With her erotic comic Princess Bunyi, this artist hopes to break taboos

Emmanuelle Chateauneuf wants to challenge how readers think about sex and romance.

“Is there a happy medium where we can still have magic and romance?”

A title image for the Princess Bunyi comic shows several shots of the main characters. (Emmanuelle Chateauneuf)

Repression and romance do quite the balancing act in a Toronto artist's new erotic comic.

"A lot of the stuff that I've done in the past was very heavily drama-based or slice-of-life — kind of focusing more on the philosophy of life, emotions, family and friendship. And I am still kind of going at that same angle, but from a little bit of a sexier perspective," writer and artist Emmanuelle Chateauneuf said.

Chateauneuf's body of work includes short comics on Instagram and the semi-autobiographical comic Queen Street.

Princess Bunyi is a monthly webcomic that Chateauneuf plans to publish on the first of each month, with the second issue of the book due Sunday. Each issue is to be 10-pages-long.

The story follows two characters, the reserved Princess Bunyi and the sexually-cavalier Oliver, who meet on a subway platform in the first issue. Oliver catcalls Princess Bunyi, who tells him off then graphically wonders what a consensual sexual experience with him would have been like. 

Growing up Filipino and Catholic in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Chateauneuf said she was raised on traditional, conservative notions of romance and sex. She said her aim is to challenge those notions, while also pushing back against the casual view of sex she thinks many of her progressive Toronto friends hold.

"This is very idealistic in a way, but there is something very beautiful about putting sex on a little bit of a pedestal, when it becomes something that is special, that is shared, when it's something that is a great act of love and devotion to one person or a couple of people," she said.

"The flip side of that is also understanding that it's not something that should be too idolized," Chateauneuf added, cautioning against falling in line with "the more closeted side of Canada, who still kind of treat sex as a very heteronormative, religious, guilt-fueled kind of construct," that needs to follow a forumula and be a certain way. 

A page from issue 2 of Princess Bunyi. (Emmanuelle Chateauneuf)

"The discussion I want to spark is: Is there a happy in between? Is there a happy medium where we can still have magic and romance and all the gooey, gushy, trite, corny ridiculousness of romance novels and books?"

That's where the interplay between Princess Bunyi and Oliver comes in. Whereas Oliver (a wealthy white man) is bored after a life of everything coming easy to him—romantically and otherwise—Princess Bunyi, lacking an emotional or sexual outlet, is judgemental and stressed.

A long-time manga reader, Chateauneuf said she's always been fascinated with how the hyper-sexualized images common in popular Japanese comics are often paired with narratives that seek to bury or deny that sexuality. By making her book explicit and erotic, Chateauneuf said she's challenging herself.

"Emotional hurdles aside, [drawing sex is] actually quite difficult. It's one thing to draw a drama or a comedy or an action, because it's the creator manipulating the audience and telling them a story from a very specific lens. Sex is different. You want to make the audience feel a certain way and think a certain way," she said.

"So a lot of the storytelling had to be more intimate, had to be different. I had to change my inking style to make things finer, less abrupt and in-your-face."

While Princess Bunyi is supposed to spark discussions, Chateauneuf said it's also supposed to be fun. "I wanted to write something that made me laugh because life recently in the world, and personally, has been kind of heavy."

Chateauneuf is making the comic available on Patreon, a website where people pledge a recurring amount of funding to a project — sort of like a subscription. Supporters can contribute different levels of funding to access different "tiers," which include perks like access to sketchbooks, or a cameo as an extra in the book. 

While she said her expectations aren't high, Chateauneuf has set goals for herself depending on how much she makes from the book, such as paying for therapy sessions if she reaches $320 per month and paying her editor, Dylan Magwood, at $670 per month. 

"It's one thing to wait around for a publisher and it's a totally other thing to post stuff online and just pray that patrons are going to eventually start paying," she said. "I wanted a quick way to ensure that I was getting paid right away for my work."

About the Author

Justin Chandler

Associate Producer

Justin Chandler has worked as an associate producer for CBC Radio shows Cross Country Checkup and Day 6, as well as CBC Arts and CBC Music. He previously worked as an editor for The Eyeopener newspaper and he co-hosts the Radio Free Krypton podcast. Follow Justin on Twitter: @mr_lois_lane