SfSx is a science fiction comic book series created by sex worker and BDSM educator Tina Horn. The latest installment in the series, published by Image comics, is an original graphic novel called Terms of Service. The new book is drawn by punk zinester G Romero-Johnson in the kinky queer collaboration of your dreams/nightmares!
In a dystopian San Francisco, our heroes from the underground club The Dirty Mind continue their resistance against the totalitarian rule of The Party. This time, they’re facing a mutilated cop with a cult of incel followers, a seductively engrossing cyberspace, and a mysterious bimbo named Stacie who may or may not be on the side of sex positivity! This action-adventure story is very much for sleazy grown-ups, gore whores, and readers who love some social commentary with their fetish art.
TINA HORN: G, I’m so stoked that Spectrum Journal wanted us to do an “in conversation” for our new book, SfSx: Terms of Service (I grew up obsessed with DVD commentary tracks, so this is a dreamy ego stroke, to be honest!
Our graphic novel is a continuation of the SfSx series I created and write (Volume 1: Protection is also available wherever fine books and comics are sold!). Each book can also be read as its own erotic technothriller. ToS is my first artistic collaboration with illustrator G Romero-Johnson, and we also got to work with Kelly Fitzpatrick on colors, Laurenn McCubbin on design, Steve Wands on letters, and Tula Lotay on the wraparound cover.
G, can you say a little bit about your influences as an artist, and what illustrating a sexually-explicit queer science fiction horror graphic novel like this meant to you at this point in your life and career?
G ROMERO-JOHNSON: Erotica is pretty central to the work I’m making, and what I’d like to make in the future. That’s not an easy thing to do within today’s publishing market especially with guidelines and terms of service on so many sites cracking down on porn and sex work in general. Still, sex is a central piece in a lot of the work I create. Some of my biggest influences and staples of my artistic fingerprint go back to Tom of Finland, GB Jones, Charles Burns, H.R. Giger, and my peers working in the same genre. (SUPERPOSE webcomic, Fanficciera, Archie Bongiovanni) Kind of a mixed bag of horror, sci-fi, and sex.
Working on SfSx felt so special because it united so many things I feel are intrinsic to my work, things I just straight up like to draw! There’s not a ton of books that do what SfSx is doing or would even let me draw pages of fisting, to begin with. As my first full-length graphic novel I’ve drawn, it was a real gift to be able to work on it with the team.
TH: Some of the previews we’re going to show have to do with sex work and porn in the future, both in robot form and in virtual cyberspace. It’s dystopian and satirical, meant to be both terrifying and horny. Looking at the finished book now after working on it together for over a year, I kinda can’t believe we managed to strike that tonal balance. How do you think we did it, from your visual storytelling perspective?
GRJ: I think your Pinterest board was an insanely important starting point for me in figuring out the visual tone we were trying to hit. I think there’s a lot of movies that I obsessively rewatched during the making of this book. Those movies might have imprinted some DNA on this book as well. Hellraiser, Brazil, Ex Machina, and Magnolia are a few I remember off of the top of my head. Oh, can’t forget The Thing! There’s some John Carpenter goodness in this book, I’ll say that. I tried to marry the pieces I loved or found intriguing from these movies, and thankfully it paid off in this weird amalgamation of leather, glam, bureaucratic horror, slime, and grime
TH: So this scene is the first chapter “reveal” that probably won’t be all that surprising for the readers, who probably already get the picture that Stacie is a robot from the cover and premise of the book. But I did want to convey the idea that our imprisoned heroes Avory, Connie, and Richie hadn’t figured it out until this moment. A little bit of dramatic irony!
Something I’ve learned in writing for comics is that the illustrator is kinda like an actor who is playing every character. Did you feel like you got to play the Stacie role in this story?
GRJ: Do I feel like I got to try on a Stacie suit? Hell yeah. She’s one of the characters I really connected to while drawing and designing. Maybe part of that is because I’m a trans masc who loves femmes and glamour, of course, she’d end up being my favorite.
TH: One of the first images Laurenn McCubbin and I came up with for Stacie was the idea of her dramatically peeling off her synthetic skin the way a burlesque dancer peels off stockings and gloves. Machinery as nudity. You’re is so good at incorporating abstractions into a scene, and really outdid yourself with these burlesque feathers. And then Kelly Fitzpatrick gave us a great blue color twist on the Alien/s style android milk blood.
What was important for you about the way Stacie appears, moves, and acts?
GRJ: I got into watching burlesque performances when I first started on SfSx and drew the first few pages. Stacie has pretty over-the-top acting in the book and she’s basically always posing dramatically. That felt important to her character, an extra layer of cartoony bimbo.
TH: This is also a great example of Stacie’s characterization as a total bimbo: part Holli Would from Cool World, part Helloooo Nurse! I’ve been really interested in the reclaiming of the bimbo in queer culture because it challenges the idea that extreme femininity only exists to appeal to patriarchal power. Bimbofication is also a fascinating fetish to me because it helps us to explore why extreme femininity has the power to humiliate us, turn us on, affirm a part of us we don’t have access to otherwise. In particular, there’s this illustration of a woman being “bimboified” that’s been appropriated by incel ideology: Stacie’s name is also a nod to / reclamation of that. What were some of your bimbo inspo for Stacie?
GRJ: Amanda Lepore was my first big inspiration for Stacie. I think some of my concept art really reveals that as well as some costuming throughout the book. Also oh my god, I never thought of Holli Would from Cool World and it’s like universes are colliding in my head. She was quite the awakening for me as a kid and yeah, that may have snuck its way into Stacie’s design.
TH: This is our first glimpse of Stacie’s “real body.” I love the spine that looks like a corseted waist, the hardware that looks like garters, the obvious vulva lips that other artists would probably smooth over, and the way her hips look juicy even when you see she’s not made of flesh. Most of all, I love the Cronenberg-esque way her synthetic skin reveal looks like she’s spreading open her cunt!
The appearance of the blonde in a fetishy nurse outfit has a long tradition, as recently as Kill Bill and Promising Young Woman: there’s usually a sense of power and knowledge that goes along with being that sexualized authority figure. I wanted to satirize the fear of sex robots by satirizing the fear of femme glamour. The myth that a voluptuous body, a bubbly personality, a horny one-track mind only exist to service the “male gaze,” as if those aren’t things queer people want to fuck or want to be. And throughout the book, you see Stacie in outfits that reference pop culture bots that represent extreme gender performance, including Weird Science and Terminator.
I’m curious, do you think robots have a gender?
GRJ: I think about this a lot because robots are an element in other comics I’m working on. To me, robots as a concept can go in a lot of ways. I think there’s a lot of things about robots that I relate to as a trans person. I love the idea of having a body that you can completely rebuild yourself, something that we see in a lot of robot media. I love the ambiguity of what’s human and what’s machine, or if there’s even a true distinction when it comes to AI.
TH: Ok, I don’t want to spoil too much about what’s going on here, but let’s just say that our protagonist Avory gets a chance to play with Stacie in cyberspace. The thing that was so fucking exciting about working with G is that I don’t have to explain queer sex to them. I love hand sex, and we don’t see it nearly enough in pop culture, so I’ve sorta made it my mission to overcorrect that. A straight horror writer friend who workshopped this script with me told me this scene helped her understand lesbian sex in a way she never had before! What kind of sex did you want to show in this scene?
GRJ: I am a lover of hand sex as well, as most dykes are. Drawing this sex scene between Avory and Stacie was a great moment to draw some femme4femme fantasies, with all of the drool and sticky fingers you could want.
TH: I also really wanted to show robot sex that wasn’t about someone sticking their dick in her hole and using her to essentially jack off. I don’t have any issue with that idea, but it’s definitely over-represented in our cultural imagination about what human-robot sex will be like. But as a queer person, sometimes what I want from sex is to top someone and make them feel amazing, so it stands to reason that would be something a robot could provide for me!
Another thing that was fun about this scene was once we established the motif of this cyberspace always being wet, we got to have all these fantasy settings from hot springs to bathtubs to ocean waterfalls. I love that you made Stacie’s cunt visibly wet and that you made her drool with pleasure. What are important details for you to include when drawing a sex scene?
GRJ: One thing I really tried to emphasize within the sex scenes was the wetness, the same wetness that is present in Wetspace itself. Weird, kind of gross, and fleshy. Cause isn’t that what sex is, to begin with?
TH: So the joke Avory is telling in the “voice over” here really is a joke I learned working in a dungeon. And as a Jew, I’m always trying to use borsch belt humor as a framing device.
Having half the book take place in Wetspace helps us with the issue that our main characters are incarcerated in a horrible sterile building for most of the story. And there’s a long tradition in sci-fi, from the Holodeck to the Danger Room, of a place that can be anything you want. So we get to see Avory in her element in a dungeon even though it’s not “real.”
How do you decide what outfits people are going to wear in sexy scenes?
GRJ: Alright, let’s talk about fashion in this book! I did a bit of a deep dive into a lot of sex workers’ twitters and instas trying to keep an eye out for outfits and fashion that stuck out to me, as well as pursuing a lot of fetish magazines and old pornos.
TH: How do you select the objects to be hanging on the walls? And why do you love puppy masks so much? This book has SO MANY!
GRJ: The objects on the wall ended up mostly consisting of impact play toys, which I guess reveals more about myself than I meant but there you go! Also, I’m so glad someone asked about the puppy hoods. I just love puppies!!! There’s a lot of pups in this book in backgrounds and there ain’t much to it other than I love a good ol’ leather pup.
TH: Something hilarious about this scene is that one of the rewards we offered our Kickstarter backers was being drawn into the book as a cameo. G had the bright idea of making this minor character one of the cameos, and I really hope that lovely person enjoys seeing himself in a chastity device!
I also like that part of what’s going on here is you’ve seen Stacie designed to please men, and here she’s starting to learn to be the creative author of the fantasies that it’s her job to create, and she never falters in her sexy bimbo aesthetic. Characters in SfSx can grow in their power and sense of agency and remain unwaveringly slutty!
Well, that’s all we can reveal for now! SfSx: Terms of Service is available now at your local book or comic book store, alongside SfSx: Protection for the whole series so far. Ask your favorite local shop or library to stock it if they haven’t already, to show retailers that there’s an audience for adult indie sci-fi created by queers and sex workers! If that doesn’t work, you can always buy it directly from our post-Kickstarter campaign web store along with posters and pins while supplies last. And if you’re interested in any of the hot sex toys and fetish gear on display in the book’s pages, you can certainly pick some up from the Spectrum Boutique shop!