VOD Review: Sex in the Comix

ComixSTUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Joëlle Oosterlink
RELEASE DATE: 10/13/15
SPECS: NR | 52 min. | Documentary | 1.78:1 widescreen | stereo | English and French with English subtitles
AVAILABILITY: iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, Vimeo On Demand

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio   | Video  | Overall  


If I had to guess, I’d say Sex in the Comix is a European TV documentary on erotic comic books that was repackaged into an American release with the addition of burlesque host Molly Crabapple. At the very least, it sure comes off that way: a collection of interviews with the world’s top erotic comic artists, strung together with bits of Molly Crabapple narration covered by a stream of gratuitous Molly Crabapple poses doing her best to channel the spirit of Betty Page.

Molly Crabapple gets to work in Sex in the Comix

Molly Crabapple gets to work in Sex in the Comix

The doc doesn’t really have much of a narrative, so it works purely as an informational, somewhat-but-not-very-historical document on eroticism in comic art. Director Joëlle Oosterlinck gets points for securing interviews with true masters like Milo Manara and Robert Crumb, though the European creative team clearly skews in favor of European artists like Ralf Köning and Aude Picault. By contrast, Japan—which has taken eroticism past all conventional boundaries of taste and into some insane and disturbing territory—is represented by just a single artist, Suehiro Maruo. If you’re a fan of any of these people, you’ll enjoy the film for providing a glimpse into their work, but as a comprehensive overview of this rich, modern genre, Sex in the Comix definitely leaves a lot out.

The film is well shot and produced, bringing the artwork to life with slick 2.5D animations, so one might guess the lack of scope is due more to budgetary production limitations than carelessness on the filmmakers’ part. In the end, however, it’s more surface flash than hefty content, which is too bad, since erotic art covers plenty of fascinating territory. While the film does touch on the political issues of censorship across different countries, or the psychology at play behind making and reading erotic art, it really just grazes upon the surface, spending just a few of its brief 52 minutes on such matters. The rest of the film is split between Molly Crabapple’s overly cute and coy narration and several brief interview bites, some of which are interesting—though the filmmakers never let the interview run very long before feeling the need to cut elsewhere. Any potentially revealing insight into the artist’s psyche is therefore jettisoned for the obvious need to keep the film marching forward, much like broadcast television has always done.

Which is why Sex in the Comix is best viewed as a fun introduction to a world many people have never dared enter. While it doesn’t really present a great argument for erotic art as something of genuine lasting value, it does, at least, celebrate it, letting the artwork speak for itself. Given our current political climate, the film’s existence alone makes it a worthwhile endeavor. It’s not going to convince an uptight, agenda-driven prude into changing their tune, but it just might convince your average mainstream American, bored with the vast glut of internet porn, to explore the much more interesting (and, for the record, more socially redeeming) world of erotic comic art.

About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.