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manlyWriter: Dale Lazarov
Artists: Amy Colburn and Dominc Cordoba
Publisher: Bruno Gmünder
$25.99 less at Amazon

Note: this review was originally posted in December 2008.

German publisher Bruno Gmünder is well known for publishing erotic work from a wide range of creators. The likes of Patrick Fillion, Xavier Gicquel, and Joe Phillips are just three of the published names amongst its comics offerings. One of the publisher’s newest releases, MANLY, is a handsome hardcover compilation of a trio of gay erotic stories from collaborators Dale Lazarov and artist Amy Colburn. Readers may know Lazarov from his association with artist Steve MacIsaac on “Sticky” (also offered by Gmünder). Amy Colburn is an unfamiliar name, but this probably won’t be the case for long.

The first thing that caught my attention after the art, which is talked about below, is the fact that the three stories comprising MANLY are all wordless. Not to say this book is a series of pinups and illustrations. It’s far from that as there clearly are plots, protagonists, action, and resolutions just as even the most exposition heavy comic has. According to an interview with Patrick Fillion, Lazarov decided to do go wordless in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible that includes non-English speakers. It makes sense on this level when taking into account that Gmünder is a German publisher who understandably wants its books to be accessible to as many markets as possible without printing translated versions. Unlike the wordiest comics (I’m thinking of most Claremont or Byrne stories) whose “I’m-getting-paid-by-the-word” scripts tend to shut me out, there are some advantages here. An absence of dialog the reader to place him — or herself — more into each of the stories. Got a boxer fantasy? Bam! You’re there! There also isn’t the possibility of the often patently ridiculous dirty talk in porn movies to throw you out of the stories.

Part of Lazarov’s dynamic that drives these stories is that each of the men in the three pairs is somewhat an unlikely match. A reserved policeman is paired with a mischievous redhead (“Busted”); an older and younger boxer intersect in and out of the ring in “Clinch”; and a bear is faced with the choice to move out of his personal comfort zone. As other reviews have likely noted, wordless comics place an even greater emphasis on the skills of the artist and just as importantly, the partnership between the writer and artist.

manly01Colburn has a really good understanding of anatomy. She may not be a gay man, but Colburn definitely knows how men’s bodies fit together and how to draw hot man on man action. Her men are shown experiencing real joy and sexual abandonment, often quite the opposite feelings found with seme-uke pairings in yaoi manga. A good change of pace, provided if your gay erotica fix usually comes from manga. And it isn’t just the artist’s ability to draw hot men having sex that makes her work a joy to look at, but her talent for conveying emotions (happiness, embarrassment, disappointment, surprise), character traits (shyness or aloofness) both through facial expressions and gestures. These factors make for a trio of very lusty, sensual, and more crucial to me, human stories. There are also some really dynamic composition and panel layouts. A bit of a manga influence perhaps?  Colburn’s choices in the case of “Clinch” really enhance the action. One last note about the wordlessness. It works in Colburn’s favor (and yours) since she didn’t have to be concerned about word balloon and text box placement and concentrated on drawing hot, nekkid men. 

Both Colburn and Dominc Cordoba are credited as inkers. There’s no indication or examples how they divided the responsibility, and the result is somewhat irrelevant from the readers’ point of view.. For those of you who’re tired of smooth skinned men, body hair is rendered like it’s a labor of love. You can see the forest and the trees, so to speak. For the most part Cordoba’s straightforward coloring meshes well with Colburn’s imagery There are a few spots where I wish his shading choices were different, but a colorist friend is staying with me and our numerous talks have led to me become more obsessed than normal. Your enjoyment won’t be diminished unless you share a similar color fixation.

Production wise, Gmünder’s hardcover books are typically well put together. Their books always have good binding, quality paper and color printing. MANLY should hold up well on your bookshelf after repeated readings for years to come.

Purchase Manly at Amazon.

March 31, 2009
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