Short Box: Penthouse Comics #2


Penthouse Comics




Cover ArtistLesley ‘Leirix’ Li

This is, as is typical with Short Box posts, not really about this specific issue.

It’s not even really about any of the specific stories contained in the two issues that have hit the stands, rather it’s just some thoughts on the line in general and how it compares to what preceded it.

In the ’90s, Penthouse magazine launched Penthouse Comix, which originally appeared in the magazine proper before spinning off into its own publication, which itself had a couple of spin-offs before the line folded – in the US – in 1998.

Penthouse Comix had a strong start, hitting the ground running with a strong line-up of popular creators drawn to the artistic freedom the adults-only publication offered and, more notably, the high page rates offered. The contents of the anthology series varied, with stories from several genres, but some of the most prominent were satirical takes on then-current trends in superhero comics and science fiction and adventure stories. While some stories had a serious tone, there was an overall tongue-in-cheek feel to the book.

There was, of course, also a copious amount of sex and nudity, which became more explicit over time. Despite a strong start and the contributions of popular creators such as Adam Hughes, Kevin Nowlan, and Richard Corben, as well as many others, it seems that everything rapidly fell apart internally and the publication proved to be short-lived.

I never picked up very many issues, and what I did have has been lost to the ages, but I mostly enjoyed what I did read. It was especially interesting to see what some artists did outside of the constraints of mainstream comics at a time when even DC’s Vertigo line could feel a bit restrained.

I had a particular fondness for Hericane, seen here in a sketch by co-creator Adam Hughes, a fun and fun-loving, liberated and libidinous superheroine with a clever name. (Image source)

While the rebooted version – which uses “cs” in its title rather than the “x” – has a squarebound magazine format like its predecessor had up until its 26th issue, it doesn’t have the same feel as what came before.

It’s an anthology of mostly serialized stories, but none of the content from the ’90s has returned (so far), and most of the featured creators are from outside of mainstream US comics, or are at least – with the exception of Guillem March – unfamiliar to this particular reader of mainstream US comics. Indeed, based on some of the dialogue, the look of word balloons and their placement, as well as the general style of the art, I assume that several of them are translated reprints of stories that have been previously published in Europe.

I will say that the art of each story has been excellent for the most part, with each artist exhibiting a kind of lush and luxuriant approach that feels almost painterly at times while simultaneously having an exaggerated cartoonish look. Really, “European” is the only way I can describe it, and if you know you know.

The stories themselves haven’t particularly grabbed me, though part of that, I think, is the rather abrupt manner in which each installment ends. They don’t seem to stop at natural stopping points and they don’t give you any indication that the installment is ending before you turn the page and find that you’re in a new story.

Each issue closes out with a multi-page pictorial of a nude model. The paper stock and the printing process used don’t really lend themselves to photography, leading to the images feeling rather dark and muddy. Personally, while I understand that they’re a nod to the roots of Penthouse – though they don’t share the explicit nature of the photos found in those pages – they feel unnecessary, in part because so far the models have been very much not my type, but more specifically because the photographers’ work isn’t getting an ideal showcase.

I’ll most likely pick up the first six issues to complete the initial run of the serialized stories, but I’m less certain that I’ll be picking up the standalone books that are going to be published separately from the main series.

For a more in-depth look at the first issue and the stories contained therein, as well as more of a look at Penthouse Comix, check out this review from Teagan O’Neil at The Comics Journal.

In closing, I’ll add that printing a quote from Joss Whedon on the back cover of the second issue was certainly a choice.

Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *