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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 8
Raw Purple
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Only Printing / 1977 / 48 pages / Beyond the Edge Publishing
Raw Purple was one of a handful of comic books Antonio Ghura produced in his lifetime, along with the scandalous Truly Amazing Love Stories (two issues) and the excellent Laid-Back Adventures of Suzie and Jonnie. Ghura is perhaps the most notorious of all the British comic creators and Raw Purple provides plenty of content to cement his infamy.

While the theme of the Truly Amazing Love Stories books focused on sex and violence, Raw Purple skews more towards sex and drugs, but of course the common denominator is sex. After some one-pagers, Ghura opens Raw Purple with the five-page cover story, "Marijuana Madness," which is obviously a satire of the infamous (and still enormously popular) 1936 exploitation film Reefer Madness. In Ghura's story, a semi-innocent young waif is lured by her boyfriend into the sordid world of group sex through the use of marijuana. Her reaction to this steamy affair is not what we'd expect from a novel or movie, but sure as hell what we might predict in the real world.

Of course, Ghura doesn't need to step out too far to parody Reefer Madness, which is so over the top it can scarcely be outdone, but he has the exquisite advantage of being able to show the naked bodies, blow jobs and fucking that Dwain Esper (the film's executive producer and distributor) only wishes he could've gotten away with in 1936.

Three more one-pagers follow before we get the 10-page "Oliver Jones and his Weird Penis." This absurd tale opens as Oliver is about to have sex with his girlfriend, but is astonished to discover his penis has suddenly developed the ability to talk. The prick gives himself the name "Mick" and turns out to be quite the grouch. For instance, after Oliver has sex with his girl, Mick the Prick gripes at her, "You should wash yer cunt more often. I nearly flaked out in there! I thank my balls I came when I did. Jeez!"

Later that day, Oliver's talking penis is discovered by a famous movie director, who quickly turns Mick into an onstage celebrity. As Mick becomes more popular he becomes more dominating of Oliver, leading to a life of excess and decadence. Finally, Oliver gets fed up with the cocky dick and takes a drastic measure to get back his old life. If only it had worked out like he planned!

Two more major stories are presented in Raw Purple. The first is the 11-page "Nightmare Journey," in which a young man named George decides to take a hit of LSD on a boring afternoon. His trip, reminiscent of some of Bryan Talbot's work in the earlier Brainstorm Comix (which is to say imaginatively illustrated with great details), turns out to be liberating, but not in the way George probably expected.

The last major story in the book is the eight-page "Jonnie Goodvibes in As You Sow So Shall You Reap!" It features a too-hip-to-be-cool cat named Jonnie who rides into town on a Honda scooter and becomes the central figure in the town's rejuvenation. Jonnie fucks the hottest chick, gives an old grandma a new lease on life, introduces a small girl to an erogenous zone, beats up a bully, and starts sprucing up the neighborhood with house and garden improvements. His charisma even leads to other hippie-types joining his volunteer suburban stimulation program. What a hero!

Like many heroes, when Jonnie's job is done, he rides straight back out of town, but he leaves its citizens with a better place to live in and a renewable crop that should bode well for the town's future. Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish... Well, you get the picture.

There are quite a few one-page comics in Raw Purple, several of which feature a shy and dim-witted character named Joe. The Joe strips give Ghura a chance to show off some of his more understated humor, which is a kick, but they still aren't particularly memorable. The one-pager that turns out to be unforgettable is one that doesn't feature Joe: it's about a young boy who commits suicide (by hanging) in his bedroom. The final image, seeming all too real and plausible, is deeply affecting.

Raw Purple is one of the few one-man comic books that Antonio Ghura produced over a span of about eight years (1975-83). I know he also did some comic work much later for Headpress 18 (1999, includes interview) and Killer Komix 2 (2002, Critical Vision), but that was over 15 years after his last appearance in comic books. Ghura passed away in 2011 after a long illness.

I don't know what Ghura did for day-to-day finances, but his somewhat meager productivity in comics likely proves that he couldn't make a living on his exceptional creative talents. Of course, the nature of his work was not the easiest to market to a broad audence, either, but it certainly deserved to be seen by many more people than it was. Comixjoint will promote his artwork whenever we get the chance!
Beyond the Edge Publishing Company printed approximately 4,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.
Antonia Ghura - 1-48