Smut Peddler's Editor Tells Us How To Make Great Pornographic Comics

Smut Peddler is an anthology of pornographic comics made by women for everyone. We spoke with Smut Peddler editor C. Spike Trotman about why she features so many science fiction and fantasy comics, what she looks for in porn, and why she drew a sexy comic about the Virgin Mary.

The first volume of Smut Peddler is available as both a physical book and ebook at the Iron Circus store, and it includes sexy stories about space ships, xenobiologists, robots with modular parts, wood nymphs, virtual reality hijinks, magical body swapping, gods, and Spike's own story about the sex act that leads to the conception of Jesus. Each comic is written and/or drawn by a female creator, resulting in porn told from a female perspective. But what has been key to Smut Peddler's success is that these aren't just great pieces of pornography; they're also just great comics.

You can pre-order a copy of Smut Peddler 2014 though the Kickstarter campaign for a whole new set of sexy stories by creators including Trudy Cooper, Jess Fink, Danielle Corsetto, Blue Delliquanti, Amanda Lafrenais, Kate Leth, and Megan Rose Gedris. The winking cover art is by Jemma Salume.

In honor of the new volume of Smut Peddler, Spike spoke to us over email, sharing a bit about her editing and writing process, explaining why comics are a perfect venue for fantastical pornography, and teasing what we can expect in the new book.

The first volume of Smut Peddler gave us some wonderful science fiction and fantasy-themed porn. Did you deliberately look for pieces in a wide range of genres or did things just shake out that way?

C. Spike Trotman: Diversity is super, SUPER important to me, with regards to Smut Peddler. Not just in terms of sexuality and gender identity, but settings, too. I couldn't imagine publishing a book with nothing but slice-of-life, realistic sex... but at the same time, I wouldn't want fantastical sex to have a monopoly, either.

But even with my determination to have all kind of stories in the book, I didn't have to try very hard to make sure that happened! The process was very natural. Johanna [Draper Carlson] and I got together on Skype and went through all the submissions—there were over 350 of them—and shortlisted the ones we really liked. Ensuring diverse settings, participants and preferences took no effort at all. We didn't alter the final line-up for the sake of it, or drop a story we liked to make room for someone else.

Experiences like this are probably why I roll my eyes a little when people talk about diversity and inclusivity as if they're Sisyphean tasks. To me, it takes a lot more effort to sustain uniformity.

Smut Peddler's Editor Tells Us How To Make Great Pornographic Comics

Image from "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?" by Jess Fink.

Smut Peddler is a very lady-centered project, focused on female creators. Certainly a lot of prose science fiction and fantasy erotica is written by women, and some of your creators, particularly Trudy Cooper (of Oglaf) and Jess Fink (of Chester 5000 XYV), are well known for their fantastical porny comics. Do you think women are particularly drawn to genre porn?

C. Spike Trotman: I think all kinds of people love genre porn, and comics are just in an especially good position to execute it. There's no set-dressing or wardrobe required. If a film company with live actors tries to make a scifi porno, for example, it quickly becomes cost-prohibitive. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe more. Most production companies aren't up for that kind of investment. A cartoonist can just drawn their fantasy, and that's a huge advantage.

And yes, there's a lot of genre porn written by women, that much is true. But there's also porn by women about hockey players. There are romance novel series about firefighters and soldiers. There are even books out there about a staunch Republican congressman being seduced by a sexy Democrat congresswoman. (Yeah! Politician porn! Can you even imagine that pillow talk?) I don't think fantastic settings especially appeal to ladies, I just think they're easier to explore, because erotica for women is dominated by prose and art.

Consider "Pirates." It was a pornographic film produced by Digital Playground/Adam and Eve, primarily for the consumption of men, and it was genre porn for sure. It won a ton of awards, but was ridiculously expensive by porn standards. That's the bottleneck, in my opinion. Cost.

Smut Peddler's Editor Tells Us How To Make Great Pornographic Comics

Image from "The Tiger Bride" by Lin Visel.

One thing that is particularly interesting about Smut Peddler is that it features a range of genders, sexualities, and body types. Does the sex with modular sentient machines and gods feel like a natural extension of that?

C. Spike Trotman: Ha ha, absolutely! Honestly though, most of my motivation for "Annunciation," my Smut Peddler story [from the first volume] about the Yahweh and the Virgin Mary, was to turn that story into something where consent was a factor. There is zero consent in the original story of the conception of Jesus. And we, as a culture, seem pretty cool with that. Which is probably because we're completely desensitized to that story through repetition. Maybe we shouldn't be.

I'm very interested in your Virgin Mary piece in part because I was amazed that it was both hot and respectful. Was the germ of that a sort of nagging about the story regarding consent? Or was there something else there?

C. Spike Trotman: Part of it was trying to turn the Annunciation into something Mary had a say in, part of it was a push back against all the Aryan Marys and Yahwehs depicted in classical and popular art, and part of it was "Y'know, having sex with a god could be pretty great."

I researched that story for a couple of weeks before I drew it. I put a lot of thought into it, more than I should have; that's why so many of my comics tend towards esoteric complication (and take so damn long to be finished). I found the oldest images I could of Middle Eastern and north African Jews, collected photos of archaeological sites so I would depict the house properly, and consulted with a friend who'd had years of Catholic school on the angel design. (Why do we all think angels are chubby babies with dove wings? They're not. They're HORRIFYING.) I tortured my friends for days, agonizing about tiny details. "Oh gosh, this authority says 19th century Moroccan Jews wore henna, but that authority makes no mention of henna being used in Galilee, should I put henna on her? Would that be okay?" Bless their hearts, not one of them said "Spike... it's just PORN." They know me too well for that.

(By the way, here's an Easter egg for everyone: Yahweh seduces Mary in my comic by bestowing Perfect Knowledge upon her, represented as the ancient Hebrew conception of the Universe. Yeah, this is what happens when I write smut.)

I did compromise the "accuracy" of the story in a few ways, though. For starters, I gave Yahweh a body. (I considered making him a glowing amoebic cloud of space dust, but that didn't turn out very sexy.) I also made sure it was the kind of body that a woman might both be in awe of, and simultaneously find hot. And finally, I aged Mary. As is the case with all Biblical scholarship, there's contention about what her age would have been at the time of Jesus' conception. But all the guesses fall between 13 and 16. My Mary's 18. I made sure she looked grown-up, pit hair and all.

I didn't want to go the cheap and shocking route with "Annunciation," because that's exactly what people would have expected. "Look at me, aren't I daring and sacrilegious?!" Bleh. I just wanted to do what people have been doing with god stories since the beginning of religions: Customize it to suit my tastes. It worked, in the end. I like "Annunciation" a lot.

By the way, Marian Apocrypha is a hoot. Everyone should read some! Mary: Conceived with a hug, and bearer of a flesh-searing, angel-summoning super-hymen.

What do you look for when evaluating and editing sci-fi and fantasy porn? Is there any way in which your handling of these genres differs from the way you treat porn in non-fantastical genres?

C. Spike Trotman: Not really. My rules for genre porn are the same as they are for slice-of-life porn: I have to believe these two (or three, or more) people (or sapient beings) actually want to have sex. Not just in a basic, consent-fueled way; there aren't any Brownie Points awarded for fulfilling a basic requirement like that. I mean I have to believe these people really find one another sexy. And that requires storytelling chops.

I liken sexy comics where people just show up and go at one another without so much as a handshake to those scenes in high school mangas where Kid A spots Kid B across the room and INSTANTLY FALLS IN LOOOOVE. It's like... why. Give me a reason. Don't tell me they're in love, prove it. Justify it. Is Kid B a track star? Are they popular? Were they nice to Kid A? is Kid A just horny? Don't just inform me Love Is Happening and soldier on. That's bad. That's lazy.

Smut Peddler's Editor Tells Us How To Make Great Pornographic Comics

Image from "Merger" by Savannah Horrocks and Hobbitdragon.

Do you think genre fiction lends itself well to the "why" of pornography simply because genre implies some kind of story?

C. Spike Trotman: For sure. A lot of genres have familiar players and themes, and those are handy shortcuts.

Here's a comparison for you. I'm writing and my friend Amanda [Lafrenais] is illustrating a story for the adult comic site, Slipshine. It's called "Iris & Angel." It's about a shy dude not 100% comfortable with his potentially embarrassing kinks, and the lady-friend he finds online. Amanda and I get a lot of great feedback on it! Are we still making it? Will there be another chapter? How long will it be? People are INVESTED. But it took 15 pages of sex-free backstory to get folks to that point.

Now, imagine you don't have the luxury of building backstory; you're drawing something with a set page limit. A handy solution? Get yourself an elf and a dwarf, and stick them in a setting that looks like rural England, but with better weather. Boom. What took me 15 pages with "Iris & Angel" is accomplished with an establishing shot on page 1.

Smut Peddler's Editor Tells Us How To Make Great Pornographic Comics

Image from "Ambrosia Arbutus" by Joanna Estep.

Can we expect more science fiction and fantasy comics in the new volume of Smut Peddler?

C. Spike Trotman: Smut Peddler 2014 features multiple instances of alien sex, fauns, lovers molded out of clay, dangerous beasts, space cop adventures, and time travel. Pick it up. I promise you'll like it.