Pussies Vol. 1-2
Edited by Josh Simmons
Self-published; $3.00 USD each

For those of you who thought Josh Simmons was playing it a bit too coy calling his previous mini-comic series All About Fuckin', comes the even more bluntly titled Pussies, two issues published to date, and featuring nothing more than various artists rendering girly bits, girly bits and more girly bits.

The most striking thing about these minis, once you recover from being struck by dozens of images of vaginas, many of them quite wonderfully illustrated, is the production quality: There's colour to be found in both volumes, and the reproduction quality is very, very good.

So, do you need the nearly 100 drawings of vaginas offered up in Pussies?

Well, there's need, and then there's need. If you're an artcomix fan, though, chances are you'd be interested in an anthology collecting the work of Nick Bertozzi, Renee French, Dean Haspiel, Paul Hornschemeier, Sam Henderson, Souther Salazar, David Heatley, and Anders Nilsen. And that's just part of the lineup of Volume One.

Volume Two carries over many of those names (with new drawings) and adds Johnny Ryan, Kevin Huizenga, Rick Altergott, Jeffrey Brown, Josh Neufeld, Peter Kuper, Eddie Campbell, Ariel Bordeaux, David Choe and Dan Zettwoch. Among others.

But the key question about all these pussies, and these two Pussies, is, "Are they any good?" I'll skip the obvious joke about vaginas being like pizza, and say, "You know, a lot of them are." This is actually a fascinating little project. There are as many approaches to depicting female genitals in these two volumes as there are artists; more, in fact, since as I noted, some artists are in both volumes. If Renee French and Simmons's own collaboration on page one of Volume Two fascinates and repels with its surreal re-imagining of feminine sexuality, by page two Hans Rickheit's pen-and-clip-art collage dazzles with its base profundity.

It's not all "strange vaginas and apt socio-political commentary," though -- pleasing as that prospect might be. R. Sikoryak's diagrammatic approach gains depth and power by virtue of its utter mundanity, a stark reminder of just how complex women are physically, among dozens of reminders-by-proxy of their emotional complexity. Within a dozen pages of the first volume, you know that Dave Sim would not enjoy Pussies, all the more reason to send him a copy.

There's more than one museum-quality piece, here, too: The one-two punch of depictions by "Stump" and "Uncle Costa" in the centerfold is a really arresting moment, finding beauty and strangeness among the gags and guffaws. And the placement right in the middle of the book, which you're prying open with your fingers to read? Simmons is a canny editor, I'll say that for him.

I suppose some would find these mini-comics obscene. I don't know that I plan on leaving them out for my kids to find, but I have a hard time reconciling the mere depiction of vaginas with being in any way improper. Ariel Bordeaux's sly "There it is!" piece alone combines enough knowing feminine perspective with laugh-out-loud funny to allow Pussies to withstand all but the most ignorant and/or agenda-loaded indictments. No one should be afraid to look at pussies or Pussies. Half the people in the world have them, and most of the other half would, at some point, like to have at least a good long look at some.

Here's ninety of them for six bucks. Buy Pussies because it's art (it is), buy it because it's good and interesting work by extremely gifted comics creators, or just buy it because it's, you know, pussies. Whatever works for you, pal, it's your money. Grade: 4/5

-- Alan David Doane

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