featuring naked women or couples in sexual situations. Playboy magazine debuted in 1953, and featured single panel cartoons by artists such as Alberto Vargas, Archie Comics artist Dan DeCarlo, Jack Cole, LeRoy Neiman, and later Olivia De Berardinis and Dean Yeagle. Little Annie Fanny , a multi-page strip by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder, was a frequent feature through the 1980s. Annie had trouble keeping her clothes on, a trend seen also in the strips The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist , Wally Wood's Sally Forth , and Penthouse 's Oh Wicked Wanda! by Ron Embleton. Penthouse would later put out a number of erotic comic magazines: Penthouse Comix , Penthouse Men's Adventure and Penthouse Max with the likes of Adam Hughes contributing artwork.
Early comics produced for gay and bisexual male readers often focused on sexual situations, such as Kake by Touko Laaksonen ("Tom of Finland") in the 1950s and Harry Chess by Al Shapiro ("A. Jay") in the 1960s. Comics by creators such as Michael Kirwan and Brad Parker were popular in magazines featuring pornographic photos. The Meatmen anthology series, published from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, featured a variety of gay erotic comics by creators such as Belasco, John Blackburn, Bill Schmeling ("The Hun"), Shapiro, Jon Macy, Dom Orejudos ("Stephen"), Laaksonen, Bill Ward, and Oliver Frey ("Zack"). Although gay comics have expanded to cover a variety of genres, erotica has continued to be popular, sometimes incorporated into other genres, such as the erotic superheroes by Patrick Fillion published by Class Comics, and the wordless graphic novels written by Dale Lazarov.
Some erotic comics grew out of the underground comix scene, such as Cherry by Larry Welz, which parodied Archie Comics. The later rise of independent black and white comics publishers in the 1980s and 1990s include a number of erotic titles, such as Omaha the Cat Dancer by Kate Worley and Reed Waller, which combined sexually explicit material with a melodrama featuring anthropomorphic animals. Other so-called "furry" erotic comics emerging in this period were Genus and Milk published by Radio Comix. XXXenophile by Phil Foglio blended science fiction and fantasy scenarios with sexual situations, and the webcomic Oglaf by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne combines humor and diverse sexuality with medieval fantasy tropes.
In 1990, Fantagraphics established their Eros Comix imprint, reprinting titles by Wally Wood and Frank Thorne, Gilbert Hernandez' Birdland, and dozens of other titles, eventually producing a backlist library of over 40 collected editions. The imprint was popular enough that it is credited with making the company – otherwise known for its "artistic" and "literary" works – financially solvent. By the late 1990s, the imprint was longer profitable, and discontinued releasing new material.
In 2012, Iron Circus Comics revived the indie title Smut Peddler as a brand of erotic comics created by and for women (with male co-creators allowed on female-led teams), publishing both paperback anthologies of short stories, and longer stand-alone features.
Sexual images have long been a part of Japanese illustrated art,such as The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife which depicts a woman in sexual congress with two octopuses. Such works were largely suppressed by the government, however. As the Japanese manga ("comics") market developed after World War II, erotic dramas such as Ero Mangatropa (1973), Erogenica (1975), and Alice (1977) were produced. In 1979, manga artist Azuma Hideo produced Cybele, which featured sexually explicit stories with characters drawn in a cute, "cartoony" style, which led to the rise of lolicon anthologies featuring precocious girls, such as Lemon People and Petit Apple Pie . Shotacon, a corresponding genre of erotic comics featuring precocious boys also developed. Erotic manga aimed at men are referred to as "seijin-muke manga" (成人向け漫画) or "ero manga", and those aimed at women are called "ladies comics" (レーディーズ・コミック).
In the 1970s, shōjo manga ("comics for girls") began featuring platonic relationship stories between boys, which developed into yaoi. This genre, created primarily by women for female readers, features stories young men in romantic and sexual relationships, many of which are sexually explicit.
In the 1980s, Gengoroh Tagame began producing erotic manga drawn from his own sexual interests, featuring large, masculine men engaging in sadomasochistic sex with each other. Around these works developed the genre of bara manga, which features men in stories written for gay and bisexual men.
Although production and distribution of pornography is illegal in India, it remains popular, and a small industry of erotic comics has developed there in the early 21st century. The series Savita Bhabhi , about the sexual adventures of a bored, emotionally neglected housewife, has challenged these legal restrictions.
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Outside of Japan, hentai is anime and manga pornography. In Japanese, however, "hentai" is not a genre of media but any type of perverse or bizarre sexual desire or act. For example, outside of Japan a work of animation depicting lesbian sex might be described as "yuri hentai", but in Japan it would just be described as "yuri".
Yaoi, also known as boys' love or BL, is a genre of fictional media originating in Japan that features homoerotic relationships between male characters. It is typically created by women for women and is distinct from homoerotic media marketed to gay and bisexual male audiences, such as bara, but it can also attract male readers and male creators can also produce it. It spans a wide range of media, including manga, anime, drama CDs, novels, games, films, and fan production. Boys' love and its abbreviation, BL, are the generic terms for this kind of media in Japan and have, in recent years, become more commonly used in English as well. However, yaoi remains more generally prevalent in English.
Yuri, also known by the wasei-eigo construction Girls' Love, is a Japanese jargon term for characters, themes, content and a genre involving lesbian relationships or female homoeroticism in light novels, manga, anime, video games and related Japanese media. Yuri focuses on the sexual orientation or the romantic orientation aspects of the relationship, or both, the latter of which is sometimes called shōjo-ai by Western fandom, despite its different and negative meaning in actual Japanese.
Shotacon, abbreviated from Shōtarō complex, is a Japanese slang describing an attraction to young boys. It refers to a genre of manga and anime wherein prepubescent or pubescent male characters are depicted in a suggestive or erotic manner, whether in the obvious role of object of attraction, or the less apparent role of "subject". In some stories, the young male character is paired with a male, usually in a homoerotic manner. In others, he is paired with a female, which the general community would call "straight shota". A cutoff of "about 15" has been suggested as the dividing line between shotacon and shōnen-ai. It can also apply to post-pubescent characters with neotenic features that would make them appear to be younger than they are. The phrase is a reference to the young male character Shōtarō (正太郎) from Tetsujin 28-go. The equivalent term for attraction to young girls is lolicon.
Pornography in Japan has unique characteristics that readily distinguish it from Western pornography. Reflecting Japan's views on sexuality and culture, Japanese pornography delves into a wide spectrum of heterosexual, homosexual, and transgender sexual acts in addition to unique fetishes and paraphilias.
Touko Valio Laaksonen, best known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland, was a Finnish artist known for his stylized highly masculinized homoerotic art, and for his influence on late twentieth century gay culture. He has been called the "most influential creator of gay pornographic images" by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade. Over the course of four decades, he produced some 3,500 illustrations, mostly featuring men with exaggerated primary and secondary sex traits, wearing tight or partially removed clothing.
Lolicon, also romanized as lolikon or rorikon, is Japanese discourse or media focusing on the attraction to young or prepubescent girls. The term lolicon is a portmanteau of the phrase "Lolita complex (ロリータ●コンプレックス)"; it describes an attraction to young or prepubescent girls, an individual with such an attraction, or lolicon manga or lolicon anime, a genre of manga and anime wherein childlike female characters are often depicted in an "erotic-cute" manner, in an art style reminiscent of the shōjo manga style.
Lesbian erotica deals with depictions in the visual arts of lesbianism, which is the expression of female-on-female sexuality. Lesbianism has been a theme in erotic art since at least the time of ancient Rome, and many regard depictions of lesbianism to be erotic.
The term adult comics typically denotes comic books, comic magazines, comic strips or graphic novels with content of an erotic, violent, or sophisticated nature marketed by publishers toward adult readers. They are sometimes restricted to purchase by legal adults, especially erotic comics which include sexually explicit material.
Cartoon pornography is the portrayal of illustrated or animated fictional cartoon characters in erotic or sexual situations. Animated cartoon pornography or erotic animation is a subset of the larger field of adult animation, not all of which is sexually explicit.
Gengoroh Tagame is a pseudonymous Japanese manga artist and art historian. He is one of the most influential creators of gay manga, noted for his works depicting graphic themes of sadomasochism, sexual violence, and hypermasculinity. His later work includes the all-ages manga series My Brother's Husband and Our Colors.
LGBT themes in comics are a relatively new concept, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) themes and characters were historically omitted from the content of comic books and their comic strip predecessors due to anti-gay censorship and bigotry. LGBT existence was included only via innuendo, subtext and inference. However the practice of hiding LGBT characters in the early part of the twentieth century evolved into open inclusion in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and comics explored the challenges of coming-out, societal discrimination, and personal and romantic relationships between gay characters.
Women's erotica is any erotic material that caters specifically to women target-demographic of various sexual preferences. When erotica is specifically directed at lesbians, it is referred to as lesbian erotica. Women's erotica is available from a variety of media including video games, websites, books, comics, short stories, films, photography, magazines, audio, anime and manga. The content may cover many aspects of sexuality, from relationships to fetishes; the main idea being to convey sex-positivism from a woman's perspective, or to feature female empowerment and sexual fantasies.
Roberto Baldazzini is an Italian illustrator and comics artist who specializes in writing and illustrating black and white and full-color erotic comic books.
William Ward (1927–1996) was a British erotic artist. He is best known for his strips featuring bear-like men and in particular his Adventures of Drum series for Drummer magazine.
Penthouse Comix was an American mass-market, magazine-sized comic book, published by Penthouse International/General Media Communications from spring 1994 through July 1998. Founded and initially edited by George Caragonne and Horatio Weisfeld, it ran 32 issues plus one special edition. Foreign versions of Penthouse Comix were still published as of 2011.
Bara is a colloquialism used to refer to a genre of Japanese comic art and media known within Japan as gay manga (ゲイ漫画) or gei komi. The genre focuses on male same-sex love, as created primarily by gay men for a gay male audience. Bara can vary in visual style and plot, but typically features masculine men with varying degrees of muscle, body fat, and body hair, akin to bear or bodybuilding culture. While bara is typically pornographic, the genre has also depicted romantic and autobiographical subject material, as it acknowledges the varied reactions to homosexuality in modern Japan.
Sexuality in Japan developed separately from that of mainland Asia, as Japan did not adopt the Confucian view of marriage, in which chastity is highly valued. Monogamy in marriage is often thought to be less important in Japan, and sometimes married men may seek pleasure from courtesans. Prostitution in Japan has a long history, and became especially popular during the Japanese economic miracle, as evening entertainments were tax-deductible. Decreased sex drive in the 21st century has been blamed for the low Japanese birth rate and declining growth of the Japanese population.
Jon Macy is a gay American cartoonist. He began his career in 1990 with the series Tropo published September 1990 – April 1992 by Blackbird Comics. Since then, he has contributed to various LGBT comics anthologies and gay pornographic magazines, but he is best known for his graphic novel Teleny and Camille, which won a 2010 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Erotica.
Carl Vaughn Frick – often credited as Vaughn Frick or simply Vaughn – is an alternative cartoonist known for the exploration of gay, environmental, HIV/AIDS awareness, and radical political themes in his comics. His Watch Out! Comix #1 (1986) was an influential gay-themed comic, one of the first by an openly gay male cartoonist. His work was also included in issues of Gay Comix,Meatmen, Strip AIDS, No Straight Lines, and So Fey, a collection of Radical Faerie fiction.