To my readers......


Thanks for visiting mitchmen, home of Mitchell's Gay Art

The Caps and Collars/ Flat Cap Gang story at Google Groups has been on a break since January, I hope to resume shortly. (see Group News for link)

Message updated 5th May 2024

Sunday 25 May 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tagame (Part 2)

You can view part one of this article here

Part 2 – The Blockbusters

If you asked an average Tagame fan for his favourite picture, I suspect that many would have some difficulty nominating a specific one, but typically might recall a spectacular, torture scene along the lines of the one above (from 'The Silver Flower'). Tagame uses striking images like this as points of climax and high drama within the story. Close-up views and unusual viewpoints help to make them extremely powerful and dramatic. Yet, paradoxically, while Tagame's canon of work is highly regarded, the individual 'blockbuster' images just don't seem to enjoy the same fame as (for example) Tom's or Etienne's work. Why should this be?

I suppose pictures like this, daring and original in their time, have been overtaken by a decade of adventurous bondage photography which has made them seem rather less exciting. Tagame's treatment of this subject is not particularly sensual or dramatic either. There's no wriggling or escaping going on, just an angry expression on the captive's face, accentuated by his very bushy eyebrows and moustache (which for me quite neutralises any erotic feeling). Tagame's coloured images do often look rather 'staged'. In this particular example we also have an upside-down, human image. Our brains have difficulty decoding these and that infuses the image with a sense of the unexpected and bizarre. It's a useful technique in a comic story but the images don't seem to register in our memories in quite the same way as normal orientations.

There's plenty of facial hair in this image too (from Gedo – House of Brutes) but the tearful face (in contrast to Mr Angry above) amply compensates and I do like the swirling patterns of his body hair. It all suggests this is a very virile man, but in the story he is supposed to be a young husband who is not up to his marital duties. He is mercilessly chastised and given unconventional guidance by his father and family (counter-productive in this form I would have thought!).

This image could easily have been a suspension pose as well, but dumping the captive on the floor helps to emphasise the contempt and humiliation being heaped upon him. The single foot in the corner of the picture, threatening a well-aimed kick, looks a little odd, but feet and shoes are highly symbolic of scorn in many cultures.

Tagame loves chunky, thick-waisted bodies but he gives himself an artistic challenge by trying to fold them up like this. The result is not quite convincing, but this is one of Tagame's images that has 'stuck' with me – that's partly because of knowing the erotic 'mitchmen-esq' background story. It's a reminder that these pictures are from comic book narratives and are not really designed to be viewed on their own. These climactic scenes, seen in isolation contain few pointers to the context and background story and where clues do exist (as in this example) they can be puzzlingly obscure, but that's simply because it is all laid out in preceding frames.

This page from 'The Trophy' makes the point quite well. The final electro-torture image is very dramatic in it's own right, but it works even better with the introductory frames. In fact the first little picture showing electrical 'currents' dancing around the water-soaked captive's neck and body is an impressive, suggestive little detail in it's own right. It's the sort of chopped-off, half-explored idea that makes Tagame's work both tantalising and frustrating at times.

In this page from 'Jujitsu Kyoshi', two striking images have been cropped, reoriented in one case and shoe-horned in together to create an impression of the prolonged and varied punishment of the disgraced Jujitsu Instructor. Tagame knows what he is doing, he wants you to turn the page round and it works fine for the purpose of the comic, but I guess it's not surprising if cropped pictures like these do not get wider recognition. I think the right hand one in particular is excellent. The intensity of the encounter is brilliantly captured in the different expressions on the two men's faces- cold determination vs fearful anticipation. The drawn back whipping arm and the ball-stretching gym weight are superb details.

Notice the use of atmospheric, background patterning in this and the previous image. It's a favourite device of Tagame, not only contributing to the feel of the picture but saving him from having to deal with background areas too small to convey useful detail. More importantly, it seems to reflect an interest in conveying what the victim is experiencing - the searing razzle of the electricity, the surge of cold water, the tingling sting of the whip.

This is part of the finale from 'The Trophy'. The story features Funayama (a policeman and national sports champion, left) who is kidnapped on the orders of a lustful politician and forced to become his plaything (the electro-torture image above captures part of that process). Funayama's police colleague (right) who tries to find him is caught too and shares his fate. Not Tagame's most inventive plot, but the ending is spectacular as the two men end up pitted against each other in a bizarre (if improbable) contest of sexual capability.

This enema retention test produces an amazing picture, but (like the candle picture above) the strange angles, with bodies oriented in almost every direction take a lot of sorting out visually. The non-standard, thick waisted body shapes don't seem to help either. There's no shame in this, bodies lying on the floor are very difficult to render - even in photographs - and particularly if their limbs are not in their usual arrangements. Compare Etienne's hog-tie from Sailor Beware (below)

Etienne - Sailor Beware

As an aside, notice how Etienne's picture is positively stuffed with clues about what's going on. 
In contrast, Tagame's picture does not have any indications that the captives are Police colleagues being groomed for sexual slavery. Nor is it obvious that both men in Tagame's picture have one hand and ankle cuffed together and hoisted in the air – making enema insertion easy and giving the potential for a very sexy pose. Tagame passes on this because the head to tail arrangement of the two men is important for what follows in the story (you work it out!). Mr Angry makes a reappearance here, it seems rather a pompous response to anal insertion, but happily, the young Funayama looks more suitably discomforted.

Whipping (from Takeki Chishio)

Tagame's readiness to depict pretty much any extreme you can imagine is part of his attraction for some and but undoubtedly the reverse for others. His 'historical' stories in particular sometimes feature successions of barbaric tortures and mutilations, even executions, all graphically portrayed. For my money these go beyond the realms of erotica into pure 'horror'. This image (and the 'Wedge' image posted previously) are as far as I want to go in giving examples, suffice to say this is just the opening shot in this man's terminal torment. 

Notice that it's a double whipping and another extremely effective portrayal of a vicious punishment. In this image, the sound and movement 'effects' are more prominent, visually conveying urgency and drama while a bold ray pattern represents the impact and focus on the man's back. Once again, it works perfectly well on the comic page, but taken in isolation is a bit overwhelming.

My final example portrays a less violent torment inflicted on a young man by a gang of blackmailers in 'The Trap'. The preceding frames detail his forcible undressing step by step in a scene you won't have seen replicated in any video. The sequence culminates in this bottom shot to die for - but what a disappointment it is to have prominent speech bubbles blocking the middle part of the image!

The fact is that Tagame is a story-teller. The dialogue drawing out the poor victim's secret desires is clich├ęd, but it's the main point of this storyline. The exposure of his smooth and rather beautiful young body teases us but is mainly there to represent a sort of purity that is progressively tainted by the gang as they taunt him, humiliate him and then take him - and he discovers that he likes it. So what appears at first to be a familiar 'get-em-off' sex scenario turns out to be a porn-y parable of a young man discovering his true sexuality.

In this part of my article I've tried to show how Tagame's comic book techniques and his focus on story-telling cause his imagery to seem unsatisfying when viewed in isolation. Tagame's stories are the essence of his work and the illustrations are simply the building blocks of them. He doesn't want you to get off on looking at the characters, but by seeing, sharing almost, what happens to them. As I explained in part 1, getting into his stories isn't easy, but they reward the effort, having more depth than you might expect, reflecting the experience, the unfairness, the consequences of growing up gay and that is what I will explore in my next article.

Part 3 continues here

 Meanwhile, I recommend readers to visit Tagame's website

For other articles in this 'mitchmen' series click on the A-Z label below

Sunday 18 May 2014

Update on the Art of Kajlet
 Kajlet - Stun Gun

Kajlet, whose stylised art I first reviewed here in 2012 has just started a new blog called torture graphics. His latest works remind me of the style used by the great Steve Masters. Not for the faint hearted though.

another Kajlet post

Friday 16 May 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tagame (Part 1)

 Tagame is a modern giant of the fetish genre, he is both provocative and prolific. For the art reviewer, the amount of material is massive, his comic book stories are often huge works running into hundreds of pages with perhaps 6 illustrations per page. I cannot hope to do justice to it all, just give a flavour of that which I admire about him.

The Viking and The Ogre (from Oeyama-Kitan)

Anyone wishing to get to know Tagame's work faces a few obstacles. His stories are written in Japanese and typically contain page after page of scene-setting dialogue which is baffling for the average Westerner. English (and other) translations do exist (see above) but they are often awkward, peppered with strange transatlantic and colloquial expressions and generally lacking the style and subtlety to bring out the true flavours of the original Japanese text. The randomly selected example above illustrates the gulf in language. (Remember to read the pictures from right to left on each line). This Tagame is unexpectedly romantic, but the image shows his graphic skills nicely, there's an intriguing touch of Yaoi style about it too. 

His First Body Harness (from Pride Vol 1)

The sheer scale of his works coupled with the language issues often leads to dismemberment of the stories and circulation of 'best bits' (bleeding chunks, as they say in the classical music field) without any context. Despite these issues, it's worth seeking complete translations out as this allows some context to be applied to the more spectacular images and can reveal otherwise 'hidden' gems in the scene setting, like this episode from 'Pride', where a student discovers that the tight, rope, body harness, (which he has been told to wear under his clothing by his mentor as an initiation test), is not mere decoration, it subsequently hampers everything he does during the day - threatening to expose his secret to his friends. Sadly it seems that the sound-effects defy translation – a bit of creaking rope perhaps? I admire the skilfully drawn faces in these frames.

Cover from Jujitsu Kyoshi

Many of Tagame's principal characters are beguilingly western in appearance, often with chunky builds and prominent black eyebrows and moustache's, they almost look like the stereotypical Latin American macho male. However there is no mistaking the Japanese settings and clothing and his work is full of Japanese cultural references, such as the loin cloth (fundoshi) in the picture above, much of whose cultural (and erotic) significance is probably lost on Westerners. Many of Tagame's coloured 'stand alone' images like this actually belong with specific stories and depict the characters or incidents in a more polished form than is possible within the comic book style.

Exposed Captive from Jujitsu Kyoshi

This splendid picture of a captive tethered outside in freezing weather as a punishment echoes similar images by Okawa (here). Tagame styles his image in the same traditional Japanese fashion. Notice the delicate snow detail on the top of the stake and his hair. The fast flowing, freezing river has already soaked the victim's loincloth and is gradually washing it away - and his modesty with it. It's a subtly-drawn embellishment which gives extra erotic punch. 

 I presume this imagery has it's roots in Japanese lore or literature and I have an idea that this is a punishment normally reserved for servants. However, I lack the knowledge to fully understand the allusion. The picture comes from the volume, 'Jujitsu Kyoshi', a story of an martial arts instructor who offends against family morality and is punished. This scene does not appear in the story itself, but it could do and works as an embellishment for the reader to fantasise about. 

Scene from Kodama (Cabin in the Woods)

The final obstacle to mention, well it's more of an irritation really, is the Japanese censorship code which obscures sexual detail to a greater or lesser extent. I've tried to avoid including them in this article as far as possible. The example above (bottom right frame) at least gives the reader the option of providing his own! Sometimes a speech bubble blocks the offending area completely. As you would expect the artists are skilled at circumventing the restrictions and if you look top right, you will see a very explicit image indeed which has got through in disguised form.

Kodama (which this page comes from) features a gangster on the run. After an initial confrontation, his life is saved by the owner of the Cabin who then offers him a refuge – of sorts! This raunchy scene from the story is actually preceded by a toe-curling humiliation and in the next article I will look at Tagame's challenging content in more detail.

Part 2 continues here

For previous articles in this 'mitchmen' series click on the A-Z label below

Saturday 10 May 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Tank

I'm exaggerating in labelling 'Tank' as a fetish artist but I thought this image complemented nicely the Cowboy picture from Timarcus in the last post plus I also usually like to start each new letter with a 'bonbon' and he certainly meets this criterion.

Tank - Bareback

The situation depicted here is not devoid of S&M overtones - the anxious, rueful expression of the rider, the more determined, knowing look of his companion and the braided cord slung over the shoulder which looks suspiciously like a lariat. There are parallels with the domination theme of the Timarcus picture. However, in this case the story is artfully developed by including a symbol of raw strength and power, the horse (male of course) and the leather accoutrements used to control it. The drawing style is voluptuous and glamorous in a masculine way, it's not a million miles away from  'hyper-realism' of Tom of Finland (who is also included in this group of artists) but it's rather more accomplished in technique. 

 Tom of Finland - Outlaw Roped

 Compare this picture by Tom, which also expresses a power relationship using similar compositional devices. Tom's sherrif's face is equally well depicted and both artists have used the contours of the jeans to insert a more explicit erotic element (as it were). Naturally Tom's is improbably bigger! Interestingly, you can see if you study Tank's picture, that the composition has been 'assembled' from three separate images, another technique shared with Tom.
Tank - Barn
 This is a rather unsubtle sequel and not a very good copy but I include it to draw more parallels with Tom of Finland's work. The lounging open-legged position was a favourite pose for him and the covert, guilty, sideways look of the second cowboy passing-by could have been plucked right out of early Tom. I hasten to add that I'm not seeking to characterise Tank as a Tom of Finland copyist, more of a heir and a kindred spirit. Actually it's the confident assertion of gay-ness, which is embodied in both Tank's pictures - especially the second one - that reflects the true essence of Tom's best work and that is far more significant than mere technical similarities.
I think Tom would be proud of this legacy.
 Tank - Cowboy
For the avoidance of doubt, Tom never produced a work as thrilling and vital as this, I'm not sure any European artist ever would, for this is the Spirit of America, excitement, achievement and freedom all packaged up in a stunningly beautiful image.

There's a decent selection of  Tank's work at Daddy's here Tank Collection
For other articles in this series click on the A-Z label below.
For other cowboy images click on the cowboy label

Wednesday 7 May 2014

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Letter 'T'

The Letter 'T' in my survey of fetish artists presents us with two long lasting giants of the genre - Tom of Finland of course, plus Tagame. Then there is Teddy, a shooting star who flared briefly and then disappeared. The truly British character of Tam's work has special appeal to me and introduces a fetish that I don't think I have covered before - punching and fighting. 
The 'others' category includes the notable veteran artist, Titus.

For starters I offer an image exploring the idea of masculine power associated with cowboys.

Tim Marcus - Cowboys

This casually-drawn ink and water-colour drawing image is a very nice, mildly erotic image at first sight. But it's a curious mixture of overt and hidden eroticism, blending the allowable and the taboo in a way that probably dates it fairly precisely for anyone who has a detailed grasp of social mores in the second half of the 20th century. The combination of rear-view nudity with partial, non-classical clothing was an early breakthrough in erotic art, allowing significant sexual flavouring to be added to conventional 'greek statue' nudity. It's amusing that our heterosexual law-makers considered backsides less indecent than cocks at this point, but the lowered jeans shown here would be recognised as much more suggestive than a totally trouserless man. The glimpse of scrotum (a la Luger) takes us into the late 60's at least. The distinctive border suggests to me the magazines of the 70's and 80's.

However, it's the fetish elements of this picture that are most fascinating. The dangling belt and bare bottom unmistakeably signals an intention to spank. That was OK back then. Spanking was a normal part of growing up and it's application to grown men was considered to be no more than a peccadillo, just not to be spoken of. 

Contrast this with the bondage element of the picture. It's not explicitly shown at all, but we all associate cowboys with ropes and lassos, and for those who recognise it, the arms-behind-back pose of the right hand cowboy and the bindings round the post on the opposite side of the picture tell all. 

In fact these two innocuous posts tell a very explicit story indeed if you take the trouble to read the code. Their upright rigidity and close proximity speaks for itself. These cowboys are very excited! One post is bound with rope and the other not. That's easy, but did you notice that the bound one is significantly longer - and that the other cowboy is 'leaning' on it? We now know who is going to do what to whom. I confess I'm not sure of the full significance of the dangerous-looking projecting thorn but it's gonna hurt! (Perhaps it already has done and spanking is the result)

Finally consider the odd little cactus plant, which at the base bears a striking resemblance to a scrotum, an impression enhanced by the absence of spikes. A susceptible viewer might also perceive a curving penis disappearing beneath two other plums, note how the delineating thick shadow creates a sense of perspective. The plant itself is strategically positioned directly between the cowboy's legs - manipulation of 3-dimensional distance is a valuable disguising technique in these illicit images and it creates the visual equivalent of a double-entendre, suggesting both the simple joke of sitting on a cactus and something rather more naughty!
Brokeback Mountain was never like this (unfortunately!)

As hidden eroticism goes this is something of a tour-de-force (click on the label below for other examples). I have another image by this artist but it's just an adaptation of one of Lederman's famous 'cowboy in jockstrap images' (another dating clue). That's all I know about him, but he deserves to be rescued from obscurity by this image.
(Information from readers welcome as always).

For other articles in this series click on the A-Z label below.

Friday 2 May 2014

Another Day at the Office - Mizuki Gai

Mizuki Gai - from Honeypot Anthology

A marvellous image of a casual encounter in the men's toilets. 
The handsome, muscular and neatly-attired office worker
 is forcefully examined by a much rougher specimen. 
A clenched fist and stony expression show his anxiety - or reluctance - or both.  
Meanwhile both men are seemingly being drenched by a burst pipe or...?

It's more realistic than much Yaoi-style work. The close-up framing adds drama to the image and I love the faces and dishevelled shirt detail.