Wednesday, June 28, 2017

QUARTER-BIN HEROES : SWORDS AND SADISM

I suspect I can pronounce that, but I'm not sure I can pronounce it ...

Rivaling the popularity of creator-owned superhero books in the self-published/small-press world was the barbarian epic, some good ol' sword-and-sorcery fantasy. The straightforward nature of the genre obviously appealed in its basic binary morality, and the cosmetic appearance of invention inherent in Fantasy made it seem like creators were creating when they were merely repeating*. So, of course fresh-faced creators loved it so much. Oh, also sometimes it was racist and sexist, or most of the time, although these books don't do too poorly ...

*This is a pet peeve but, say, you're writing a story about a world liberated from the constraints of our own world, populated by wonders beyond comprehension, the product of mythologies yet undreamed-of. And it's time to make a monster, so you stretch your imagination to its limits and you invent ... oh, a dragon. And maybe the hero is an unassuming rural figure who turns out to have a major destiny? Maybe there should be a wizard. Anyway, what I'm saying is that fantasy really encourages timidity, evidently ...  

Zölosträya and the Bard (Twilight Twins Productions)
5 issues, 1987-1988

I've just about figured out the math on these self-published 1980's black-and-white books. Introduction from the editor-slash-writer which presumes a pre-existing audience? Check. Scene where the sole female character is rescued from being raped by the lead male character in order to establish his heroism? Check. Merchandise advertised in the very first issue? Check.

Zölosträya is unique in this regards, though, as the title character is advertised as one of the creators as well. The art is a collaboration, according to the introductory text in the first issue, and Zölosträya even gets a few lines on the page in order to introduce herself and express her hope that the readers have some fun and enjoy the book. I'm trying to decide if this is charming or irritating. Or neither and it's just ... there.

I'm hampered by having read only the first issue of this title -- four more issues abound somewhere, including the almost-mandatory photo cover(s, as it were -- there are two and one of them is a colored pencil/photo hybrid). But what happens in the first actually isn't without promise. Creator Terry Echterling drew his artistic influence from the underground artists of RAW (he namedrops Spain, Moscoso, S.Clay Wilson and Crumb) and while he hasn't mastered the skills, the foundational work is there. The story almost has an underground feel. I still think that's admirable.

Zölosträya's bad mood, as advertised on cover, is on display in the book. Her neuroses, not so much, but I take Echterling's point. She has a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning but, knowing that obese warlords and sword-fighting barbarians are waiting at the gate, and that "Ragna-Rok" is on its way seems to justify a little sluggishness...

"Can you dial for me ... ?"

Barbarienne (Harrier Comics)

8 issues, 1987-1988

Harrier I primarily remember because it was my first exposure to Eddie Campbell's Bacchus (called "Deadface" in the Harrier run, anyway). There were other comics and stories which I recall vaguely, including the mandatory "mutant superheroes employed by the government" things which were so popular at the time, but the one I've stumbled across here is Barbarienne.

Unlike your typical Eighties comic where the lead male character saves the sole female character from being raped, in this one the lead female character and mercenary Charol liberates a "toy girl" (i.e. "sex slave") named Memree from a dungeon where she's been -- and it's mentioned explicitly -- pissing herself and choked with a bondage gag. Also, Charol's nipples are constantly visibly poking through her shirt. It's THAT kind of fantasy, got it.

Loincloth physics are a marvel...

So there's loads of nudity, BDSM, um, sex-slavery ... just ... I don't know all the terms, there's just a lot of that stuff, rendered as chastely as necessary to get it to stay inside a direct market book that won't be sold from behind the counter.

Here's the thing, though ... it's very readable? I know that's not exactly a compliment, but the sexual humiliation of the slave character Memree ish't ... it's too much, sorry, I was going to say it wasn't, but it is. It's not overwhelming to the rest of the story, though, is what it has going for it. That's okay, right? I should start rating these things, maybe. Three out of five sex gags! Bring one home for the kids!


3 comments:

Green Luthor said...

Okay, hold up. Just what kind of fantasy character is Zolostraya, anyway? Is she wearing, like, actual pants or leggings or something? A shirt that covers most of her breasts and her entire stomach? I mean, yeah, it's sleeveless with a plunging neckline, but... didn't anyone tell her fantasy heroines are supposed to wear string bikinis made of chainmail? Sheesh.

(Seriously, though, I'm not gonna claim her outfit is 100% sensible or anything, but it's probably better than 99% of female fantasy characters. Or female science fiction characters. Or female superhero characters. Or... well, you get the idea...)

Calamity Jon said...

Yeah, that's actually a good point for which I should've given the book some credit. Zolostraya wasn't bad, I'd like to see the creator pick it up again, or having someone else run with the idea...

neofishboy said...

Re: Zölosträya. When I was in a band in high school, "Gratuitous Umlauts" was one of the names we considered.

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