cover image Naked Body

Naked Body

Edited by Yan Cong, R. Orion Martin, and Jason Li, trans. from the Chinese by R. Orion Martin and Joey Schwartzman. Paradise Systems, $21.95 (120p) ISBN 978-0-99890-509-9

In this revelatory anthology of comics from underground Chinese cartoonists, the formal restriction set for creators is that their main character must be naked. First published in China in 2014, where independent publishing is illegal and the depiction of nudity censored, the collection’s editors and artists faced real risks in putting these eclectic stories to print. The weird variety of comics show the influence of European comics more than manga styling, and each has its own distinct visual or thematic approach. Cong’s untitled piece and Wang XX’s “Hair” deal with self-image and are rendered in a cartoony and minimalist style. Tianxing Wan’s “Naked” and Shijie Hai’s “Mortal Questions” employ a feathery line in narratives about angels and murder, respectively. Tao Benyuan’s untitled selection and Yuwei Gong’s “About Love” are absurd tales that feature swirling, abstracted colors. Intimacy and raw desire are key to Shur An’s “Rêver” as well as the untitled contributions of Leng Zhiwen and Hanada. Nudity is observed as a metaphor for death in Sadan’s “Another World” and Wang Hang’s “Not Today.” Zhai Yanjun’s naturalistic line in “Xiao Ma’s New Outfit” aids his fashion satire. “Naked” (again) by Inkee Wang and Zuo Xin’s “Watermelon Man” use a lurid palette in boundary-pushing, outrageous scenes. This risky collection offers a rare reading experience. [em](May) [/em]