ELC1995: Skin Tight Orbit

Skin Tight Orbit vols 1 & 2 by Elaine Lee and various, published by NBM/Amerotica.

The US direct sales comics market has been through so many upheavals since it started in the late 70s. It always seems to be either going through a huge growth spurt or a catastrophic downturn? The reason I’m mentioning this is that this is published by one of NBMs imprints for porn I mean erotica.

NBM is, of course, one of the most respected publishers of serious, quality comics in the US. (Well, or they would be if everybody didn’t keep forgetting that they exists.) So what’s up with the erotica I mean porn imprints?

Fantagraphics Comics was probably the trailblazer here: During the previous crisis (1990), Fantagraphics established Eros Comix, and the stated goal of the imprint was to bring in as much money as possible so that Fantagraphics could continue publishing the good stuff. As a publisher of quality non-porn comics, you’d assume that they’d publish quality porn comics, right? No. They sometimes accidentally published somebody good under the imprint (like Molly Kiely), but since that wasn’t really the mission statement, there seemed to be no lower bound to how unreadable the dreck they’d shovel out could be: It just had to sell.

Some unfortunate things were published.

NBM was pretty much in the same boat, and they started their Eurotica imprint in 1991, and Amerotica in 1995 (yes, we were already in the next comics industry crisis now).

So I approached this book with some trepidation, because I have no idea what approach NBM were taking with their porn I mean erotica comics: Attempting to publish good stuff, or Just Whatever Sells?

(Oh, Here’s an explanation of what this blog series is.)

Let’s read the first three pages of Skin Tight Orbit.

Well, this looks promising… it’s seems like it’s going to have some humour, and best of all, it’s sci-fi.

But is that really William Michael Kaluta!? I couldn’t tell at all from looking at the artwork; it’s the least Kaluta-like Kaluta artwork I’ve ever seen.

(The story ends with a pretty obvious twist ending, but it’s well told.)

Mary Wilshire illustrates three short pieces about sex androids, and they grow progressively sadder. I mean, it’s on purpose, but it’s not very sexy.

Will Simpson illustrates a story about two er astronauts that change bodies: Her mind in his body and the opposite.

It ends with a horrific rape and murder.

Hang on. Wasn’t this supposed to be a porn I mean erotic book?

Here’s what the back cover says:

“Horny stuff”… “hot collection of erotic science fiction”. The story with the mind swap and subsequent rape and murder is described as “the most intense story”. Well… yes, it is, but…

But is it porn!?!? IS IT PORN!?!?

Is this one of those “I know what porn I mean art is when I see it” things?

Phil Winslade’s artwork gave me a brain aneurysm, but is actually quite porny and was originally printed in Heavy Metal (while most of the other stories seem to be made especially for these books). Well… quite porny except for the horrific ending.

I think it’d be easier to classify these books as sci-fi horror instead of erotica. A fair number of them are gruesome, or at least ambiguous, like this Ray Lago-illustrated story about a guy dying from oxygen deprivation (I think that’s what was going on).

Perhaps the most gruesome of them all is this Jim Sherman-illustrated story of slimey tentacle rape… and that’s the final panel: This is tentacle rape for all eternity.

Several of the stories are about virtual reality/gaming. Above we have a guy in a VR suit living out his sex/accidental necrophilia dreams, apparently…

We have one very sad married couple, each with their own VR setup.


And one with a VR sex worker, who has as a speciality forcing the men who pay her to rape her (in VR, of course).

Fortunately, there’s one lighthearted story in the book: It’s about a species that have human-like women, and where the males are these tentacle parasites that only live to have sex with the women. I’m not showing you any of the tentacle porn images. Hah!

So.

I rather liked these books. The scenarios are surprising and interesting, and Lee is witty. The artwork ranges from passable to really good; there’s an emphasis on storytelling rather than just doing pin-ups, which is refreshing for a porn I mean erotica book.

But… c’mon. It’s a horror anthology. It probably wouldn’t have sold any copies if marketed as that, so I understand why NBM marketed it as an Amerotica book.

The books have never been reprinted, apparently, and I’m unable to find anybody on ver interboobs that admit to having read them.

One thought on “ELC1995: Skin Tight Orbit”

  1. Blimey! These books were high on my wants list, but seeing these excerpts has cooled my ardour. Mostly sub-par artwork imho. One thing, Lars, about your images vs text — and I’ve experienced this on many of your blog pages — It is difficult to ascertain whether the text bit relates to the previous image above, or the image following below. I prefer the text to prepare me for the image I am about to see next, which also helps somewhat in avoiding spoilers.
    ps. Elaine Lee sure is surprisingly versatile, and includes some excellent humour. Her dictionary for Starstruck is the highlight, on a par with Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, which apparently owes much to Robert Sheckley.

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