Chester 5000 XYV
Jess Fink, writer/artist
ongoing webcomic, August 2008-November 2009 (and counting)
A steampunk porn webcomic: By god, is this the most Internet-y thing the Internet has ever produced? Regardless, it’s certainly an advertisement for the potential of the web as a publishing mechanism for comics. You can do page after page after page of a cheerful, even sentimental comic drawn in a friendly, loose-fit Craig Thompson-y style (lots of dot-eyes and pointy noses and rapturous swirls) about a woman getting fucked by a robot with a mustache, and Diamond minimums be damned. I stumbled across this by following a link trail from Kate Beaton’s place, which seems somehow appropriate–good luck getting your gag-comic series about historical figures off the ground without a David Finch variant cover, too.
To set the scene: It’s the story of a workaholic Victorian-era scientist who, unable to satisfy his lovely wife’s needs when he’s knee-deep in lab work, builds her, essentially, the world’s most sophisticated vibrator: A humanoid robot who can go-go-go-go and keep the missus busy when the Scientist’s working. Unfortunately for him but fortunately (?) for them, the lady and the robot (the titular Chester) fall in love, as best I can tell because the sex is really awesome and because of Chester’s “programming”–the scientist placed a picture of his wife where the robot’s heart would go. Eventually the Scientist attempts to sell Chester off to a local widow, but Chester has ideas of his own, and this other lovely young lady gets embroiled in the shenanigans, where we’re currently left as of the strip’s latest installment.
My relationship with this comic as I read its year-plus run in one go fluctuated fairly wildly, which surprised me. Now, steampunk’s not really my thing, and the very twee line and look Fink employs generally needs to be shored up by some genuinely meaty content to pass muster with me. Of course, this being a porno comic, there’s a pretty simple way to figure out if it’s working, and work it does. It’s graphic, so there’s that, and there’s a repeated emphasis on clitoral stimulation that all but single-handedly (rimshot!) makes up for the American education system’s sex-ed dropped ball on that score, which has left generations of young men unable to find the thing with a map and a flashlight. (Please change your standards in this regard, Department of Education–the high school girls of America will thank you!) But in addition to all the sensually drawn close-ups of genitalia, Fink has a knack for capturing not just the act, but the desire to act, if you follow me–a look in the lady’s eye as she gets ready to get it on with Chester, the heat-of-the-moment kissing and grabbing and gasping and so on. The build-up to the sequence involving the two women is particularly strong in this regard, though of course I’m a dude with a typical dude’s sensitivities in that area, so, you know, unreliable narrator.
But amid all the cute romance and hot sex and meme-able robot stuff, like I said, there’s some surprisingly tricky terrain. Is the scientist’s obsession with his work really a valid excuse for his wife to so enthusiastically and totally cuckold him–with a gift he gave her, no less? I was pretty sympathetic to the Scientist’s outrage over this–until he took it way too far and flipped my sympathies yet again. When the Widow enters the picture, as much as I enjoyed watching her dive in, I found the notion that, basically, everyone is sexually compatible with everyone…snobbish, in a way? Does that even make sense? But as the four characters are currently coupled off, I feel like we’re seeing adults make a decision about how they really want to live their lives, even though they’re making it with their sex organs at the moment rather then their brains. I don’t know…it’s heady stuff, in its way, and demanding of one’s attention and non-lizard-brain thinking, keeping you actively engaged rather than passively taking in the pretty curved lines and button-pushing romance and dirty drawings. Very interesting.