Book Review By Jack Nichols
Meatmen: An Anthology of Gay Male Comics, Volume 22 Edited by Winston Leyland, San Francisco: Leyland Publications, 1998, 158 pages, $16.95
After having once been SCREW magazine's first managing editor and seeing literally thousands of pics of couples, triples and quadruples locked in sexual congress—straight, gay and bi-- my curiosity about most hard-core photos got substantially reduced. Photos just didn't turn me on much after—was it the second or the third year?
During those same heady days Winston Leyland was the editor of Gay Sunshine, among the nation's pioneering gay publications, a newspaper that hosted interviews with homosexuality's sub-cultural giants. Leyland remains today one of the most successful independent gay publishers.
This is, in fact, what goes on in the real world. Sensuality leaps, in the face of provocation and unexpected excitement, beyond societal taboos. There is no "them" there is only "us". The joys of touch take no heed of gender, while a passive recipient in oral or anal sex forgets to think in terms of old-fashioned categories. Such scenarios recur again and again in Meatmen, as they often do in X-rated videos: the otherwise straight hunk—a mechanic or a cop—stops being straight for a few mindless minutes and gets turned every which way but loose.
The seduction of those who aren't expecting to be seduced remains a staple of modern pornographic story-telling. For the inexperienced this is a turn-on, this "deflowering" of hunky innocence.
What makes the erotic intensity that filters through these comics so arousing? Perhaps its because the expert drawings of copulating bodies and their passionate expressions have an immediacy that most photos and videos don't. The cartoonists' talents for projecting explicit shapes counts too. A compendium of such fleshiness, Meatmen flaunts the aesthetic perspectives of today's macho-conditioned males, each curve being the essence of what eager voyeurs hope to see without having to wait.
Dialogues—in some of the balloons—reflect American machomania, however, with lines like, "Take it, punk," or "Yeah, try to treat me like your bitch…" Whether these raps are PC or not, they're real-life expressions and thus criticizing them makes little sense.
On page 103, "Raheem" makes an entrance. The text announces: "He's part black, part Puerto-Rican, He's young and full of cum....He's a homeboy, he's a playboy…he will rock your world." Flashing his genitalia, Raheem tells a talent scout: "You can't stop looking at it, can you Daddy Z..." David Barnes' genital cartooning is, undeniably, expert: simple lines, fine curves.
A cartoonist identified only as "Joe" gives us "Driveshaft", the story of four mechanics whose playful orgy finds them invading one another from every conceivable angle. Prior to this orgy their boss tells them "You keep up the good work and you'll both get a big fat bonus." Indeed.
"Coley on the Lost Coast" idyllically depicts a blond beauty who models for art classes and who stars in pornographic films. He's alone, standing on the beach, waiting for a partner whose libido he can easily inflame. "So why did I come here?" he asks himself, "Th' Lost Coast. Well…it IS kinda deserted…but there are always people, always even here." The male beauty he's awaiting, an equally handsome brunette, arrives and in the succeeding pages they demonstrate in graphic imagery how hormonal urges turn youthful bodies into passion-pit-infernos.
Meatmen isn't just hard-core erotica, however. There's a host of genuinely funny cartoons as well. One shows a naked male explaining to a clothed one on a barstool: "I figure, what the hell...just put the goods in the window." Another depicts a middle-aged lover returning from work through his front door. His mate, standing in the kitchen wearing nothing but a mini-apron hears: "Get your skinny ass up in the air…Daddy's home and he's hot."
Collectors of erotica will like this volume. Others may want to own it just for kicks. This reviewer falls into the latter category.