Review by Frank Plowright
Click! was the career defining graphic novel for Milo Manara. After drawing the work of other writers throughout the 1970s he forged a path of writing his own material, and had completed three solo albums to this point always with a surrealistic touch, and all featuring lovingly depicted glamorous women. Manara took unabashed pleasure in drawing women, and the capricious erotica of Click! still permitted him to indulge in surrealistic fantasy while upping the glamour content. He’d already produced sexually explicit short stories for Italian anthologies, but the universally enthusiastic reception of Click! was a guiding path, and while there would still be the occasional less than x-rated story, Manara took that road.
It’s important to acknowledge that the depiction of nudity and explicit sex is incorporated within a solid story. This remains unusual in English language graphic novels well over thirty years since Click! was first published in Italy. At it’s most basic it begins as a story of sexual exploitation, but from there develops into sexual awakening. For some this will be entirely unpalatable, and no amount of beautiful art can justify a story that involves manipulative sex. Others will see a fantasy farce, no more and no less, without applying it as an example of a pejorative worldview.
Claudia’s husband Aleardo is an immensely wealthy man, but despite being devastatingly attractive she’s sexually repressed. Her sleazy therapist learns of a device untested on humans that consists of a receiver grafted to the brain’s pleasure stimulating areas and a transmitter that activates them. Shortly afterwards the prototype is stolen, and Claudia is abducted, then returned two days later seemingly none the worse for wear other than memory lapse and experiencing headaches. When she and a friend take a shopping trip, the therapist is seen with the transmitter and activating it supplies Claudia with an unrestrained bout of sexual frenzy, not concerned about being seen fulfilling it in public. When the transmitter is turned off, she’s mortified as she reverts to her usual personality. Several further such episodes occur before Aleardo spirits Claudia away to a remote island, yet this makes no difference to her lapses.
Click! is silly fun, sumptuously illustrated. It might as well be Carry on Fucking for all the subtlety of the jokes in places, and in many ways it follows the conventions of adventurous 1980s European sex films, when the erotic content was separated by comic scenes. There’s certainly a silent comedy slapstick aspect to the finale as a diamond goes missing in an Alpine chalet. Everything works to a conclusion that some may find predictable, but oh! that drawing!
For several years this was a standalone story, but Manara returned to Claudia and her problems again in 1991, and again three years later, and all three volumes were collected in hardcover with vastly improved colouring as Click! 1-3. It’s long out of print, and very expensive, so despite the black and white presentation the first hardcover volume of Manara Erotica is recommended as an alternative. Kim Thompson’s translation is far better, making for a smoother read, and that book also includes the fourth Click!