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Auteurs of Smut: Colleen Coover

April 28, 2013
Posted at 9:09 pm

Before sex-positive came to mean "anything to do with sex is good", I thought it referred to things like Colleen Coover's brilliant comic Small Favors The comic is absolutely abundant with joy and optimism, as well as humour and hot lesbian sex. There are forces of oppression, but they're so cartoonish and easily seducible as to enhance and not stifle the comic's unrepentant libertinism. The art is bright and open, with the minimal lines creating a sense of exaggeration and abandon, more akin to manga than the dirty hyper-realism embraced by

Small Favors is genuinely funny, without sacrificing eroticism. Both the humour and the sexiness come from the joyful sense of play that infuses the comic. Nibbil can grow to full size and sport a strap-on because hey, why not, and everyone involved will be just thrilled about it. Coover's representation of female sexuality is amazing, at least in part because it makes you wonder why this kind of enthusiastic consent is so hard to find in smut. For once sex isn't something to be inflicted on a female body or to be coaxed from some uptight (but inwardly sexy) woman, but something that's joyful and free-flowing. The overall message of Small Favors, a message everyone needs to hear, is that sex is okay and you're okay too.

Some pages that show Coover's sense of playfulness as well as the art style:

The above paragraphs are pretty repetitive, and that's because there's little to overthink in Small Favors even for a guy as prone to overthinking as I am. (I mean, I used "joyful" so many times in there, and I hate joy!) I've mentioned that in my recent writings I've been trying to trace the contours of a utopian sexuality, and I think that Coover presents that sexuality in its purest form. The setting of the comics is a weird lesbian suburbia that is a total fantasy and all the better for it. It's a hard bar to step over.

Unfortunately, Small Favors was Coover's only adult work, as she's since crossed over into mainstream comics doing youth-oriented work that I'm sure is very good but doesn't really scratch my queer-porn itch. The thing about American erotic comics seems to be that none of the greats stay -- Phil Foglio took a similar path, and is now drawing a garish steampunk webcomic in between polishing his Hugo awards, while I think Larry Welz is selling pot outside a high school somewhere. The complete run of Small Favors is out of print, but I think the first half is still available, and there may be illegal versions floating around in the Interwebs (wink wink, nudge nudge). Even if you usually prefer your smut strictly text-based, I would encourage you to check it out.