Ever since Kenneth Sean Carson hit the markets on March 11, 1961, two years and two days right after (his on-again-off-again girlfriend/meal ticket) Barbara Millicent Roberts aka Babs from Wisconsin, he must’ve stolen the hearts of not only girls and women, but also gay boys and gay men everywhere, including Matt Ryder, the artist behind Muscle Beach Twins.

Trust me: the Muscle Beach Twins comic series is the sexy result of a collision between Ken dolls and comic books. And I should know since I love both Ken dolls and comic books.

Well, maybe not Ken dolls exactly, but you get the idea.

For International Read Comics in Public Day, Dollsexposed chats with Ryder for an illuminating insight into the world of doll pornography.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Dollsexposed: How did you come up with the title Muscle Beach Twins? I live in Los Angeles and that title captures your work perfectly, albeit in a stereotypical way: toned beach boys (mostly blond), lots of sun and sex. 

Matt Ryder/Muscle Beach Twins: The title (and some elements of the story) is very much inspired by the Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins books I used to read when I was younger. As a gay boy, I was always so envious of the pretty, California girls in books and movies who went out with the gorgeous hunks. So when creating Muscle Beach Twins (MBT), I decided to not only flip that trope on its head, but I wanted the content to be much steamier. Taking place in the fictitious town of Muscle Beach (no relation to the actual Venice Beach), MBT takes the blonde valley girls and turns them into the hot, sexually-promiscuous gay twin brothers, Cody & Casey Cummings.

Did you start collecting the dolls first and then think, “Oh, I can make something out of this?” or was it the opposite? Meaning, you already knew you wanted to make gay porn with Ken dolls and then you started getting the dolls who would fit in the casting sheet.

I was a collector first. Always a fan of Barbie and Ken, I had a good amount of dolls and fashions when I started posting pictures on Instagram. But, as fun as it was photographing my dolls, I loved coming up with all the various stories to caption the photos even more. And that’s when the wheels started turning for MBT. I thought it would be fun to create an Instagram page that told a continuous story.

Is it a one-person show? You write the story, build the set, do the wardrobe, pose the dolls, do the photography, edit the photos, do the layouts and the lettering. Did I miss anything? It must be super exhausting. What keeps you going? 

Yup! I do everything myself. It is a lot of work, for sure, but I have so much fun with it – definitely a hobby. I love creating stories, I absolutely love the crafting process (designing and constructing all the sets), and putting the finished photos into the comic book form is a blast!

Let’s talk about the first issue (178 pages long + 3 pages of “ads”). When did this come out? 

The first issue (of Muscle Beach Twins as an actual comic book) came out in October of 2022. But it was a revamped collection of what was initially Instagram content. MBT was originally a serial on Instagram but I was constantly having my posts flagged or removed. Frustrated, I knew that if I wanted to continue MBT, in the way it’s truly intended, it couldn’t survive on the social media platform, and that’s when I made the switch to creating digital comic books.

Tell me what the process was like with this first issue. Did you write the story first and then take the photos as you go or was it photos first and then you worked the story around them? 

Something I’ve learned since doing this is that story must come first. With as many characters as I have, and all the different love triangles and drama, I have to have the story in writing before I take the photos. I didn’t do this when I first started and I kept having to retcon storylines, it was a mess. When I moved from Instagram to the comic books, the first thing I did was create an MBT Bible for myself to keep the story and all the characters in check. And in addition to re-editing the photos and expanding on a few of the storylines, I was able to go back, fix some discrepancies, and clean up the narrative.

How long did the project last from start to finish for the first issue? It’s almost triple the average page count of the other issues. What took the longest? Was it writing the story, building the set/diorama, casting? 

So it’s hard to pin that down actually. Because MBT was initially Instagram content (where I would post only two or three photos a day) the story moves, as one of my followers commented, in “soap opera” time. In the first issue, Cody has a cheer tryout with Coach Wolf. Of course, because this is the world of Muscle Beach Twins, the tryout is Cody sucking Coach’s dick before getting bent over a desk and railed. It was a big scene that took many, many days to unfold, and I crack up every time I remember someone saying something like “Oh my god, these two have been fucking for 3 months!”

But when I started to create the comic book, I didn’t realize just how much content I already had and it was difficult for me to find the proper place in the story where the first issue could end. Ultimately, I went with creating a very large first issue, to introduce the main characters, develop the story, and have a “hook” that would make the reader want to read the next issue.

Did that process change in the subsequent issues? Did you find yourself working faster and more efficiently in the subsequent issues? 

Absolutely! With the exposition out of the way in that first issue, it was much easier going forward and finding those next breaks in the story. The first two comic books (and a little bit of the third) cover what was initially posted on Instagram. Once I started working on issue 4, it was all fresh, unpublished content so I was able to properly tailor the story to fit in a single, traditional-length issue with a cliffhanger,

Why did you choose a comic book as a medium?

So as I mentioned, I wanted MBT’s story to have the feel of Sweet Valley High, but I wanted the look to be that of an Archie comic. To me, there’s something titillating about seeing something naughty through a cutesy lens – it’s porn but it has a charming, playful quality to it.

Not to get too heady, but I also feel the comic book medium serves as a visual representation of my characters’ lighthearted attitude toward sex, and how they playfully engage in sexual activity. A typical dilemma in an Archie comic might be that Archie made a date with both Betty and Veronica on the same night. But in MBT, Cody’s gonna find himself in a pickle because he promised he’d attend his friend’s blowjob party, but he’s busy getting DP’ed by a couple of the guys on the football team. The situations themselves couldn’t be more different, but the whimsical nature in which they’re presented is the same.

Is there any work by a doll photographer that made you think, “I could do that too, and I’d make it gay.”

Not really, and not because I’m not inspired by other doll photographers, I just haven’t had that exact moment. It’s funny, and this ties back to the comments about finding hardcore porn more exciting when presented as something cute, the two things that usually inspire MBT the most are porn and old TV shows like Leave It To Beaver or Saved By The Bell. I’ll watch a scenario on a show like that and ask, “What if Zach Morris was a huge power bottom?”

What’s the part you love the most from the process?

Post-production for sure! I LOVE putting the photos and text together in the comic book. It’s the moment when everything comes together. Those goofy and sometimes awkward days spent photographing the dolls blowing each other and fucking, really pay off in a big way when the photos are placed into the comic with context.

As we all know, Ken dolls don’t have genitalia, and it’s not my preference to either highlight that or to add a penis to him. Instead, I like to come up with various ways to hide what would be his nudity. For me, it’s more of what you don’t see, and what is implied, that I find exciting. It’s great, too, because this helps with the comic book style I’m aiming for. Though on the page all you actually see is Casey’s head against a guy’s groin, the comic burst reading “WOW!” allows your imagination to kick into overdrive as you visualize just how big the dick he’s sucking is, or how much pre-cum is leaking. It can be the reader’s fantasy.

What’s the part you hate the most? Or the part that frustrates you the most? Could you share a story? 

I think any doll photographer would agree, the most frustrating part is when you’ve created the perfect, most intricate set-up, you’re looking at the PERFECT shot, and just before you can snap the pic, a doll falls over. Coach Wolf is played by a Superman Dawn of Justice doll with a Captain Kirk head. He’s sexy as hell, but he is absolutely, without a doubt, the WORST doll to work with. His arms are very tight and difficult to pose, but then his legs and ankles are so loose and flimsy he falls over all the time!

Part of the reason why I do doll photography is because I can’t draw to save my life. Is it also the same for you? Would you rather draw than do doll photography if you could? Or do you actually draw and just do this as a hobby?

I wish I could draw!!! Honestly, as much as I love dolls and love making MBT with dolls, I would 100% turn this into a drawn cartoon comic if I could. And it would be way more graphic! I would draw the football team with massive dicks, and show Cody & Casey sucking their poles and eatin’ loads, oh it would be insane. But, I can’t draw so doll photography it is.

Do you exclusively work with Kens (and a few Barbies)? Why? 

Pretty much, and the only reason for it is because that’s what I was collecting and what I had on hand when I started the comic. I love the face molds of Ken and Barbie dolls, and they both have the look I was going for when creating the characters of MBT. I also really love the made-to-move bodies, so much so that I think I’ve pretty much replaced every character with a new body. You can get so much more life and expression out of the articulation.

We have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. I see actual humans posting more explicit stuff than doll content creators on Instagram, yet their account doesn’t get shut down. Could you tell me about your experience of Instagram shutting down your account? Was it your first? Did you appeal? 

Oh yeah! For sure incredibly frustrating, and as I mentioned, the real reason why I moved to creating the comic books. It was especially annoying too, because since my photos were posted as a serial comic, when Instagram would pull one (or more) of my photos, it would mess up the storyline. Whole paragraphs of dialogue would go missing.

And yes, it was also ridiculous because not only would the image be of plastic dolls, the simulated intercourse wouldn’t even be seen, it would be covered by a comic burst or eggplant emoji.

I appealed a couple of times, but it would never go in my favor. I would have to either nix the photo, or, if it was a photo with dialogue that furthered the plot, I’d have to re-shoot real quick, or try to re-edit. It got very tedious.

You’re on Instagram and Twitter. Are you thinking of promoting your work somewhere else or posting on Patreon? 

I had a Patreon for a few months but I had a difficult time keeping up with it. I don’t want to take anyone’s money without giving them something great, something I’ve worked hard on in return. I’ve discovered it’s very difficult to push out a new comic each and every month, and sometimes there would be weeks when I just didn’t have time for MBT. As much as I loved my patrons I felt like the platform wasn’t for me.

But, like I’ve said, I love making Muscle Beach Twins. I adore Cody, Casey, and all their friends, and almost every day I’m creating a new scene or situation in my head. After I closed my Patreon, I immediately made the move to create the MBT Website, an online comic book shop, where I can create and publish on my own time, and my readers can find and explore the comics whenever they want.

In regards to your question about finding a way to make something gay, once I was watching an old show and they had a kissing booth set up at the school carnival. (Be warned as this is a spoiler for an upcoming issue) I thought it would be great if one such booth is set up at a carnival for a rival school to raise a little money for their sports team. But Casey, the sex-driven little entrepreneur he is, counters that with a blowjob booth at Madison and he and his friends rake in the cash, squashing their competition.

You mention hiding the fact that Ken’s smooth down there through various ways. One of the biggest challenges we have as doll photographers is that their facial expression is practically the same. Superman Dawn of Justice has a more neutral expression than the Kens. Does facial expression play an important part in casting dolls? And what are the It-factors that make you choose a doll? 

For sure! As you can expect, the characters of Muscle Beach Twins live in my head – I know every character’s thoughts, dreams, mannerisms, quirks & kinks. So when it comes time to find the perfect face for a character I’ll just ask myself “Does this doll LOOK like a Cody? Or a Tyler, or Coach Wolf? Sometimes I go along with the stereotypes: Tyler’s a studious guy, maybe a little nerdy, so he wears glasses. Coach Wolf, whom I’ll add is based on adult film star Austin Wolf, is a total stud so he (regardless if it’s night or day if he’s coaching football on the field or fucking a cheerboy in his office) always wears sunglasses. And then there’s oftentimes a situation like Ken Fashionista 17: this doll came with a face that just looked like he was a conniving snob who gives lousy head, so I immediately cast him as Casey’s rival, Lyle Beauchamp.

And a related question to that: scrolling through your Instagram and website, it seems that you don’t do face-tune stuff, or at least not that much. What do you think of doll photographers who use face-tuning apps? And do you actively avoid using it?

There are so many good doll photographers who use those apps so well, I love it! I downloaded one but I’m never happy with how it turns out; I find it to be too much for my work. I used it a few times, usually doing the absolute minimum to add more of a smile. The best was when I used it to create a vintage style ad, inspired by the famous Charles Atlas “Chump to Champ” advertisement. I made one of my Slim Kens have a sad, defeated face as his gym crush completely ignores him. A few slides later, after Slim Ken has spent some time in the gym (and he went from slim Ken to buff Ken), he’s getting butt-fucked by his crush in the showers with this huge smile, he’s just grinning ear-to-ear, it was hilarious.

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All photos except for the header photo belong to Muscle Beach Twins.

Dollsexposed showcases queer erotica, kink, fetish, and activism through twelve-inch doll photography.

Their adventures in the doll world began in 2011 before establishing a home on dollsexposed.com eleven years later.

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