Manara Erotica Volume 2
Dark Horse Comics
$59.99, b/w and color, 312 pgs.
Writers: Milo Manara, Roberto Renzi
Artist: Milo Manara
Collecting “Kama Sutra,” “The Golden Ass,” “The Diary of Sandra F.,” “Jolanda of Almaviva”
I knew that Manara had been hugely influenced by Jean “Moebius” Girard of France. But this book – both the art and the introductory material – make it clear how much he was influenced by Robert Crumb of California.
Manara seems to have been two different artists. In the early part of his career, he followed in the tradition of his native Italy, with studied blocking and heavy inks. And then, almost abruptly, he adopted the pointillist rendering and playful storytelling of Moebius. The former is OK, but the latter is what we think of when you say “Manara.”
What I hadn’t seen before is that both Girard and Manara had been influenced by American “underground” comix of the 1960s. If you squint just right, you can even see R. Crumb’s cross-hatched rendering style in Moebius, albeit elevated by the latter’s immense talent. Girard is quoted in a foreword as saying “[U.S. underground comix] blew the minds of the few professionals in Europe who saw them. It showed us the way, helped us create our own stories, express our own emotions. The answer from the public was phenomenal, first in France, then throughout Europe.”
This is the missing link that helps explain how the Italian-style Manara became the Moebius-style artist famed for his gorgeous women and uninhibited stories. And this book clearly demonstrates this phenomenon, with the first three stories from Manara’s post-Moebius period, where he both writes and draws, and the last story (comprising roughly half the book) from his earlier period, where someone else does the writing and Manara slavishly follows the accepted artistic idioms and norms of the time and place.
Which is almost a let-down: The earlier work doesn’t hold up very well, and that’s a lot of mediocre pages. But ‘tis Manara, ‘twill serve.
Meanwhile, the art on the first part is gorgeous, especially “Golden Ass,” where Manara supplements the inked work with pastel pencils and/or a wash. And, of course, the stories involve lots of naked women and all kinds of sex, some of it pretty bizarre. The stories aren’t very good, as they are basically an excuse to get women naked. And to adapt something like the Kama Sutra, which isn't a narrative, you have to invent a story for the manifest purpose of working a lot of sexual positions into it – not exactly Shakespeare.
Needless to say, if you’ve got a problem with porn, this book isn’t for you. But if that doesn’t bother you, it’s worth a look. Not just for the nekkid wimmin, but for the art and pop-culture history revealed therein.
And, yeah, for the nekkid wimmin.