“Well your character, Suzie, when she has sex – time basically stops. And she meets a guy and they have sex and time stops for him too and then they rob banks together.”
The premise behind Sex Criminals was like nothing I’d ever heard, but I love heists and sex and the idea of being immortalized in a comic book about those things. So, last year, my fiancé and I posed for what would be the basis of the Sex Criminals promo picture. We assumed a sprawled-out, post-coital position. Zdarsky loomed over us, barking out orders like the captain of a sex cruise.
“Do we have to be naked?” we wondered, sheepishly.
“Well, no,” he said. “But I do.”
Thus began what would become a hilarious (and surprisingly touching) hit. Sex Criminals is the creation of acclaimed comic writer, Matt Fraction, along with Zdarsky, who does the artwork. Every few months, my partner-in-crime Alex Hoffman (the model for John, Suzie’s lover) and I trek to Zdarsky’s backyard studio. It is a renovated one-room garage containing a futon thing, framed glamour shots of Steve’s mom and a mini-fridge marked “Chilled Erotic Aids“. We are plied with Dan Akyroyd’s Sauvignon Blanc and Miss Vickie’s Salt & Vinegar chips – just enough to bumble awkwardly through re-enactments of Zdarsky’s sketchy storyboards.
The first issue, Suzie Down In The Quiet, was launched last month at Wicked, Toronto’s premier sex club. Zdarsky wore a Garfield suit and read his erotic prose while Fraction temporarily lost consciousness after having his nipples pierced in front of a sweaty throng of comic enthusiasts and perverts. This performance touched on some ancient sensibility, and the masses responded by snapping up copies. Issue two, Come, World, comes out today.
Yesterday, I asked Zdarsky what it was like to be a celebrated sex comic artist, newpaperman and recluse.
CZ: Your hair. It’s like a zen exercise. I’d love to draw an entire issue of just your hair where they have to brimp* their way out.
CZ: It’s a little bit like automatic writing. In issue two I tried to come up with porn titles for as many posters and boxes I could manage. I think in the first panel of the sex shop scene there are at least 40 jokes. I can’t even see them all in the printed version they get so tiny. Like I just did them for me. Like I do sex.
CZ: Heh, heh, “long and hard.”
We have a few basic ideas about how things work in the frozen time space. If you think about it too hard everything seems impossible so you have to play a little fast and loose with the laws of physics, but establish enough rules so you can navigate and create situations. Matt knows where he’s going, but is open to the universe sending us in another direction. Like when you have sex and somebody slips and puts something in a bum and you’re all, like, “ok, this is where we’re at now.”
CZ: TOO ATTRACTIVE. I’m much better at drawing “ugly.”
CZ: Comics are so solitary. Seeing you guys once a month is, like, my only human contact. Please don’t leave me. I have candy.
TT: What is working with Fraction like?
CZ: I hate that Fraction works with such great collaborators (myself SO not included). I’ll start to feel good about my work and then pick up something else he’s working on, like Hawkeye with David Aja, and just curl up in a ball and cry.
The best part is that he’s such a great writer I have no problem trusting him. I have trust issues. Because of Carol.
I don’t know. A lot of artists do warm-up sketches, but I just get right into it. Light some candles, put on some smooth jazz, and let the crushing workload take me away.
I used to reward myself after big projects with a video game. But now it seems I just have time to take a day off.
CZ: When I was five I charged neighbourhood girls five cents to see my peeny and ten cents to touch it. So I simultaneously had a sexual awakening and opened my eyes to the human body as a commodity.
CZ: Based on the photos that he keeps sending me no matter how many times I tell him to stop, his nipples are as healthy as those of a prize dairy cow and just as chock full of antibiotics.
TT: Are you retiring the Garfield suit?
It fucking stinks now. Trying to summon the courage to take it into a dry cleaners that won’t judge me.
TT: What is the main difference between drawing for newspapers and drawing for Sex Criminals?
CZ: People throw out newspapers almost immediately, comics are 4ever.
You can buy Sex Criminals at your local comic store or online.
*’Brimping’ is an obscure sex act depicted in Issue 1.