Still Undefeated: The Sexy Short Comics of Jennie Gyllblad
by Travis Hedge Coke
Once upon a time, I was let go from a job writing the captions for a pornographic website.
I tried to put some character into them, imply lives, histories, frustrations and desires and little Betty and Veronica style gags. The pun titles of porno movies are inevitably better than the movies. I had and have friends who work in porn and they are funny and cute and creative and weird, and I adore them. I thought, I will do that, I will be funny and cute and weird and try to make the audience adore these people.
While being sacked, I was told, Nobody cares if she had an annoying day. Nobody cares if she’s happy.
Which, is fine. What do I know?
So, today, right now, 2022, I want to tell you about Jennie Gyllblad’s series of short comic anthologies, Jenitales. Brief sexual vignettes about witches, entertainers, a personification of an alcoholic beverage, Jenitales are adorable. So, I want to tell you, “they are adorable.” I want to tell you the stories all end with the women they are about, happy.
But, twenty years ago, I got told. And, what do I know?
Even Jennie is better at the promotion than me! “Rough Hex” is a great pun. The back cover of that volume, the second in the series, proclaims: “This time, they’re twice as long, so you have something even thicker to play with!”
See? Playful, and linguistically enthusiastic, but right to the raunchy point.
I do not want to believe I am not the audience for this. No, no. This was made for me (too). The comics’ primary purpose is the sex, or the masturbation if you want to be fussy and say that is not sex, but they are all adorable and they all end happy.
For those thinking I am banging on about this too much: Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie have a 320 page porn comic which ends with a lonely, ignorant dead man bleeding out in the snow in a war. Artsy erotica, especially, can get really cold, abstracted, and pound on those mean moments to feel more arty.
So, I really like that people are smiling and blushing and excited after the sex.
And, the stories are fun! They are funny and happy and thrilling and a little weird and exciting. Jennie Gyllblad lets them be weird. When her protagonist forgets where she is and starts masturbating in line for the subway, she gets embarrassed but it will be okeh. Every story ends with impressionistic, textured watercolor summations which lack the detailed line work and backgrounds of the story pages, but evoke an entire sense of completion and truth.
The stories take an extraordinary amount of risk and never duplicate or tread old waters. The sex is different, but the characters are unique, the color schemes and storytelling are unique. Facial expressions, body language, style of dress, the way someone tilts their head. There is a vigorous frisson of individuality and intimacy with each comic. When the protagonists are interviewed at the end of each collection, as if backstage, after shoots have wrapped, the line between performer and character is totally blurred (if we could ever forget they are wholly fictional to begin with), and they occupy that space just as sexual and just as personable. Even better – if you are me – they often detail exactly what benefit they get from participating in the stories we have read.
I have not even begun to tell you how the clothing and hair and backgrounds and style of these comics are fantastic! Amazing! How the use of texture and likeness warm the reading and immerse the reader. There is always something erotic in how watercolors push color outward, where the more pressure applied, the more of what is below the paint is re-revealed. What fetishist does not appreciate the indulgence of frills and silks and lace and leather, thigh-highs and rope-play and intricate hairstyles?
I could go on and on and on but I am supposed to just tell you: It’s sexy.
It is. It is very sexy.
It’ll expand a couple organs or more, and get the blood pumping where it ought to. And, leave you says, Good for her.