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excellent writing
competent art
historical bonus 3
total score 7
Pandoras Box Comix
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REVIEW SCORE 7
Only Printing / November, 1973 / 36 pages / Nanny Goat Productions
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In 1972, Joyce Farmer (then known as Joyce Sutton) and Lyn Chevely formed Nanny Goat Productions and launched Tits & Clits, the first all-women underground comic anthology (it predated Wimmen's Comix by a few months). The following year, Farmer and Chevely produced another book that they intended to be the second issue of Tits & Clits. But after the June, 1973 Supreme Court ruling about obscenity, the duo decided to avoid a potential bust and changed the title to Pandoras Box Comix, which was published in November and bitterly dedicated to "the U.S. Supreme Court."

Pandoras Box Comix (the expected apostrophe was omitted) features a collection of short stories, several of which feature the Peters sisters; three young-and-nearly-broke feminists named Wanda, Fonda and Glinda, who live together while seeking satisfactory lifestyles in a chauvinist world. Each sister has a distinct personality that is quickly developed in these sexually frank and beguiling tales.

The book also features Chevely's wicked satire of Kim Casali's syndicated comic strip, Love Is..., which was exploding in popularity in the early '70s. Instead of the saccharine platitudes of Casali, Chevely gives us such gritty gems as "Love is dad fronting the money for your abortion," and "Love is massaging his prostrate." Chevely also includes the genitals and mature breasts that are bypassed in the original strip, while retaining Casali's minimalist cartooning style.

Chevely also delivers a clever spoof of S. Clay Wilson's infamously vulgar cartoon spreads with a two-pager in the middle of Pandoras Box entitled "Fonda Crank Has Afternoon Tea with Peter Collingwood, Robert Crunk and Howard Arnthirst." In her own crude style, Chevely depicts S. Clay Wilson and Robert Crumb wielding massive cocks and engaged in a limb-tangling threesome with Fonda Peters. Following this jab at the creators of Snatch Comics, Farmer and Chevely collaborate on the story of a young wife and mother named Susanne in "The American Dream," which portrays an unrewarding life of female servitude that resolves itself with a most disturbing denouement. The story's dark climax is a chilling reminder of how violently—and pointedly—a woman's repressed anguish may suddenly erupt.

The artwork in Pandoras Box Comix looks a bit rushed and unpolished in places, but there are instances when the sparse line art is well designed and effectively conveys emotion or mood. The inking for "The American Dream" is more carefully rendered, perhaps owing to the author's grave regard for story's message. Despite the fluctuating illustration quality, Farmer and Chevely's writing is nearly flawless throughout the book and I was sorely tempted to score it "brilliant."

Like the first issue of Tits & Clits but unlike most of the other early women's or feminist undergrounds (which are listed on this book's inside back cover) Pandoras Box is refreshingly honest about the real day-to-day life of modern women and their continual sexualization by men. The stories of the Peters Sisters offer several examples of this reality, including references to sex, menstrual cycles, sexually transmitted disease, chauvinism and alternative sexual modes (lesbianism and masturbation). As Farmer told Richard Metzger in a wide-ranging 2010 interview, back in the early '70s both Farmer and Chevely "started looking at ourselves and our sexuality and we realized our idea of sex had a lot to do with birth control, and menstruation, and sanitary pads going flop on the ground when you didn't want them to ...[and] not having a tampon when you needed it."

As I wrote in my review of It Ain't Me Babe, I have always latched onto the groundbreaking work of women and minority comic creators within the underground comic book era to help atone for some of the more egregious chauvinism (and racism) that ran rampant in other corners of the genre. Pandoras Box Comix is a fine counterbalance to the extremes within the male-dominated underground world.

After Pandoras Box, Farmer and Chevely published two more issues of Tits & Clits, but Chevely dropped out of the comics industry after the title was taken over by Last Gasp in 1979 (she last appeared in Tits & Clits #4). Farmer also stopped producing comics for a decade after the seventh and final issue of Tits & Clits in 1987, but in 1997 she slowly returned to writing and drawing comics. Then in her late fifties, Farmer began producing comic pages about the difficulties of taking care of her aging father and step-mother during their final years (they passed away three years before she took pen in hand). After working on and off for 13 years, in 2010 Farmer's graphic novel Special Exits brought about a highly deserved revival of reverence for Farmer's life works.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
Nanny Goat Productions printed approximately 20,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted. Just prior to publishing Pandora's Box Comix, Farmer and Chevely also produced Abortion Eve, another groundbreaking women-oriented book.
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COMIC CREATOR:
Lyn Chevely (aka Chin Lyvely) - 1, 3-4, 13-19, 20-24 (collaboration), 25-26, 28-29, 30-34 (collaboration), 36
Joyce Sutton - 2, 5-12, 20-24 (collaboration), 27, 30-34 (collaboration), 35