From Issue 3.6 - Summer 1997
For many practitioners of S/M and leathersex, their erotic orientation hearkens back to media images that influenced them as adolescents. Watching such films as "Jason and the Argonauts" or "Hercules" -- or its spin-off, the Xena TV series -- it' easy to see how children might develop affinities for whips and chains that remain relevant in their adult lives. Certainly, many children who read Nancy Drew mysteries could easily have developed a fondness for bondage after reading about their favorite gumshoe routinely being tied up by the villain in these formulaic novels. The leather gear worn by Emma Peel in "The Avengers" TV show helped to provide a young generation with fertile grounds for potent leather and bondage fetishes later in life. Comic books, too, have always flirted with the arena of S/M and fetish fantasies, and their influence has been felt by many in the pervert community. What follows is a brief look at some of the more kinky elements of mainstream superhero comics.
Leather and fetish costumes have always been a staple of the comic superhero genre, which features stories filled with images of fetishwear, bondage, torture, and submission. In particular, DC Comics' Batman and Wonder Woman are two long running comic book characters whose adventures consistently flirt with a subtext of fetish and fantasy.
One of Batman's most famous villains, the Catwoman, has always leaned towards the role of a dominatrix. One of her earliest costumes was a full black leather outfit complete with gloves, a red cape, and a black cat mask. Although her costume quickly became more conventional, she never lost her weapon of choice: a whip, which has traditionally been a cat-o-nine-tails. More recent versions of the Catwoman character have updated the leather costume and created a new origin story about an orphaned Catholic schoolgirl who becomes a sex worker and finally finds her niche as a skilled jewel thief. Catwoman's latest costume -- a revealing purple bodysuit with thigh-high black leather boots, and full-length gloves -- recalls the nymphet from the humor pages of "Playboy" magazine. Also memorable is Michelle Pfeiffer's film version of Catwoman, with her stunning combination of vinyl corsetry, lethal claws, and a bullwhip to die for. A highly suggestive recent cover image of Catwoman features her standing over Robin while she yanks on her whip, which is wrapped tightly around his neck. The image is undeniably one of a dominatrix who has found herself a non-consenting boy to practice on.
In the world of Batman, the Catwoman is not alone. In Moore and Bolland's "The Killing Joke," Commissioner Gordon is kidnapped by The Joker, stripped nude, and dragged around in a dog collar by two fetish dwarves wearing leather and fishnet stockings.
For me, the dark, gothic world of Batman comics planted seeds that helped to develop my adult sexual tastes. I still fondly remember a dream from my adolescence in which I was held down and expertly fucked by Batman on a butcher's table beneath a variety of meathooks at the local Safeway, while Robin fought off the bad guys.
The comic character who most effectively uses images of bondage is Wonder Woman. The character was created by psychologist and lie-detector inventor Charles Moulton, the pen name of William Moulton Marston. His stories featured a blend of feminism, patriotism, and bondage fantasies. As Ron Goulart has suggested in his "Great History of Comic Books," "the early "Wonder Woman yarns are rich with the sort of bondage and submission fantasies that hitherto had been seen only in under-the-counter publications." In one of these early stories, Wonder Woman enters a charity benefit and allows herself to be bound, chained and fully masked, and dropped into a tank of water from which she will escape, a la Houdini. What is remarkable about this story is not that she is in bondage (that is common throughout the series), but that the origins of each of the bondage devices is fully explained to the reader. Moreover, Marston applied his idea of the lie-detector to Wonder Woman's golden lasso, which has the ability to make whoever is tied up by it tell the truth and submit to the will of the lasso's holder. Here again, we see the dominatrix lurking behind the wholesome image of DC's most patriotic heroine.
Wonder Woman is an Amazon warrior who fights the oppression of patriarchy and wears her iron bracelets of submission, which all Amazons wear as a reminder of their fall at the hand of Hercules and the patriarchal values of the ancient Greeks. In fact, the only way Wonder Woman can lose her power is to have her hands bound by a man, another theme that has been fully exploited over the years by many writers. Even Samuel R. Delaney, the author of many gay science fiction and S/M fantasies, penned two issues of Wonder Woman during the early 1970's. A few years ago, Brian Bolland exploited the S/M subtext, offering a dominatrix cover image in which Wonder Woman displays her lasso and, smirking coyly, asks the reader "Did you miss me?"
Similar delights can also be found in several other comic superheroes, including The Fantastic Four's Invisible Woman, whose alter-ego, Malice, is an exotic leather clad dominatrix, and the sexy ninja warrior, Electra, who spent much of the early 80's playing with Daredevil. DC Comics mature fantasy imprint, Vertigo, publishes "The Invisibles," which features a pierced leatherboy -- King Mob -- and a South American transvestite -- Lord Fanny -- as part of the regular cast.
Sword and Sorcery comics are another type filled with elements of bondage and slavery. Barbarian comics such as "Conan" and "Warlord" feature fantasies that frequently find the protagonist bound and tortured by a number of different adversaries. For example, in the now defunct series "Warlord," it is common to find the hero chained spread-eagled to a set of torturing posts. The Warlord series is filled with men dressed in harnesses and loin-cloths, as well as some very scantily-clad women. Most of these stories involve Warlord freeing himself or others from an evil villain who tries to bind and torture the hero and his pals.
For those who do not want to deal which the more covert aspects of mainstream comics, I suggest exploring the world of adult comics. Take a look at any volume of the "Meatmen" anthology series if you are interested in sexually explicit gay male pornographic cartoons. Or check out any of Fantagraphics adult line of EROS graphic novels for a variety of hot perverted tales ranging from the gay male bondage fantasies of "Coley Running Wild," to the heterosexual satire of "XXX-Women" and "Ramba," to the polysexual cum-filled joy of "Birdland" by Gilbert Hernandez (of "Love and Rockets" fame). The adventurous pervert is sure to get off on the two-fisted kink of "Horny Biker Sluts" and its companion series "She-Male Trouble."
So check out your local comic book store -- I'm sure you'll find at least one title that will get you hard or wet.
*from Wonder Woman no. 1, 1942