Stjepan Sejic (w)(a)
Top Cow Comics
If I catch you reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I am going to politely remove it from your grasp and hand you a copy of Sunstone instead. And if you’re into great characters and wonderful, sweet, funny romance stories that explore sexuality, then I am also going to hand you a copy of Sunstone.
To be clear, this is a story that heavily features BDSM, but I want you to set aside any preconceived notions you have about that and read it anyway. First of all, it is an incredibly beautiful, informative, and healthy exploration of sexuality that forces us to acknowledge that sex is a completely normal part of our lives which we need to stop being so damn taboo about. Now, while BDSM might be a kink for some people, that does not make it any less important as a part of sexual exploration. But the key to BDSM is something that, unlike Fifty Shades, Sunstone makes very clear: BDSM is about consent and it is about trust.
Lisa and Ally meet online and begin a friendship based on their shared kink and their respective roles as sub and domme. Their first in-person meeting has all the awkward moments that anyone on a first date can imagine, and as their relationship blossoms beyond the boudoir, it’s hard not to fall for the characters as well. Yes, this book features BDSM and erotica, but just as importantly, it is about very human characters that many of us can relate to in many ways. They explore their roles as sub and domme, but, mainly through Lisa, the story also deals with friendship, relationships, and that butterfly feeling you get in your stomach (and elsewhere) when you fall in love.
The story frequently speaks about the various elements of BDSM (sometimes with far too many info dumps, but I can forgive this), categorizing those who enjoy such pleasures as “sexual nerds.” Ally and her best friend Alan are also gamers, and there are some amusing anecdotes that relate BDSM to massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMOs). As a nerdy gamer myself, the comparisons really ring true, further normalizing something that is generally considered a fringe past time–like so many other nerdy hobbies. But, I stress, you don’t have to be a gamer or into BDSM to appreciate Sunstone.
I am a big fan of Sejic’s art as well as his sense of humour. His paintings are not only gorgeous, but also extremely expressive. He is fantastic at capturing varied emotions and his characters feel very sexy and natural and comfortable in their own skin. Sejic seems to be a very open and honest person who enjoys sharing his work online via his Deviant Art page and other social media. I particularly love how he often humourously explains his wife Linda’s involvement in his creative processes. That’s how I learned of her work, Blood Stain, which expands on the MMO aspect we catch glimpses of when Ally and Alan break out the nerd references.
As he writes in the afterword, this is a project that resulted from his creative burnout during his time on Top Cow’s Witchblade. He suffered significant mental block–something any writer or artist can relate to. Sunstone was originally intended as a throwaway outlet for his creativity, harkening back to some erotic work he’d been commissioned to do before he accepted a position at Top Cow. But, as often happens, the characters started to tell their own story as Sejic created various non-sequitur strips. Eventually, with encouragement from Linda, the Sunstone graphic novels were born.
Whether or not BDSM is your thing, I can’t recommend Sunstone enough. Scratch the surface of this book and you’ll find a heartwarming little story about friendship and romance. My personal interest in BDSM doesn’t go much further than corsets and light bondage, but I’d like to think Sunstone is a reasonably good and respectful representation, and appreciate all the insights it offers. If you’re curious about the lifestyle, Sunstone is definitely a great place to start.