- GUTTERFAGS -
Quarterly reviews of sequential art about
dude-on-dude lust and love
Harry & Dickless Tom
by Brad Rader
reviewed by Larry Duplechan for Gutterfags
Brad Rader’s Harry & Dickless Tom made me think of what I imagine the pitch meeting for the movie Snakes On A Plane must have been like. Because once you’ve said “Harry & Dickless Tom”, you’ve said it all. “Harry & Dickless Tom” is the theme, the upshot, the plot, the raison d’etre (if I may) of the book. In a twist on a dusty plot device from the 1940s Broadway musical, Finian’s Rainbow -- in which a White supremacist turns Black when an Irish colleen shouts “I wish to God you were Black!” Macho married cis-het alpha-male trucker Dick Manley awakens from a long night of fag-baiting and butt-raping, to find his membrum virilis replaced with a real-live, fully functional va-jay-jay. In short order, Dick’s long-time trucking partner and best buddy, macho married cis-het alpha-male Harry Studman is (in quick succession) incredulous, repulsed, intrigued, tumescent, and finally pounding Dick’s brand-new puddin’. Apparently, there’s nothing quite like finding a fresh yoni between his thighs to put a guy in serious touch with his Feminine Side; and/or a heaping helping of estrogen must have been included with Dick’s hoo-hee, because one good boink from Harry and Dick’s not only jonesin’ for the Knackwurst, but whispering satisfied-woman proclamations like, “I can still feel you inside me!” Harry is (once again) disgusted and then schtupping his buddy’s new quim again, in quick succession.
The germ of this book was a six-page story fragment created when Rader was a 20-year-old art student, revised and expanded 23 years later. And like a movie based on an SNL skit, the story seems spread a bit thin. There are occasional and scattered plot points – the most interesting being an amateur attempt at anti-gay aversion therapy perpetrated upon Tom’s closeted college-jock son by his football coach – but mostly they seem rather half-hearted. For the most part, Harry & Dickless Tom is a 100-page excuse for generally well-executed black-and-white illustrations of sex acts, perpetrated by adults (consenting and otherwise) of every gender: some double-headed-dildo fun shared between Tom and his (amazingly sanguine, under the circumstances) wife; a three-way between Harry, his wife, and the studly Black co-worker she’s been screwing in Harry’s frequent absence; a role-blurring back-of-the-truck encounter between (dickless) Tom and an uninhibited chick with a dick; culminating in a no-holes-barred pan-sexual free-for-all at the end of the book. In fact, “No Holes Barred” might have been a less punchy but just as accurate title for the book: from the moment Tom discovers his vagina, he becomes He Who Must Be Penetrated – by his fingers, by Harry, by his wife’s sex toy, by Harry again. Tom’s new “in-hole” not only opens his body, but his mind; and Harry’s – during his romp with his wife and her fuck-buddy, Harry not only handles the Black man’s dick, but allows himself to be finger-banged by him. He even considers taking penis in his virginal rectum, though he stops just short of that.
In the end, every character in the book has been in some way liberated by the blast of sexual Gamma-rays that seems to emanate from Tom’s pussy – even the sexually repressed Bible-blind football coach joins in the ultimate orgy, his near-psychotic sexual hang-ups magically lifted. This “don’t dream it, be it” ending, while both sociologically hopeful and nicely drawn, struck me as something of an imaginative stretch, even for a comic book/graphic novel, even one so clearly dedicated to the proposition that sex conquers all, as this one.
This being Brad Rader, the art is (of course) consistently top-shelf. Rader mixes it up a bit stylistically, employing not only his trademark stark, scratchy, cross-hatched black-on-white art style, but also homages to other comic artists, creating a chapter in the style of Hergé’s Tintin; another in the style of Milt Caniff’s Steve Canyon; yet another based on Jim Steranko’s Captain America books of the 1970s; and so on. The deeper your knowledge of comic book art, the more in-jokes and stylistic Easter eggs you’re likely to find. Personally, though, I found Harry and Tom difficult to differentiate from one another at times: they’re both bald-headed, hairy chested middle aged White guys; and unless their vastly different genital equipment was in play, they often looked like the same guy. And until the last chapter, when Harry refers to his wife’s paramour as a “nigger”, I didn’t realize the man was Black: rendered in Rader’s wonted flat black-and-white, with a haircut that looks like a flat-top, and no discernible (to me, anyway) African features, the character looks swarthy, at best. And I found Rader’s use of the infamous “N-word”, while clearly in character for Harry, a bit jarring, and arguably, gratuitous.
At its best, though, Rader’s art makes for an absolute eyeful: the few times he allows himself an entire page or a two-page spread for one set piece, he is truly impressive. But I couldn’t help wishing this enviable and entertaining skill had been employed to further a more substantial story.
- About the reviewer -
Larry Duplechan is the author of five novels, including Blackbird (1986) and the Lambda Literary Award-winning Got ‘til It’s Gone (2008). His homoerotic digital art has been shown in galleries in Seattle and Los Angeles; and featured in publications by Class Comics.