Erotica in comics is generally something that is sneered at, whilst they might actually feature some impressive art ( if you have any doubts check out The Young Witches by Ricardo Barreiro and Fancisco Solano Lopez) story on other hand is often somewhat lacking and merely serves as the frame work for the “action”. There’s also a big stigma around it too, as though actually admitting you like something that falls under the heading of erotica in comics makes you some sort of weirdo or freak who clearly never does anything with actual humans.
Sunstone created, written and illustrated by Stjepan Sejic will take any preconceived notions you have about erotica in comics and shatter them into a million tiny pieces and is definitely something you can proudly claim to be a fan of.
Drawing other peoples stories for a long time lead to frustration and burn out with the comics industry and feeling more like a machine than an actual person. Prompted by an earlier experience previous to making it professionally, Sejic decided start an alias on Deviant Art where he could explore fetishistic images. A series of BDSM oriented pin up pieces appeared which featured several characters, this slowly evolved into what Sunstone is now – an unintentional webcomic which built up such a big following that the first volume has just been published by Topcow.
Pre-orders for Sunstone have made it Topcow’s highest ordered graphic novel ever and the book was riding high in Amazon’s charts with pre-orders for the second volume crashing into the chart too, so what is this book?
Sunstone, a name which will make sense once you’ve begun reading, is the story of Lisa a fledgling writer who has kept her submissive longings buried for years, and Ally a dominant woman who has found herself largely isolated from the outside world. Both have failed relationships behind them, but Ally is still friends with her ex Alan another dominant type who makes a living creating custom gear for discerning BDSM clients .The story, which narrated from Lisa’s perspective, follows the pair’s relationship from early online interactions to their first meet up and beyond.
What makes Sunstone so impressive is despite its “adults only” nature this story is written with humanity at its core. Lisa, Ally and Alan are utterly believable as people due to the excellent characterisation which is a core feature of the story. Nowhere is this more apparent than a splash page which features both Lisa and Ally trying to figure out what to wear for their upcoming first real life encounter, with both imagining outfits before immediately deciding against them for numerous reasons.
Whilst not everyone will relate to Ally’s reasons for wanting a new bed, lots of people will relate to the anxiety meltdown that Ally and Lisa find themselves dealing with at the prospect of meeting each other in person for the first time.
Crafting a story based on a lesbian couple with a fondness for BDSM makes for a pretty easy target of accusations of sleazy exploitation, especially when comics already have a pretty bad reputation for objectifying their female characters. The magic here is the intelligence, wit and well crafted story will make you think all comics should be written this well.
One of the things that really stands out along with the distinctly human nature of the story is how funny it is. Generally speaking comics never make me laugh, which is kind of ironic I know, however there’s some brilliant wit to be found here, from the awkwardness of Lisa’s first meeting with Ally being ruined by the desperate and urgent need to pee to Alan walking in on Ally having some “alone time”.
The story also doesn’t shy away from the couples sexuality, it’s soon revealed that Ally has quite the collection of “toys” waiting for the right person. This refreshingly human approach to sex makes Lisa and Ally complex, alive, flawed and believable characters in a story that just happens to feature kinky BDSM oriented sex. As for that BDSM element that I keep referring to unlike another work of popular literary fiction, which shall remain nameless, Sunstone tackles the principles of the dominant and submissive relationship brilliantly – namely it’s about complete trust in someone and aftercare is also a big part of it, it’s not about abuse or emotional manipulation.
Sejic’s impressive and recognisable art has featured in various titles over the years including Witchblade, Artifacts, Aphrodite IX, Death Vigil and Ravine to name some. Whilst the art for Sunstone might not be as insanely detailed as his work on some of those, Ravine comes to mind, it doesn’t need to be. Reader’s unfamiliar with BDSM gear and culture will get a crash course finding out the relevance of the collar and will know their bondage hoods from their spider gags in no time.
As an artist Sejic also has an impressive mastery of anatomy and his characters here (and in his other work) aren’t disproportionate fembots like so many female characters in comics but believable as actual people . For a guy Sejic is unnervingly good at writing from the perspective of women and it should be noted that this isn’t structured in some formulaic manner, which is the norm for most things under the erotica heading in comics. This story unfolds like any other narrative and it’s definitely not a case filler waiting for the “good stuff”.
As Sunstone was just something originally done for fun which wasn’t meant to be “professional” the art and dialogue has been tweaked and polished for the new print edition which contains the first chapter of the story and also features some additional bonus content. The first 4 chapters of Sunstone are free to read over at Sejic’s Deviant Art page but if you prefer your reading to be more tactile then seek it out at your local comic shop and if you don’t have one you can easily find it on Amazon.