Read this article from Part 1
|Tentacle capture from 'That Man from AUNTIE' *|
The methods used by the bad guys to foil Harry and his companions are often inventive but few are as unexpected as this scene where Harry and Mickey are captured by their lunch at a beach-side, seafood restaurant. Despite it's absurdity there's something quite erotic about this situation with the overwhelming tentacle restraint spiced up by the double-capture 'buddy effect'. The men's matching, swimming trunks highlight their nudity in the octopus's intimate embrace. There's a mouth down there, I believe!
The image has connections to the famous Japanese watercolour of 'The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife' and I would also mention the beautiful homoerotic reworking of this theme by Priapus of Milet in 'Force of Nature' plus a more recent tentacle animation of unknown origin. These pictures concentrate on the seduction and sensuality of the imagined encounter. Ajay, however, has transformed it into a tight bondage capture. This is surprisingly absent from most renderings of tentacles which generally depict spread-eagle restraint as a facilitator for penetration (click on the 'tentacle' label below for examples).
|Buddy torture capture from 'That Man from AUNTIE' *|
A few frames later Harry and Mickey (minus swimming trunks) are lined up for a sort of 'Pit and the Pendulum' experience in the baddies dungeon. The coup-de-grace, however, turns out to be something quite different to what you expect, the continuation is shown below. Ajay's Ying and Yang style of buddy restraint is most original, if a little confusing visually. In this close-up we can see that the anatomical detailing of the men is pretty comprehensive and only held back from being full-blown sensual erotica by the caricaturing style.
("Gee!" is Muscle Mickey's regular catchphrase, part of his 'dumb jock' persona).
|from 'That Man from AUNTIE' * (click to enlarge)|
Ajay's talent for inventing complex erotic tortures and dispatches is well illustrated by the villain's environmental management system (top right) and in the final frame where a 'simple' telescopic lance is chillingly augmented by curved, spiked side pieces, presumably designed to 'embrace' the victim on impact. Ouch! As we can see, the heroes are just as inventive in finding ways of escaping.
In this example of a full page you can see how dense Ajay's Comic style is, with compacted pictures and a good deal of funny (and sometimes mis-spelt) text crammed in as well. This means that they are not exactly a quick read. The style is designed for and probably best suited to the magazine format in which they first appeared. That way they are able to be read at leisure, undistracted by the myriad other thrills which always seem to be just round the corner on the web. Printed pages also seem to allow 'zooming in' by the brain which doesn't quite work on a computer screen for some reason, but even in this medium they richly repay patient reading if you set aside the time and get in close.
|The Drums of Bang Kock Wong|
Ajay recreates another classic B-movie scene in this excerpt, the old 'trap door and hidden pit' trick. The phallic eels infesting the waters below seem to have the transmitting powers of modern zappers but I don't think Bound God's ever tried this scenario. Even in comic form the sight of 3 naked men struggling to avoid the plunge out-does the average Hollywood 'dangling hero' cliche by a considerable margin.
|from 'Daredevil', the abduction of B.O. aka Amyl Arm Pits|
While the comic images are not exactly sensual in themselves, there are exceptionally sexy glimpses on occasions and the fetishistic captivity scenes provide fertile ground for erotic fantasies which are not quite fully realised on the printed page (not altogether surprisingly given the date and the mainstream publication medium used). The hunky captive's little cry of dismay here in response to an ambiguous threat from his captor, is a wickedly well-judged elaboration.
With images like this it's tempting for admirers to separate out the most erotic elements, view this example. If you compare these two images you can see more clearly the painful tethering technique used on 'B.O.' but something else gets lost in the simplification. The richness of the original image largely disappears as does the sense of panoramic flow from frame to frame. In fact you can see now that the character with his back to us is actually participating in both scenes and it's a satisfying and sophisticated integration device.
The overlapping of B.O.'s tackle with his captor's trunks (and presence of a hand nearby) are suggestive of intimacy in a general way but I can't see any specific 'hidden eroticism' in the juxtaposition. The tantalising little star (which is baffling in the cut down version) may be be the answer (is it referencing electricity or anatomical clenching?). It's possible Ajay was deliberately obscuring risky detail here or simply teasing his readers, but there's not a lot of evidence of such caution or coyness elsewhere in these works.
|from Bang Kock Wong|
Ajay does not idealise his team of heroes into handsome hunks nor the villains they face of course, but occasionally a good guy happens by who is allowed to look 'interesting'. This Marine, Lieutenant Rimmer, arrives with his men just in time to cart off the dejected villains and immediately attracts the universal, wistful admiration of the crew.
|from Daredevil Doll|
This equally rugged looking character is one of the FUGG* support team,
It's James Bond's techie 'Q' reimagined as big 'F' for gay consumption (so to speak)
That bull neck and jutting jaw is reminiscent of former English rugby player Lawrence Dellaglio
*There's a good round-up of acronyms and characters in the wiki article on Harry Chess
It's easy to dismiss Ajay's contribution to gay culture and liberation through his Harry Chess comics, but his assertion of all things gay, both sexual and social, serious and camp back in the mid-sixties, represented a rare (if not unprecedented) public expression of a completely formed and genuine, gay, cultural identity which was contemporary and not glorified by classical precedents. All gay men could potentially see and recognise themselves in the references, gags and political barbs, something that had never happened before in such an open way. As such he deserves to stand proudly alongside Armistead Maupin whose 'Tales of the City' stories set out on their similar (if less pornographic) path much later, in 1978.
In Part 3 of this article I will look at Ajay's more convential erotic images
which give a more rounded view of his artistic capabilities.
Go to Part3
Note: Part 1 of this article was originally published in 2008
but entirely re-written in 2018 and Parts 2 and 3 added