Cellmates by legendary illustrator Josman, is packed tight with boners and problematic tropes.
Sometimes choosing gay cartoons and comics to talk about here is more complicated than one might ever realize. I understand that my own meta-appreciation for stories involving incest or implied incest stuff are not everybody’s taste, and my intention isn’t ever to shock somebody into compliance or appreciation. So I’m forever looking for stuff that’s slightly outside that window, which we can look at in a little more detail.
Josman isn’t great for that task, admittedly; he loves dads and brothers and cousins and uncles and made himself legend by giving us the Wild and Raunchy Son series. But he does stray from the formula from time to time, and that’s where stories like Cellmates pop up.
Cellmates first appeared in the September 2003 issue of Handjobs, and is one of the shorter Josman gay comics (and one of my least favorites, personally). In just five quick pages (all that Handjobs once allocated to works like this), Josman tells the story of two tough guys in lockup – Kowalski and Martinez. The bald and moustached Kowalski is a familiar archetype in the Josman universe: muscled, mature, and more than excited to suck some cock and milk out some loads. Martinez is his sex hungry “but bro I’m straight” new cellmate who doesn’t manage to make it six panels before he’s openly drooling over Kowalski’s exposed dripping boner.
Josman does a fine job with his depictions of penis hypnosis (that cool thing that happens where you’re confronted with something you want in all conceivable ways, simultaneously), but is penned in by the ultra short gay cartoon story format and some troubling character boxes.
In the time it takes Martinez to quickly bust his nutt, the two men have suddenly flipped into an aggressive and predictable prison rape dynamic, with Kowalski telling the younger man he better “get used to the idea, cause [his] ain’t gonna be the only cock you’ll have up your shitter in this place!” I’m doing everything I can to ignore the racial implications toward the end, where Kowalski is talking about what he’s going to do with his “big white cock.”
The ending is the gay cartoon porn equivalent of “welcome to the OC bitch!” And ultimately the two characters aren’t memorable enough to ever warrant any future comic followups.
The examination of ideas around men in lockup, and the physical and emotional and psychological circumstances that lead to the fabled aggressive sexual encounters that made for so many tepid and homophobic sitcom jokes in the 90s is less than surface here, and I know I feel better when I don’t think too hard about what’s truly being conveyed with setting this scene in lockup. Or in fetishizing convicts and criminals in the way they’re fetishized here. Or in the reasons Josman found it necessary to the story for the conspicuously white/blonde and bald (perhaps it’s alopecia) prisoner to refer to it as his “big white cock.”
But Josman does great nipples and pretty penises, and the exact faces one makes when you’re confronted with such things, so Cellmates worth taking another peek at on a Sunday afternoon, albeit with a cautious eye.
Welcome to the shallow well of ideas about how men can connect though sex and racially-tinged aggression, boy!