Alkemanubis Revisited

We are greater than the sum of our parts. I am often faced with the reality of that aphorism whenever working with Pigtails readers. In the spirit of community, you have many times provided additional research to augment and correct items in the past. The original Alkemanubis post on May 3, 2021 started out as an unidentified random image from Christian. As luck would have it, one of our contributors is a friend of the artist and was given permission to share more of the work. Although this image is no longer publicly available, Alkemanubis (also referred to as Alke) does maintain a DeviantArt account, a Pixiv account and now also Twitter. It turns out that there were four versions of the image we published shown below. -Ron

Alkemanubis - Ritual

Alkemanubis – Ritual (2018)

Anime is a style of Japanese animation that is characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters and fantastical themes. The anime style has become incredibly popular around the world, and there are many online communities dedicated to this type of art. Even though it originates from Japan artists from all over the world get influenced by it.

Alkemanubis – Rainy (2020)

A case in point is Alkemanubis, a talented Argentinean artist known for his anime-influenced digital illustrations featuring adorable little girls. His style has a heavy emphasis on realistic rendering, very reminiscent of academic art, but with a modern spin.

Alkemanubis – Afternoon in the meadows (2022)

Alkemanubis – Feel the breeze (2017)

One of the most striking things about Alkemanubis’ art is the attention to detail. From the characters’ anatomy to the delicate expressions on their faces, every aspect of his art is carefully crafted and lovingly rendered. His images often depict scenes from everyday life, capturing moments of joy, laughter, and friendship between young girls. But during special occasions he also creates nightmarish themes. That only shows his versatility as an artist.

Alkemanubis – Fashionistas (2020)

Alkemanubis – Dddemon unleashed (2021)

His tools for creating digital paintings are a computer, a digital tablet and Photoshop. Most of the process is similar to traditional illustration or painting, but with additional tools to speed up the process, but most of the work is still hand-drawn. Even with these tools Alkemanubis spends a very considerable number of hours on each of his artworks. Once the painting is complete, it can be saved and shared digitally.

Alkemanubis – mhmm-hmm-hmm (2018)

There’s a speedpaint video of some of his process you can view.


First of all, I would like to apologize for not publishing this sooner. One thing after another keeps cropping up and I never seem to get to reviewing an author’s work. At the time, Quino (the artist in question) had just died so I feel bad that I didn’t get to it in a timely manner. Interestingly, Google did feel the man was important enough to commemorate with a Google banner. -Ron

Azul Portillo – Google Doodle: Quino’s 90th Birthday (July 17, 2022)

Quino – Mafalda

Today [30 September 2020] I woke up with very sad news. Mr. Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón, better know as Quino passed away, at the age of 88, in his home country Argentina.

In the year 1964, Quino made a comic strip about a little girl that challenged society. The comic ran for only 9 years, but that was enough time to make Argentina, as well as many other countries, fall in love with this little girl and her shenanigans.
Mafalda was initially planned to serve in advertisements for the “Mansfield” product line for the Siam Di Tella company, but quickly became it’s own independent idea. A local newspaper also offered to publish it with the advertisements removed, but in the end Quino decided to publish his strip in the magazine Primera Plana.

Quino – Mafalda Comic (1964)

Mafalda:  But… Why do I have to do it?
Mom: Because it’s an order and I’m your mother!
Mafalda: If it’s a matter of titles, I’m your daughter!
And we graduated the same day, no?!

The first strip was published on 29 September 1964, one day and 56 years before Quino’s passing.

The comic moved to the newspaper El Mundo just one year later, but the newspaper shut down in December of 1967. The next year the weekly Siete Días Illustrados resumed the publication until the strip concluded on 25 June 1973.

The comic was a mirror of Argentinian middle class and progressive youth during that time period, but at the same time touched topics that are still of concern today, like world peace, communism, capitalism and the way society operates.

Quino – Mafalda – See no Evil

Mafalda is an innocent but critical 6-year-old, very concerned with the state of human kind. She very often poses questions or makes observations about serious or mature topics that adults are unable to answer. She hates soup—which is a running gag in the strips—sometimes used metaphorically for different topics. She’s also a big Beatles fan.
She has a younger brother, Guille, who in contrast loves soup! He’s also a troublemaker and, like his sister, also has the tendency to bring complicated topics from an even more innocent point of view.

Mafalda’s parents are a regular middle-class young couple. Her mom is a housewife—very common for that time in Argentina—and her father works as an insurance agent. Both try to avoid Mafalda’s tough questions about adulthood, work, society and school.

Quino – Mafalda’s Friends

Mafalda also has friends who appear in the comics. One is Manolito whose family owns an almacén (a type of traditional shop), called Don Manolo, and usually represents the capitalist point of view. He loves soup and hates The Beatles. He’s always trying to make money.

Felipe is the oldest member of the gang. He’s a bit lazy and also a dreamer, very often worried about school. He loves to play and likes The Beatles.

Susanita is a very, very girly child; she loves gossip and other stereotypical female traits of the period. She dreams of becoming a mother and a housewife one day which usually leads to arguments with Mafalda.

Libertad—which means freedom in Spanish—is a really short girl, the same age as Mafalda, but shorter than Guille. She’s the most political and radical of the children, often touching upon even more complicated topics than Mafalda. She was the last character to be added to the strips. All the children’s parents are secondary characters in some strips.

Estatua (Mafalda statue)

In the year 1972, one year before the strips ended, Mafalda was developed into an animated series. Running for 52 short episodes. The show was very popular and aired in multiple countries including Spain.

In the year 1976, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship; but even in that hard political climate, a Mafalda movie was developed. It was released in 1981.

The last time Mafalda was animated was in the year 1993, with a short series titled Mafalda Animada; it was just a collection of strips turn into shorts.

Quino worked on over 20 different books and comics, but Mafalda became his best-known work. You can still see his legacy to this day in and all the generations Mafalda has touched.

Shizuka Minamoto of Doraemon

Shizuka Minamoto is the female lead for the Japanese Doraemon manga and anime. Doraemon is one of the best known cartoons in the world, and Shizuka is perhaps the most widely recognized girl in cartoons and comics today. Before we get into detail about Shizuka, let’s give a brief account of Doraemon.

Fujiko Fujio – Shizuka Minamoto (1990)

Nobita Nobi is the protagonist of the stories. He is a lazy boy of about ten years of age who is constantly getting into trouble and being bullied. Gian, a nickname derived from the English word giant, is a boy of the same age, but much bigger, who bullies Nobita. Suneo is an arrogant rich boy. Gian and Suneo are sometimes Nobita’s friends, and other times his adversaries, depending on what is needed to make a funny story. Shizuka is Nobita’s love interest, and is always his friend.

Fujiko Fujio – Shizuka Minamoto (1986)

Doraemon is a big robot cat sent from the future by Nobita’s descendent, Siwashi, to attempt to help Nobita succeed in life. One of the things Doraemon will do is to ensure that Nobita will marry Shizuka, not Gian’s bratty little sister Jaiko, when he grows up. Nobita questions if this will be a problem because Siwashi is descended from him and Jaiko; if he marries Shizuka, will Siwashi cease to exist? Siwashi assures Nobita there will be no problem; different routes can lead to the same future. The manga pages in this article were originally in Japanese, so they are to be read right to left.

Fujiko Fujio – Shizuka Minamoto (1981)

In a typical Doraemon story, Nobita will have a problem. Doraemon will provide Nobita with a high technology gadget from the future that works like magic to help solve the problem. Nobita misuses the gadget and ends up worse off than he was at the start.

Fujiko Fujio – Shizuka Minamoto (1985)

Of the five main characters; Doraemon, Nobita, Shizuka, Gian, and Suneo; Shizuka is the only female. She is also the only human character not primarily defined by a major fault. Nobita is a loafer, Gian a ruffian, and Suneo is pompous. Shizuka is hardworking, sweet, and always loyal to her friends. She can get angry at times, when necessary for the story; and she is obsessed with cleanliness. Her worst shortcoming, which is common to all Doraemon characters, is that she never realizes until it is too late that there could be a downside to playing around with supernatural future technology. Were it not for this shortcoming, there would be no Doraemon stories.

Fujiko Fujio – First Appearence of Shizuka Minamoto (1970)

The stories covered in this article are the mangas (non-animated comics) created by Fujiko Fujio from 1969 through 1996. Fujimoto Hiroshi and Motoo Abiko collaborated under the penname Fujiko Fujio to make Doraemon. Hiroshi died in 1996, and the canonical stories thus ended then. There were 1,345 stories published in 45 volumes from 1970 to 1996. In addition, 16 long stories (Daichōhen Doraemon) were written and drawn by Fujiko Fujio from 1980 through 1996. More stories and animated cartoons were written and drawn by others, but this article does not focus on those. The dates given in the captions to the illustrations are the dates of publication for the book in which the story appeared. Often, the story may have been written a year prior. Several stories written but not published during the lifetime of Fujimoto Hiroshi were published years later as Doraemon Plus. The Japanese Foreign Ministry designated Doraemon as Japan’s anime ambassador in 2008.

Fujiko Fujio – Bypass Spyglass in English (1974)

If you read reviews of Doraemon, you may get the idea that Shizuka appears nude in most of the stories. This is not true. Shizuka has no nude scene in the vast majority of the stories, but reviewers tend to dwell on those stories that do have nudity. I will also emphasize these stories, because in doing so I hope to provide some insight into the controversies about nudity in art. Most of the illustrations used in this article contain nudity, but only because I specifically chose them for that reason. They are not a random representative sample of Doraemon pages.

Fujiko Fujio – Over Exaggerating Overcoat (1977)

It is interesting to note the time periods in which nude scenes occur in the manga. Volumes 1 through 17 of the Doraemon books were published 1970 through 1979. Nudity is very rare in this period, and when there is a naked character, it is one of the boys more often than it is Shizuka. Shizuka’s first “nude scene” that I could find is in the Bypass Spyglass story of 1974. You may question if that is really a nude scene; even though Shizuka is in the bathtub, only her face is visible. Shizuka also has an imagined undressing scene in the Over Exaggerating Overcoat story of 1977. During 1970–1979 Nobita does not intentionally try to spy on Shizuka when she is naked. Her nude scenes are accidental.

Fujiko Fujio – Ten Minutes Delayed ESP (1983)

Two things are peculiar about the undressing scene in Over Exaggerating Overcoat. The first thing is Nobita’s reaction; he panics more at Shizuka’s undressing than he did earlier in the story at their encounter with a dinosaur, a giant snake, and a pirate. It is as if he is more disturbed by the idea of Shizuka without clothing than he is by the idea of Shizuka being eaten by a giant snake. The other peculiar thing is that Shizuka wears a slip under her clothing so she can be shown undressing without exposing any more of her body than if she were fully dressed. The boys in Doraemon on the other hand, were depicted fully nude occasionally in the 1970s. My opinion is that Fujiko Fujio were trying to follow what they thought were societal norms of decency. Later they learned that these norms were defined by a small minority. They were vocal enough to create the illusion that many people shared their views, but they were actually so few that Fujiko Fujio could not cater to them and sell a lot of comics to make the optimal amount of money.

Fujiko Fujio – Later Album (1984)

The next period begins with Volume 18 in December 1979 and continues through Volume 38 in 1986. Daichōhen Doraemon stories began in 1980, and by 1986, eight Daichōhen stories were published. During this period nudity was very much more common, and it was usually Shizuka who was nude. If it was not Shizuka, it was likely to be another female character, although the boys continued to have occasional nude scenes. Also during this time, Nobita intentionally sought opportunities to see Shizuka naked. Some nude scenes during 1979–1986 seem to be gratuitously added for fan service.

Fujiko Fujio – Ventriloquist Robot (1984)

In the 1983 story Ten Minutes Delayed ESP, Nobita has an uncontrollable ESP that allows him to see through Shizuka’s clothes when he was actually trying to see into Gian’s pocket. Compare this scene with the one from 1977’s Over Exaggerating Overcoat. in 1977 Shizuka is in underwear, but in 1983 she appears naked. Nobita is alarmed by Shizuka’s lack of clothing in both stories, because it adds humor to the situation. In stories published after December 1979, however, Nobita is more often pleased than alarmed by Shizuka’s nudity.

Fujiko Fujio – Water Cycle Medicine (1985)

An example of a story in which Nobita seems happy to spy on Shizuka is the 1984 story Later Album. Look at the faces of Nobita and Doraemon; they appear delighted to have an album of nude photos of Shizuka. Their dialogue tells a different story. Nobita can choose any person, date, and time; and the magic photo album will produce a photo of that person as he or she appears at the designated time. Nobita wants a clothed photo of Shizuka that he can use as a model for his art homework assignment of drawing his best friend. Whenever he designates a date and time for a photo of Shizuka, she happens to be taking a bath at the time. This is, at least superficially, a satire of Doraemon critics who claim that Shizuka is usually in her bath, even though actually she is rarely shown in her bath. The bath scenes are not common, but they are remembered, by both fans and critics, more than other scenes.

Fujiko Fujio – Blind Spot Star (1989)

Can we view Later Album on another level as satirizing Nobita for using a contrivance to obtain nude photos, when he could have found some clothed photos for his assignment if he had tried? Is Nobita only pretending to be frustrated because he can find only nude photos? I think the author intended for us to see that in the story. Unfortunately, I am not an expert in the subtleties of Japanese humor, so I can only offer this as a suggestion.

Fujiko Fujio – Indoor World Travel Set (2005)

Another 1984 story, Ventriloquist Robot, is interesting in that a robot, speaking through Nobita, tells Shizuka that nudity is artistic and innocent and she should not be annoyed when Nobita sees her naked. The robot has the power to make people believe anything it says. A page from the 1985 story Water Cycle Medicine is illustrated here to show how the scene was later changed for anime versions.

Fujiko Fujio – The Kingdom of Clouds (1991)

No Doraemon book was published in 1987, and from 1988 through 1996 there is significantly less nudity than 1979–1986. In the story Blind Spot Star (1989), Nobita uncharacteristically refuses to spy on Shizuka in the bath when he has an opportunity to do so. In the end, he gets blamed for peeping even though he did not. Nobita spies on Shizuka in the posthumously published story Indoor World Travel Set, but we don’t know when this story was written. The decline in the number of nude scenes is less evident in the long stories. Note two things about Shizuka’s shower in the long story The Kingdom of Clouds (1991). First, the shower is pure fan service; it does nothing to advance the plot or to add humor. Second, note that Shizuka’s body is drawn more curvaceous in the shower than when she is clothed.

Omasomas – Doraemon Fan Art (c2015)

Why did the frequency of Shizuka’s nudity fluctuate, increasing to the mid 1980s then decreasing? I can only offer an hypothesis. Perhaps there was very little nudity of Shizuka in Doraemon during the first years of publication simply because the author did not think of too many plots that would involve nudity. Like any successful author of a multi-year series, Fujiko Fujio listened to their fans. People who bought and read Doraemon wanted more nude scenes for Shizuka, so that was what they got. This made Doraemon even more popular, but eventually it became too popular. Doraemon was so well-known that it was known even to busy bodies who did not buy or read the manga, but who fancied themselves to be guardians of public morals with the right to decide what others should be able to buy or read. Pressure was put on Doraemon to decrease the nudity, and so it happened.

Fujiko Fujio – Little Star Wars (1985)

Doraemon has inspired a lot of fan art. Sometimes it is obvious from the art style that it is not an original Doraemon illustration. An example of this is the picture by Omasomas of Nobita and Doraemon with Shizuka in her bathroom. Sometimes it is not obvious, as in the original (but translated into English) and fan art versions of a picture from Little Star Wars. This is interesting because earlier in the genuine adventure, a shrunken Shizuka tries on her doll’s clothing, then takes a bath in the dollhouse, then hurriedly grabs some clothing (her own) as she gets out of the tub. Later in the story, when she returns to normal size, her clothing also returns to normal. In the fan art version, Shizuka grabs a set of doll clothing as she leaves her bath. Then when she returns to normal size, she bursts out of the doll clothes which were already normal size. I get the idea that Fujiko Fujio originally intended for Shizuka to burst out of her clothes, but changed his mind. If that were not his intention, there would be no reason for Shizuka to try on doll clothes earlier in the story.

Anonymous – Little Star Wars Fan Art Version (no date)

In the fan art version of a picture from Little Star Wars Shizuka says, “The effect of the small light [shrinking ray] has expired!” Perhaps the fan artist changed her dialogue when he edited the picture to remove Shizuka’s clothes. Perhaps the translator of the English version of the authentic story changed Shizuka’s speech.

ArcRoyale – Water Cycle Medicine Censored and Reconstructed Anime (2017)

Anime is harder to study than manga, because there can be several different anime versions of the same story. We may not know who made or edited a particular version, when it was done, in what country it was done, and whether it was done by a professional studio or an amateur. Compare the page from the Water Cycle Medicine manga story with the last two illustrations. One shows two versions of the scene from the 2005 anime television series. The bottom picture is the artist’s reconstruction of the original anime, which apparently no longer exists. In 2006 the studio succumbed to the critics and added steam to censor the cartoon. The top picture is the censored 2006 version. The next illustration is the 2019 version of the anime with only Shizuka’s head and shoulders visible.

Anonymous – Water Cycle Medicine Anime (2019)

One might think that after 2019, the proponents of censorship would be celebrating their victory over Doraemon. Instead, a petition was started in December 2020 to demand that bath scenes from older anime stop being shown on television, and that a warning notice be attached to animes informing the viewer that peeping in bathrooms is illegal.

Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie

I would guess that most already know who Annie is. For the benefit a few of the younger readers who may not be familiar with her, she is the protagonist of the Little Orphan Annie comic strip. Annie is a young orphan girl who left the orphanage to become the ward of the incredibly rich Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. She then battled dangerous criminals around the world with the help of Daddy Warbucks and his bodyguards, Punjab and the Asp. Her courage, common sense, and integrity made her one of the most popular fictional characters of the 20th century.

Harold Gray- Little Orphan Annie (1937)

Little Orphan Annie was not in the local newspaper when I was growing up, so it was not one of the comics I read frequently as a child. I read it a few times in out-of-town newspapers, but because Annie’s adventures continued over many issues of the paper, I was never able to follow a complete story. Millions of people did follow Little Orphan Annie from its inception in 1924 until Harold Gray’s death in 1968, and it became one of the most popular comic strips in the world. The strip was continued by other artists until 2010. It has inspired movies and a popular musical. What made Little Orphan Annie loved by so many?

Harold Gray- Little Orphan Annie (1964)

Many believe that the choice of a female protagonist for the strip helped its popularity. Harold Gray stated that he chose a young girl of about eleven years old as his protagonist because there were many more boys than girls in the comics at that time, especially in the adventure strips. A girl would make his strip different and stand out. He modeled the character with frizzy red hair and a red dress after a street urchin he once met. The name Annie is derived from the poem Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Gray initially planned the strip about a boy called Little Orphan Otto. He changed the character to a girl at the request of the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, which published the strip.

Regardless of whose idea it was to make the strip about a girl, it was a huge success. A girl in the lead role caught the readers’ attention in the 1920s. Feminism was becoming mainstream, but female heros were still relatively rare. Annie’s blank eyes, and the eyes of other characters, also grabbed the reader. I don’t know why Gray decided to draw eyes without pupils, but the vacant orbs drew the viewer into the strip.

In addition to the fact that a girl heroine was unusual, I believe that a girl who is being mistreated, or who is in a dangerous situation, arouses more sympathy than a boy in similar circumstances. It is in our genes that we should feel this way. For a population to survive and reproduce, it is necessary to have sperm cells, egg cells, and wombs. Sperm and eggs are abundant, but wombs are not. Anybody who has a womb, therefore, is more important for the survival of the population than those who do not have wombs (by the reckoning of evolutionary theory). It may be sexist and unfair, but nevertheless true that evolution has hardwired our nervous systems to be more alarmed by a damsel in distress than by a male in a similar plight.

Another advantage of a girl as the heroine is that it may have been easier for children, both boys and girls, to identify with a character whose ability to fight was no greater than an ordinary child. It is socially acceptable for Annie to be an ordinary little girl, relying on Punjab or Asp to provide the muscle when confronted by tough adult male criminals. A boy would be expected to fight for himself. If he beat the bad guy it would be unrealistic and children would have a harder time identifying with him. If he relied on others to fight for him he would be perceived as a wimp.

Note that Punjab and the Asp are both people of color; Punjab from India and the Asp from an unnamed country in East Asia. I believe Gray made these characters non-white to make them exotic, rather than for diversity. Regardless of his reasons, Harold Gray was ahead of his time by including racial diversity in his comic. This is noticeable in the following strip from 1942. Annie had organized a “Junior Commando” unit to help with the war effort on the home front. The strip inspired real children to imitate Annie’s work by forming real Junior Commando organizations. At that time the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was not part of the Army. It became the Women’s Army Corps, part of the Army, the following year. Black soldiers were not integrated into the same units as whites until after the war. Annie’s unit had boys and girls in the same unit, and she even made an African-American boy a sergeant with authority over white members of the unit! At the time this was quite radical, and the strip aroused some controversy.

Harold Gray- Little Orphan Annie (1942)

Don’t think this means that Gray was the kind of person who would be considered “woke” today. He was the opposite; a rugged individualist who despised government programs, socialism, labor unions, the New Deal, and President Roosevelt. The characters in Little Orphan Annie echo Gray’s personal and political philosophy. Note that in the first strip in this post, the Asp even disdains the role of government in enforcing the law and punishing criminals. Asp, like Annie, Daddy Warbucks, and Harold Gray himself, would rather do it himself than depend on the government. Daddy Warbucks died of despair in 1944 because Franklin Roosevelt was reelected. In 1945 his death was changed to a coma. He recovered and was back in the strip.

Little Orphan Annie was adapted as a movie in 1932, 1938, 1982, 1999, and 2014. It was a Broadway musical in 1977. Little Orphan Annie is also featured in many children’s books and toys. Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued. The following illustrations are a Little Orphan Annie strip from 1970, drawn by Tex Blaisdell, and Aileen Quinn as Annie in the 1982 movie.

Tex Blaisdell- Little Orphan Annie (1970)

Columbia Pictures- Aileen Quinn as Annie (1982)

Daddy’s Girls and Beautiful Boys: Children’s Sexual Encounters in Graphic Media

WARNING: The following article contains images of child sexual abuse which may offend sensitive viewers.

[20210617] I am pleased to announce that because we are now no longer in UK jurisdiction, the two images that were removed have been restored. The only versions I could find online were a bit smaller but you can still get the idea and Pip is sending me the comic book for me to make new scans within the next few days.

[20191118] It is ironic and unfortunate that graphic media cannot do its job in the name of protecting people’s sensibility. Due to police action and the UK courts, we must temporarily err on the side of caution in order to protect this site and its host. Therefore, until the legal matter is settled, it will be necessary to remove a Debbie Dreschler image and one other from this post temporarily. My apologies go to our readers who are accustomed to “seeing things for themselves” instead of assuming that the government and courts have our best interests at heart. The text is not at issue at the moment and has been kept intact. -Ron, Editor-in-Chief

You’ll have to excuse me, because this article will be long. But I think it’s warranted and long overdue.

I must confess, my recent discussions with a respondent to our blog who goes by the deceptively mundane, everyman moniker “a parent” has gotten under my skin in a big way. The underlying accusation, though not put into these words exactly, is that Pigtails in Paint is guilty of “sexualizing” children. This we do, according to “a parent”, by repeatedly claiming—whether doing this directly or indirectly he does not say—that children are worthy objects of the sexual attention of adults, or in terms of art, by attempting to “normalize” what some critics refer to as the “pedophilic gaze.”

Let me be absolutely clear here: I object nearly outright to the concept of the “sexualized” child, as well as to “normalization.” These words are loaded language, armchair psychobabble/political spin designed to instill by default the opposite notion that the “normal” child is by nature asexual, a being entirely without carnal thoughts, feelings or motivations, their minds and bodies veritable blank slates upon which only pubescence justly and impartially writes the erotic code that makes them into what we designate in our culture as a full-on adult.

The problem with this viewpoint is three-fold: first and most obviously, there is a ton of evidence that contradicts this supposition, as almost any reputable expert on children can tell you; second, it neglects to incorporate the fact that authorities—parents especially—control the dialogue and shape children sexually whether they believe they are doing so or not; second, it ignores the reality that the moral panic surrounding child sexuality, child sexual abuse and pedophilia (which are related but not inseparable issues) have grown in strength over the last few decades, to the point that we now have an aegrescit medendo situation where children and adults alike are being harmed as much or more by the overreaction of society as by the folk devils to which it is responding.

In one of my replies to “a parent” I held up as evidence for this two major examples: the side effects of conservative regions where girls are more likely to get pregnant because of lack of decent sex education, lack of access to birth control, and so on (not to mention getting stuck with a baby before she’s ready thanks to harsh anti-abortion measures in those places), and kids themselves getting arrested as sex offenders after being caught up in sexting cases. I will add to those the following:

  • The sex offender registry, which has resulted in more problems than it’s solved, foremost among them that it creates a perfect hit list for legal, physical and social persecution.
  • The courtesy stigma, name-calling, threats, and educational shutting-out and funding issues that many scholars and researchers face when exploring these issues, especially when their conclusions do not match social and cultural expectations or feed into the biases of politicians.
  • The growth of a powerful and unduly influential victim culture surrounding sexual abuse which often exploits the moral panic for its own gain at the expense of many innocent people and organizations.
  • The blatant exploitation of the sexual abuse moral panic by political entities and demagogues, particularly on the right but also on the left, utilizing it as propaganda against their political rivals. (See: Pizzagate and Qanon)
  • The largely unhelpful “stranger danger” myth, which invests in children a lifelong dread of mostly benign strangers and takes the focus off the real source of most sexual abuse, the child’s own family.
  • The unhealthy guilt complexes, body image issues and fear of intimacy that many children learn as a result of being taught that good/normal children are sexually (read: morally) pure, a personification many of them are simply unable to live up to, and which our society goes to great lengths to enforce, one way or another.
  • And, of course, the irreparable harm that has been done to artists such as Graham Ovenden and Jock Sturges and their subjects, forever tainted by their names being dragged through the thoroughly raked muck—not to mention art as a whole, the entire history of children in art being reinterpreted through the child pornography/child exploitation lens, and many artists unwilling to tackle what has traditionally been a favorite subject for them, the nude child or youth, due to fears of social stigma and/or legal reprisals.

There are others, but these are quite sufficient, I think, to get the point across. We at Pigtails are primarily concerned with the last one.

The thing about “a parent” is that he comes across as quite reasonable in general, and that concerns me more than a thousand trolls posting death threats or idiotic insults ever could. Those types of people tend to be so broadly ignorant and clownishly obnoxious that their take on these matters cannot be taken seriously. On the other hand, “a parent” has positioned himself as an admirer of simple child nudes, which is understandable. As I have said on a number of occasions, child nudity cannot be equated with sexuality across the board. The conflation of those two things is mainly a Western conceit, predominantly in the Anglophone West: Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States. So far, so good.

Another thing is that “a parent” does not believe in the asexual child (or so he claims), and so none of what I wrote above is directly applicable to him. But he plays into this prejudice regardless, because one cannot extricate the idea that children are asexual from the position that they should be seen as such when we look at art featuring them. How is “a parent” able to compartmentalize these two conflicting ideas? His argument basically boils down to this: the artist and the art observer can think such things in an abstract way, but an artist who acknowledges this directly in their work is in violation of the all-important taboo and that must remain forbidden lest it endanger children. In essence, then, intellectual recognition of this scientific fact is fine, but woe to the artist who explores this concept directly in his or her work, who has the unmitigated gall to present the sexual child in imagery. That can only be, according to “a parent”, a sign of a pedophilic wet dream expressed on paper or canvas. Artists who present children erotically must be pedophiles, or why else would they create such work? Moebius? Pedophile. Tamburini and Liberatore? Pedophiles. Neil Gaiman? Obviously a pedophile. I mean, not only did he create the Lantiman of Sauk, he also wrote a rather stirring defense of lolicon with his essay Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech? on his web journal.

Examples of the traditional arts (drawing, painting, sculpture—I’m purposely avoiding dipping into photography here) that either play with eroticism or where children and sexuality meet in some sense are Paul Peel’s A Venetian Bather, Jules Marie Auguste Leroux’s The Mirror, Egon Schiele’s Mädchen mit Federboa, Donatello’s David, Louis Ricardo Falero’s The Planet Venus, works by the Die Brücke collective featuring Fränzi Fehrmann, and Ramon Casas i Carbó’s Flores Deshojadas (Depetaled Flowers), to name a few. But what I want to focus on here is what all of the links in the paragraph above this one have in common: they all feature work from comics artists and writers.

More than any other medium, these have been the target of would-be censors. It’s probably no accident that the one time in American history where an artist was actually convicted on obscenity charges it was for his comics, a medium that has long been viewed as little more than children’s funny books or superhero fantasies by ignorant snobs who don’t understand it. In any case, Mike Diana‘s story is fascinating and should be studied by anyone with an interest in free speech issues and legal precedent. In the late eighties and early nineties the teenage Diana wrote and drew a series of comics with extremely gruesome content—graphic violence and mutilation, rape and child sexual abuse, incest, and likely the most damning offense in the small Florida community where he lived and worked, religious blasphemy—published them in very limited runs at his own expense, and sold them via mail to about three hundred customers around the US for two dollars a pop. Diana had the bad luck of producing his ostentatiously subversive and distasteful work at the same time as the Gainesville Ripper was operating. Diana even became a suspect in those murders, though he was eventually exonerated there. Still, the obscenity charges stuck.

While I cannot defend Diana’s work on its merits (I’m not going to share any of it here; just google it if you’re curious—honestly, it’s so badly drawn and noxious in content that it makes my head hurt to even look at it), the idea that an artist who created something which involved no actual children and that’s about as far from erotic as one can get seems patently absurd to me. I mention this case because it is the extreme, and because, far from accomplishing the goal of “protecting” children from Diana’s work, which almost certainly would’ve been ignored otherwise and slipped into obscurity, all his Kafkaesque trial and conviction really accomplished in the end was putting the spotlight on him and his atrocious art, and now any child who has access to the internet can google it for free. Diana has even had his work shown in international museums. Ho-hum.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s get to the examples (besides the ones I’ve already linked to). Here is a single panel from a comic I will wait to identify. Out of context, all we can really discern about this image is that it is sexual. The female in bed is performing fellatio on a man, who hovers over her. I will clarify further, because it may not be immediately obvious: the female is a child. Take a good look at it, and withhold judgment if you can. Is this the sort of thing “a parent” would have the government censor?

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (panel)

Now I will identify this image. It is a single panel from the Ignatz Award-nominated semi-autobiographical comic Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Dreschler. This image comes from my own copy of the comic, the square-bound softcover first edition published in 1996 by Fantagraphics. It’s a comic that deals frankly with a young girl’s sexual abuse at the hands of . . . well, a father (not “a father”) during the late fifties and early sixties. In between episodes of sexual abuse, the girl’s life is filled with moments of irony and pathos, such as when her parents take their four children to present gifts to a poor black family during Christmas. The fact that the comic is not subtle about the abuse and does not shy away from depicting it gives Daddy’s Girl a disturbing power that simple fiction could probably never achieve. By design, you cannot look away or consider the abuse as an abstraction. Dreschler forces you to confront it head on. Here are a few pages of this sequence—called Visitors in the Night—for context.

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (1)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (2)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (3)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (4)

I ask again: is this the sort of image that “a parent” would have the state censor? Perhaps. He says:

So my view is that this particular highly specific kind of expression (a drawing graphically depicting sexual abuse of a prepubescent child) should be illegal, even where there’s no proof of direct harm.

He offers a specific set of criteria by which he judges what should or should not be illegal. Many of Dreschler’s images would fall into that category by default. That would be a huge shame, because the work would lose much of its shock value without these scenes. In fact, I’d say it would be nearly impossible for this comic to exist as what it is without such scenes. Maybe “a parent” would differ on that point, but there can be little doubt that these scenes make the work more disturbing than it would otherwise be. And that is the point of them.

Says “a parent”:

Suppose, for example, there is a pen-and-ink drawing in comic-book style of graphic sexual abuse involving an older adult and a prepubescent child. And suppose the artist did not work from photographs or live models in making this drawing, so it can be claimed that there was no “real, direct” harm done. (I’m pretty sure such a thing would be illegal under our current laws, but I’m not absolutely certain, and I’m definitely no expert.) Besides serving as child pornography, what’s the purpose of such a drawing?

I offered an example which fits this description exactly. (And no, such images are not illegal per se, at least not in the US—this has been tested multiple times, and with the exception of Mike Diana, all those artists won their cases.) So, what is the purpose of such drawings? According to “a parent” they can only serve as pornography to stimulate pedophiles. I wonder what Dreschler would think of such an accusation? Maybe I should ask her.

Here is another example from a different comic, Phoebe Gloeckner‘s A Child’s Life. This too is semi-autobiographical . . . and disturbing. Gloeckner’s character Minnie Goetze is a thinly disguised stand-in for her, though Gloeckner herself has never confirmed this, referring to her work simply as fiction. That’s understandable, as she doesn’t just tell her own story—she recounts events from other girls’ lives as well, including a girl called “Tabatha”:

Phoebe Gloeckner – A Child’s Life (1998)

Is this image erotic? Would it turn some folks on? Possibly. But that is not the intent of the artist. Calling this or Dreschler’s blatant depictions of sexual abuse “child pornography” is ignorant and insulting to both of them. Alright, “a parent” might say, so biographical work which clearly isn’t designed to titillate the viewer might get a pass, but what about examples which are less obviously negative?

Okay, let’s take one from Neil Gaiman’s (that perv again!) multiple award-winning series The Sandman, from the one-off issue Ramadan, drawn by the fabulous P. Craig Russell. (Side note: I have the first three of Russell’s Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde books, and they are absolutely gorgeous.) Ramadan is not really about child sexuality or abuse (you can read a summary of the story here if you’re interested, though I recommend reading the actual comic), but it does feature a relevant scene which I remember being somewhat controversial at the time the comic came out in the early nineties:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan (detail)

Here is the full page for context:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan

So now we have an example of straight fiction, nothing autobiographical here. There is a single panel (with an inset) in the whole of the story that fits our topic, and unlike Dreschler’s or Gloeckner’s comics, it does not portray it negatively. In fact, the description written by Gaiman makes the “beautiful boys” sound quite appealing. We see no actual sex there, but arguably the boys are drawn sensuously. Is this, then, child pornography? Of course it isn’t. The drawings reinforce the text, but the intent here is certainly not to arouse the viewer. They are presented as part of a larger tapestry, a lovely scene to reinforce that the narrator is a man who enjoys the pleasures of the flesh, be it women or boys. Since the story’s point-of-view character is Haroun al Raschid, the caliph of a medieval-era Middle Eastern city, it makes absolute sense that his perceptions are not modern, and that Gaiman and Russell, presenting us this scene through Haroun’s eyes, would give us boys that are sexually provocative, not presented as victims but as willing and knowing partners, even if they are technically sex slaves. Now, I’m quite sure Russell does not approve of child abuse, and I know Gaiman doesn’t. Nevertheless, it would’ve been ridiculous to offer this scene judgmentally, through modern eyes. It would’ve been obvious and clumsy, taking the reader out of the story.

“Okay, but why include the images at all? Surely they weren’t necessary,” I can hear “a parent” grumbling now. That is beside the point. It is not an artist’s job to go out of their way to avoid triggering sensitive readers. No one doubts that the abuse of young boys occurred in harems like the one described. That’s a historical fact. To gloss over that detail is to feed into political correctness, and the more artists do that, the more they will be expected to do that, until they face arrest for not doing it. Censorship will not stop where “a parent” thinks it should. It doesn’t work that way. It never has. As Gaiman himself said in Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech?:

The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don’t. This is how the Law is made.

Whether I find any images of children sexually provocative or not (some might find that image by Dreschler to be arousing; I certainly don’t), my tastes should not be the deciding factor on whether something is illegal or not. Nor should the tastes of “a parent”, nor should the tastes of any particular person or group of persons.

Says “a parent”:

Well, I feel that freedom of expression is very, very important. But it’s not really freedom of expression that’s at issue. It is freedom of a highly specific and narrow range of expression, namely depiction of children as objects of sexual desire. Out of all art and ideas, I think this is an exceedingly tiny slice of a huge pie. Any legislation in this area would leave the vast, overwhelming majority of artistic expression completely unimpeded.

I doubt very much that “a parent” actually believes this, or that he would stand against it if, say, adult porn was on the censor’s chopping block. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I doubt it. He adds, in defense of his view:

It’s critical to realize that child pornography is not on even ground with other “ideas.” We not talking about appealing to the thoughts or the emotions. Appealing to sexual urges–particularly to urges that must harm children if they are fully gratified–is a different basic kind of thing from other types of expression.

Okay. Disregarding for a moment the fact that this is special pleading, I have to ask why is “child pornography”—remember, we’re talking about drawings here—different? Because it is the image of a crime? No, I’ve seen actual photos of murdered children (I wish I hadn’t, but they’re out there)—those are also images of actual crimes, yet they aren’t outlawed. But images of violence do not encourage some unspecified fraction of humanity to commit more crimes, right? Do we know this for a fact? I mean, there have certainly been murderers who have claimed that violent imagery pushed them towards their own murder sprees. Who’s to say it isn’t true? Ah, but it’s a very small percentage of humanity who would be influenced to those ends, eh? Well, “a parent” himself says that pedophiles are such a meager minority that censoring images that might influence them shouldn’t be considered on the same level as other sorts of images, and he says “normal” people, which he defines as the vast majority of humanity, is appalled by such images, and certainly aren’t turned on by them. In other words, not only is he guilty of special pleading, he’s also spouting the bandwagon fallacy as a defense.

Are there folks who get off on violent imagery? Unquestionably. But “a parent” suggests that sex is somehow very different from other provocative concepts like violence, because it doesn’t appeal to thoughts or emotions. Well, what the ever-loving fuck does it appeal to then? A base drive? Is violence not a base drive in us too? Are some people not compelled by their lizard brains to violently destroy that which they hate and fear? Of course they are. But that’s different, because . . .

Because why? Because it doesn’t appeal to pedophiles. That’s it. That’s all it comes down to in the end. They are a tiny minority says “a parent”, and children are too precious and vulnerable to risk them being abused by those few weak souls who might be (not have been, not definitely will be, but might be) encouraged to offend. Look, the only reason to outlaw actual child porn is because it’s consumption encourages the production of more, and we are talking about actual abuse in that case. Children are offended against for the explicit purpose of the production of child porn. In other words, it can only exist because sexual abuse has been committed, and the producer(s) did so with that express purpose in mind. But to extend that argument to drawings, paintings and the like where no real children were actually harmed in its production, on the grounds that it might cause a few people to act out on their sexual urges, is a clear example of thought-crime. You can argue that pedophilia is more than thoughts or feelings all you want to. Hell, I’ll even agree with you on that. But the fact is, when you get right down to it, you are outlawing a thought, an idea, a concept. Make no mistake: if we can outlaw erotic drawings of kids on the grounds that it might cause some people to commit sexual abuse, then it’s not a stretch to suggest that adult porn could likewise be outlawed because it might push some people into rape (sex drive, right?), but we don’t outlaw it on those grounds. Not in America anyway.

Ah, but that’s not why adult porn exists, “a parent” will say. And around and around the circle we go. Most artists, even those who deliberately draw pedophilic erotica, aren’t sitting there thinking, “Ha! I’ll make drawings in order to push people into molesting kids! Mwa ha ha ha!” To make that argument is to assume that anyone with the least bit of interest in such content is inherently immoral, prone to abusing kids and seeking to make others like them. “A parent” says if such content is allowed to exist, kids will be abused because of it. He states it as fact, yet offers no evidence to back it up. Well, I know of a country where a great deal of such content exists, is legal for purchase, indeed is found in comics and magazine shops all around the country. I don’t think I even need to name it. And yet there isn’t scads of child rape and abuse happening there. In fact, that country has low crime rates all the way around. Moreover, many studies show that where porn exists legally, sex offenses tend to plummet. Why would it be any different for child erotica? After all, sex with kids is forbidden across the board, unlike sex with consenting adults. Clearly, having such outlets is more beneficial than harmful. But, by all means “a parent”, offer me evidence which demonstrates that I’m wrong and I’ll reconsider.

Finally (whew!), I will offer this. Here is a comic which actually condones child abuse, brought to you by way of the Kids Tract Club. You reckon it’s been influential?

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (1)

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (2)

Random Images: Colleen Doran

Here’s a lovely Art Nouveau-style illustration by comics artist and author Colleen Doran. I’m a huge fan of her space opera comics series A Distant Soil, which often features several beautifully rendered child characters.

My next post will be a much larger one, but with Ron out of the country we’ve been on something of a hiatus. Things should be returning to normal near the end of the month.

Colleen Doran – Inexorable

Colleen Doran (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Colleen Doran

Paul Cuvelier: Comic Strip or Fine Art?

It was 40 years ago on the 5th of July that the Belgian painter and drawer of comics Paul Cuvelier died. He painted and sketched mainly women and girl nudes as well as in comics, but not comics in the humorous sense. There is some confusion about the proper terminology here so maybe it is better to say he produced graphic novels or engaged in graphic storytelling. But for the sake of convenience, I will mostly use the term comics, especially since Paul Cuvelier had a difficult relationship with that medium.
This post is in English, but is about a Belgian from the French-speaking part of Belgium, Wallonia. In French the term for graphic storytelling is ‘bande dessinée’, which Google translates as ‘cartoon’. So that offers no help. ‘Bande’ translates as ‘strip’ into Dutch (my native language), which is in fact the general term in Dutch for graphic storytelling. Thus it is a ‘strip’ of drawings, telling a story, with the text in balloons or underneath the drawing, serving as subtitles.

It was sometime in my puberty that I discovered Paul Cuvelier, first as the artist of a graphic novel series, Corentin, about a boy from Brittany having all kinds of adventures mainly in ‘the Orient’. Around that time I also read a biography about Cuvelier entitled (in Dutch) Corentin en de wegen van het wonderlijke (Corentin and the Paths of the Miraculous) by Philippe Goddin, who was a specialist on Tintin. And I discovered, by the same author, a study titled Jonge Afrodites (Young Aphrodites) about Cuvelier’s other or rather main art, the classical nude. I remember that my mother discovered this book and made a comment about it to me! I replied at the time that ‘it is art!’ And that was the end of the discussion forever. I did not realise back then that I would wish to write about this artist and others who portrayed ‘Young Aphrodites’.

Here is an example of Cuvelier’s work I referred to.

Paul Cuvelier – The Fantastic Adventures of Corentin (1946-1947)

He was born the 22nd of November 1923 in the village Mont-sur-Marchienne, near Charleroi, capital of Wallonia. The first example of one of his girl nudes was probably shown at an exposition in 1977 with the theme: Les Nymphettes. The theme was inspired by the type of the child-woman described by Nabokov, namely Lolita and was titled: Young Aphrodites. Cuvelier wanted to have a second exposition with the same theme, but death kept him from fulfilling it. On the one hand, there was the Nymphet, the Young Aphrodite—according to his biographer Philippe Goddin—chosen as the theme of his last exposition, to show the thematic and artistic context in his work. And on the other hand, Cuvelier had just begun a new artistic adventure. His girl nudes I associate with the Greek goddess of eternal youth, Hebe—but we must never forget also his “comic” heros nor his delightful horses.

Paul Cuvelier – No title (year unknown)

In his youth he told stories to his younger brothers, illustrated by drawings, among others about Corentin. Corentin became his main graphic novel. Paul was discovered by George Remi, also known as Hergé, creator of Tintin, and invited to join the staff of a new youth comics magazine, also titled Tintin. He was only 20 and didn’t believe Hergé when he told him that he had nothing more to teach the young artist in drawing technique. Here we have Corentin himself.

Paul Cuvelier – Corentin Feldoë (around 1948)

And with his main friends Kim, Belzébub, Sas-Kya and Moloch:

Paul Cuvelier – Corentin, Kim, Belzébub, Sas-Kya and Moloch (1958)

And here we have another example of Corentin and Kim with the oriental princess Sas-Kya, on a sketch for the front page of Tintin, the magazine mentioned earlier.

Paul Cuvelier – Corentin, Kim, Sas-Kya (1958)

And here Line, another girl heroine of Paul, or in Dutch, Dientje.

Paul Cuvelier – Line or Dientje (1963)

In all, Paul Cuvelier had several such series in graphic noveling: Corentin, Line and a few more. So, he was invited to jump in while still very young; it was his main living. But doing this sort of work had never really been his dream except for introducing certain inventions such as the so-called ‘Miraculous’ of Corentin, its ‘orientalism’. The world of classical art, nude art and drawings of mainly women and girls—rather more girls than women—was his main dream. Also important were his animals—mainly horses. This was his main impulse: the animated body, the soul in the flesh, its movement, its gestures and expressions. Here are some more Young Aphrodites, in oil—in fact, I have found none of these from Goddin’s book anywhere else on the internet.

Paul Cuvelier – No title (year unknown)

Paul Cuvelier – No title (year unknown)

Paul Cuvelier – No title (year unknown)

Brigitte, his last model, is sketched here. Though already 18 years old, she had in the artist’s eyes this ‘Lolita quality’.

Paul Cuvelier – Brigitte with Doudoune (Brussels, 1977)

Paul Cuvelier – From his last sketch book (Brussels, 1978)

Paul Cuvelier – From his last sketch book (Brussels, 1978)

Paul Cuvelier – Brigitte. Atelier study (1977)

Comics or graphic noveling became too strict, too narrow for him. He missed—and probably suffered because of it—an artistic freedom. At first, he’d found that his work was not that commercial, but over time he felt a great uneasiness regarding the potential of his talents. And this was the case in his graphic noveling with frequent delays and incessant changes by scriptwriters. In the very beginning of his career, he wrote the stories himself, being the spiritual father of Corentin. He eventually became so unmotivated by this work, that he almost never read the script in advance. He would draw directly from whatever novel the story was based on, sometimes mistakenly drawing something that was not part of the script.

There was one escape for him with graphic noveling, Epoxy, an erotic graphic novel taking place in ancient Greece where he could express his main theme abundantly. Here’s an example, with a close-up.

Paul Cuvelier – Epoxy (1968)

Paul Cuvelier – Epoxy (1968)

He lived his life and finally died in Brussels, on the 5th of July 1978, in a time of his life after he had quit graphic noveling and was drawing comics for youth. It was a time when he was strongly on his artistic path. As said earlier, there was one expo on ‘Young Aphrodites’ and so I offer a few more examples of this kind of work, somewhat sentimentally from Philippe Goddin’s book of the same name.

Paul Cuvelier – Four Girls before the Sea (date unknown)

Near the end just before his untimely death, his work with the 18-year-old Brigitte developed. Although Brigitte is described by Goddin as a young woman, she was also a child still, not perfectly grown-up like adult women models. Thus she had a natural charm and grace—perhaps something like his heroine Line.

The two biographical works about Paul Cuvelier, written by Philippe Goddin, are informative with respect to biography and art. But I feel they are a bit too poetic or sentimental, especially Young Aphrodites. What do I mean by “Too poetic”? Isn’t this ‘Gypsy girl’—like those well-known sentimental Gypsy children—a poem in and of herself?

Paul Cuvelier – Gypsy Girl (year unknown)

Maybe it would be good if a new biography were written. There is one site, in French, that is reasonably complete about Paul Cuvelier. However, there is a dearth of material from Young Aphrodites there; only one or two appear there. What would be the reason for that? Inquiries by email have yielded no response. There still needs to be more development there.

Until now, I could not find out where his originals are. Apparently many pieces are in private collections including family members. Are there any on display? I will inform readers later in the comments, should I find out. I am glad that more attention can be given to this artist. He is a well-known name in European comics and, paradoxically, he may not have been that well-known as an artist had he not been a graphic novelist.

At the moment his legacy in media is mainly in paper media, a heritage of the last 40, 50, 60 years—mainly out-of-print. He deserves more attention on the internet and I conclude with a few quotes from Philippe Goddin’s biography (translated into English) from July–August 1973.

I have made comics. By happenstance, the encounter with Hergé, I have made my profession of it. I have done this because I could draw. I loved drawing, but not so much the comics as such. I have drawn comics as a living.
In any case my work has acquired some publicity (particularly with Corentin), that comes probably from a certain quality of my drawing. My talent is unique and supports me in my artistic endeavors, just like drawing comics.
Drawing in all its forms means my life.
Art helps me to win myself back, to justify myself, to restore myself in honor in my own eyes. It makes it possible for me to bear my tough existence rather philosophically and helps me to continue the struggle.
My talent is innate. So it is not instinctive. It develops especially out of an extraordinary sensitivity for every form of nature that can move and is animated. A sharp sensitivity that results from intuition, from a quick and far-reaching understanding the inner structures due to observation. A sensitivity for every developed and organised life form. So sensitivity for the animal life form, for the human body, thus for the essence.
I must admit that my creations remain limited to the realistic imagination of the animal life form and, preferably, of the ‘Anima in Animale’: human being.
My drawing art will always have to suffer by the fact that I, since my youth and constantly thereafter, was not able to study nude bodies in all forms and all ages. I would have eagerly put half my working time into studying them, to draw them over and over again, to devote myself afterwards to real creation.
But yet, if it would be somewhat possible to study nature, with sketches drawn from life, certainly would have helped me more easily and quickly draw good, realistic comics. But I lack the material means to pay the numerous and suitable models that are necessary for such an enterprise. Especially because I would need these models for the whole period of the creation of a story. My drawings would certainly become more realistic, richer and more beautiful by this. Maybe though they would also lose part of their power of communication and calling, for such an enterprise might be able to undermine the power of creation. So although I cannot claim that I can make all the characters of a story after a model, I do avoid coincidental use of a sketch so as not to lower the level of my drawings, and to not get discouraged by comparisons. So I stick to pure imagination, even to the point that I refuse the help of a mirror (by which I could study this or that movement or perspective of myself).
One major exception to make things easy for myself was to learn from a sketch or a document that fits a certain image.
Yes, except for these rare exceptions I have great regret that I cannot claim that in my displayed work I have drawn absolutely everything from the imagination. It is however nearly true, and I know how much it has cost me. -Philippe Goddin, Corentin en de wegen van het wonderlijke. Paul Cuvelier en de strip (Corentin and the Paths of Miracle. Paul Cuvelier and the Graphic Novel), Extracts from 112-119, Brussel, 1984

Goddin then wrote:

After he had put his back into graphic noveling Paul Cuvelier engaged in a painful struggle between 1973 and 1978 … He devoted all his powers to the practice of his art. Without doubt he has worked less in service of his public image and his career, than in the function of his personal commitment. Marked by a tormented life and undermined by sickness Paul Cuvelier died on 5th July 1978, surrounded by his family. -Philippe Goddin, Corentin en de wegen van het wonderlijke. Paul Cuvelier en de strip (Corentin and the Paths of Miracle. Paul Cuvelier and the Graphic Novel), 119, Brussel, 1984

Maybe I can locate Goddin in order to speak with him about Paul Cuvelier’s place in art history and where his Nymphets or Young Aphrodites may be found.

Paul Cuvelier – Female Centaur (year unknown)

‘Anima in Animale.’

Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 1

I said in my post on Arwassa that I would do a series on Lowbrow artists with a focus on young girls, and I have every intention of honoring that. However, I’ve been mulling it over on how best to approach this, and I’ve decided that rather than focus on individual artists who fit within that movement, I’m going to do this another way, at least for the first few posts (the Arwassa post aside). What interests me most about this type of art, and art in a similar vein, is that there are several recurring elements and themes throughout, and I propose that they are ultimately in service to an important psychological phenomenon currently proliferating through Western culture. To put it euphemistically, now that it’s been well-established that children and sex don’t mix very well, what do we do with the sexual insecurity caused by the inappropriate feelings towards children that I believe almost all adults are prone to from time to time?

Now, please note that I am not suggesting that nearly everyone on the planet is a pedophile or potential pedophile. Pedophilia is a medical designation with a fairly specific set of criteria, and it clearly doesn’t apply to most people. But it is my contention that nearly everyone has had the occasional thought, fantasy or impulse to be sexual with someone who is physically and/or emotionally immature. Despite what detractors may say, human sexuality is primal and complex, with a lot of gray areas, unplanned quirks and latent motivations we don’t always understand, and these deep-rooted devils can result in some fairly convoluted mental gymnastics to repress or deny to ourselves what we have felt. I think such feelings, as much as they may disturb us when we face them head-on, are fairly common and normal. Nevertheless, they are obviously not discussed in the open and give rise to psychological phenomena such as projection and sublimation, including into artistic expressions.

But given how controversial and taboo such feelings are in today’s world, we rarely see these expressions presented as is. What happens instead is that these impulses are somewhat disguised or transmuted into safer or less objectionable representations, or they are thematically linked with other things or events which thoroughly repulse the artist (and by proxy the consumers of his or her artistic output), a bolstering of the desired reaction to such a verboten concept. This is not a new occurrence, of course, but it’s ongoing—and rising—popularity, despite its fringe nature, can only be explained as a growing awareness of the ways in which a phenomenon built on the back of a moral panic is processed both by individuals and by society as a whole, so that the feedback loop becomes self-reinforcing, which is how I imagine an otherwise marginal movement becomes mainstream, or at least no longer on the social periphery.

At any rate, having examined a huge range of this art, I have determined that there are twenty-one recurring themes that link this “movement” (like Symbolism, the erotic girl-child in modern surrealism is not so much a movement of its own as it is mainly a trans-movement that happens to be largely contained within a movement yet is not limited to it), and I shall present examples of each from an assortment of artists over the course of several posts. This is not to say that individual artists will not get their own posts. Some will, particularly those with a large range of applicable pieces and important artists in the pop surrealist movement overall. But it’s important, I think, to familiarize ourselves with the common symbols and themes that link these images, and to examine their relevance with respect to my thesis.

One last thing: I am not at all saying that these trends are always a conscious goal to sublimate unwanted pedophilic desires. In fact, I suspect it rarely is, and it’s entirely probable that the artists are barely aware of the instincts they may be sublimating. That does not, however, decrease their power. Alright, so let’s get started.

(1) References to sexuality or sexual acts – It’s essential in comprehending this work that we recognize that not all of the sexual features of this art are entirely rendered into symbolic or allegorical form. Indeed, it is our first and foremost clue as to what purpose the art serves for its creators and fans. Thus . . .

An eye can become uncomfortably vulvic if arranged perpendicular to its normal orientation, especially if said eye isn’t paired with another. Speaking of eyes, Ana Bagayan’s works fits comfortably in the big-eyed waif/baby doll tradition, but we’ll get to that.

Ana Bagayan – Vega

Ana Bagayan – Fae

Ana Bagayan (official website)

Children confronting adult sexuality shows up occasionally in this work. There is an interesting connotation here. Could “Sebastian” be a homosexual who was persecuted by the 50s-style father, who has turned his children against LGBT folks as well? In any case, the resemblance of the nude male to Michelangelo’s David is unmistakable, and the Amors caught in the crossfire of the little archers suggests love is also a casualty of this execution.

Scott G. Brooks – Sebastian of the Suburbs (2008)

Scott G. Brooks (official website)

Stu Mead – Bedroom Dance (1998)

Stu Mead (official website)

Often it is animals that bring attention to the girl’s sexuality, either as harbingers of it or as direct participants.

Jana Brike – Book of Taboo – Five Sins of Amelia

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Notice the cherries on the ground here:

Rene Lynch – Icons – The Messenger (2006)

Rene Lynch (official site)

Fetishistic outfits and accoutrements become satirical when worn by children.

Jana Brike – The Wet Dreams


Trevor Brown – Bondage Bear – Rubber Doll (2005)

Baby Art (Trevor Brown official site)

There is also a male companion piece by Taillefer for the little female cherub below. You can see him here. Incidentally, an oenophile is a lover of wine. I have no idea what that has to do with the image though, other than a suggestion of general hedonism.

Heidi Taillefer – Oenophile

Heidi Taillefer (official site) [link broken]

(2) Humor and satire – But most of the child sexuality in these works isn’t nearly so overt and confrontational. That it surfaces directly from time to time is perfectly understandable. Sexual instincts are messy. But even when such blatant eroticism makes its way into these works, it tends to be packaged as satire, as is the case with all of the above images. Without its most provocative side showing, much of this young girl art remains satiric in nature, and we can therefore add this as the second of our common characteristics.

Ron English’s clown kid art is the prime example. Clowns serve basically two purposes in modern culture: as satire and as fodder for horror. English embraces the former by presenting clowns as children who indulge in adult pursuits like drinking, smoking and gambling. Sex is merely subtly implied (by the extremely short dress worn by the girl clown in this image).

Ron English – Clown Kids Smoking

Ron English’s Popaganda (official site)

On the other end of the spectrum (but no less absurd) is Mike Cockrill’s clown-murdering Lolitas. Underlying this theme is the pervading fear of many modern parents that they are little more than ineffectual clowns in the face a society where their children are becoming increasingly more worldly and empowered, and the kids will eventually replace all of us hidebound fuddy duddies with their New World Order.

Mike Cockrill – Gossip Girls (2010)

Mike Cockrill – Target (2009)

Mike Cockrill (official site)

Another satirical angle is the adoption of light pop culture elements like cartoons and classic comics juxtaposed against general weirdness. This style was of course exemplified by Robert Williams, founder of pop surrealism, but as his work rarely features little girls, we will instead focus on the work of KRK Ryden (older brother of Mark Ryden, who may be better known, but KRK, ten years Mark’s senior, became an artist well before Mark did). Both brothers’ work is laden with little girls, but for different reasons. In KRK’s work they serve as the moral and spiritual center of an otherwise out-of-control culture, though they certainly aren’t spared KRK’s satiric touch.

KRK Ryden – Rendevouz (2007)

KRK Ryden – Shitzville

KRK Ryden (official site)

(3) Cartoonish body exaggerations, particularly of the head, face and eyes – This leads naturally into our third common trait. You should have realized by now that much of this art features more than one of these traits, but of them all, this may be the most universal. Of course, not all of the figures in the art have this trait, but a solid majority appears to. Cartoons are cute and nonthreatening, and that’s partly the point here. Does it become more troubling when the cartoon girls are behaving more humanly? More… grown-up?

Audrey Kawasaki – Lick Face (2005)

Audrey Kawasaki (official site)

LostFish – My Melody Dolly (2011)

LostFish (official site)

The references to Orwell and the modern surveillance state gives this next piece even more relevance in light of our thesis. One common fear among those who have had erotic thoughts about the underaged is that if they aren’t careful and pursue the thoughts too far on the internet, they might be exposed and labeled for life. Overcompensation is common, but these fears still manage to be expressed in symbolic ways, even if several steps removed from their original aspect.

Mario S. Nevado (Aégis) & Liran Szeiman – Big Brother (2013)

Aégis Strife (Mario Nevado official site)

Liransz (Liran Szeiman official site)

Mark Ryden’s name has of course become synonymous with this style.

Mark Ryden – St. Barbie

Mark Ryden (official site)

(4) Girl-women; actual age or maturity level of figures difficult or impossible to discern – And finally for this post, another recurring theme in this work is the girl-woman, a being not quite child and not quite woman but something in-between, and not necessarily adolescent either, but rather an almost alien or mutant form that could be either but feels almost ageless. The cultural value here is similar to that of the kawaii concept in Japan: it is the ability to give anything, including adult sexuality, a sheen of child-like innocence and cuteness without surrendering entirely to a pedophilic instinct. Not that it would be a problem for most people anyway, if only they accepted it for what it was and moved on. But as a species we seem doomed to never move beyond our sexual hangups. How fortunate for fans of subversive art!

Audrey Kawasaki – Horsegirl (2006)

Jana Brike – Parallel Lives – Beekeeper’s Bride

Pay attention to the details of this John John Jesse piece:

John John Jesse – Petit Lapin

Instagram: John John Jesse

Kukula – Wind-Up Girl

Kukula (official site)

Most of these artists will appear again in future installments of this series.

Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy

I have thought of doing a post about Nancy for several years, but for two reasons I found it very hard to start. One reason is that many would not consider that comic strip to be on the same level as the fine art usually featured in Pigtails. Even as comic strip art, Nancy is minimalist. The gags are corny and although I loved Nancy, most of my friends thought the strip was dumb. The second reason is that there is so much material that it is difficult to choose a few representative examples for a short post. Ernie Bushmiller drew Nancy from 1933 to 1982, and other artists have continued the strip after Bushmiller died.

It is this lasting popularity of Nancy that makes me believe that it should be recognized in Pigtails. Nancy may well be the best known little girl in 20th century American art. By 1948, the strip appeared in 450 newspapers with a total circulation of 21 million. At the peak of Nancy’s popularity, in the 1970s, she was in 880 newspapers worldwide. Most papers were read by multiple members of the family, and the comics were read to those who had not yet learned to read. Perhaps 100 million people followed Nancy’s adventures each day. Even if Bushmiller is not in the same class as Da Vinci or Rembrandt, Pigtails in Paint would not be complete without a sample of his work.

Ernie Bushmiller was born in the Bronx, New York in 1905. His parents were immigrants; his father was from Germany and his mother from Ireland. Ernie’s father was an artist, a painter, who had to work at menial jobs in a struggle to support the family. Ernie learned two important things from his father. First, he learned an appreciation for the graphic arts and for literature. Second, he learned that it is difficult to support a family with fine art. To appeal to the masses, art should be simple and direct. Nancy certainly is.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1963)

Ernie quit school at age 14 and went to work as a copy boy at the New York World newspaper. At night he attended art classes. He was paid nine dollars per week, but he later said that he would have paid the paper to let him hang around. He loved working at the paper, where he worked with such cartoonist greats as Rudolph Dirks. Ernie’s big opportunity came in 1925 when he took over drawing the Fritzi Ritz comic. Fritzi Ritz was a liberated young 1920s flapper. In 1933 Fritzi’s orphan niece, Nancy, came to live with her. At first, Nancy was intended to be a temporary part of the strip. However, Nancy was so popular that she became a permanent character in Fritzi Ritz. She was more popular than Fritzi herself. Just as Popeye ousted Castor Oyl as the protagonist of Thimble Theater, and Snuffy Smith took over the Barney Google strip, Nancy became the focus of the Fritzi Ritz strip. Aunt Fritzi was relegated to a secondary role as the adult authority figure, and in 1938 the name of the strip was officially changed to Nancy.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1961)

What was it about the little girl that made her so loved by the readers?  She was obviously more popular than the adult woman Fritzi.  The little boy who was the lead male in the strip, Sluggo, was there only to support Nancy.  Soon after Nancy appeared, there was a story in the Fritzi Ritz strip about an entrepreneur marketing a doll modeled after Nancy.  Since dolls in the 1930s were generally girl dolls, this may be why Bushmiller chose to include a niece instead of a nephew in Fritzi Ritz.  A girl probably works better in the later strips as well.  I believe that the creator of the Little Lulu comic, Marjorie Henderson Buell, was correct when she noted that a mischievous little girl can get away with stunts that look cute, but would look boorish if done by a boy.

As the Nancy strip matured, the style became bolder and more minimalist. Everything in the art was there to support the gag. Everything was explicit. If the scene was a circus side show, the tents would be labeled in large capital letters “CIRCUS” and “SIDE SHOW.”

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1970)

The strip above, from 1970, is a good example of the Bushmiller’s humor. There were a lot of hippies in 1970. There were also dwarfs (called midgets in 1970). Hippies were seen as foolish and lazy and were the subject of many jokes. However, simply being a hippie was not funny; the hippie had to do something particularly foolish or lazy to make the joke. Simply being a dwarf was not funny either; the dwarf had to do something unique to cope with his small stature to make the joke. The point of this strip is not that we should laugh at the dwarf hippie but that we should laugh at Nancy for believing such an outrageous thing as a dwarf hippie is possible. Note that the scene is near a circus side show. The “freaks” exhibited at carnivals and side shows in 1970 were usually fake, and at best greatly exaggerated. This “midget hippie” is really a midget, but is only pretending to be a hippie for the side show.  In spite of his lack of facial hair, we know he is a dwarf and not a child because he smokes a cigar. Normally, children do not smoke, and in the world of Nancy, everything is normal. One of the keys to understanding the humor is to understand that Nancy’s world is more normal than reality. Things that would be slightly unusual in real life (such as a dwarf hippie) are often amazing or impossible in a Nancy strip. Even something as simple as wearing a wig is weird enough to make Sluggo’s hat fly off of his head.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1972)

You can read more Nancy strips here. To better understand the art and subtle humor, you may want to read How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden, and The Best of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy by Brian Walker.

Nancy has had some strong competition. Little Lulu was another popular children’s humor strip featuring a young girl. Little Lulu was in some ways like Nancy, but the plots were a little more complex and the humor was more sophisticated. Lulu has also starred in animated cartoons. Many would say Little Lulu was funnier than Nancy, but Nancy’s humor was unique. Little Orphan Annie was an adventure strip with a girl protagonist. The surreal art that portrayed people with no pupils in the eyeballs was instantly recognizable. Annie’s exciting adventures made her another popular comic strip character. Annie also has been in a musical and movies. Shizuka Minamoto, the female lead of the Doraemon comic strip, may be as well-known in Japan as Nancy is in America. The Japanese humor in Doraemon never achieved the success of Nancy in America. When the male lead in Doraemon embarrassed Shizuka by walking in when she was naked, which happened very often, it was innocent children’s humor in Japan, but would be seen differently in America.  The Doraemon panel below was translated by Forgotten Scans.

Fujiko F. Fujio – Doraemon Vol. 12 Chapter 220 last panel (1976)

Nancy has been seven years old for 85 years. She is still popular, and her comic strip is still in production. I expect she will be in the comics for many decades to come.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1959)

Sex, Drugs & Fascism: The Dangerous and Disturbing Art of Dopingirl

It appears this post has stirred up some controversy.  We are no stranger to that but the core members of the Pigtails staff feel there is a need for a disclaimer explaining why this item has been presented.  Because of the philosophical bent of modern fascism, it should go without saying that we at Pigtails do not endorse or condone Zashtopic’s message.  However, we do not ignore talent here and it would be foolish to put our heads in the sand and pretend this artist does not exist.  It would be interesting to understand better the artist’s drive  to produce this work and, in time, she may come to regret the folly of her youth and find herself subject to censorship as fashions change in her country.  It should also go without saying that Pigtails is not promoting some kind of pro-pedophilia agenda.  Pip has clearly stated in the accompanying text his disgust at this kind of didactic propaganda.  The existence of this work is a cautionary reminder about the state of society which artists seem compelled to express and that we should never become cavalier about the power of imagery in the service of dehumanizing regimes.  -The Staff

Although I have featured the work of far-right artists in the past (in my last big article, in fact), I have never focused on contemporary artists with far-right leanings, largely for two reasons: first, because the great majority of those artists simply do not produce work which fits the theme of this blog, and second, because, as a rule, I do not like to give any of Pigtails’ precious attention to fascists.  But I vowed when I founded this blog that I would cover the gamut of on-topic work regardless of the social/political affiliations of the artists.  In fact, I’d say that to be truly unbiased in terms of our coverage it was really inevitable that such an artist would be spotlighted here in time.  Rest assured, this was not a decision I made lightly.  If the contemporary artist in question had simply produced some bland one-off, or if he or she created images of little girls with some regularity but they were not particularly challenging or original, then I would likely have bypassed their work for something much more interesting.

But here is a contemporary fascistic artist who, for a number of reasons, could not simply be avoided.  For one thing Katya Zashtopik, who goes by the online sobriquet Dopingirl, is not a complete unknown even here in the West (though she does remain completely underground here and is certainly controversial).  Her work—comprised of illustration, photography and a little videography, sometimes in combination—has apparently been used in advertising and billboards in Russia, though you likely aren’t going to find any examples outside of that country.  Furthermore, Zashtopik herself is young, thin and undeniably attractive, often modeling in her own work.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (Self-Portrait)

To some extent Zashtopik has created a real brand, with her signature pink and white capsule, sometimes decorated with plus and minus signs (a pill popper’s yin-and-yang) or flames, and her girl & crossbones logo . . .

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Dopingirl Logo

. . . as well as a particular style in both her illustration and photography work which rests somewhere between cartoon cuteness, fashion mag elegance and unabashed sexual bravado, all of it tweaked by the sometimes sly and at other times conspicuous sheen of her far-right allegiances.  If that wasn’t enough to make her stand out, how about tossing pedophilia into the mix?  The most fascinating aspect of Dopingirl’s work, I think, is how she reconciles these seemingly disparate elements into a kind of fantasy world where tall, young, fashion-forward Nazi men date preteen girls and roam the European wastelands as a couple, coldly executing their enemies (and looking like Vogue advertisements while they do it) as the Grim Reaper looks on approvingly.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (1)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (2)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (3)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (4)

It’s a unique and chilling concept, and yet somehow it all feels of a piece.  There’s always been something a little inherently fascist about high fashion (high fashism?), and the Nazis certainly fetishized the Aryan body.  Moreover, Dopingirl simply takes early 19th century Europe’s obsession with youthful feminine beauty and cranks it up to eleven.  As for the drugs, they are a fixture of pretty much all contemporary youth subcultures whether those subcultures are left-wing, right-wing or no-wing.

The pedophilic aspects, however, are something quite new, at least for modern incarnations of fascism, as pedophiles are usually at the top of the list of categorical enemies of the far right.  I suppose if confronted, Dopingirl’s defenders might argue that the young girl in these images is actually just a stylized waifish young woman, and that argument might have some merit if not for the fact that Dopingirl’s primary muse and most frequent model is a little girl named Olya (last name unknown) whose relationship to Zashtopik is uncertain.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (5)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (6)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (7)

Zashtopik seems much too young to have a daughter of Olya’s age—between 6 and 11 in the images in which she appears—especially when you see them together:

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (8)

My hunch is that Olya is a young sister.  At any rate, it would be rather more sinister for a mother to present her daughter in such a sexualized manner than it would be for a big sister to present her younger sibling that way, though it’s arguably still pretty creepy.  Although none of Dopingirl’s photos of Olya or the other little girls in her work were blatantly pornographic that I could see, several of her illustrations were (these images, which I will not share here, included fetishized urination and little girls performing fellatio on little boys—the worst one depicted a naked girl of about 12 licking a grown man’s testicles), and a few of them seemed to depict a more cartoonized version of Olya. Thus, Dopingirl’s work comes dangerously close to obscenity.  Again, it isn’t clear that Olya is intended to be the model in those more cartoonish drawings, but there are some quite realistic ones, including a couple of nudes, where it is obviously her.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (9)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (10)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (11)

In one photo series, Olya, wearing a flesh-tone body suit similar to the one worn by dancer Maddie Ziegler in Sia’s Chandelier video, toys with a large albino python.  In the Sia video the nude leotard was suggestive of a person being presented as raw and stripped of pretensions.  In this case it’s a reference to Eve, the first woman, and her flirtations with the serpent Lucifer.  The images are stylized, presented against a washed out background and endowed with a modish eroticism.  Perhaps the only thing that saves these images from being straight up soft-core erotica is that there is an underlying theme here, a notion that, far from being the innocent victim, Eve was quite knowingly complicit in her dabbling with the devil. Presenting here as a child, then, is problematic.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (12)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (13)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (14)

Are these photos exploitative?  I would say that in and of themselves they are not, but taken into context with the rest of Dopingirl’s work there is definitely a troubling quality to them.  I’m not arguing that any of these images do not qualify as art, only that the overall picture painted by Dopingirl’s work is disturbing in ways that simple child nudes, even those that toy with an innocent sort of sexuality (as some of David Hamilton’s work does), are not.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (15)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (16)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (17)

In any other hands this next image would be charming and cute, but from Dopingirl it feels vulgar, as if she secretly approves of this young girl dolling herself up to look like a promiscuous young woman rather than the child she is.  To Dopingirl this is not an innocent little girl playing dress-up; it’s a young whore in training.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (18)

This one too feels as if the artist isn’t so much commenting on a troubling youth trend as outright endorsing it.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (19)

Given the hardcore policy of artistic censorship in Russia, the brazenness with which Dopingirl continues to flaunt her pedophilic fantasy scenarios is rather astonishing . . . until one considers who’s in charge there.  No doubt if her work had a left-wing bent she would’ve been censored (at the very least) long ago.  But because it flatters the fascist-leaning Putin regime, Dopingirl is largely left alone.  Such hypocrisy in the far right is historically well-documented.  Even so, if I hadn’t done enough research to know that Dopingirl is deadly serious about her far-right values and her involvement in the fashion industry, I would swear the entirety of her output was pure satire.  Unfortunately, it isn’t.  I worry that she may effectively be pimping Olya, putting her on display for some day in the not-too-distant future when all the best Slavic guys now lining up for her can put in their bids. That day may come sooner than later.

Of course, the most problematic aspect of her work is its unsubtle acclamation of Nazism and especially a kind of sleek modern form of fascism.  Notice in this next photo/illustration collage the reproductions of three painted portraits in the background of (from left to right) France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.  The originals of these paintings are hanging in a right-wing affiliated pub in Moscow called the Union Jack.  This appears to be Dopingirl’s office or workstation.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (19)

Here Dopingirl literally borrows a Nazi icon, the Totenkopf or Death’s Head, and marries it to a well-known sexual symbol, the Playboy bunny logo, thus eroticizing both death and fascism.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (20)

The sexualization of death is the most common theme recurring throughout Dopingirl’s work.  Indeed, her Instagram is called Death and the Maiden, after the title of a play by Ariel Dorfman.  In many examples of her illustration her little Aryan girl is hinted to be the sexual  plaything of the grim reaper. It’s clever and repulsive . . . mostly repulsive.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (21)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (22)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (23)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (24)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (25)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (26)

Again, it would be easy to imagine that the world of Dopingirl’s illustration is an entirely separate venture from the photographic work if the evidence against this wasn’t so substantial. Here little Olya is seen not only indulging in gun-play but also kissing and fondling a chocolate skull.  The truly disturbing part of this is Olya’s obvious and casual familiarity with the pistol, which she holds to her head in one image and feigns blowing her brains out by crossing her eyes.  I, for one, do not find this particularly amusing.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (27)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (28)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (29)

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (30)

Perhaps the most astute of Dopingirl’s symbolic illustrations depicts her little golden girl taking on the grim reaper’s mantle herself and looming gigantic over the city, as if she is embodying the Hindu god Shiva’s words, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (31)

But the image of Dopingirl’s that stays with me is this final one, a cartoonized girl’s head in an SS hat and a spiked collar attached to a leash. It reminds me that, at heart, fascists are about subjugation even of their own people. The girl drools, having been reduced to a slavering sex object.  She does not look happy, and that’s as it should be, for, despite the gloss and glimmer of fascism’s appeal, in the end there is no real comfort in it for anyone but the soulless and the sadistic.

Katya Zashtopik (Dopingirl) – Title Unknown (32)