Richard Pérez Seves has written a thorough and visually engrossing study of fetish artist Eric Stanton and the world he lived in. Stanton was one of the major artists to define the post-WWII American style of fetish and BDSM art, when this genre was very much underground. Seves managed to get access to impressive quantities of ephemera of the artist’s life and interviews with his friends and families.
Who was Professor William Moulton Marston? A fantasist in the tradition of Frank Baum or Lewis Carrol? A guy who ruled a secret menage a trois with his wife and his younger student? A failed academic turned huckster and pornographer with a line in psychobabble? A loving father and husband with an unorthodox, closeted family?
Berlatsky, Noah. 2015. Wonder Woman: bondage and feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948. New Brunswick, New Jersey : Rutgers University Press
Growing up, I had the notion that Wonder Woman had been created in the past as a perfect feminist icon, and only later was the character sexualized by other creators. In fact, Wonder Woman was “always, already” as much a figure of fetishistic fantasy as she was a feminist role model, patriotic symbol, or heroine for children. The original seven-year run of comics, written or co-written by William Moulton Marston and illustrated by William Peter displayed the kind of deep psychosexual weirdness usually only found in 19th century children’s books. (I say that as a fan of deep psychosexual weirdness.) Noah Berlatsky’s book explores just how queer and feminist those stories were; as the author puts it, “a flamboyantly gendered mess.”[Pg.169]
My Retrospace has a gallery of spanking scenes from vintage American comics.
Comics Alliance has an essay by Sarah Horrocks on Guido Crepax’s trippy bondage/erotica comic Bianca. Crepax is probably best known outside of Italy as the artist of the Story of O and Emmanuelle comics adapations.
Like Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls, Bianca is more obsessed with artistic execution than with sexually arousing its audience. In fact, I think that for the most part, Bianca fails as porn. Indeed, if it were more successful as porn, it would probably be in print in English.
From the goofier end of the Silver Age comes this little oddity. The image reads a little like a dream, with the dreamer’s aggression directed at the image or effigy of the beloved, instead of the beloved itself, who watches heplessly.
Silk Spectre: Did the costumes make it good?
Silk Spectre: Dan…?
Night-Owl: Yeah, I guess the costumes had something to do with it. It just feels strange, you know? To come out and admit that to somebody.
Night-Owl: To come out of the closet.
–Alan Moore and Frank Gibbons, Watchmen, Chapter 7, pg. 28
The Hooded Utilitarian has a series of posts on the deep, deep psychosexual weirdness of the early Wonder Women comics, mainly from a post-Freudian perspective.
The writer argues that Marston’s ideal of “loving submission” is a parent-child relationship, distinct from the usual patriarchal “rule of law”. It isn’t enough to obey the law and keep your own thoughts; you must love your authority figure (shades of the ending of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.)
The impression I get from reading writer Marston’s stories is instability of roles and relationships. Wonder Woman shifts from dynamic omnipotence to helplessness and back in an instant. In one panel, she’s throwing around war profiteers like they were children, in the next, her mother Queen Hippolyta shows up and lifts her up like she’s a child. Harry Peter’s art accentuates this by playing fast and loose with perspective and scale. In the aforementioned scene, Diana is drawn as if she were child-sized relative to Hippolyta.
Ideas like this, of sexuality sublimated into fantasies of mind control, hypnosis, disguises, role-playing, transformation and the like, permeated much of popular culture, waiting to give people their first taste of kink.