The idea is so simple that it's amazing nobody else thought of it first: Boze and Kato ask people how they lost their virginity. They then translate the stories into comics. Every story begins with a person's age, first name, and occupation. From there, the stories vary wildly: gay lovers, straight lovers, multiples. Some were willing; some were not. Many of the stories are humorous, and many, unsurprisingly, involve drugs and alcohol.
The weakest part of The Virgin Project is the artwork; Boze and Kato try to change up their styles—ranging from stick figures to morose realism—this book would be better as an anthology of different artists. In the '90s, Time Warner–owned Paradox Press put out oversize comics called The Big Book series. Each book was about a different subject (death, urban legends, freaks, saints), and each one- to three-page entry was drawn by a different cartoonist. The result was a game of one-upmanship between the artists: Who could be funnier, fancier, filthier?
Kato and Boze are kind to their subjects, and kindness is important. This project could easily devolve into nasty frat-boy humor, but their respectful tone is both inspiring and sexy. Hopefully, the authors will bring their self-published idea to a company—like Drawn and Quarterly, say, or Seattle's own Fantagraphics—and continue to write books with a stable of talented artists who aren't afraid to tackle taboo subjects. As it is, The Virgin Project is great fun. If it were illustrated with a bit more variety and competency, it could be joyous.
Jeffrey Brown, K.D. Bose, and Stasia Kato will be signing at Emerald City ComiCon, Washington Trade & Convention Center, Sat–Sun May 10–11.