Over a decade after its creation, Camille Carida’s feminist graphic novel, Lick-It Man, a bawdy superhero story with a twist, is finally finding its audience. The self-published book, written by Carida and illustrated by the future Marvel Comics artist Joe Quinones, is a #1 bestseller in Amazon’s graphic novel category. It has also received endorsements from such industry influencers as Toxic Avenger creator Lloyd Kaufman and comic book writer Scott Lobdell.
“I think traditional publishers were just too afraid to touch it,” Carida says of her decision to self-publish. Carida pitched the comic to numerous editors. She went to Comic-Con in 2005 and 2008 to show the completed 66-page work to various publishers. “I got the same response from everyone: loved the art, but the story was too kinky, too out there,” she says. An editor at a Random House imprint couldn’t get the higher-ups on board, according to Carida. It was too risqué. A deal to publish the book in 2008 fell through because of the financial crisis. “At a certain point,” she says, “I realized that the traditional comic book world is not where Lick-It Man would find its place or audience, so I stopped trying.”
What was so shocking to publishers? Lick-It Man’s superpower: an encounter with a radioactive lollipop allows the hero, Boffum resident Beaver Sparker, to empower women by giving them enlightened orgasms. After a visit from the superhero, disgruntled, overworked, and unappreciated women are motivated to change their lives for the better. America’s first female president, for example, is able to achieve world peace. “One thing I have to admit I have found surprising is how porn is okay, violence in movies is deemed normal, people being shot and killed one after the other as if it’s nothing,” Carida says, “but a graphic novel called Lick-It Man [about a guy] who flies under women’s skirts and provides them with an enlightened orgasm is shocking.”
Writing Your Own Roles
Carida’s success as a graphic novelist comes after years of working as a writer and an actor. A Florida native, Carida majored in theater and dance at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., before moving to New York and then to Los Angeles to pursue acting. But, with few good roles available for women at the time, she realized that if she wanted to be successful she would need to write her own material. “Creating your own projects keeps you practicing your craft and finding some level of happiness in a very brutal field full of constant rejection,” Carida says.
The inspiration for Lick-It Man came after a particularly bad breakup. “I was lying in bed one night depressed,” Carida says. “I was thinking, ‘Gosh! I don’t have any space for an emotional relationship with a man, but wouldn’t it be nice if a superhero just flew into the window and ravaged me?’ ” The idea for a short film came together quickly after that.
The film, which Carida wrote and starred in, was well-received at festivals. A few people in the film industry suggested that the superhero tale would work well as a graphic novel. The book that would eventually become an Amazon bestseller would take another few years to complete—and even longer to get published.
Carida first set out to find an illustrator. On a budget, she put out a call for submissions on various college job boards. She received tons of replies, but Quinones’s work stood out. His drawings were friendlier, rounder than the muscled action figures that made up the bulk of submissions. Quinones, at the time a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, signed on to illustrate Lick-It Man. Now Quinones is an artist for Marvel Comics, most notably for its Howard the Duck series.
In late 2014 Carida made the decision to self-publish the book on Amazon—and that global platform has made all the difference, she says. “One of the truly amazing experiences I have been having is getting emails and Facebook messages from women and men in foreign countries, especially India, telling me how much this book and the celebration of women has been a source of hope and inspiration for them,” Carida says.
“I think Lick-It Man was ahead of its time when I first tried to put it out there,” Carida says. “It seems to be welcomed and celebrated now.” And Carida hopes that the book will make a difference. “A woman delighting in her own sexual/creative energy and being empowered by that is not something you see in movies, books, magazines,” she says.