Visible Women: Milo Manara – “Butterscotch” (Slightly NSFW)

I  once reported on an adult entertainment convention for an “edgy” blog, and had a chance to talk to a scantily clad porn star somewhat notorious for her mainstream pretensions. I worked hard at being very respectful, and coherent, and not defiling her with my pervy male gaze, etc etc. I think I succeeded, because the conversation headed for surprisingly intellectual hills, and I ended up asking her: “What IS the difference between art and porn?”

She gave it some serious thought and came up with just about the best answer I ever heard:

“The difference is that with art you keep on watching even after you cum.”

ABOVE: She’s simply demonstrating how to drink tea from an invisible cup, you pervs!

By that standard, Milo Manara is unquestionably an artist, someone whose graphic novels can be read for the sheer pleasure of his story-telling prowess…  although, realistically, they’ve been put to earthier uses in the bedrooms of teenagers all over Europe for the last 40 years. But he sits happily alongside Moebius and Herge in fame, and he transcended long ago the double stigma of his chosen profession: first as a cartoonist, and second as a cartoonist who draws extremely hot women in outrageous states of undress.

ABOVE: And THIS is why I say we shouldn’t try to invent an invisibility cloak.

Still, no amount of international acclaim can quite convince the average woman to go near something like “Butterscotch.” What’s in it for HER? That’s supposing she’s not offended by the very concept. “Butterscotch” involves a gentle, pervy mad scientist who creates a potion that renders him invisible, (and leaves him smelling like butterscotch, hence the aromatic title.)

I maintain that invisibility is a terrible, terrible scientific aim, (although it’s not stopping anyone and we’ll likely have invisibility cloaks within the decade.) There’s exactly four things you could possibly do with an invisibility cloak:

1) Sneak up on someone with deadly intentions

2) Sneak up on someone with perverted intentions

2) Stand in front of your mirror and pretend you’re a vampire

4) Feel even more pathetically invisible than you already do.

Since this is a Manara joint, the scientist in “Butterscotch” goes for Option 2, but there’s a weird sadness to his voyeurism. He wants to spy on the love of his life, a woman  named Bea, a beautiful ballerina with whom (he believes) he shared a connection in the past. Bea, contrary to the romanticized recollections, is a sadist who gets off on poking all the skinny asses in her company with a needle. Bea is frenemy to Honey, the sailor-hatted heroine who becomes the scientist’s reluctant assistant, as well as our navigator through  a fantastical series of vignettes that have as much of Fellini as they have of fellatio. 

ABOVE: “Watch me catch this falling hat with my tongue!”

Manara is no misogynist. He loves his women, and there’s no one like him when it comes to walking the finely drawn line between making them victims of his bizarre sadomasochistic scenarios and making them lively entities who have control over their situations. I’m not exactly going to argue that he’s a feminist, or that it is empowering for a woman to, say, be raped by an invisible mentally-challenged man-boy, or to be penetrated by a stick of TNT and left to explode  (which are two things that happen in “Butterscotch”). But I will argue that Manara somehow makes it so that those events are not offensive or alarming or (even worse when it comes to erotica) a turn-off. It has everything to do with his control of tone, story, and character. Everything that happens is playful, strictly a fantasy, done with a wink. His women are not victims: they know how to give as well as take, and we want to find out what they will DO next. Victims don’t DO anything. Protagonists do.

That’s what makes people read “Butterscotch” (or “Clic” or “Gullivera”) all the way to the end. Yes, Manara fans keep on reading even after they… er… what the porn star said.

Therefore: Art.

RATING: I can’t recommend it for everyone because of the subject matter, but this is definitely COOL!

POST-SCRIPT:

I tagged this post as “Slightly NSFW” and I feel like a cheat and prude for having done so, specially after we’ve established Manara is an artist, not a pornographer. So I thought I might as well go all out with a little gallery of NSFW  debauchery.

ABOVE: Da Vinci!

ABOVE: Modigliani!

ABOVE: Gauguin!

ABOVE: Hoth-Ra the Ibis-Headed!

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Visible Women: Milo Manara – “Butterscotch” (Slightly NSFW)

  1. Pingback: My Top Books – 2013 | THE PAGEAHOLIC

  2. Pingback: Sailor Toon : Hugo Pratt – “Corto Maltese” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

  3. Pingback: Stacked Deck : Jim Balent – “Tarot : Witch of the Black Rose” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

  4. Pingback: Salem’s Plots : Santiago Gamboa – “Necropolis” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

Say What You Need To Say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s