Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Comics: Premières Fois

I'm spending the weekend at New York Comic Con and perhaps I'll discover something new to write about in one of these weekly comic book review, in the future. But today I'm brushing the dust off of a graphic novel that I discovered while on vacation in France a year and a half ago. I stopped by the wonderful comic book store Album, located in Paris at the intersection of Rue Saint-Jacques and Boulevard Saint-Germain and, out of curiosity, I checked in the basement for some of the tasteful, European comic book erotica I'm always hearing about. I found a few good examples, so this probably isn't going to be the only foreign comic I'm going to write about...

Premières Fois
written by Sibylline, with various illustrators
Delcourt, 2008

Premières Fois is French for "first times," and that's exactly what this book presents -- ten short comics, about five to ten pages each, following various female protagonists through their first time engaging in various different sexual experience. The experiences are first vaginal sex, first role playing fantasy, first drunken hook-up, first threesome, first trip to a sex club, first submission scene, first pegging, and first sex while watching porn.

The stand out story in the collection is a story about a sex doll. All of the other stories in the book are narrated by the woman in the experience -- this one is narrated by the doll herself. The result is hugely disturbing. In a comic book illustration there is no way to tell the difference between a woman and a realistic sex doll, so what we have here is a story narrated by a woman with a strangely blank expression. She arrives strapped into a crate, lives in a closet, is only taken out by her lover for his own pleasure, and is eventually forgotten when the man begins a relationship with a woman he seems to treat no better. The title of the story, "Nulle," completes the word -- it's most direct translation into English is "nothing" or "null," but it also has a connotation of worthlessness.

The other stories are quite a bit more fun. The best ones are enormously entertaining to read and pretty damn hot -- a well delivered spanking, sleazy bathroom sex between strangers that turn out of be a roll playing married couple, a first vibrator, a woman trying on her new strap-on before pegging her boyfriend for the first time. The more middle of the road ones treat their subjects about how you expect, verging on cliché, but they're charmingly told. Only two of the stories seemed a little unrealistic to me -- the couple visiting a sex club for the first time seemed a bit idealized, and the threesome scene was narrated by a "unicorn" (the mythical hot bi girl who responds to classified ads from couples looking for no-strings-attached threesomes). The second one seemed particularly like a missed opportunity, because there are so few good depictions of the laborious process of setting up a threesome.

The illustrations in this story are all black-and-white pen and ink drawings, but the similarity ends there. Some of the drawings are cute and cartoony, some are sexy. Some are contained within panels, some have more organic page layouts. The art in the story "X-Rated," illustrated by Dave McKean (yes, that's the guy who did the cover art for Sandman) draws heavily from cubism. "Soumission," the story about a submissive encounter, is drawn by Cyril Pedrosa in a rough style that is both ugly and beautiful in the same time, very appropriate for the subject matter. One thing that is consistent throughout the book is that the characters have realistic proportions for attractive young people, which is a welcome change from the tiny waists and torpedo breasts in a lot of erotic comics.

Finally, a note about the language... Unfortunately, Premières Fois isn't available in English as far as I can tell, and a long ago year of barely remembered high school French is not going to get you through this book. That being said, it isn't that difficult to understand, so if you have any French proficiency you should be able to follow it, even if you can't understand the occasional slang expression. If you're looking for the opportunity to practice your French, there are worse ways to do it!