‘Paying for It: A comic-strip memoir about being a john’ review
By Brittney MacDonald, Staff Writer
Paying for It is an honest exploration of the taboo world of the Canadian sex trade, free of moral bias or fear-mongering. Through this autobiographical depiction of his experiences, cartoonist Chester Brown provides great insight into his own evolution from fearful first-time customer to very vocal supporter of the legalization of prostitution.
Written and illustrated by Brown, best-known for his biographical graphic novel Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, Paying for It is presented as a series of interrelated comic strips that are both easy to read and quite informative. The strips depict Brown’s interactions with various women, though names and likenesses are altered to protect their identities. These interactions are not only limited to brief interludes of sex, but conversations and inner monologue as well—portraying both the professional and personal relationships Brown has with different sex workers. This goes a long way to promote the sincerity of the work.
Though I do not agree with some of Brown’s points regarding prostitution, it is refreshing to have a graphic novel that neither glamorizes nor demonizes the trade or those who practice it.
Artistically, Paying for It is very simple. The panels are fairly linear and the art is limited to stark black and white with finely lined cross hatching. This approach puts the main focus on the narrative and dialogue rather than the intricacies of the art, which works well for such a philosophy-heavy graphic novel.
This book denounces the stereotype that comic books and graphic novels are just “kids’ stuff,” bringing the tradition of comics back to their roots as political and social commentary.
Paying for It is a definite recommendation to anyone with an interest in social politics.