J.C. Etheredge’s Gay Erotic Art
The Gay Superhero
Given his unfailing artistic integrity, Etheredge admits it has not always been easy, but would not have it any other way. "I’ve lost out on a number of different mainstream jobs because of the existence of my erotic work," he explains. "But it’s not something I let bother me. It’s more-so solidified my resolve to continue to pursue what I’m strong at and what my fans like me for. It’s the fans and people who enjoy gay erotic art that really keep me in the game."
To that end, the opinions and requests of his followers are vitally important to Etheredge. "Even though much of what I do is self-motivated and based on my own ideas, as someone who was trained in commercial art, I take the fan-base’s opinion very seriously. I cater to what they want."
It’s a refreshingly honest take, and an authentic admission that most artists deeply care about the reception their work receives. There is a symbiotic relationship that artists and their readers/viewers have, and it has particular relevance when the art form is an ongoing comic series, where characters and storylines can run for years, becoming part of fans’ lives. Etheredge also has a personal investment in portraying gay superheroes.
"As a person who looked to comics as a sense of escape from the dreadful realities of being a closeted gay teen, a gay superhero or two would have really empowered me. Recently, the mainstream comics have introduced a few here and there, but they are not treated with the same importance as the other characters," he laments. "For that reason, a side of me wants to create and produce a character and series based around gay characters that I could sell to an all-ages market. But then, the other side of me likes drawing porn too much to give it up."
Blatant porn notwithstanding, there have been homoerotic hints in cartoons and comic books since Superman took his first flight. "Comic superheroes are such an erotic genre of characters to begin with, it’s a wonder some people don’t see it," Etheredge states. "The instant I began drawing superheros as an adolescent, I hyper-sexualized them. My girls always had enormous boobs with erect nipples and my guys always had massive baskets. Even before I decided I wanted to draw erotic superhero comics, people noticed the provocativeness of my characters. It was something that was almost unconscious on my part. I felt, hell, these people are wearing spandex... You’d definitely see something."
Something for Everyone
Despite his overt depictions of sexuality, this is one artist who does not necessarily bring his own particular preferences to his work. Unlike Tom of Finland (who was once rumored to have claimed that a work was only done when it gave him an erection), Etheredge does not judge the success of his art solely on the effect it has on his nether-regions.
"Contrary to what many people assume about guys who draw erotic stuff, I don’t necessarily draw what gets me off. Rather, I draw what people request, and what they say gets them off. This is a weird fetish of mine, but I find the fact that other people get off to my work extremely hot! Call it a voyeuristic type of thing, I don’t know. But yeah, the ultimate compliment is when someone tells me something I’ve done turns them on."
Aside from the occasional personality quirk or passing physical trait, Etheredge keeps his personal life out of his work - a departure from the traditional notion of artists working out their own issues through their art.
"For the most part, I’ve used my artwork as an escape from my personal life as far as I can remember. In general, I think comics have become way too rooted in reality. I think part of it is due to the influence of Hollywood adaptations of comic books... I agree that there is definitely a place for realistic comics, but I don’t think they should diminish the significance of fantasy-based comics. As a kid, the comics and cartoons that captured my imagination were the ones that felt totally unrealistic. I guess that aspect of escapism one feels when one dives into a comic book is something I value highly."
That escape is something Etheredge offers for everyone who views his work - a colorful world where good triumphs over evil, where the bodies are tight and the baskets are big, and everyone looks hot in their own way. It’s a world where gay doesn’t mean different, and the only things that separate people are their own unique talents and morals - a super-reality we should all admire, even if it comes as a cartoon.