The Comic Exotic: Sad Sex by Heather Benjamin

A semi-regular column about great comics you probably don’t know about. These could be Indie comics, comics with small print runs, or foreign comics. As reader and lover of comics for over 35 years, I’ve accumulated a huge collection. And this collection runs deep with the weird and the esoteric.

Heather Benjamin is genuine talent that everybody in the “Art World” should be talking about.  Not just people who are into zines and comics, the actual, goddamn Art Illuminati should know her name and display her work in the finest galleries.

SS-9-interior-001

Why?  Because she is doing some of the most confrontational, powerful, jaw-dropping art that I have ever seen.  Her work encompasses gender roles, female sexuality, male sexuality, standards of normalcy, and even standards of decency.

SS-10-interior-001

There is no doubt that Benjamin can draw a pretty picture.  Her sense of composition is flawless.  And her sense of design is both staggering and stomach-turning.

Is she making horror comics?  Romance comics?  “Art comics”?  Are these even comics?

SAD SEX started life as a series of one-page, fold-over, B&W zines.  In the beginning it was called SAD PEOPLE SEX.  But after issue 3, the title shortened to simply SAD SEX.

pic-001    pic-002

pic-003

There were ten issues all together. I found some at various zine-fests back in the day, but that was a few years ago.

SS-9-cover         SS-9-interior-002

Thankfully, a tiny paperback book published by Desert Island reprinted all ten issues in one handy volume.

pic-006

I think most people know the term “body horror” and associate it with David Cronenberg. Benjamin is also exploring themes of “body horror” but unlike Cronenberg, whose sense of horror seems to come from the eventual failure of the body, Benjamin’s work shows the horror of the “normal” female body. Menstruation blood, piss, tears, it all seems to be at play in Benjamin’s work. Women with hairy legs and armpits are also standard in her artwork, and while I am only speculating based on her (very cool) blog, I think she’s a bit hairy too.

And I don’t think she gives a fuck what you or I thinks about her hairy-ness. Much like Frida Kahlo, she owns her body, her image. And she uses this rather striking image, this image of the confident woman, over and over again in her artwork.

pic-007         pic-008

Her work is titillating. Her work is disturbing. Her work is also undeniably pretty. There is an illustrator-level of skill in her rendering. There is a confidence, and even joy, in her every line. The subject matter may get dark, but there is exuberance in Benjamin’s self-expression, exuberance in her craft.

pic-009        pic-10

I can feel her heart racing as she created these pieces because I can feel my heart racing while taking them in.

pic-011       pic-12

Heather Benjamin is a master illustrator.

Heather Benjamin is one of the most talented zine makers ever.

Heather Benjamin is an artist whose work will one day hang in the major galleries and museums of the world.

You just watch.

You can get some issues of the Sad Sex zine, as well as the collected edition, here.

She also has a couple of new zines that I highly recommend.

Next time in The Comic Exotic; I talk about a wonderful yet obscure graphic novel that is currently finding new life with a new publisher.

See ya’ next time, True Believer!

Question, comments, insults? Send ‘em to dubcomicsjon@gmail.com

Jon Vinson is the writer of the graphic novel Edge of the Unknown and recently launched the new comics series Nightingale and the Finch. He is the Founder & Publisher of DUB Comics.