While there have been comic books about sex in the United States since the beginning of the 20th Century, these comics were almost always simply Tijuana Bibles, childish attempts at drawing popular celebrities and comic characters in sexual situations to appeal to the lowest common denominator. When it comes to actual good comic books involving sex, the American comic book market has lagged well behind Europe and Japan.
However, as the years have gone by, there have been several good pieces of comic book erotica released from American comic book companies and that number has been growing steadily in recent years as the taboo around of these types of stories has begun to fade. However, even with those taboos lessened, comics that focus on more risque subject matter are still often seen as a shameful endeavor.
Updated on April 3rd, 2023 by David Harth: Mature readers comics have been a part of the industry since the independent “comix” days of the 1960s. A renaissance for mature books started in the 1980s as creators from around the world came into the US industry. Since then, comics that include sexual content have become more readily available, from classics of the past to all kinds of great newer examples.
WARNING: The following list deals with subject matter not appropriate for children. Reader discretion is advised.
15 Little Annie Fanny
After creating Mad for EC Comics, Harvey Kurtzman left EC to create a humor magazine for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy line of magazines called Trump. The magazine failed very quickly due to Hefner’s cash problems. But Kurtzman kept pitching Hefner on features for Playboy and finally, Hefner agreed to publish a sex parody comic series within the pages of Playboy called Little Annie Fanny (a parody of Harold Gray’s famous classic comic strip, Little Orphan Annie).
Drawn by Kurtzman’s longtime collaborator, Will Elder, Little Annie Fanny followed the naively optimistic Fanny into various funny situations where she would invariably end up naked. The strip ran from 1962 to 1988, so Kurtzman was able to parody the entire sexual revolution as it happened. Little Annie Fanny was likely not as sharp as Kurtzman’s earliest satirical efforts like Mad or Fanny‘s direct descendant Goodman Beaver, but it was still a great comic by two comic book masters.
XXXenophile was a comic book series that Phil Foglio wrote and drew with some of the best and brightest comic book artists of the late 1980s through 1995. The anthology series of sex stories always had a sense of the absurd mixed in. The comics were upbeat tales of sex, as Foglio noted he had no interest in writing any sort of problematic sex stories.
There was a lot of humor in the XXXenophile comics, but one of the biggest draws was that readers could very often feel the love in all the stories. The comics were clearly pornographic, but in an adorable, romantic way. It was also interesting to watch Foglio himself evolve as the series went on, moving beyond catering to the straight male gaze.
13 Black Kiss
Black Kiss was a controversial comic book series that Howard Chaykin released in the late 1980s as a sort of response to the call for warning labels in comics at the time. Chaykin was the writer/artist of the popular American Flagg series. However, where that series would just hint at sex and violence, Black Kiss would go out of its way to depict both fully. This was a major shock in 1988, especially coming from such a creator as Chaykin.
The story of Black Kiss follows Cass Pollack, a jazz musician on the run after being accused of killing his wife and daughter. In exchange for an alibi, he agrees to locate a historic pornographic film from the Vatican’s porn library. As it turns out, the film is tied up in a ritualistic horror plot and there are many factions trying to get their hands on it, with Pollack caught in the middle.
Strips was an early comic book series written and drawn by Chuck Austen for Rip Off Press that started in 1989. It starred Zack Mackinerny, a talented comic strip creator for a college newspaper, and chronicled the sexual misadventures he and his friends got into on campus. The other main character is Kenna English, a girl who has a big crush on Zack but who can’t seem to get him to pay attention to her. He ends up dating (and having a lot of sex with) her roommate instead.
Zack is a bit of an oblivious jerk, but he’s a charming enough character and is difficult to hate. Additionally, Kenna is engaging enough for both of them. Sadly, Strips ended on a cliffhanger, preventing it from having a satisfying ending.
In 1990, Fantagraphics Books launched Eros Comix, a line of pornographic comic books and other erotic materials. To help promote this new endeavor, one of Fantagraphics’ most notable comic book creators of the 1980s, Gilbert Hernandez of Love and Rockets fame, did a pornographic comic book miniseries for the line called Birdland.
Birdland starred a married lawyer who was having affairs with two strippers while his seemingly stuck-up wife was having sex with her patients as she hypnotized them. Meanwhile, his wife’s sister is also obsessed with him, but his brother — who is also sleeping with one of the strippers — is obsessed with his wife. The whole thing goes to a stranger level when aliens abduct the entire group and the series ends with a series of strange erotic stories. Birdland is a strange comic, but Hernandez is so talented that it still works.
10 Small Favors
Another comic book originally published by Eros Comix was Colleen Coover’s Small Favors. It starred a young woman named Annie and the shapeshifting sprite Nibbil, essentially Annie’s own personal sexy Jiminy Cricket. While Nibbil was assigned to be Annie’s personal conscience so that she would keep Annie from touching herself and having sexual fantasies all the time, Nibbil instead gladly joined in with Annie on all sorts of sexual misadventures.
Small Favors was collected in 2017 into one big hardcover by Oni Press, and it is truly the most adorable adult comic book that has ever existed. Dubbed by Coover as “Girly Porno,” Small Favors is a sex-positive fantasy adventure that is really more of a romance comic book about Annie and Nibbil’s relationship than anything else.
9 The Pro
Garth Ennis is famously not much of a fan of superhero comic books, staying with more grounded characters like the Punisher. Many of his comic book work has involved making fun of superheroes, with perhaps his most famous example being Hitman and his most extended anti-superhero riff being The Boys. Ennis’s most audacious piece of superhero mockery has to be 2002’s The Pro, by Ennis and artists Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti.
The concept of The Pro is that a Watcher-analogue, the Viewer, gives a prostitute superpowers to see if she will become a superhero. She does end up becoming a superhero, of sorts, but does things her way, showing the hypocrisy of traditional supers. It’s a sharp rebuke of the superhero industry, but there is a good deal of heart mixed in with the graphic details, which is the case for all Ennis comic book stories, really.
Dale Lazarov’s current imprint of gay erotic graphic novels, Sticky Graphic Novels, is named after his first major work, Sticky, which he wrote with artist Steve MacIsaac. Sticky, originally a miniseries for Eros Comix, is a prototypical Dale Lazarov comic book story, meaning that it is a collection of character-driven sexual adventures without dialogue. That’s been the message of Lazarov’s graphic novels in the years since: sex-positive, character-driven graphic novels of attractive men having sex.
Seeing as how the Sticky stories are without dialogue, MacIsaac has to deliver on the character ideas established by Lazarov, which he does beautifully. Sticky tells four short stories of men meeting up in different circumstances, like a cowboy dumped on a talk show who ends up going home with a security guard from the show. Comics with LGBTQ+ representation are important, and this one goes to places others don’t.
7 Lost Girls
Lost Girls was written by Alan Moore and drawn by his future wife, Melinda Gebbie. The story was very much a precursor to Moore’s classic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, because it stars Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Dorothy (from The Wizard of Oz), and Wendy (from Peter Pan) as they meet in a hotel resort in Austria on the eve of World War I.
Like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the characters are all based on the ages that they would be presuming they aged normally from the year that their story came out. The three women tell erotic stories based on the fantasy stories they each originated in, such as the very clever “shadow sex” that Wendy has with her husband in the book. They also have erotic encounters with other residents of the hotel.
6 Side By Side: The Journal Of A Small Town Boy
Mioki’s Side by Side: The Journal of a Small Town Boy is the story of two best friends, Rick and Evan, growing up in one of those prototypical toxic small towns where a gay kid like Rick is made to feel less-than for being gay. The one thing that makes his life bearable is his best friend, Evan. He accepts Rick for who he is and never makes Rick feel bad about himself. When Evan leaves for the city, it is heartbreaking to see Rick left alone.
Later, Evan brings Rick to the city, where they become roommates and where Evan comes to terms with the fact that he is gay as well. It is a beautifully romantic comic of two friends making things all right for each other.
5 Chester 5000
Chester 5000 by Jess Fink is a brilliantly inventive story about a sexually insatiable wife, Priscilla, during the Industrial Revolution. Her husband Robert decides that the only thing he can do to keep her satisfied is to build her a sex robot, Chester 5000. However, he ends up building Chester a little too well and Chester quickly falls in love with Priscilla. When she sees his kind, thoughtful behavior towards her, Priscilla soon finds herself in love with him as well.
Robert tries to keep the two lovers apart, but in the end, even he comes around (especially when he falls for the woman who he tries to sell Chester to after taking him from his wife). Fink’s ability to tell this story so beautifully without any dialogue is a testament to her great skills as a sequential artist.
The first thing readers notice about Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s Sex is the stunning covers for the books, which presumably owe a lot to the brilliant eye of the designer for the series, Sonia Harris. Sex has some of the best covers readers see from any comic book series. Then, of course, readers notice the story, which is an exploration of sex through the eyes of a retired superhero.
The character Simon Cooke is basically a stand-in for Batman, while the rest of the cast serves as similar stand-ins for other notable Batman characters like Catwoman, Robin, and the Joker. Only instead of having the book revolve around violence like most superhero comics, it instead revolves around sex. Cooke’s transition from the black-and-white world of superheroes to the grey world of post-superhero life is extremely engaging.
3 Sex Criminals
Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, tells the story of Suzie and Jon and their transition into the world of sex crime. Sex crime in this context, however, is a lot different from what readers might expect. When Suzie first experienced an orgasm, time and space froze around her in a burst of colors. She had no idea why this happened only to her, but she grew to live with it — until she met Jon. When they had sex, they learned that they both had this ability.
Jon and Suzie decide to use their powers to freeze time and rob a bank to help save the library where Suzie works. This alerts a group who considers themselves the “sex police,” and Suzie and Jon soon fall down the rabbit hole of meeting people with similar powers while trying to foil the plans of the “sex police.” Sex Criminals is a heartfelt yet routinely hilarious comic book series that is one of the top Image comic books period. It is, however, very NSFW.
2 Oh Joy, Sex Toy
Erika Moen first started to get attention for her diary webcomic, Dar. The most interesting part of Dar was typically the sex discussions, as Moen always had a real knack for translating complex ideas about sex into their easiest-to-understand form while being adorable about it. That became the impetus for her decade-old series Oh Joy Sex Toy, which features a variety of guest artists.
Oh Joy Sex Toy is a sex-positive comic series that explores and explains pretty much any aspect of sex that they feel like covering, from discussions of various kinks to sexual education to, of course, reviewing sex toys. It’s especially interesting when Moen tackles a particularly complex or controversial kink.
1 The Discipline
Unlike most of the books on this list, Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez’s The Discipline isn’t about sex, really. It was originally intended as a Vertigo comic book, but when they passed on it, it eventually ended up at Image. In Discipline, Milligan and Fernandez tell the story of a young woman named Melissa who gets sucked into the secretive magical underworld battle between the Discipline and the evil Stalkers.
Melissa has already transformed from a problematic background to a member of the upper-class Manhattan elite, so it is shocking how well she transitions to this new, strange world – even as she literally transitions into a new magical physical form. While the story of Discipline is about an ancient battle, it also involves a lot of sex. Fernandez’s art is at its noir best with this dark and compelling comic book series.
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