4. Paying for It
by Chester Brown
Nick Hanover: Sex was everywhere in the comic world of 2011. But for the most part, it was sex as a cartoon act, a desperate effort to appeal to the lowest common denominator that reduced one of the most complicated aspects of human nature to inhuman postures and mindsets. Chester Brown's Paying for It would be impressive regardless of the year of its release, but that it was published in a year like this -- where sex was perhaps more visible than ever in comics -- was all too perfect.
An insightful, deeply human work, Paying for It is proof incarnate that comics as a medium are uniquely situated to dig into subjects that are often ignored in other mediums. In the case of Paying for It, that subject goes beyond sex and into the realm of sex work; specifically, the perspective of those who utilize the service of sex workers. Paying for It essentially functions as a graphic novel memoir of being a john and how that lifestyle has improved rather than harmed Brown's life.
As flawed as portions of Brown's arguments are -- particularly in regards to his generalizations about monogamy and the encroachment of his personal politics in his sexual politic -- it's the bravery he shows in putting himself out there as evidence that johns aren't perverted monsters that elevates the work even further. Like Stuck Rubber Baby before it, Paying for It is devoted to humanization and its politics are secondary to those efforts. There may have been many works this year that pushed sexual progression in comics backwards, but it's not too optimistic to imagine that Paying for It was a big enough step forward that it at least cancelled those works out.
PAYING FOR IT ranks on Comics Bulletin Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2011!
4. Paying for It