In preparation for the re-launch of the Outhouse's first column "Peeing in Your Shower", Keb is posting his favorite past columns to give new readers an idea of what it's all about!
In one week, I will be brining back "Peeing in Your Shower" with new articles and new subjects for discussion. The articles will remain more or less along the same lines as before, so I thought I'd re-post some of the old work to get people prepped for the new stuff.
This article is a very important piece to me. It was a 2-part examination of sex in two specific Alan Moore comics. It was published as my 25th article for the Outhouse, which was a landmark for me because I have commitment issues. Enjoy!
I’ve made it this far: number twenty-five! I might have got here sooner but it’s been a bit of a journey for me, mostly trying to figure out what I like about comics and what I want to write about them. So now here I am doing my “comics as literature” bit.
I thought that since this is a special occasion, I’d take a slightly longer look at both my favourite writer and one of America’s favourite activities: Alan Moore and sex.
Sex is a big theme of Alan Moore comics, and everything he’s written has had some sort of sexual activity involved. The two single issues I will look at are Saga of the Swamp Thing 34 and Promethea 10.
In Saga of the Swamp Thing 34, titled “Rites of Spring”, Swamp Thing and Abby Cable admit their love for each other and decide to consummate their love. Of course, it seems impossible and somewhat gruesome imagining a woman and a plant-creature participating in the love-nookie, but Moore makes it a beautiful thing. Swamp Thing goes into the water, takes a tuber growing from his body and asks Abby to eat it.
Abby asks Swamp Thing if eating the tuber is symbolic and he replies: “Not entirely.” There is implied symbolism in it though. Following that we get fantastic pages of Abby seeing the world through the eyes of Swamp Thing (when he feels like it). The narration captures what is important about sex: “Where we touch, the fibers merge and intertangle.” What Moore symbolizes through “sex” between woman and plant is that they are becoming one, not reproducing.
In an interview with the Onion AV Club, Moore said: “"With Promethea, when I was coming up with the initial titles for ABC Comics, I thought, well, I want a comic with a strong female character. I'd also like to have a comic where I can release some of the steam of my magical researches." In applying this idea of Moore exploring, what comes out of issue 10 of Promethea is quite similar to Swamp Thing 34.
Promethea 10, titled “Sex, Stars and Serpents”, Sophie goes to Jack Faust to learn magic and in exchange he gets to have sex with Promethea. Jack Faust says to Promethea “And it’s only symbolism puts magic and meaning into anything…” Again Moore is emphasizing the idea of symbolism behind sex, which bleeds into the earlier published Swamp Thing story as well.
Unlike Swamp Thing and Abby, Promethea and Faust are actually capable of performing the physical nasty and in doing so they ignite some kind of physical one-ness. Faust takes Promethea through the ascending chakras and relates them closely to the Kaballah that Sophie will explore in later issues.
Near the orgasm, Jack explains that Magicians (male and female) are typically male (symbolically). The male is represented by the wand, a phallic symbol representing will. The male is always seeking to penetrate the female, the cup, a symbol of compassion. Because the female is a mystery to the male, the male must know the mystery. When the man (or magician) penetrates the mystery, he becomes the mystery, or the female. They come together, become hermaphrodite, and climb towards the godhead of the Saharsana Chakra, which is located above the head.
Much like Swamp Thing and Abby, Faust and Promethea are coming together. The idea of sex is climbing towards the godhead, and man and woman do that together. Much like Abby and Swamp Thing, Promethea and Faust intertangle, becoming one with each other. The merged man and woman climbing to the godhead figures strongly into the further interpretation of the sex in these two issues, but I’m out of space for this week and I’ll pick up where I left off next week.
Last week I embarked on a bit of a journey reading deeply into how sex takes on symbolic and magical significance in Alan Moore comics. I began to look at two specific issues that involve sex: Saga of the Swamp Thing 34 and Promethea 10. We’ve established that Moore believes that sexual intercourse is a symbolic entwining of two beings to form one. In addition to this, the male and female together climbing towards the godhead and becoming one with everything else. I’d like to continue with this idea.
In Saga of the Swamp Thing, as the sexual act progresses and Abby and Swamp Thing become each other, then Abby/Swamp Thing narrate that they begin to feel the world. They experience the sensations of small rats, and then the sensation of hawkmoths. Moore writes: “There is no contradiction…only the pulse. The pulse of the world. Within us. Within me.” The pulse of the world symbolizes how Abby and Swamp Thing feel the world through the Swamp Thing’s energies. By feeling the pulse of the world, understanding the smallest creatures, we become one with it. And then, immediately Abby and Swamp Thing begin to experience life and death, tide and magma, and experience everything within the world, down to even the smallest twist of a fish and a claw “wounding the soil”.
The final page of the “veggie-sex” shows Abby’s and Swamp Thing facing each other with their eyes closed and in between them is something, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but it appears to be an amalgamation of the female sex organ and plant parts (I see roots). What I really like about the image that Bissette and Totleben draw is the interpretation of Abby as water and Swamp Thing as earth, connected by the “earth-vagina”. I really thought the balance between the two was important in symbolizing how they become the world, specifically the Earth, and how each of them represent the two opposing elements. Not only that, it also ties back into what Faust says to Promethea about the magician penetrating the mystery, the male penetrating the female the becoming a hermaphrodite. In this case, the hermaphrodite is the earth and the human. It’s a much more beautiful picture than one would normally imagine when thinking of “veggie-sex”.
One of the interesting parts of Promethea 10 happens during various points of the act; Promethea hears the voices of Sophie and Stacia outside arguing after Sophie has slept with Faust. It happens four times in the issue (if you count the actual instance). Faust’s response is “Don’t worry. It’s just when the magic kicks in. Everything gets sort of looped…” It happens again when Faust and Promethea reach the climax, or in terms of Faust’s teachings the Sahasrana Chakra (the crown). In order to understand the crown in more detailed terms, we have to look ahead to a later issue of Promethea; issue 23.
In this issue, Prometheas Sophie and Barbara are at the end of their Kabbalah journey, at the final sephiroth: Kether. Promethea explains: “All one. All god. All Kether. One perfect moment when everything happens.” Applying these words to Promethea and Faust reaching the crown sexually, it all relates to one word on the final page of the sex sequence: “Here.” They are, effectually, in all places at all times, just as Sophie and Barbara are when they reach the sphere of Kether.
I find this particularly interesting because I’d read Promethea 10 a couple years before Swamp Thing 34 and I began to marvel at the connection between the two issues. Moore takes sex, normally taboo in the modern-day moral high ground that is the super-heroic and turns it into something beautiful, something magical, that can be shared between a man and a woman. It actually validates the old parental saying: “When two people love each other very much, they decide they want to make something special.” That special thing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to result in a child.