Winter 2006

Stripped for action

Stripped: The Illustrated Male

Edited by Claus Kiessling and Joris Buiks. Bruno Gmünder, £15.95

To my knowledge, this is the first cross-media anthology of gay comic art and illustration, gathering together 55 exponents of the drawn male form. Some of the featured artists have previously appeared in stand-alone volumes, most notably Joe Phillips and Patrick Fillion, but this hefty 352-page collection serves as a global showcase for new and less familiar talent.

Covering a wide range of illustrative styles and catering to almost every conceivable fetish, Stripped is populated by an array of wrestlers, surfers, leather queens and aliens, along with their assorted paraphernalia of harnesses, handcuffs and abbreviated superhero costumes. There are a handful of unremarkable contributions – Justin Hall and Xavier Gicquel come to mind, as does Tom Boulden, whose work is notable only for its vague stylistic allusions to Hergé’s Tintin. However, there are plenty of compensations, ranging from life studies to comic strips and slick commercial pin-ups, including Steve Walker’s neo-realistic paintings, Roland Maas’s quasi-cubist couplings and Dutch illustrator Ian Hanks’ affectionate echoes of Rogue creator Oliver Frey. Those with an eye for the outlandish will find much to entertain in Patrick Fillion’s artful human-animal hybrids, complete with lovingly rendered and monstrously oversized genitalia.

Also featured are the relentlessly sadomasochistic manga of Gengoroh Tagame, whose fixation with beards, bondage and nipple-clamps may well be an acquired taste. Stripped is graphic in every sense and certainly not for the faint-hearted, but it is a potent summary of contemporary gay comic art and a handsome volume to boot.

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