Two-Headed Nerd 189: The 3rd Annual Holiday Drunk Show!

by The Two-Headed Nerd on December 15, 2014

Podcast: Download Welcome to Episode 189 of the Two-Headed Nerd Comic Book Podcast, the 3rd Annual Holiday Drunk Show! This week, we discuss the potential potential crossover between Marvel Studios and Sony’s Spider-Man franchise, Jonathan Frakes’ desire to direct Star Trek 3, and the upcoming $.25 issue of Invincible. Plus, we try to get deep […]

For Mature Readers: No Black Kiss II in Dildo

by Keith Silva on September 11, 2012

… there are scenes depicted which may fall foul of UK Customs’ regulations on the importing of indecent and obscene material. Consequently Diamond has taken the decision not to distribute any further issues of Black Kiss II in the UK.” — excerpt of a letter from Diamond UK to British comic retailers

Let’s call Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss II what it is, pornography; and yeah, trust me, you’ll know it when you see it. One imagines that the announcement to ban Black Kiss II from UK comic shops (shoppees?) hit rather hard in Slutshole Lane, Norfolk, UK, and Titty Ho, Northhamptonshire, not to mention the effect on pull lists in Penistone in South Yorkshire. And no, I’m not making these names up for comic effect; we have standards here at THN.

Canada too has banned Black Kiss II from places like Climax, Saskatchewan and Bummer’s Roost, Ontario Before we take to the battlements with our Canadian and British brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, here’s the thing, it’s 2012. Any free speech (or pornography) loving British or Canadian citizen with an internet connection can download Black Kiss II #2 and go on his or her merry (and assumed) filthy way. What’s the point of banning something if someone can thumb their handheld device (or somebody else’s) and still get it? Get it, get it?

Black Kiss II brings up issues like censorship in the age of digital distribution, not to mention fan favorites such as exploitation, sexism, and the portrayal of sex and violence in popular culture. Black Kiss II is about something, except what is hard to say. Maybe Black Kiss II is what it is, a comic book on the fringes, too dense and too difficult for its own good. Who said reading (enjoying?) comic books was supposed to be easy? Although, here’s the other thing, Black Kiss II might not even be ‘good.’

On episode 77 of THN, resident ‘rocka rolla’ Matt Baum gave Black Kiss II a ‘leave it.’ Like many of his critical brethren, Baum was confused: ”I just have no idea what author Howard Chaykin was going for here other than plain old rage against sexual imagery in movies, human lust and an excuse to draw a bunch of dude’s junk.” Baum did credit Black Kiss II publisher Image Comics for being (with no hint of irony or sarcasm in his voice) ”ballsy” to ‘put out‘ [my emphasis] something so explicit in the first place.

Make no mistake: THIS IS A PORNOGRAPHIC COMIC BOOK. Howard Chaykin is a born provocateur and a fervent champion of ‘creator-owned’ work. Chaykin was ‘indie’ when ‘indie’ was still trying to get to second base in the backseat of its dad’s Hudson Hornet. Chaykin means to make a statement with this story, yet, even for all its erotic mishigas, Black Kiss II #1 was a tease, a ‘fluffer,’ if you catch my drift.

As for Black Kiss II #2, I would say (at something that approaches ludicrous speed) that Chaykin’s purpose remains ambiguous; however, there is a ‘rising action’ that gives Black Kiss II the necessary thrust it needs to move the plot along. At its most blatant, its most naked, this is a story that begins with the rape of a male character by a succubus/demon while onboard the Titanic as it sinks into the North Atlantic — that’s the starting point. Issue #2 adds insult (the defilement of a church) and injury (the loss of a ‘male member’ to a set of incisors) to its list of sins with no explanation or quarter given other than to serve ”a deity of dark and light … a divine synthesis of sex and death.” O.K.? Maybe this is a ‘devil made me do it’ story with the emphasis on the ‘do it.’

The connection to film becomes more tangential in the second issue. Like the sexual smorgasbord on display — which, did I mention, includes a horse — film is another prop for whatever hidden agenda the dark-light-sex-death demon/succubus has in mind. The only experience I can draw on to figure out what Black Kiss II might be trying to say is from watching movies from directors like David Lynch, Lars von Trier and Gasper Noé. Black Kiss II is almost tame when compared with the ‘endurance cinema’ of von Trier and Noé. It’s Lynch, however, that I am reminded of the most as I read Black Kiss II. No American director challenges the viewer more than Lynch when it comes to how idiosyncratic (how Lynchian) his films can be; love or loathe Lynch, he, like Chaykin casts a long and influential (albeit weird) shadow over his respective industry. Cue Jim Lee.

As I was developing this essay, I came across the Afterward that Jim Lee wrote for American Flagg!: Definitive Collection Volume 1 published by Image Comics. Lee says:

‘Back in the early ’80’s I was as straightforward a mainstream Marvel/DC fan as there could be. To me Marvel Super-Villain Team-Up defined the cutting edge. All my preconceptions about comics were blown out of the water in 1983 when I discovered the work of Howard Chaykin … American Flagg forever changed my view of what comics were and, more importantly, could be.

… American Flagg! debuted in a time when the big two were launching titles like Dazzler and Atari Force, and quickly became one of my favorite titles.

Where have you gone early-eighties Jim Lee? What’s the 2012 Dazzler equivalent, the Atari Force analogue? I find it curious that the same month Black Kiss II is banned in the UK and Canada; Justice League #12 — the comic book Lee draws for the company that he is the co-publisher of, DC — is an inevitable sellout because of some fan fiction a story in which an alien from Krypton canoodles with an Amazonian princess. C’est la vie.

Now, it is not fair to compare Lee’s oranges to Chaykin’s apples. Black Kiss II and Justice League are, by comparison, like … well … like Marvel and DC, and trust me, I’m not trying to say that Black Kiss II is or will become as influential as American Flagg!. Chaykin is, I’m sure an influence on Lee’s work. Still, I wonder what 2012 Jim Lee would say to 1983 Jim Lee, probably, ”dude, you’re gonna’ be rich, like Jim Shooter rich.” It’s that notion that comic books can ‘forever change’ a person’s perception because of the risks that a creator takes, the audacity and the oddness of the story … the danger.

Maybe the biggest difference between 1983 and 2012 is how diverse comic books have become. Sure, Marvel and DC still dominate, but comic books are a big tent today (thanks in part to Lee’s involvement with Image Comics). The idiosyncratic life is in vogue and if ‘my comics’ ain’t your comics, so be it, Jedi. So, where does all this wanking on (and off) about Jim Lee, American Flagg! and David Lynch say about Black Kiss II? I don’t know, but that’s what I like about it. Black Kiss II is a very challenging and difficult and pornographic comic book; it’s O.K. to not ‘get it’ There’s a lot of other fish[net stockings] in the sea. In fact, there’s this one comic where Superman and Wonder Woman …

Buy Black Kiss II because it’s about something, a confusing and albeit undetermined something, but something nonetheless. Buy Black Kiss II because it’s like a shot to the face (or so I would imagine) from a four-foot long rubber phallus the circumference of a Foster’s beer can that says you wanna’ ‘experience creativity?’ Well here you go. WHACK! Buy it because it is unsettling, confusing and difficult. Buy it because who ever said comics should be easy. Buy it because Black Kiss II is dangerous, an anodyne to the generic superhero comics that are more and more about protecting/promoting a brand. Buy it because you can, because if you live in Crapstone, England or coincidently Dildo Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, you can’t buy Black Kiss II. You can download it, sure, but where’s the fun in that? There’s an ineffable danger, a kind of defiance in a rambling around Dildo with Black Kiss II in your hand, dontcha’ think? Now that would be making Chaykin Lynchian.

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Keith Silva works in television, it’s a small space, but, hey, it’s show business! The rest of his time he writes for Comics Bulletin and his blog, Interested in Sophisticated Fun?.

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