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(Aug 1st 2019)

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Little Known Incidents of WWII (No 5) Lovers Reunited (Gay Version)

Johnny and Tommy were lovers
 but in 1930's Britain, homosexuality was an imprisonable offence.
So,they had to hide their secret from everyone they knew.
.
They met an inexperienced young, gay man, called Eddie, and became friends.
Tommy and Eddie would often go out riding on their motorbikes......

1

Johnny knew Tommy was an inveterate cottage queen.
He trusted him to keep his hands off Eddie
but he thought it was too early to show him the places
 where the other gays went to meet up.

Eddie wasn't yet wise to the dangers there,
the Police raided the cottages regularly
and experience was vital to avoid being caught
and prosecuted.

2

Tommy was very quiet when he came back that night.
A week later Johnny heard that Eddie had been arrested 
Picked up at a cottage and charged with indecency
Facing public shame and prison, he had hanged himself in the cell that same night
3

When Johnny tackled Tommy about it, he admitted taking Eddie there 
Johnny was furious with him for not keeping Eddie safe
He couldn't control his anger and their relationship ended in acrimony
They went their separate ways.

~

Many years later,  after the war started, Tommy and Johnny met up again
By coincidence, they were assigned to the same tank unit in the Western Desert, 
Johnny, now a Sergeant, was in command.
 He was still angry with Tommy and they constantly had arguments.

4
Their little spats were like lover's quarrels and bewildered the other crewmen. 
 After just one mission, Johnny tried to get Tommy transferred to another unit.

5
Johnny didn't want to say too much,
 fearing that Tommy might reveal that they had once been lovers.

So they had to continue to work together but Johnny's resentment never slackened.
Some time later they were involved in a clash with the enemy and their tank was destroyed
To avoid being taken prisoner, the surviving crew had to trek across the desert.

It was a long journey in merciless heat.
Soon water had to be rationed but Tommy deteriorated quickly
Johnny did his best to help him..........

6
When he held Tommy in his arms the old feelings started to return
 Their trek to safety continued but it took it's toll on the crew.
Finally, only Johnny and Tommy were left alive and Tommy was very sick.
In a state of delirium one night, Tommy talked about what actually happened to Eddie,

7
It was an explanation that would not have been believed if he had offered it before. 
But now Johnny realised he had been wrong about his former lover all along.
He decided he should make it up with him when he regained consciousness.

But that very night, Tommy wandered off into the desert while Johnny slept.
Like Captain Oates, he reasoned Johnny had a better chance of reaching safety, 
if he was not burdened with a sick man.

When he woke and realised what had happened,
Johnny went out desperately looking for him but in vain.
He was finally found unconscious by a passing patrol.

In a Hospital bed for several weeks Johnny had a lot to think about.
About his foolish anger and mistaken assumptions. 
About his lack of trust and disloyalty to Tommy in not listening to him.
He realsied now that Tommy had never stopped loving him.

8

When he eventually returned to his unit he was healed in his body
But he frequently found himself looking out over the desert,
hoping to see Tommy come staggering towards him, still alive
or roaring in on his motorbike, laughing like he used to.

He grieved for him and all the lost years when they should have been together.
It felt like the future he was fighting for had now been taken from him.
But it was a sadness he could not reveal to anyone in his command.
They wouldn't understand about love between two men. He was totally alone.

~

I adapted this story from a War Comic saga (No 724) called 'Fight to Survive'. 
I reviewed this story in a previous post and discussed the artwork and the gay theme which seemed to simmer just under the surface. The same frames are presented here and the only changes I needed to make was to alter the cause of Eddie's death in frames 1 & 7. I changing it from crashing a defective motorbike to suicide after being arrested for gross indecency in a cottage (a public toilet). I made minor changes to other frames as well and filled out the accompanying narrative to suit my purpose, but they were not necessary to effect the conversion, such was the compatible tenor of the original story and it's artwork.

In conclusion I'd ask you to consider the title of this little epic.
 Obviously it fits any war scenario, but is remarkably apt for a gay storyline too.


You will probably spot that the cover art here was not produced by the same artist who did the inside images. There's no sense here of the dispute and fight between the two friends which drives the original story as well as my adaptation. Any trace of a gay connection has comprehensively vanished with it - unless you count the slightly camp behaviour of the foreground figure, making sure his helmet stays on as they flee! 
Hang on to your hats boys!

Go to Part 6 in this series 'Love Your Sarge'

Read from Part 1 

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Little Known Incidents of WWII (No 5) - Friends Reunited

 

This is the closing frame of the story 'Fight To Survive' published by War Picture Library. It's a good example of the quality of some of the movie-like images produced for these series. The lone figure gazing out over the desert waste while his men relax and gossip about him makes a striking scene.  

The soldiers shown are 'Desert Rats' from the British 8th Army and in my youth I was in love with the lot of them, not least for their sexy attire for going into battle - rolled up sleeves and shorts that reveal chunky legs. There's a simmering sexuality even in this innocuous grouping that I still can't resist. The Sergeant's hinted-at relationship with 'Farren' is even more interesting, enough to get my Gaydar humming!
 

This frame explains the relationship between The Sergeant, Lister (centre) and Farren (left). The third man on the right is supposed to be Lister's younger brother, Eddie ('the kid'). We' can raise eyebrows about 'closest friends' but all seems perfectly straight here, in this era the dialogue is not going to say anything else anyway.

However the way this picture is drawn conveys a rather different impression. Eddie is supposed to be on his bike and raring to go, but the artist didn't have to represent him in this scene by just showing his jeans-clad bottom did he? Nor did he have to show his brother's hands apparently poised to rub said bottom with an oily rag - while his best friend seemingly holds the lads legs apart.
All just coincidence? Or is this a particularly audacious case of hidden eroticism?

Tommy Farren and Eddie roar off together showing their bottoms like Tom of Finland bikers.
Alas it's a ride from which Eddie will never return.

The characterisation of Lister here is quite deliberately sexy with hints of hair on chin and neck and his mechanic's overalls showing just enough chest to suggest he's wearing nothing underneath.
Notice though that his chest cleavage is censored.

Lister blames his friend, Tommy for Eddie's demise, 
because he had failed to fix a defective part on the lad's motorcycle. 

Manly fist fights are a regular feature of these stories just as they were in many dramatic TV programmes and films of the period. Usually in War Comics it's a feed for a morality plot line about the benefits army discipline and becoming mature, but in this story the confrontation shown here is a key part of the plot. 

This sideways-on depiction of a fight is unusual and slightly two dimensional, but it creates a nice picture with two powerful diagonals meshing together (Farren's body and Lister's arm). They combine with the horizontal lines in the fence to create an arrow-like shaping which seems to emphasise the force of Lister's punch. 

Fights have an intrinsic, homoerotic quality for many and gay sensibilities will appreciate Farren's backward-arching body line and the close proximity of Lister's elbow to his crotch (bottom right). This is a juxtaposition that wouldn't be visible in the more usual 3/4 viewpoint but I don't want over-state my case here by suggesting it's deliberate!.  


After their falling out, Farren and Lister go their separate ways and only meet up again many years later when they are assigned to the same tank unit, with the now-Sergeant Lister in command. Lister's hostility remains implacable and this image captures a spat between the two men which you might easily mistake for a lover's quarrel from the words. Note the bewildered expression of the 3rd crewman on the left. 

This is another terrific image with the handsome Farren showing his own open neck-line and muscular forearms for our enjoyment. More seriously the artist has created a tremendous sense of him escaping through the hatch, out of the poisonous, claustrophobic atmosphere of the tank.


Lister tries to get Farren assigned to someone else but when questioned is unwilling to explain why.
It's a stance not easy to believe in the context of this story line, when all he has to say is that he believes Farren was responsible for Eddies death. 

However, 'I'd rather not say' however is a classic phrase for a gay story line, especially in this military context when an allegation would result in arrest and, if proven, a long term of imprisonment.  Lister's shamed, evasive face as he makes his excuse is not what you would expect either, but nicely done.


Eventually Lister's crew have their tank destroyed by the enemy and are forced to trek across the desert to safety. This is a classic 50's story line from the movies with antagonists forced to confront their behaviour in a survival march context. When the water runs out, Lister's former feelings for Farren (whatever they were) begin to return, assisted by his soldierly duty to care for the men in his command and, like a true Brit, to behave honourably. 

Sadly the artist's accomplished technique seems to falter at this moving movement. You can see that he's trying to capture the drama by using a intimate close-up, but the result is not quite as beautiful as some of the other images and there's some clumsy detail. 
Nevertheless, notice how close together the two men's heads are, almost poised for a kiss?.


Finally, only Lister and Farren are left alive. In a delirious state, Farren finally reveals what actually happened to Eddie, an explanation that would not have been believed if he had offered it in a fully conscious state. Lister realises he has been wrong about his former friend all along. That night Farren wanders off into the desert like Captain Oates in order to give Lister a better chance of reaching safety, unburdened by a sick man. Lister loyally goes out looking for him but in vain and is finally found unconscious by a passing patrol.

When he eventually returns to his unit (see first image) he has a lot to think about.

This is a good story (if not totally original), but played out by a pair of hunky men in shorts and boots and tattered shirts (exemplified by this last picture) it is irresistible to me. Romantic more than erotic I suppose and it works well even if you don't buy into my supposed gay subtext.

Read my gay re-interpretation of this story

Friday, 24 August 2018

The Art of Homoeros 7 - Sebastian and other endings


Homoeros - Seb39 
Given Homoeros' interest in crucifixion it's not surprising to find him exploring the St Sebastian fable as well. This early rendering is simple and highly effective with a nice-looking subject. With his head thrown back, the captive seems to be defiantly offering up his body to the archers. The original Sebastian was a captain in the army who was condemned for deviating from the beliefs of his era, so the appeal of the story to gays is not hard to understand. For those purely attracted by the nature of the punishment it's nice to know that he did not perish from the arrows, but was taken in by a kindly soul and lived to fight another day.

Homoeros - sebastian_04
 This astonishing portrayal of the Sebastian story is totally original to the best of my knowledge. The physical elevation of the victim borrows from crucifixion scenarios and confers a degree of dignity and significance on him that seems to have left his attacker in a state of awe. In that respect it's treading similar ground to the building yard scene we saw in the last post, examining the relationship between torturer and tortured which usually goes unremarked.

The unconventional viewpoint used here has obviously been facilitated by the capabilities of the rendering software but that does not detract from the artist's achievement. Like Dali's Crucifixion it creates a sense of a superior being or of Fate looking down on a tragic scene being enacted by mere mortals.

Sebastian's arms are pulled right back behind the post, so he involuntarily presents his torso, unprotected to the archer, but Homoeros has refrained from depicting a titillating arrow in the groin area. Even by the great masters included this detail (e.g. RubensEl Greco, this example and this 17th Century version) and that has helped fuel suspicions of a gay/sexual motivation for his demise, but it's not referenced in the normal accounts.

The use of a post for restraint instead of the traditional tree seems to connect to other pictures by this artist musing on the myth of Jason being bound to the mast of 'The Argo' in order to resist the call of the Sirens. Making such a reference to a story about mastering sexual desire adds an interesting swirl to the murky, erotic waters surrounding Sebastian's legend.

This isn't meant to be an authentic interpretation of the original story, but transporting the action from an ordinary field to the courtyard of a luxurious villa is not without relevance to the original, since it brings out the elevated status of the man who condemned him (The Emperor). The archer (and there appears to be only one of them) is one of Homoeros' most interesting creations with brief, leather shorts and other limb accoutrement's emphasising an enviable physique (as you would expect from this artist). He's endowed with a beautiful face of Mediterranean ethnicity, which is near-authentic to the original narrative of Mauritanian, Berber archers doing the dirty work. 

Homoeros - sebastian_forgives_his_killer_2
This image further pursues the victim-perpetrator relationship into territory which is verging on the religious. That aspect which is accentuated by the glorious sunshine which incongruously bathes the scene. Sebastian demonstrates an audacious control-reversal which is clearly very confusing to the archer. He appears to be a man of some substance, doing the job himself, rather than appointing a lackey to do it for him, which you may interpret as either sadistic or honourable behaviour on his part. Sebastian's tilted head is an attractive, expressive element. It suggests an ability to patronise in extremity that you have to take your hat off to, but it must make the archer wish he'd used even bigger arrows. As it is, these over sized projectiles create an impressive visual effect and an impression of an irreversible outcome. Original accounts disrespectfully compared it to a porcupine.

Setting the scene in Homoeros', now-familiar 'punishment compound' creates a connection with other scenes by the artist and it's a device (possibly unintentional) that helps give Homoeros' work a unity and cohesive identity which is quite unusual and very interesting.

Homoeros - Dragged_away_02
This image looks at the aftermath of punishment. It's not linked to the Sebastian theme but you can see it's the same arena. The exhausted recipient is dragged away by two hunky men. They are dressed in jeans which returns us to the modern era, but it's best not to think too much about such things when viewing Homoeros work. Although this image has no particular erotic or fetish content (beyond the implication of domination) I find it immensely satisfying and that's due in no small measure to the contrast of clothing and muscular nudity and the workman-like attitudes of the two minders. There's a sense of this incident slotting into something much bigger and over which the dragged man has no control.

Homoeros - 244a_in_the_souk_19

This is a sequel to the harem image I posted in Part 4 and shows No 244 with ropes still dangling from his wrists and incarcerated in a cage which seems to be built for public viewing. He's just received a flogging and is awaiting his next appointment. It's a very simple image and one that perhaps works better on it's own rather than as part of a busy sequence of events, you need to pause and get into this one. He gazes towards the light of the bustling outside world, wondering no doubt what might have been. From his stance he seems to be observing something happening out there. Maybe someone he knows is passing by. You may recognise this as the same location as his St Andrews Cross adventure from Part 3 but we do not know if this particular unpleasantness has already happened to him or still lies in the future. 
 
Homoeros - 226b2_tommy_star_swimmer_22
There's an even clearer focus on the feelings of the victim in this image. It depicts a Gold Medal-winning swimmer, who we previously saw flirting with a fellow swimmer in Part 1. He's just been violated and beaten up by a gang of hoodlums for reasons which are not specified, but there's a clue in the fact that they take photographs of 'the star' in his humiliated state before departing.
Regardless of that storyline, this is beautiful image, that conveys his dejected, weary state most eloquently. That alone makes for a sexy picture, but the discarded clothes at his feet inject an extra spicing of eroticism.

Homoeros - 288c_alex_11_
We've come a long way from those depictions of sunny days on the beach, the carefree, playful games of handsome boys, who cannot imagine that their innocent fun is fuelling darker thoughts....

Homoeros - 212_19 pulley
....thoughts which will take them and propel them into the clutches of powerful predators
with captivity and pain the probable outcome.

Homoeros - super_moon_03
The dark and mysterious world that the men of Homoeros imagination must negotiate is summed up quite neatly by the atmosphere of this pretty fantasy. It makes a nice punctuation point to this review although it's self conscious artiness is not really typical of his work. The simple expressiveness of male bodies under duress in the preceding images is a better testament to his skills. Homoeros is a good example of an artist who repays the viewer who pauses to look closer. The first impression of quirky anatomy, occasional doll-like characters and low key sexuality, laced with impressive spectacle masks a wealth of original ideas and observation which I have tried to bring out in this series of articles. A worthy entrant to the fetish Hall of Fame


Next time: The women in Homoeros work

Read this series from Part 1

Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Art of Homoeros - 6 The Art of The Cross

Homoeros - mob_s_revenge_02
In the last instalment we saw a gangland revenge inflicted in melodramatic style using a whip in a deserted car park, but this 'stake out' is chillingly direct and simple by comparison, the methodology implying an intention to detain indefinitely.

Before, the tormentor's garb of vest and braces, was conventional hoodlum attire. This time the hit man's clothes are tight-fitting, casual and self-consciously sexual. It's the style of young people - which he clearly is not. Coupled with the hardness of his expression and the sledgehammer in his hand (not a usual tool for fixing nails) you sense that this is a very unpredictable and dangerous man. The splash of blood on his designer jeans is a surprisingly disturbing detail.

The setting for this group of images is a luxurious, modern patio complete with swimming pool and sea view. Whether it's the victim's pad or that of the man he double-crossed we can only guess, but it's sophistication makes the cruelty of the scene all the more shocking.

There are a number of nailing pictures in Homoeros' early work and in this interest he may be influenced by the raw images of Dante and Blake. It's no surprise where that leads.
 
Homoeros - 26_265_urban_crucifixion_01
 This powerful image is representative of an on-going preoccupation with crucifixion-like punishments for which Homoeros is perhaps best known. In this case a T-structure is used from which the victim is suspended by shackles, like the figurehead of a sailing ship.

Using a builder/carpenter as the tormentor (still in his work clothes) and his yard as the (not quite) private venue gives the scene a strange sense of distorted normality. His occupation offers a weirdly logical explanation of the unconventional wooden punishment structure. The victim has clearly been chastised with a whip or cane prior to suspension, but the sinister overtones of the first picture are completely absent. In fact the carpenter looks up wistfully at his victim now, as though awed by his own handiwork. This feels more like an S&M experiment rather than anything else.

Homoeros - Crucifixion
You probably can't say that about this picture (click on smaller images to expand).

There's an obvious connection with Christian imagery which Homoeros' slender physiques seem to draw out. However the essence of his depiction here is almost the reverse in terms of message.

Believers in the religious story portray the victim as the most ordinary of men, middle aged, with a scrawny body and bedraggled hair, he usually is shown meeting his (judicial) fate under ominous, threatening skies and with calm, relaxed resignation. The Christian story links crucifixion with death but it's by no means a given, that death is inevitably the outcome of this punishment (see my footnote below).

In contrast to this, Homoeros depicts a youthful, muscle god, who cannot understand why this terrible punishment has been inflicted on him. Even his outstretched arms shout out, "Why me?" Indeed his cross bears no explanatory label of his crime. He seems to have been put on display for all to see and admire - like a pinned butterfly. Even the glorious backdrop seems to trivialise the attendant pain by glorifying the spectacle, making a pretty picture of it and, in the process, mocking his self-cultivated, bodily beauty.

 The captive's mute protests here are apt. Homoeros has produced many scenes like this, presented with no hint of what gave rise to the punishment. Occasionally there's the clue of a spectator below, looking vengeful or heartbroken. They exchange meaningful looks with the damned man and these images can be quite expressive.

Homoeros - sorrow_01_sunset
Here Homoeros explores the feelings of one such onlooker. It isn't clear if he's the person responsible for the crucifixion or merely a witness to it, but his involvement and distress is clear. His personal feelings towards for the victim are explored further in other pictures, showing him bowed before the cross in one, as though seeking the victim's forgiveness or praying for him. In another he is shown turning away with tear-streaked face. The colour tones are sober, underlining the sadness, lightened only by the watery highlights cast by the symbolic, setting sun. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the men in this pictures are lovers or at least have strong feelings for each other and there's a powerful sense of loss and separation in the scene.

The clothing and the half-timbered building in the background have a medieval feel about them, suggesting a (supposedly) more earthy, brutal era than ours, but it's not one when this form of punishment was practised. The participants themselves have a clean, modern look about them, this is another fantasy.

Homoeros - crux_02
This picture is not part of the same set but there's an obvious stylistic connection with it. It's interesting because the artist repeats the device of a dangling noose in the background which we also saw in the 'WIP' picture of Part 5. It's another very gloomy scenario, but that is not allowed to not dim the beauty of the victim.

This image makes me wonder if the thought process is partly to do with the oppression of 'beautiful people', especially by religions, metaphorically crucifying gay men. This inversion of the iconic Christian imagery is supremely ironic and apt. In this context the noose may symbolise depression and suicide.

Homoeros - lovers_crucfied_01
That thought process finds some support in this image which explicitly labels the victims as gay lovers, being crucified (presumably) for their deviance and left to suffer together. Homoeros shows their confused fear and distress but also their loyal support for each other in their hour of need. Their physical beauty remains undimmed, illuminated by the soft light of the setting sun once more, the lengthening shadows signalling the onset of darkness.

Homoeros - 422_rocco_g3m_12
The punishment of lovers seems to be the theme here too. 'Rocco' is identified as a slave in other pictures in the group but as usual there's no explicit explanation of his crime. These two could be mere criminals, but their youthful beauty is scarcely the typical stereotyping of felons (even the excruciatingly drawn out execution of two young brothers in 'Hang 'Em High' paints them as reluctant criminals). The inclusion of two 'Roman' soldiers in this picture is a significant addition, explicitly identifying the state as the perpetrator of their agony.


Homoeros - 257d_tyler_the_blacksmiths_son_38
 Crucifixion also features as the gruesome culmination of 3 longer stories by Homoeros, none of which can be interpreted as gay oppression scenarios (you may be glad to know). 'The Blacksmith's Son', illustrated here, sees a young man of humble origins, but impeccable physique, dallying with a woman of higher estate in a sort of Middle Ages setting. He persists despite the warnings of his father about her disapproving brothers.

They subsequently abduct him in the street and inflict a multi-faceted, painful punishment for his impudence, including the novel idea of inserting of rings in his nipples (which can be seen in the picture above) perhaps denoting his relegation to slave status. There's also some rather less than novel anal action, not fun for a straight guy of course. The Blacksmith's son is painted throughout as an innocent who believes that love conquers all and when his story arrives at this scene, the brutal finality surprises and shocks him as much as it does us.

If one thing is known for sure about crucifixion, it is that it is extremely painful and Tyler is left to learn that lesson by his torturers. The story closes intriguingly, with one brother returning that night to inspect the now-unconscious Tyler by the light of a flaming torch.

The 'model' for this story is Tyler who we previously saw banged up in prison in Part 4


Homoeros - 308 hacker 22
'The Hacker' is a much more sinister story set in the modern day. Recent extradition hearings relating to this offence have made great play of the horrors of the US prison system, but this wayward, young computer buff finds that the Governmental punishment for interfering with their data is much more extreme than anyone would expect. Tried and condemned he is stripped and sexually abused by his guards (with a hint of electro-torture too). Pretty routine gay fantasy so far, but in a shocking finale he is escorted to a gymnasium and (above) nailed to a wooden beam, at the behest of a female official. Too late he realises the full enormity of his punishment and Homoeros' knack for giving his captives suitably shocked and incredulous expressions is given full rein as he grasps the reality of what is planned for him.

308 hacker 27
The victim's humiliation continues with every detail being recorded by an official photographer. The beam is hoisted into the air with him still hanging from it by his wrists. I suppose the choice of wrists to be the primary instrument of his punishment (inflicting what would be extreme pain and probable disablement) may relate to their role in his keyboard-typing crime.

Finally he is transported by the truck, still danging by his wrists, to a stadium where the public can view him as the crossbeam beam is lifted into it's final place on top of an upright post. Interestingly the only spectators Homoeros shows taking advantage this grisly 'photo opportunity' are two young women. I will come back to Homoeros' use of women in a separate instalment of this series.

448_max_crucified_00b
Finally, this scene is from one of his most recent series, a full length story recounting a Roman slave's affair with his mistress and betrayal by her brother, who has his own designs on Max's love machine. Like the Blacksmith's son, this victim is straight and misguided, but then the theme of forbidden love was never the sole prerogative of gays.

Max is tried by the family and condemned. The steps in his crucifixion are depicted across 15 or so pictures, with his desperate pleas and protests going unheeded by the vengeful brothers and their father. The images are bathed in a Mediterranean light producing brilliant colours which embellish the love scenes but seem strangely inappropriate as the brutal punishment takes it's course. 

448_max_crucified_00k
The final denouement is enacted before a towering Colosseum-like structure which seems to give a public and pseudo-judicial seal on Max's fate. Expelled from the house where he worked, Max is left to face his demise alone, save for those who happen to pass by.

In this story Homoeros elaborates on his theme of the punisher with a conscience, explaining how the Max's owner (in the purple robe) is reluctant to punish him in this way because he is was expensive to buy and made a good and pleasant servant. However he cannot overlook the offence with his malevolent son insistently reading out the 'rule book' to him.

~


I know not all of my readers will appreciate these images, with their controlled and ritualised brutality and violence. The 'builders yard' image above represents it as a spectacular extreme in bondage but most of the images feature more the severe restraint technique taken from religious sources. I have chosen the least bloodthirsty ones but acknowledge that they stand at the far boundaries of S&M.

I have featured crucifixion images in this blog before (click on label below to see) but Homoeros' imaginings stand out, most obviously for the shocking incongruity of the youthful, attractive subjects, the carefully chosen and often joyful colour tones and a clinically clean technique that almost sanitises the subject compared with more 'realistic', gloomy creations. However, Homoeros does not simply portray figures on a cross, he explores the whole process and the emotions of those involved in a non-religious context which is quite illuminating and draws out the theme of unstoppable, blind and extremely cruel justice. That makes them worthy of discussion here.

Footnote
 There are still doubts today about how lethal the practise of crucifixion was in itself and whether the death of the victim was actually triggered by responses to prolonged physical stress or caused by other injuries inflicted on him at the same time. There is hardly any physical evidence of them taking place but there are documented accounts of incidents (in addition to that described in the Bible). Some accounts refer to crucifixion as an interim torture and humiliation on the way to execution by more direct means. Inevitably all these are less than detailed and not necessarily objective so the whole subject is shrouded in a degree of mystery and uncertainty.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Little Known Incidents of WWII (No 4) - Unlucky in War

Desert Stake-Out
 Given the slightly propagandistic nature of the War Comics, it's not surprising that torture rears it's ugly head in these stories, but not always in the way you would expect. The desert stake out in the picture above is nicely drawn but decidedly odd in the context of modern warface. Out of deference to the young target audience, the not inconsiderable homoerotic potential has been curtailed by his captors leaving him fully dressed, complete with ammo packs on his chest obscuring his groin and showing his legs less widely spread than you and I might prefer.
(View my re-imagined version)


Twenty five pages further on the handsome Lieutenant Jeffreys is in trouble again undergoing a seriously painful interrogation. Luckily good old Sam Kingsby is around again to save him at the window. The moral to young readers is all about loyalty, bravery and patriotism. All very laudable but I can't be the only one who saw something more immediately stimulating in these punishment scenes.
both images above from War Picture Library - 'Tough Guy'

From War Picture Library 'No Higher Stakes'
The desirability of capturing Officers on account of their knowledge of troop dispositions and battle plans is explored more explicitly in this scene set in the Jungles of South East Asia and facing a different enemy. I can't say how common torture was or what form it usually took, but it's hard not to feel the desperation and sense the fear in this man who (in the story) is a cultivated, chess playing individual. He even goes on to discard his Officer's insignia to escape torture but owns up and redeems his honour when he realises he has only deflected the suffering onto other, junior men.
Hurrah for proper values.

 This man's shorts and rolled up sleeves exposing muscular forearms make him seem very attractive. No wonder they wanted to get their hands on him! His fear and the danger he is facing give apply a strange erotic twist to the scene, just as we get seeing Freddie Kruger descending on unsuspecting young lovers or when James Bond is threatened with bizarre, sexual torture.

The portrayal of the fallen soldier on the left, presumably long past fear, also seems strangely attractive to me, but I cannot explain why.

Go to No 5 in this series

Read from Part 1

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Art of Homoeros - 5 whips etc

Homoeros 127e2_billboards_04
 A frightened young man is driven across a bleak wasteland under the lash of a whip, wielded by a determined-looking captor dressed in expensive clothing of a medieval style with a sinister, monk-like cowl. This striking image explores similar ground to Chirenon's 'A New Life for Our Air Force Boys', which I posted here a while ago, except that there's no bondage involved, just pure brute force while terrified fear has been substituted for the flyers' incomprehension about their fate. It's fantasy rather than historic with nipple rings suggesting a modern taste for erotic sensations, he's an escaped trainee recaptured perhaps. I've no idea what the title means, sometimes this artist puts information about his creative sources in the title.

92a_at_the_whipping_post
This may be what lies in store for the first terrified captive, I warn you, blonds get a lot of stick in this universe! This is another image I admire for it's pure simplicity and understated menace, coupled with a rather nice portrayal of the 'blonde beach-boy' stereotype. His slender muscularity is just right for that role and you can imagine his favourite surfing shorts cast aside just out of sight, having been have been roughly removed by his captor. Pitched into this ominous situation, he pulls at his restraints anxiously. Perhaps he's regretting drawing attention to himself now, with all those self-indulgent beef-cake poses.

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The same enclosure serves for Scott's punishment here. Homoeros invokes another historical fantasy with the whipper's gladiatorial skirt and chain flail, but there's much evidence of a modern crossover, like in the see through element of his garment, the victim's name and background detail.  It doesn't take much imagination to realise what terrible bone-crushing damage the weight of the flail could inflict on the human body if swung with any amount of force. Could a modern boy like Scott, who can be dominated without resorting to bondage restraint, withstand such ferocity or does the fantasy spare him from the reality?


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Possibly, if this scene is anything to go by. This chastised slave, released from the whipping post staggers unsteadily to his feet while his handsome master stands majestically over him, appraising his own handiwork, job done. The whip used here seems quite a mild instrument in comparison to the antique flail, but they can also be heavy enough to pack a similar punch and this one's been beefed up with a metal ring near the tip which you can just see in this image in a rather suggestive place. The sense of domination here is terrific but Homoeros does not show us any gory devastating consequences, focussing instead on a brave, uncomplaining, 'pick yourself up' response from the manly victim. The great gay artist,Quaintance was also a great portrayer of antique slave whippings..


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Homoeros shows similar interest in the regulation of the confined environment of sailing ships. These had a code of conduct scarcely less demanding than the slave masters of ancient times. Severe punishments were meted out even for petty infractions and considered essential for the maintenance of discipline and good order. 

Normally such punishments were inflicted before the crew to encourage the rest of them to conform. In the British Navy offenders were stripped to the waist and tied to gratings removed from hold entrances and propped up at an angle. We can't see an audience here and it seems to be the punisher who is really getting the lesson.  He hesitates before commencing, scratching his head and seemingly perplexed. In the end his feelings do not prevent him from doing his duty, else he might suffer the same fate himself, but in this sensitive sailor, Homoeros unveils another attractive character, at first sight perfectly suited to his less than pleasant task but with enough of a foot in the modern age to have a conscience as well as a gym honed body, coiffured hair and sexy tight trousers.


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That sense of a bond between punished and punisher takes a more intimate form in 'Alfred in Prison. The guard touches the helpless suspended victim him on the cheek as though comforting him or cherishing his fragile, beauty before unleashing the designated punishment on his person. He's literally adding insult to injury not just by indulging his sadistic interest in the victims suffering, but by shamelessy communicating it to the him, that he might know the humiliation of suffering for such a selfish entertainment. The restraint position here, suspending the victim by his arms, is demanding enough. The artist has captured the tension in his arms convincingly. Allowing his toes to just about touch the ground if he stretches, introduces another site of discomfort for him.


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If the last two pictures suggest a quasi-legal justification for the victim's punishment, this one certainly doesn't, referencing instead the laws and rough justice of the underworld. We've seen this 'Industrial Ruin' before and it's aura of an abandoned parking lot seems an apt setting to what appears to be a scene of gangland revenge, which activity often seems to end up involving building sites or building materials. The transgressor of the rules shown here is certainly no ruin himself, but his vest-clad nemesis has some suggestive qualities in that direction. However he too has an admirable physique under that vest and sports braces which tells you he's temporarily shed his normal, well-dressed appearance in order to do justice to this task, which he is doing with gusto enough to expose the 'squealer' in his victim.
Bring on the concrete mixer!


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Threat hangs over this scene too as an extraordinarily attractive captive pleads for mercy on his knees in a dank, dark dungeon with walls that will ensure no-one will hear him scream when punishment begins. Like the dramatic finale of an epic play, his young jailer seems to be reasoning with him, pointing out the regrettable inevitability of all this pain. Their bubble haircuts create a whiff of the mythical here, where 'cruel and unusual' punishments are often the norm. This one looks like being crudely down to earth unless that beauty can talk his way out of this,

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There's an even more intimate communion here as the guard puts a finger on the prisoners lips, gently admonishing him to be silent or maybe reminding him of their kisses which now count for nothing next to the kiss of the whip that loves all men equally. This guard has stripped down to his loincloth to administer punishment, a practical choice but one that creates the illusion of near equality between these two men when there's clearly a more structured relationship here. Those beguiling blue eyes would test the mettle of any whip-man and there's something about his hang dog look that makes you want to put your arms around that slender waist.

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This man takes a more direct course to silencing his victim, gagging him and laying into him with chains that would loosen any man's tongue. The prisoner's body is bathed in a soft glow, such as you might see early in the morning. He braces himself for the first blow as stoically as he can.
Such self control alas will soon be extinguished.
The attacker has the appearance of a 70's pop star with longish, well-constructed hair and leather pants. He looks determined and angry and seems to have chosen an ancient, Roman amphitheatre for the boy's punishment scene, complete with crowd controlling ropes, but no-one else is present for this performance.



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This picture is entitled 'wip' for 'work in progress' and I know of no finished or companion pieces, but it already has a completeness that requires no elaboration. The prisoner is exceptionally attractive and slightly dizzy looking, but he stands upright at the stake, the orange sky burnishing his muscular body as the sun rises on what may be his last day. The guard seems to be offering him the choice of the flail, whose vicious qualities we have already discussed, or a quicker route to oblivion - the noose. Perhaps he is explaining that one will be the precursor to another. In earlier times it was the fate of particularly nasty criminals to be hung in chains and left for the birds to devour. The prisoner listens in amazement, as though he's hearing a different sentence to that handed down at his trial or just terminally na├»ve. With no appeal mechanisms left either.
Homoeros flirts with hanging as an ultimate punishment in a few other pictures, but this oblique reference is his most successful invocation of the threat of that demise.


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The threat of ultimate violence hangs over this picture too as another bound (and blond) victim is ushered across another amphitheatre at the point of a sword towards a specially paved area that is unaccountably littered with large stones. Do the empty steps offer an escape route or merely await the arrival of an audience for his uncertain fate? The guard seems to be watching him very closely with sword arm tensed as though preparing to strike at that inviting, unprotected back given half an excuse. But there's a sense too of him standing back, letting his prisoner go to whatever fate is in store.
Another nuanced illustration of victim and his oppressor.
Next time the Homoeros punishment trail reaches it's destination (Part 6).

Read this series from Part 1