This week, writer Sam Humphries (CBGB: The Comic Book, Fraggle Rock) and artist Steve Sanders (Uncanny X-Men: The Heroic Age, Sword, Five Fists of Science) released their perverse sci-fi one-shot Our Love is Real. The book, which has a very limited print run but is available through comiXology, is billed as a love story set in a sexually shocking future: Five years after the AIDS vaccine, humanity has run sexually rampant. Human-dog relationships are commonplace. Vegisexuals riot for the right to enhance plants for their physical pleasure. Mineralsexuals claim they can sex with crystals – for hours – without ever touching them. Into this fray steps Jok, a dog-loving riot cop, who is emotionally shaken after an encounter with a beautiful mineralsexual.
It sounds like a recipe for raunchy comedy filled with dog-f*cker jokes, but Humphries and Sanders take a surprisingly earnest speculative fiction approach to their libertine future. It seems that after deciding on their heterospecies-sexual premise, the pair buckled down and asked what such a world might actually look like. When sex within your own species is rare – maybe even taboo – what does locker room trash talk sound like? How do mineralsexuals choose their inanimate partners? The understated approach matches well with Sanders’s artwork, which, though at times violent, never delves into the crude or cartoony, and makes for some laugh-out-loud moments – especially when Jok shares an intimate moment with his canine lady. It also makes the central love story both strange and sweet.
Because the story is supposedly set five years after the eradication of AIDS and features people who actually do marry their dogs, some wondered if Our Love is Real would prove to be an anti-gay satire. But while this future where sex exists without fear of disease could be seen as a type of Gomorrah, it appears that Humphries and Sanders are repurposing anti-gay language to cast our culture war in a fresh light. Of all these uncomfortable sexualities, dog-lovers are at the top of the social heap; Jok violently beats vegisexuals for demanding equal rights and mocks the non-physical desires of his mineralsexual would-be paramour. Propaganda posters pairing man and dog declare “Our Love is Real,” as if to say that no one else’s is. Although it’s absurd to ask the question, “Are vegisexuals any less ridiculous than dog-f*ckers?” that absurdity may well be the point; this story invites us to reexamine our own sexuality hierarchies by looking at them in a new, weirder context. Ultimately, open-mindedness is rewarded; it’s only when Jok acknowledges that love between human and crystal or human and plant might be just as real as love between human and dog that he has a real shot at true love.
For all its gleeful sexual perversions, Our Love is Real’s nearest comic relatives are the EC Comics-era anthologies like Weird Fantasy and Weird Science. We never get too emotionally involved with Jok, but we follow his journey through the confusing sexual politics of the future, and the twist ending puts a satisfying cap on everything that came before. If Humphries and Sanders decide to continue the series, Our Love is Real is well positioned to take up the weird anthology reins with tales from the sexually bizarre side of the future.
My main quibble with Our Love is Real is the price: $3.99 for 24 pages of story – and those are iPad-held-horizontally pages. For that price, I’d expect to seem some actual sexy times – and not of the crystalline, no-touching variety. But the entire 300-book print run sold out during its first day on the shelves. Bleeding Cool notes the book has already hit eBay, and resellers are offering it for as much as $75. BC also reports that there will be a second print run of 300 copies with a slightly altered cover, termed the “Vegisexual Edition.”