Content Warning: This piece contains mature themes, nudity, and sexual content and is NSFW
Who amongst us doesn’t have ghosts. Secrets which haunt us and tragedy that only makes us stronger. I certainly do. But in the seminal 2009 issue of Jim Balent’s Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #53, those ghosts become a truly visceral manifestation of the thing we all fear: haunted genitalia. Whether you’re someone who has a vagina or doesn’t, there is surely nothing as soul-drenchingly terrifying as a haunted one. But comics rarely want to explore such deep and vital topics, and yet over a decade ago Balent did just that by creating one of the most iconic moments in comic book history. So let’s revisit it and pay it the credit it deserves.
In case you don’t know the history of Jim Balent’s Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, the indie comic began in 1999 published by his own company Broadsword Comics. The series is lettered and colored by his wife Holly Golightly and has an impressively long run for a true indie book. It’s also very, very sexy. Everything is sexy in the world of Tarot. The covers are sexy, the variants–which are a large part of the business model–are sexy, and even the ghosts are sexy. Especially the ones which reside in the warm intimate cave of Samantha Brown. That special place is key to Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #53 in which a collection of spooky well-endowed women come back from the dead to steal back the organs they donated before their deaths. Who cares if the organs include “collagen” and “vaginas,” we’re not here for realism. We’re here for sexy ghosts and the deep meaning behind them.
While you might be worried this issue doesn’t have enough men, don’t despair as the true hero is Crypt Chick’s super cool boyfriend Skeleton Man. With his awesome emo haircut and cool skeleton mask–before his time–he is here to save Samantha Brown from the ghosts of vaginas past. Many smart men believe that people who sleep around and have vaginas trap part of the energies of the other people they sleep with in their vaginas. It’s a dangerous and underspoken about threat, but here Jim Balent puts it to the page. He understands the horror of entering a vagina and not knowing who has come before or where that vagina has been and he puts it to the page masterfully, not least in the now famous and beloved panel in which Skeleton Man screams “Samantha Brown! You have to get out of here! Your vagina is haunted!” Golightly’s powerful lettering puts across all of Skeleton Man and our fears as the lithe beauty awakens from her sleep only to find herself surrounded by ghostly hotties.
Balent has a clear understanding of the female anatomy and Samantha Brown is proof. Whether she’s looking scared about Skeleton Man or looking scared about the ghostly hotties, her legs are flung open showing off her delicate flower. It’s a feat of beauty that many Big Two comics can only hint at through censored layers of spandex. Like the best of Balent’s comics, there are some powerful thong moments here as Samantha has her sleeping thong cut off by one of the curvaceous spirits. Tarot has a history of impressive and inventive underwear designs–I always wondered why Balent didn’t start a lingerie line–but here he’s far more concerned with the nude than the silky secrets that cover them.
As the issue comes to a close we learn that the cleavage-heavy ghosts are also searching for some eyes, lungs, and other vital organs. How smart of Balant to not focus on the obvious and do something so subversive as to focus on the dangers of haunted vaginas and their power.