First Time is a series of short stories about erotica and how women relate to sex as sexual objects of men, as commanders of their own destinies and everything in between. Each of the ten stories is illustrated by a different artist but written by one woman, Sibylline. Sibylline works for Delcourt, a major French comic book publisher on the administrative side. Some of the artists that participated in this book include David McKean, Cyril Pedrosa and Olivier Vatine. Delcourt originally published this book in 2008 and the translated version is part of NBM’s Eurotica line of erotic graphic novels. This book is intended for an adult audience.
Terry Nantier figuratively challenged me in a recent interview to review erotic material at The Comic Book Bin. Many comic book media sites, he notes are too puritan to discuss erotic material in comics. Well, I’m giving it a try. Beyond this sentence, all the excuses will end and I’ll deal with the material the same way I would any other comic book.
It’s interesting to see how men illustrate the sexual submission of women visually based on a script by a woman. It interesting to see how women cartoonist depict similar situations. Sibylline is not shy or denouncing anything. Some of her stories treat woman as pure objects in the eyes of men and it’s interesting to see how the artist prove her point in many pages. Reading the passages, the text and internal monologue tell the story from the point of view of a woman, yet the visuals tell the story a man wants to read. The artists know what to do to draw the interest of the average man. If that man is a visual person, he’ll enjoy what he sees, no matter what the style. In fact, the male characters in this comic book tend to take a back seat to the women. Sibylline’s text will be there to remind him, as it is clearly stated in one story that the best sex is when the partner is not focused on his own pleasure but that of his partner.
The women in this book are not victims either. They enjoy the sex too. In some of the stories, other women play the roles of the man that leaves coldly after a night of sex to the surprise of the other partner. One of the best stories is the one by the man who has sex with a life-size plastic doll. The doll explains how the guy is just going through the motions and not really experiencing sex, but just getting a release. She does not complain about her predicament. In fact, she finds some pity for the man and accept her role as the partner with whom he can lash out his darkest fantasies. Some stories of course focus on group sex and sets with multiple partners. How can one rise to the challenge and be the center of everyone’s attention in such situation.
I felt that many of the stories shared the same voice. You can hear Sibylline’s words in every story. She doesn’t have multiple personalities. Instead, she is reincarnated in many characters that on the surface have different lives.
The artwork is of course very graphic with some artists proposing shots that are more stimulating than others are. Some of the artists were not as inspired by the narrative it seems and opted for a more figurative display of sex than the literal one, which will probably interest men the most. Perhaps inspiration is not the right word then. Perhaps for some readers, the figurative work will win heads over the literal one. Well, with erotica, there’s not need to think to much about it. As a reader, you can appreciate this story for its pure visuals and depictions of sexual acts, or you can ponder about some of the nuanced messages that pervade every story.