Finger Filth

  This volume is a reprint of several sexually-explicit comics and series Bob Fingerman has produced over the years. While Fingerman’s current series for Fantagraphics, Minimum Wage contains some incidental nudity and sex, these pieces focus on sex and nudity. Some of them (”Shugga” and “Skinheads in Love”) are medium-length stories originally published on their own. “The Adventures of Bunny Jo, Atomic Age Truck Stop Waitress”, “Scuz About Town/Titzi Zugman”, and “Pleasure Principle” were evidently published as two-page serial strips within the pages of some other publication. It’s kind of a mixed lot, ranging from clever and erotic to fairly predictable gags.

 “Bunny Jo” is the story of an air-headed huge-breasted nymphomaniac waitress, who goes on a thoroughly unbelievable adventure. It has an ongoing storyline, but tends to do lots of short “skits” focusing on quick gags. Through coincidence after coincidence, she finds herself in a series of new situations, each of which offers opportunities for a variety of puns and double entendres. And sex. I suspect it worked better as a brief diversion between photographic beaver shots, than collected as an ongoing story. As seems typical in illustrated hetero porn, Betty Jo’s breasts are amazingly large. I don’t get it… but then, I was never much of a breast man. {grin}

 “Shugga” is a tale of swords and sorcery, starring a loin-clothed brute. He’s not especially smart and certainly not sophisticated, but he’s well built, with a boyish punk face. He’s one of several heavily-freckled characters to appear in this collection (including one voluptuous woman hanging on Fingerman in a self-portrait), so I gather the artist has a fondness for that “look”. His story (one of the two longer features) takes him through the usual beast-killing maiden-saving adventure of this genre, followed by the “stranger in a strange land” cliche in modern NYC. There’s some fun stuff here, and some decent (or indecent, rather) sex scenes. I could’ve done without the cartoonily-explicit violence (e.g. a sword cutting a perfect cross-section of a body), but perhaps that’s just me.

One thing I really didn’t like was the story’s rather obnoxious take on homosexuality. Shugga’s disgust with the idea wasn’t too bothersome, because he’s generally portrayed as very hetero, and a snotty brute anyway. But the scene in which two unattractive men act out the hamster-up-the-ass urban legend (and Shugga’s violent reaction to it) was a bit off-putting. (Especially since it’s supposed to be a gerbil, not a hamster… get your myths right, at least!)

Fingerman originally drew the story in 1987, but updated the art to improve the quality for publication five years later… it’s a shame he couldn’t have updated the story a bit (dropping the archaic hamster bit) while he was at it. Incidentally, it’s fairly easy to tell which pages he updated, as the newer ones show his more severe, distinct inking style, compared to the more generic style of going over the pencil lines with ink and adding some hatching to model it.

 “Skinheads in Love” was my favourite feature, and the one I’d really like to see more of. It’s similar in many ways to his current series Minimum Wage, but with a much stronger focus on the sex (naturally). The art is also more realistic and detailed, something Fingerman decided he didn’t want to use for the ongoing series Minimum Wage. One thing I like about it is the fact that it features two characters who are sexy despite not fitting traditional models of “sexiness” (Simone has five-o’clock shadow on her scalp, for example, and Roy - while also well built - is definitely no pretty International Male model).

 The 21-page piece consists mostly of two extended sex scenes (they spend only a few pages in total with clothes on). But what makes this story work isn’t the hot art during the sex (which is rather explicit without resorting to “anatomy lesson” shots), but the way Fingerman explores the characters’ verbal interplay and private thoughts during the whole experience. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that their thoughts echo my own, or seem especially “realistic”, but they give some real depth and meaning to what would otherwise be just a cheap sex scene.

 “Scuz About Town” (retitled part way through to “Titzi Zugman and her agent Scuz”, in an apparent attempt to play up the babe) is another episodic gag series along the lines of “Bunny Jo”. Scuz is a loser talent agent, and Titzi is his overly-endowed client. He gets her a series of gigs, each of which offers opportunities for her to endear herself to a well-hung male or two and get laid. Scuz never does. Titzi then appears in “Pleasure Principle”, this time as part of the reporting staff of a smutty magazine. This yields a few more episodes of double-entendres and sex. Not great, but some cute gags.

 The last several pages of the book are full-color reproductions of painted short pieces he did for various porn magazines. The two-pager about body piercing was a nice bit of psycho-social commentary, and I thought the Star Trek parody showing Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on the planet Estros-4 was a hoot (showing both a knack for caricature and a familiarity with the subject matter). The rest were some fairly obvious gags, but well executed.

Fingerman’s best work is when he’s not trying to pander purely to the prurient pursuits of the population. Frankly, his White Like She or Minimum Wage deserves to be collected and reprinted more than these pieces. Based on Minimum Wage’s portrayal of “Rob”, a frustrated cartoonist forced to eke out a living by cranking out stuff for smut and juvenile parody magazines, I suspect that Fingerman would agree. [And after reading the original draft of this review, he didn't correct me on that point.] But as smut by a creator with the ability and desire to go beyond the usual limits of that genre, it was more to my taste than the latest tits-asses-and-beavers book, and may be to yours as well.

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