This piece originally ran on Comics Bulletin
Dave McKean – Celluloid
Second, I'm not a big fan of erotica or pornography in general. In all truth, this stuff kind of makes me squeamish. It's not that I'm a prude, or have any sort of religious objections or anything, it's just... well... it's hard to explain. I was raised by nice Jewish parents in suburban Dallas, Texas – watching other people get off just doesn't do it for me.
So why the hell am I writing about the Best Erotic Graphic Novel of 2011?
Two words: Dave McKean.
Dave McKean is a tremendous artist. He creates work of enormous emotional impact with a deftness and subtlety that is so often missing in modern art. McKean can tell an entire novel's story in a single picture, he's that good. Just look at the covers he did for Neil Gaiman's Sandman and you'll see what I mean.
As a fan of McKean's work, when I heard that Fantagraphics was publishing his new book called Celluloid in 2011, I instantly ordered it without knowing anything about it.
Turns out, Celluloid is an erotic graphic novel. It tells an obscure story about a woman's sexual journey through various “worlds”. Each “world” is presented in a different artistic style, echoing surrealism or cubism, as well as using collage and photography. In each “world” the woman encounters a new sexual partner, and with this partner she assumes either a dominant or submissive role .
There are no words in the whole graphic novel – the entire story is told through McKean's amazing art.
Sean Edgar from Paste Magazine calls this “a coital masterwork,” and I heartily agree with this assessment.
Celluloid is beautiful and it is powerful and it is mysterious and engaging. It is art as defined by every iteration of the word. It is also another example of what comics can do that no other form of media can match.
As to why he decided to write an Erotic Graphic Novel, McKean said:
“There are so many comics about violence. I’m not entertained or amused by violence, and I’d rather not have it in my life. Sex, on the other hand, is something the vast majority of us enjoy, yet it rarely seems to be the subject of comics. Pornography is usually bland, repetitive and ugly, and, at most, ‘does the job’. I always wanted to make a book that is pornographic, but is also, I hope, beautiful, and mysterious, and engages the mind.”
I certainly can support his rationale. I also think he succeeded in his goal.
So, even though I have read no other books that would fit into this category, I still feel confident in declaring Celluloid the Best Erotic Graphic Novel of 2011.