Ahh. Soho – for so long (and as we’ll be exploring in a forthcoming Reprobate project) the area of London synonymous with sex and sin, with a healthy sex industry that survived the Thatcher-led purge in the 1980s but is now crumbling to the property boom spearheaded, ironically, by Paul Raymond’s family and to increasing clampdowns by councils and pressure groups who know that the best way to destroy the smut industry is not through blunt assault, but rather by the death of a thousand legislative cuts.
Nicholas C. Grey and Vincent Alexander’s forthcoming graphic novel is, then, a nostalgic – though perhaps not dewey-eyed – study of Soho as was – the unlicensed sex shops, the strip clubs, the sex cinemas and clip joints where the punters were often ruthlessly ripped off, but where the locals had a sense of community… like East End villains, looking after their own. The crime lords have mostly moved on, of course – porn is not where the money is any more.
Death of a Pornographer is a work-in-progress, but we’ve managed to see the opening salvo of the story, setting the scene with little character studies based around the narrator, a second generation sex shop owner called Jerome, who bemoans the death of Old Soho with colleagues (how old that is, of course, depending on who is waxing nostalgic at the time). We meet prostitutes and strippers, eccentric and seedy customers, the passing characters of an underground life. No one seems particularly happy and no one seems like they particularly like each other, but perhaps that’s par for the course anywhere.
Grey’s black and white artwork matches the dour story well, with beaten down and small characters – this is social realism is comic strip form. There’s plenty of explicit material – recreations of Color Climax covers, a sexual encounter between Jerome and a sex worker – but this isn’t really about titillation. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Where this story is going to go is hard to tell, apart from the obvious clue of the title – but even that is ambiguous. Is this a violent death, a natural one, a spiritual one – perhaps one that has already taken place. Time will tell, once the finished book is published. So far, it’s impressive enough to make us keen to see more.
Death of a Pornographer is not yet commercially available.