Gekko Hayashi revisited


It remains a fact that the most popular posts here are the sex-related ones. The post about Clayton Cubitt’s Hysterical Literature project continues to rack up views despite having been written about at greater length on far more popular sites; this weekend Facebook users were flocking to see the phallic plaster casts (why now?).

One of the perennial favourites from the gay artists archive is the post I made two years ago about the homoerotic art of Gekko Hayashi, the pseudonymous alter ego of Goji Ishihara (1923–1997). This has managed to become an almost universal point of reference despite all my knowledge about the artist being gleaned from other websites. The popularity would appear to be due to a generally high level of visibility in Google rankings combined with a tendency to write about recherché subjects which don’t receive high-profile attention elsewhere. Talking to Anne Billson yesterday about Ishihara’s monster art had me searching around for more of the Hayashi material. There’s still little to be seen outside some Japanese reprints. Given the language barrier when searching the Japanese book world it’s difficult to say whether any of these are still in print.


After turning up a few more examples of Hayashi’s work I’m increasingly struck by the strangeness of some of his art as well as the rare disjunction of seeing a commercial illustration style serving semi-pornographic ends. The latter effect is like seeing the libido of an artist such as Look and Learn painter Ron Embleton suddenly laid bare. A similar disjunction can be found in Oliver Frey’s work where a polished illustration and comic strip technique is applied to raw sexual scenarios. (I should note that Ron Embleton’s libido was on display in his comic strips for Penthouse magazine while—going in the opposite direction—Oliver Frey worked for a while at Look and Learn.)


You can find a polished style elsewhere but few artists get quite as weird with their erotic fantasies as the picture below showing a pair of penis-headed males embracing, and the one of a boy in what may be a bath full of blood being menaced (?) by an ambulatory midget phallus. Weirdness is familiar in the fetish world—everyone’s fetish is inherently weird to those who don’t share it—but always within strict limits, and besides, these aren’t fetishes. What’s odd about the pictures (especially the first) is the way they overburden the eros with a peculiarity you’d think would defeat the purpose of the painting. Hayashi/Ishihara worked as a comic artist as well as an illustrator so perhaps they’re part of a larger narrative; they may also be illustrating a text piece like some of the other pictures. For the moment they appear caught between the gay work and the monster illustration from the 1970s. This isn’t a complaint, it makes the art all the more intriguing and worth searching for.


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Gekko Hayashi: homoerotics and monsters


Needless to say, it’s primarily the homoerotics which concern us here. Gekko Hayashi is the name under which Japanese artist Goji Ishihara (1923–1997) produced his gay erotica, and these examples are among a small handful to be found on the web. Far more common is his Ishihara work which included some spectacular grotesqueries for the Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters (1972) and the Illustrated Book of Hell (1975). Sate your appetite for the monstrous at Pink Tentacle.


Hayashi/Ishihara’s work may be scarce but you can read about both his personas thanks to ComiPress, who posted an overview of the artist’s career, and Comics212, who examined the gay side of his output. There is a book collection of Hayashi’s gay art but that appears to be out-of-print. This Japanese page has many samples from the Ishihara work.

The dual career of Hayashi/Ishihara brings to mind another artist equally adept at commercial illustration and gay art, Oliver Frey. As “Zack”, Frey gained an enthusiastic audience in UK gay mags while he was also popular with quite a different audience for his illustrations in computer game magazines throughout the 1980s. He was also no slouch at painting monsters as I recall. A collection of Zack comic strips, Bike Boy, is published this month by Bruno Gmünder.

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