Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lust to Dust: a graphic book of ill repute

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 10:25 AM

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Like so many underground artists, Michael Ogilvie finds inspiration, or at least diversion, in vice. Following the collection of booze-fueled comics he edited for Drunk (2009), Lust to Dust is the bastard offspring of a motley crew of graphic artists given free reign to explore the institution of prostitution in Nevada.

The book begins with a postcard from the grandfather of depraved comics (Stan Lee's evil twin), R. Crumb — a man who made a career illustrating gritty tales of losers and antiheroes. Crumb writes that he would love to contribute to the collection if he had ever been in a Nevada brothel or used the services of a professional sex worker. In some ways this preface symbolizes the passing of the pen to a new generation of experimental artists who will venture even farther into the unlit realms of the human experience. I caught up with Ogilvie, the grand madam of this collection, to shed some light on the story behind the graphic stories in Lust to Dust.

What is it about prostitution that captivates the imaginations of artists and storytellers throughout history? Is it the same allure that leads these artists to the doors of sex workers: i.e. their sex appeal and accessibility?

This could easily be a ten part series directed by Ken Burns, "Whores." You are right, representations of prostitutes by artists have been a fairly common phenomenon throughout human history (Mondigliani, Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Rubens, Manet, Schiele, Sprinkle ... the list goes on and on). Part of this has to do with the ubiquitous human interest in the sacrifice made for money. Another is an artist needs a model willing to undress; a prostitute needs a more dignified way to make money — it is a symbiotic relationship. Lastly, let us not forget that talented artists and prostitutes are often drunkards and are (in most civilizations) treated as a lower class — so they have some common ground to bond.

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  • Orlando Montenegro
Like gunslingers, the prostitute is an iconic figure of the West. What, if anything, do you think prostitutes symbolize about the idea of the West: hard people making due in a hard land, the freedom to pursue vice, a primitive society existing by primitive laws?

All of these things you mention they embody, and probably many more. For the West though, and I can speak firsthand growing up right around the corner from a legal brothel, is that houses of ill repute — if regulated — serve to civilize people. In Virginia City, NV, at its peak boom years, the ratio of men to women was 32 to 1. Needless to say women were rare and precious. They also gave men something to look forward to besides drinking and killing one another. It is not a very popular idea but women that work at brothels are care givers. I've known plenty of them, and the ones that don't have a screw loose are pretty much just regular girls trying to do something good and make a living at the same time.

When contacting artists about submitting work for this collection, what criteria did you give them?

Page, color, and theme dimensions.

Has anyone who worked on this collection worked as a prostitute? Did you ever consider pairing each artist with a prostitute in order to portray true stories from brothels in creative ways?

At its core we are all prostitutes, we all sell ourselves for money, but as Chuck P would say, that is brainy brain food. The first part of this question is probably best left a mystery. In regards to the second part, the story Nani and I put together was a creative way to interpret the true story of a care giver. Nani has helped girls in the lifestyle find new direction, and I'm a decent writer, so we got together with one of the most incredible artists I've come across, Noelle Garcia, to draw the story.

What do you want readers to take away from this collection, or is the main point simply to entertain?

Entertainment is always important in comics, but ultimately it would be immeasurably pleasing to me to make people think and laugh at the same time. Humor and intelligence can elevate society. Combine that with art and there is a limitlessness to what can be achieved, for better or worse, but hopefully for better.

Why do you think Popeye appears multiple times in this collection? Does his character simply provide fertile territory for sex jokes: he is a "seaman," sailors are notorious for visiting prostitutes, he kind of looks like a dick with his bald head and one eye, and he has a tendency to become engorged with hyper-masculinity when provoked?

Popeye fell into public domain about the same time I started thinking about doing this book. As a child I was obsessed with Popeye. I would wear red pants, sing the song, and gag down cans of spinach. Popeye was also a catalyst for me to pick up a pencil and draw. So I guess I owed it to Segar, and the Fleischer bros, to carry that legend on. I basically told the artists that Popeye was no longer restricted to being a sailor, he could be anything he damn well pleases. So some folks ran with it. Evan Dent, who probably created one of the most humorous and heartbreaking tales in the book scrapped his original concept to resurrect an epic Popeye yarn.

Michael Ogilvie
  • Marcos Rivera
  • Michael Ogilvie
Did you have any fear of being sued for libel or copyright infringement when putting together this collection?

No. I prefer logic to fear when making decisions. All of the artists retain their copyright, so they can go sell their story to whoever they want, and make as much money as they want. All I requested was that they allow reproduction rights for the book, which they did.

See more of Lust to Dust and order your own copy at LustToDust.com

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