If you’ve seen the latest Superman movie, you may have heard the rumour that studio executives were concerned that the lead actor’s athletic cup runneth over a little too much, and spent millions digitally castrating poor Supes in the name of respectability.
Well, the folks at Warner would surely have kryptonite-coated kittens if they got a load of the heroes depicted in Patrick Fillion’s gay erotica Class Comics series.
Nude men cavort gaily across the colourful pages, frolicking with each other in playful sexfests, sporting engorged phalluses that would make the nelliest of bottom queens flee in terror (or at least stock up on Novacaine).
Leading hero Naked Justice sports a penis as thick as a baby’s leg… a baby rhino, that is. Naked flounces through superhero life dressed only in elbow-length gloves and red thigh highs, his mammoth member dribbling lightning-charged precum on allies and villains alike.
Yes, it’s a decidedly alternative oeuvre, but each issue boasts impressive art that easily holds its own against mainstream comics from DC or Marvel. Fillion’s anatomy may feature one or two enhanced appendages, but the action sequences — both heroic and sexual — leap off the pages in a detailed blend of realism and fantasy.
This is the work of a lifetime, something Fillion has been developing since he was a small child. His early years in Quebec were spent like any other kid, doodling images from favourite Saturday morning cartoon characters like the Smurfs. A subsequent family move to British Columbia opened up a whole new world of source material, as well as a surprising avenue of education.
“I was very young and I didn’t speak a word of English,” Fillion remembers. “Then I saw an X-Men comic with the character Storm on the cover. There was something about her in particular… she’s strong and very powerful.”
Fillion’s attraction to the weather-controlling mutant (played by Halle Berry in the X-Men movies) not only fuelled his desire to recreate his heroine on paper, but was also the impetus for adapting to his new home.
“It really motivated me to learn English because I wanted to know what she was saying,” he says. “Some teachers couldn’t believe I was reading that kind of ‘garbage,’ but it helped me learn a lot quicker.”
His unorthodox tools didn’t always endear him to the more closed-minded of educators. “I don’t know how many comics I had torn up,” chuckles Fillion. “I was in Prince George, and, as much as I love my adoptive hometown, it really had some of that small-town mentality.”
Comics didn’t just provide an outlet for the young artist’s budding talent, they also served as a buffer from an often-harsh reality. “I was not the most popular kid in school,” says Fillion. “My experience mirrors hundreds of others, I’m sure. I was called names and singled out because I was different.
“It all kind of fortified my need to create this universe with original characters. It was my way to escape from that… my way to cope.”
From this sense of otherness, a character named Camili-Cat was born. Fillion originally conceived the felinoid stud as a super-powered alien from a destroyed planet, but quickly shifted the focus to Camili-Cat’s experiences as the last surviving member of his species.
“I had this tremendous sense of loneliness and isolation in high school, and I think that’s something I imbued in the character, to put that frustration into him,” says Fillion. “I was learning about my sexuality at the time, and I was sort of learning through him.”
Camili-Cat’s sexcapades allowed the teenager to figure out his fledgling attraction toward other men, and how to carve his own niche in a seemingly straight world. “I had no information,” he says. “It was kind of scary…. I didn’t even know what ‘gay’ was. Having Camili-Cat as a buffer made getting through all that a little more bearable.”
It’s apparently made things more bearable for others as well. Readers of Montreal’s Zip Magazine embraced Camili-Cat’s homo angst and Naked Justice’s huge cock, leading to collected volumes Heroes and Mighty Males and a deal with mega distributor Bruno Gmünder.
Building on each success, Fillion was able to creatively work through the issues in his own life, while getting the validation from an enthusiastic audience going through similar experiences.
“I find it really rewarding when readers say they can relate,” he says. “It makes me feel that I’ve done an okay job of creating this character.”
Regular readers may have picked up on Camili-Cat’s lightening of mood in the last few years. Once convinced of his solitary existence, the hero has recently discovered he’s not the only survivor of his kind. This brighter perspective on life mirrors Fillion’s own settled state these days.
Living with Fraz, his partner of five years, has brought a sense of stability not only to the artist’s personal life, but to his professional world as well. The couple was introduced by a straight friend, and now work together in their BC home. Fillion creates new work in his drawing room, while Fraz (his nom de plume) has recently left a job in insurance to keep an eye on the business side of things.
“I used to be by myself for the longest time,” says Fillion, now 33. “He would be at his day job, and I found it hard to focus on my work with phone calls and business needing attention.
“It’s been fantastic because he’s very good at all that, giving me the time to focus on my drawing and the creative stuff.”
Fortunately, Fillion’s partner shares his superheroic passion; the two boast a growing action-figure collection that threatens to overtake the house. In addition to his administrative duties, Fraz has also recently begun working on his own series, called The Initiation.
“It’s about a young man’s college adventures,” Fraz says, “an erotic book about college fraternities, hazings and budding love stories.”
Working with Italian artist Joseph Hawk and long-term Class Comics colourist Hernan, the budding writer is excited at the opportunity to stretch his own creative wings.”Part of it was to have something I could put out on my own,” says Fraz. “If I can hire an artist, write the story and work through it on my own, then it’s something I’ll have achieved.
“I think it’s showing that I appreciate what Patrick does, and to be part of it. It’s a way I can share in that aspect of Class Comics.”
It’s an aspect that continues to grow, with the recent addition of other creators to the company’s roster. Once solely the outlet for Fillion’s art and storylines, Class Comics now boasts several different titles, as well as their new Portfolio Series, a publication for emerging gay artists and creators to showcase their work.
“One of the hardest things I ever had to go through as an artist was getting people to look at my gay material,” says Fillion. “Now that Fraz and I have established a name, we decided it was a good thing to give back to our society.
“Certain artists over the years have sent in submissions of their work. If we could hire all of them and be a little gay Marvel I would love it, but we’re not there yet. This way we can do a portfolio of their work that’s basically a mini comic book.
“It’s something we can do to help these artists, the way I wish I had been helped when I was starting out.”