Jul 23, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 149: Betty by the Hour #6, February 1996 (Two Weeks From The Dollar Bin - Day 13)

I've got a soft spot for erotic comics.

There's a joke there, but this is kind of a PG-13 blog, so I'll leave it.

This comic is beautiful. It screams its European origins from the rooftops, with lovely ladies and goofy-looking guys. The eponymous Betty is, even from the brief sampling in this single issue, a well-realized character, one portrayed as both comedic and tragic. There's a strip partway through the issue in which her son asks about his absent father, and Betty concocts a lovely romantic story of their meeting and parting even as the graphics depict a memory of having been raped in an alley. This is thoroughly emblematic of the notion, prevalent in European comics, I'd say, of erotica not simply being a venue for T&A, but also a place where one can explore the more dramatic and problematic facets of human beings as sexual creatures.

Of course, in this issue at least, the tragic comes out but once, and the comedic rules the show. But even then, there are moments where the punchline of a strip can also be construed from an intellectual standpoint. Betty sees the success of a former prostitute who has written her true-to-life memoirs, and the punchline of the story is that she begins to write her own (it's slightly more amusing in print). But the reason for her decision is that she hears of all the terrible things this author suffered, and how successful her book is. There's a critique there, of the desire for sensationalized accounts of truly horrible suffering that seems to pervade our society. And further, we can assume that Betty decides to write because she's suffered similar things herself. So while there is that odd trope of the gorgeous female and the cartoony male, Trillo, Maicas, and Bernet are actually putting some substance into their comedy.

If you can track it down, this one's just slightly below Phil Foglio's Xxxenophile series and Michael Manning's Cathexis for me as far as stellar examples of erotic comics go.

See you tomorrow.

(Should it be a hard spot for erotic comics? Naw. Too obvious.)

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