Robin Bougie is an artist and creative guru behind the iconic exploitation movie magazine Cinema Sewer and the extreme comic anthology Sleazy Slice which was published annually for eight years.
Apart from Robin, we were the only other artists to contribute a comic story to every issue. Below is an excerpt from Robin’s article in the final issue of Sleazy Slice and reprinted here with permission.
If you haven’t experienced Robin’s lusciously lurid magazines get yourself over to his store and grab yourself a set!
Exploitation is Part of a Healthy Diet
I want to address this wholesale dismissal that often happens amongst critics when some comic or movie or book has a lot of violence and gore and rape and whatnot. That it’s not worth anything because it’s “being offensive for the sake of it”. No one is ever dismissive of comedy because it’s “being funny for the sake of it” or drama because it’s “dramatic for the sake of it”. Exploitation is a genre, and as such it needs to be judged on its own merits, and against similar content – that is if you want to get a fair assessment of its worth. Just because a peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn’t a New York steak, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place in our diets.
Most critics take that stance that creative work that employs sex, violence, and distasteful stereotypes must have satirical intent to be taken seriously, and while there is lots of work using that formula that I love, to cement it as some sort of hard rule is just a hackneyed device and artistically stifling. Not everything needs to be put through a modern filter and be winked and nudged at. Not everything needs irony, or a transformative spin, or any of that. You know why all of that is a cliché at this point? Because everyone does it. So few want to tackle this genre head on without dancing around it, looking for a way to not dirty themselves. Tourists. As a fan of the exploitation genre I can tell you that sometimes it’s fun just to indulge in the exploitation genre without a safety net. And to do so without being made to feel like you have to apologize for it afterwards.
When The Comics Journal recently reviewed Sleazy Slice contributor, Jason Karns’ 2014 book (a collection of his over-the-top Fukitor Comics) the reviewer, Greg Hunter, made this observation:
“We can picture Karns drafting his stories in defiance of some straw-man censor. But Fukitor didn’t have to clear the Comics Code Authority. Actual underground comics already did whatever heavy lifting a book like Fukitor would theoretically do. If something could validate Karns’s decision to so gleefully depict sexual abuse, we don’t find it inside the book.”
First off, picturing our comics as created simply to piss off some non-existent censor is pure projection on the part of the reviewer and has nothing to do with the work itself, so right off the bat he’s wandering around in la-la land. But the part of that paragraph that I find interesting pertains to the history of our genre of comics. It’s the part where Hunter ascertains that what we do is somehow redundant because of the existence of the underground comics of the 1960s and 1970s. You know, since underground comics already had sex and violence back then, and covered that ground, no comics need to have them again. Can you imagine applying that way of thinking to any other genre of entertainment? It’s only acceptable when the genre is as ghettoized as exploitation and porn are.
We work in a genre that acts as a blender, mixing up all of the awesome things that we love: drive-in movies, horror movies, chest-thumping jingoistic action films, heavy metal album cover art, porn, vintage men’s adventure magazines, pulp novels, and underground comics. Much of that content was rooted in behaviour and thinking (nazis, slavery, serial killers, pimping, satanic sacrifices, etc) that is rightly considered socially inappropriate and downright criminal in the real world, which is precisely what makes it so titillating as a fiction. Regardless, the critics label our interest in keeping those aesthetics alive as reactionary, boring, sexist, racist and antagonistic. Even though we are women, men and come in every skin colour available, we are often dismissed simply as privileged white males who want to prop up our slowly diminishing power and dominion. Or as Hunter puts it: “This is work that, convinced it’s a rebel, behaves like a bully.”
“In an age where everything creative is not only critiqued but ripped apart in analysis after analysis and there are some times where I just wonder if we can just CREATE anything we like anymore without the idea that the artist has sinister motives because of the reader’s interpretation”, a fellow comic artist named Shannon wrote to me, recently. Like me, she also proudly draws porn comics.
Why does our take on this content have to be transgressive or with any more of a point that “I love the weirdness of those things, and I want to make my version of them”? If that’s reactionary, then you better go ahead and call 99% of comics reactionary, because no one is creating this shit in a vacuum. Right after money, nostalgia is the key thing that drives every single entertainment industry we have. Everything is a rehash of everything that came before it. I can count the amount of truly original creators in the last 20 years on one hand. If you have an issue with that, then you should be complaining about a lot more than our dumb little dirty comics.
Vancouver Canada, 2015