First Time (112 8.5x11 pages, b/w; NBM hardcover, $19.95) is a collection of ten short stories, each detailing in explicit but exquisite drawings the first sexual experiences of an assortment of women, all written by Sibylline, a woman administrator at Delcourt, a major French comics publisher. “The idea,” she explains in the book’s afterword, “was to provide a means for those who perhaps wanted to draw sex without daring to ask to do so. But we also wanted for it to be something more than a succession of pornographic images. We wanted to show, but we also wanted to tell. Sex is foremost an exchange, an ultimate moment of self-abandon where one must know how to set aside prudishness and anxieties. We have sex because we love it, we discover ourselves, and we teach ourselves. I wanted to tell stories that are reminders that sex is beautiful and to say that what are excesses for some are but a tender normalness for others.”

First Time panel Each of the stories is written from the feminine perspective. One woman tells of her first time with a man she comes to love. Another fantasizes about doing it for the first time with a waiter she lusts for. Two normally heterosexual girls get it on. A couple find a woman on the internet, who comes to their apartment and makes love to the wife, then the husband joins in. Another girl buys herself a sex toy and uses it for the first time.

Each story is drawn by a different artist, most of them Europeans; four give only their first names—Alfred, Capucine, Vince, Rica; the others are more forthcoming—Jerome d’Aviau, Virginie Augustin, Olivier Vatine, Cyril Pedrosa, Dominique Bertail, and Dave McKean. Some styles are cartoony; others, realistic. All, however, are splendidly achieved—graceful undulating linework, unabashed nakedness, form and function in persuasive detail. But despite the explicit visuals, romance — lust as well as affection — makes all the encounters thoroughly humane, tender and endearing.

NBM also published the complete oeuvre of Reed Waller and Kate Worley, seven volumes of Omaha the Cat Dancer, books over which the puritan among us raised such a ruckus years ago, plus several of Milo Manara’s superior efforts, a title or two from Azpiri, a series of highly comedic one-page sexual adventures in an attractive cartoony style, all under the series title Grin and Bear It, and at least half a catalogue of other erotic enterprises. But my favorites of the lot are those by Ignacio Noe, who draws the best erotic comics on the planet. His pictures are not only breathtakingly fleshy and seductive, but his stories are invariably outrageously funny.

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John Grigas

Thoughtful review of a really gorgeous book. If the subject matter is not offputting to you, then I highly recommend it for its artistic craft.

I took the first-name-only artists to be creating a brand, like Elvis or Madonna . . . but you may be right about the modesty.

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