Tuesday, August 14, 2012

COLEY

So far I've been posting my own work (or work done in collaboration with others).  This time I'm devoting space to one of my favorite creators of X-rated comics, John Blackburn.  The bulk of his comics work centered on one series, which starred Coley Cochran, "The Voodoo Love-God".  Coley was a young man who, on a trip to an island in the West Indies, was briefly kidnapped by a tribe of natives and forced to undergo a ritual which imbued him with "powers and abilities far beyond mortal men"-- in effect, turning him into a "bisexual superman".

I first encounted Coley & Blackburn in Eros Comix' RETURN TO VOODOO ISLAND, a 2-issue mini-series published in 1991.  There was somewhat of a "boom" in X-rated comics at the time, and Fantagraphics decided to throw their hand in by creating their Eros imprint-- which is still going today.  Blackburn's work stood apart from the pack for several reasons.  Among them was the writing, which was intelligent, heartfelt and compelling in a way most "adult" comics just aren't. The other was the art. The only other person in comics I've ever seen with a style even remotely similar to his was Harry G. Peter, the original artist on WONDER WOMAN.  This fits, as WW in its original form, to this day, is considered both a very unusual, and somewhat controversial series.

I somehow missed the 2nd Coley mini, IDOL OF FLESH, but picked up the 3rd one, WEB OF EVIL.  This led directly into the 4th, THE DEATHSNAKE.  I eventually got the issues I was missing, and at some point, managed to get in touch with John Blackburn.  What I discovered was that Blackburn had self-published 3 earlier Coley books-- 2 short-story collections, and a full-length graphic novel.  The amount of back-story and character development in these was so extensive, it had me shaking my head wondering, how on Earth could Eros have passed on putting these things out themselves?  (It's no wonder RETURN TO VOODOO ISLAND was so hard to grasp all the fine details of the first time around-- it was a sequel to several stories I'd never been able to read before.)

Needless to say, I got ahold of the 3 earlier books, read them, and then re-read the entire rest of the series, in sequence.  At a time when I barely had time to read most new comics I was buying, the Coley books became one of the few series I actually read SEVERAL times.

I wound up doing detailed reviews of the books for several online sites, extensively-detailed indexes of all of them at the GCD site, and generated very nice images of the covers to go with them.  But the GCD images only go up to 400 pixels.  I wanted to show them off better than that.  I'm sure Coley would agree, "BIGGER is better."

COLEY ON VOODOO ISLAND   (1989)
The entire 1st book was a collection of short episodes, which together form one long story-- the "origin" of Coley as a "Voodoo Love-God".  Here's a scene near the end of the book where one of the tribal elders explains to Coley exactly what's happened to him.



















It appears that "Under The Caribbean Moon" (or possibly the entirety of VOODOO ISLAND) was also published in MEATMEN Vol.13 (1992?), Winston Leyland's anthology series.  I'm still missing Vol.13, so I'm not sure how much was included.  Blackburn would be a regular fixture in MEATMEN, with all-new stories appearing in every Volume from #15-25.

COLEY:  WILD IN THE STREETS   (1989)
The 2nd book was a collection of unrelated short stories which take place after Coley's return to "civilization". Here's a scene from "Bus Ride", which was actually the 1st story Blackburn finished (before doing "VOODOO ISLAND").



The 2nd story in the book, "Roller Boogie Hotrod", introduces Jessica, who would be an important character in the book "BREATHLESS". This episode also appeared in MEATMEN Vol.14.  The last panel (seen here) was altered.  The version in WILD IN THE STREETS serves as a lead-in to the sequel, "BREATHLESS".




















One of many pin-ups Blackburn liked to include in his books.

One of my favorite scenes, this one from "Coley Loves His Bike", the 3rd story in WILD IN THE STREETS.  The episode was also reprinted as a "flashback" as part of "BREATHLESS".  The man in this scene winds up selling the rights to his video to his better-connected brother, Quincey Quartermain, through whom Coley begins a very successful career as the star of a series of X-rated "art" films.
I think the scene here is hilarious!

COLEY:  BREATHLESS  (1991)
"BREATHLESS" was a 147-page graphic novel broken down into 4 chapters (the other 3 titles being "The Atomic Blonde", "Voodoo Dancer" and "Flowers of Evil", the latter also being the title of Coley's epic "art film").  It was a very complex soap-opera detailing the adventures and interactions and relationships of a dazzling and sometimes confusing number of characters, all of whom seem to get involved with Coley in one way or the other.
Here's a scene where he dances at a club to show off his "voodoo" powers.

Harry "Lance" Larue is the aged former film star turned "art film" director who makes Coley his star, and who Coley also takes as one of his lovers. Harry's an outspoken misogynist who doesn't play favorites-- he hates everybody. (Well, only most people.) This scene has him make a point which is sure to offend some people. God bless America and free speech!
In this scene, Harry talks with his old friend and business partner, Quincey, and makes some interesting observations about Coley, his co-star (and love) Lon, and people in general.
More social commentary.
Awwwww... I used to have a dog just like that!
Another hilarious scene, this one involving one of Coley's many fans, and her room-mate.
The tail-end of "BREATHLESS" abruptly took a very dark, violent turn.  One thing about Blackburn is his ability to juggle character studies, romantic relationships, social commentary, HHHHHOT sex scenes, and shocking violence, all in a single story.  I could do without the violence... but that's me.

(Continued in Part 2)

See my detailed indexes of these books at the GCD site
See the John Blackburn memorial at Prism Comics

Art (C) JOHN BLACKBURN
All prominent characters are Trademarks of JOHN BLACKBURN

Find John Blackburn & other creators' work at the EROS COMIX site.

3 comments:

  1. Is there any resource for obtaining the earlier books? I was able to get a copy of Breathless directly from John Blackburn, but he told me that the others had sold out a while ago. I also heard that he passed a while ago which saddens me because that means no more new Coley stories.

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  2. I suppose it's one of those things you just have to keep an eye out for. The "GEMM" site is an internet mall, much like Amazon.Marketplace, only going back a lot more years. I never know what I might find there-- tiny little stores all over the planet.

    I got all 3 books direct from John Blackburn. As I bought the series somewhat out of sequence, it wound up being one of the very few things I've read multiple times over the last 15 or so years.

    I was stunned to find that the entire contents of all 4 Eros reprint collections are posted online at that one site (I have the link around the blog somewhere), but not the first 3 books. It's disgraceful that Eros started with the 4th story. Took me years to "fill in" the missing pieces.

    At least you have the most important part. And there's enough flashbacks in "Breathless" to fill you in on the most vital parts of the earlier short stories.

    It's funny, I can't watch "THE DUNWICH HORROR" without thinking about the climax of "IDOL OF FLESH". Could be the same altar!

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  3. Hello Mr.Kujawa I don't know if you remember me but a while back you were kind enough to let me know how many issues of meatmen Coley shows up in. I'm just wondering how things are going for you and if you still plan on publishing the Coley collection as you planned. Mr. Blackburn was a talented man but I don't think even he know how amazing Coley was or how he was gonna effect our lives. This is one character that deserves tp be shared with the world. Do you know if its possible to contact his partner to buy the rights to the character. Do you know if he's even willing to sell?

    Coley is a pretty cool character but some things that he did seemed to confused me about him so seeing as how you're an even bigger fan of Coley's then I am I was wondering what are your thoughts on some of the things I want to ask about. Coley seems to have powers but he seems to get beaten up ALOT. He's pretty buff and capable. Do you think that perhaps he is a masochist and enjoys being beaten up and abused? I always expected him to use is considerable voodoo powers to raise some zombies to defend himself or fight using magick but it seems his powers are strickly sex related and having insane stamina or making his dick much bigger. He even seems to have the power to draw out the lust in a straight man/men in order to have his way with them. Straight men throughout history have been known to do some pretty gay things from time to time given the right conditions and situations.

    Last he claims to be gay yet he has no problems having sex with women and Coley addresses this issue once before I believe. I'm pretty sure he's in denial that he's Bisexual but what do you think? The one thing I don't like about coley is that he or John seems to support incest but its only a work of fiction and anything goes in the fantasy world so I'm not all that bothered by it. What do you think? Perhaps even gay men are flexible somewhat the way straight men are? Hero-flexable is what I think it's called. If you ever do manage to get your work off the group please try to make a cartoon or live action version of it in the future if you can. I know Coley is alot easier to portray compared to other characters such as Naked justice by Patrick Fillion. no way is anyone ever gonna make a sixteen inch cock look believable in a live action porn.

    Last I wish you good health and that this message finds you soon. Stay cool Mr. Kujawa. If you have a facebook I'd love to know about it. Update me when you can.

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