This interview was sparked by a press release that landed in my email inbox promoting the forthcoming release of “Manly,” a graphic-sex graphic novel. The release said the book featured “manly stories about manly men doing manly things to each other.” Don’t they all, I thought, unable to muster much enthusiasm.

Hey, don’t get the wrong idea — I love smut as much as the next guy. The thing is I get emails like this all the time for various photo books, illustrated books, XXX anthologies, softcore erotic fiction novels, etc.

At first, it’s exciting and kinda dirty. After a few months, though — once you’ve realized that you’ll have to wade through 300 (overwhelmingly pointless) emails each morning before you can even start work — the charm has worn thin.

So, what sparked my interest in “Manly?” This bit here: “Amy Colburn, an up-and-coming illustrator of hot male-on-male art, joins Dale Lazarov, writer/editor…”

A woman who draws dudes doing it for a living? Color me intrigued…and jealous.

After some investigating, it turns out that Colburn is a 27-year-old bisexual who lives in Virginia with her long-term female partner. She’s an art major and “Manly” is her first published work of this type.

Being the —nosy—, er, inquisitive journalist that I am, I needed to know more about Colburn and her art. Here’s what she told me.

My first question is pretty obvious, how does a woman end up drawing explicit gay male porn for a living?
I just love drawing it. I’m fascinated by the human body. Honestly, I was shocked that anybody wanted to pay me for it.

What type of research did you do for your initial foray into the artform?
Since my personal work is more shounen-ai/softcore, I had to brush up on my biology. But they don’t exactly cover this kind of thing in anatomy books, so I went cruising porn sites. I’m one of the only people who can honestly say she watched porn strictly for research purposes (laughs)!

How would you describe your stylistic approach to illustrating gay porn? For example, are you more Tom of Finland or Matt Groening?
(Laughs) I never really thought about it. Dale did have to remind me to keep things a bit more realistic than I usually do. I tend to stylize and simplify the forms, western-animation style.

Male-male sex is a turn-on for many women. Is that the case with you?
It is, it is! I can’t really put my finger on why. Years ago, I read an article about male/male slash fan fiction — which is written mostly by women — which theorized that women write (or in this case, draw) about men in order to try to understand them. I’ve also heard that some women like gay porn because it’s more egalitarian than straight or lesbian porn.

I guess both of those scenarios are true for me. Plus, I have the added artistic/anatomical interest in watching the forms interact. But bottom line, I just think it’s terribly hot.

What kind of guys-who-do-guys are you attracted to? Do these types figure prominently in your drawings?
I generally gravitate toward action hero types, like Daniel Craig or Jason Statham. No-nonsense guys with cut bodies who know their way around cars and guns. And I’ll throw in the occasional pretty boy for variety. I love drawing muscles and I’m always trying to learn to draw them better. I think that’s half the reason I draw so many men.

What does your partner think about your work? When you draw a great panel are you like, “C’mere, you’ve got to see this?”
She loves it, and yes, I certainly do. I think her biggest complaint about “Manly” was that it took my time away from drawing gay porn for her.

Do you ever seek out gay men for feedback or advice on something you’ve drawn?
I have a good gay male friend that I show some things to, but I’m too shy to show him the more explicit work. I think it’s my lingering Catholic guilt. When I was working on the book, I was always afraid that I’d get something really wrong and Dale would go, “Amy, real men don’t do that!”

Is safe sex or safe words for bondage play or any of the other real-world-sex stuff important in fantasy depictions such as yours?
That’s a tough one. I suppose it depends on the story. If it’s just a sex romp with no plot, I usually don’t pay that much attention. If the sex action is part of a larger narrative, you get to know the characters and you consider the repercussions of their actions. Then, if nobody mentions condoms or getting tested, I start thinking, “You guys are really irresponsible!”

Final thing, you’ve got practically bucketfuls of body fluids flying around in “Manly.” Aren’t you worried about the pages sticking together?
(Laughs) Maybe we should print the next edition on non-stick, easy-to-clean plastic!

— “Manly” by Dale Lazarov and Amy Colburn will be published in hardcover by Bruno Gmünder in November.

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at