Alex Law has been making comics for as long as they remember, but over the past few years they’ve posted online a series of comics and illustrations like Bubblegum Lovers, Voluntary Feminization, The Cutest Gangbang and others that play with and question ideas and assumptions about gender and gender roles. Some of the work is sexually explicit and some not, some takes the form of comics, some of it is illustration, but what unites them is this sensibility and this very casual matter of factness about subverting some of these ideas around gender and sexuality. The work manages to be sexy and cute, thoughtful and funny, and sometimes startling in how those come together and play out.
Recently Law posted two comics pointing out certain tropes around female heroines and villains, and they were thoughtful and pointed at how the genre has handled certain tropes. They’ve gotten some flack for them online unfortunately, but I reached out to Law to talk about their work, drawing sex and why they have two Twitter accounts.
I like to start by asking people, how did you come to comics?
I don’t really have a precise answer, because for me I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil. As a kid I would fill notebooks and journals to the brim with drawings and comics. I don’t even have a good answer for when I started making porn comics since I’ve been drawing that stuff in my notebooks since before I even knew what sex was. [laughs]
Can you say a little about what Bubblegum Lovers is and who these characters are?
I started drawing that comic when I was in college. I don’t think too much about who they are, but the comics are loosely based off of interactions I’ve had with previous partners.
I love the comic because it is pornographic, but it’s funny and it’s really this character piece about this couple and their relationship. Was that dynamic key for you in making it?
Thank you. I guess so? I don’t know. I have no idea what I’m doing.
You have two comics collecting Bubblegum Lovers and the first one is about the relationship starting and pegging, and the second one is about pet play. What were you thinking about with the characters and how central is sex and fetish to what you’re trying to do and how you write and think about them?
It’s actually the reverse. I’ll think of a sex or relationship comic idea first, and then decide after the fact that the Bubblegum Lovers characters can be in it. Otherwise the idea goes into some other comic or illustration.
Do you have more plans for the couple? Is your idea to keep going, to explore different things? Is there a plan?
I guess if I get another idea that fits the Bubblegum couple, then there will be more stuff featuring them. Otherwise there is no plan. Basically they are on-call in my brain.
I also love your comic Narcisso’s Dream. Do you want to say a little about it?
That is a really old comic, and so I’m not even sure I remember everything about it. What I do remember is I really wanted a sex comic where consent is denied and then re-established without it “ruining the mood.” Also I wanted to depict when people get all embarrassed about asking for something sexual, especially if it’s a sex act that’s unusual or maybe tied to some bizarre fetish. The dream sequence in the beginning is not actually important and it could have been anything, BUT I have had some weird sex dreams so that’s where that came from.
You also do a lot of illustrations, like Voluntary Feminization. I don’t know what number you’re up to but how did that start and what are you trying to do with them?
In the 2000s, whenever I’d look for porn of crossdressing men, it would often be in the form of “forced feminization,” where a man is forced to adopt various conventionally feminine traits like wearing dresses or being pegged. In fact I’d say the vast majority of crossdressing/femboy/sissy porn I came across would depict them being submissive and embarrassed. So overall the trend seems to be that people are
- associating femininity with negativity, like it’s something to be ashamed of
- associating femininity with submission
- associating penetration with femininity and submission
To me, that’s sexist. But I’m sure there are some people for whom this is just their jam. So rather than go around antagonizing the forced fem fetishists, I just decided to offer some alternatives. Voluntary Feminization features pictures of men who are doing conventional femininity, but who are not embarrassed about it. And they’re either dominant or neutral, and sometimes they’re tops and sometimes they’re bottoms. Some of the pictures are completely non-sexual and are instead looking at other types of femininity. There’s also a sister series called The Handsome Lass. It’s not really an equivalent per se, but some (not all) of the women are both traditionally masculine yet doing things that are actually kind of submissive, like kneeling down and kissing their partner’s hand, getting their neckties yanked on, being straddled by a power bottom, etc.
The weird thing is people so strongly associate masculinity with dominance and femininity with submission, that not everyone realizes what they’re looking at. They’ll interpret the pics as “gentle femdom” or something, like they can’t wrap their minds around dominant, gender non-conforming men or submissive gender non-conforming women, or even sex with no power dynamics whatsoever. However, I’ve also had some people message me telling me that my illustrations have changed their minds about gender and sex.
I’ve also noticed a lot more new artists drawing gender non-conforming men in non-forced-fem contexts, so that is a positive. I’m aware that the end point is that eventually terms like “feminization,” “crossdsressing,” “gender non-conforming,” etc will become meaningless and even problematic – like why are dresses “feminine?” Can’t all styles of self-expression become all-gendered and we can just move to categorizing things as cute, sleek, edgy, dainty, etc? But not everyone is there yet, so baby steps.
Related to that you also have The Cutest Gangbang. Do you want to say a little about it and about making cute pornography? Which is one way to describe a lot of your work.
I like drawing things that I don’t see very often. Typically porn with one woman and multiple men is called a “gangbang.” There is a connotation that the woman is being degraded because she’s servicing a bunch of men. One man with multiple women is called a “harem” and it features a man living the dream and getting spoiled by a bunch of ladies. There is such a thing as “reverse-harems” but that term is used more in romance comics. I found it really hard to find genuinely pornographic pics of women being sexually catered to by a bunch of handsome men. So I did it. I filled the niche.
I got some complaints that everyone in The Cutest Gangbang is straight (bewilderingly equal amount of people think The Cutest Gangbang is queer even though it’s pretty much just cis and straight people). Sure, I could have drawn a whole bunch of different genders and sexual combinations, but I don’t think anyone would look at that and think about gaze or sexism in mainstream gangbang porn. They’d just see a big orgy. So, it was important to me that the gender dynamics be exactly what it is.
The second half does have a man with multiple women, and I think my followers were expecting it to be a guy piled on by a bunch of dommes, but I like to be contrarian so I made him a cheeky power bottom.
You have two Twitter accounts. Why?
I make both adult comics and children’s comics. I used to be more active on Tumblr and had both SFW and NSFW blogs. One of the SFW blogs was called Little Girls Are Better At Designing Superheroes Than You, where parents would send in pics of their daughters in superhero costumes (either cosplay or made-up) and I and a few other artists drew illustrations of them as real superheroes. I was also working on a couple all-ages short superhero comics. So, I felt the need to keep that separate from my NSFW art. I didn’t keep it a secret or anything, it was just out of courtesy for people browsing the blogs.
Is it easier for you to separate these two different kinds of comics you make? Do you think of them as very different kinds of projects?
Ultimately everything I do is coming out of similar places. I think a lot about gender. It would be easiest if I could just post everything on one single account, but generally people who want to just look at SFW things would not appreciate it if a NSFW fetish pic pops up on their feed. I think the reverse might also be true. So far only Pixiv understands this. [laughs]
I wonder if you could talk a little about these recent comics you posted about heroines and villains, and making a point about how they’re drawn and their relationships. What prompted these and how has the reaction from people been?
Oh, I am so going to regret drawing those, aren’t I? I try not to be antagonistic, but I had to get those comics out of my system. They’re not referencing any specific stories, but rather they’re amalgamations of trends and tropes I’ve seen from my childhood up until now. Of course, by being vague it means technically I’m pointing to strawmen. I’d rather do that than get into fandom drama.
The Tragic Villain comic has couple points. The main thing is, I feel frustrated whenever a writer slaps a tragic backstory or some other sympathetic motivation onto an antagonist, but then proceeds to do nothing with it. Why show it to us then? Regardless of whether the villain is redeemable, the tragedy is rarely addressed in any meaningful way. The other point was about stories that use “the power of friendship” type themes. Friendship is amazing and important to mental health, but if you’re not careful with its framing, it becomes a stinging point to kids who are themselves bullied or isolated by their peers. In contrast, bullies tend to have lots of friends. Sometimes a whole class or community will isolate someone. When I was a kid, my parents moved around a lot so I went to many different schools. Sometimes I’d be bullied, and sometimes I’d see other kids get bullied, often for reasons completely out of our control (like being ugly, a minority, disabled, queer, etc). And sometimes the only way to get rid of bullies is by retaliating, but then we’d get in trouble for the retaliation. So, whenever I’d read or watch some story where the “power of friendship” is the moral beacon of the story, I wouldn’t feel inspired. I’d just feel kinda sad about it.
The other comic is the one about gender expression in female protagonists. That one also had a few thoughts in it. The main one is basically that there aren’t a whole lot of gender non-conforming female protagonists. The ones that exist are either very contextual or they’re just doing it halfheartedly. For example, like a common thing for period pieces is female characters disliking it when they are forced to squeeze into a corset or tight dress. Or maybe it’s a girl who’s presented to the audience as ugly or tomboyish but they’re not really ugly or tomboyish, just enough that they seem that way in comparison to their nemesis, a super femme, vapid cheerleader or something. The protagonist will still be pretty and feminine enough to be palatable for the audience. They’re breaking free of gender roles that only exists in the story’s setting. So then it’s just both anti-feminine and hypocritical. It seems like there’s a certain boundary of gender performativity that they just can’t cross. The only ones who can cross that line are villains, or rarely, some little token side character. I think there’s also a lot to be said about gender expression of male protagonists too, but it’s a different discussion.
The response was somewhat divided. There were a lot of people replying or quote re-tweeting with titles where they recognized these tropes happening, so I think the comics resonated with a lot of people. But of course my mentions also got flooded with people either not understanding the message or getting into fandom drama.
What are you working on now, or what are you thinking about next?
I’m going to be working on a few different projects. One is a fantasy comic for kids, another is a short adult comic for an anthology, and a third is a set of illustrations for a book about intersex people. However I don’t want to “officially” announce their titles since they’re all very incomplete.