Synopses & Reviews
Hidden in a corner among the great sacred texts of the world lies a series of exuberantly ribald underground comics known as the Tijuana Bibles. Iconoclastic, hilarious, and sexy, these anonymous little books, written from the 1930s through the 1950s, are revered among scholars and aficionados of American folk art, and devotees of comics as well as collectors of erotica. The primitive energy of their vigorous, often crude line, combined with their gonzo sensibilities, has given the Bibles a tremendous if largely unacknowledged influence on such talents as Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, and Lenny Bruce.
Comic strips in general were an American phenomenon, and at their zenith the Sunday funnies were as important as breakfast. But the anonymous creators of the Tijuana Bibles turned the saccharine tradition of the comics on its head, cheerfully savaging every sacred cow in the pasture in their pursuit of satire and sex. Political leaders, cartoon heroes, storybook legends, and American folk icons -- no one was safe from the glowering wit and smutty irreverence of these eight- and sixteen-page booklets, cranked out illicitly in basements and sold under counters across the country. From Donald Duck, Al Capone, and Greta Garbo to Lou Gehrig, Mahatama Gandhi, and the Fuller Brush Man, the pure and the impure were burlesqued with equal inspiration.
Aboveground for the first time, these subverive comic masterworks are presented here in all their brilliant and raunchy glory. Author Bob Adelman reviewed almost 1,000 of the Tijuana Bibles before selecting 100 of the most lively and important examples of the genre. The book opens with an introductory essay by Art Spiegelman, America's most famous comic artist and a man who proudly acknowledges the impact these rollicking and scandalous little booklets have had on his own work.
Paging through reproductions of the Bibles, the reader discovers that there is more to the Tijuana Bibles than good dirty fun. Indeed these tremendously entertaining comics also tell us fascinating things about American attitudes toward celebrity, about the hypocrisy of certain social and political values, and about the hypocrisy of certain social and political values, and about the ability of artists working outside the establishment of effectively tweak its sensibilities in a way few others can. For anyone who believes irreverence can be patriotic and sex can be just plain fun, Tijuana Bibles showcases American comic art at its untamed finest.
Civil-liberties advocate and author of Visions of Liberty
Cartoons have always been a potent, if curved, reflection of American society, but there's nothing quite like the Tijuana Bibles for zany irreverence, satire, and social commentary. Poking holes (literally!) in iconic characters from Donald Duck to Popeye to Hollywood celebrities, the Bibles exposed the phony chastity of official Hollywood while committing the ultimate sin of portraying sex as good, clean fun. There was one small problem: it was a crime to publish this stuff. Certainly no one thought at the time that the First Amendment protected this sort of thing, but half a century of litigation now makes it possible to examine Tijuana Bibles openly.
Besides viewing sex as a divine union communicating love, sex can be seen as absurd and comical. From the latter perspective, the Tijuana Bibles have a charming, harmless naughtiness that portrays a hidden side of their era.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 158) and index.
About the Author
is an author, editor, teacher, book producer, and world-renowned photojournalist. His picture stories have frequently appeared in Life,
the London Times Magazine, Stern,
and the New York Times Magazine.
In varying roles he has done more than forty books; the most recent are his Carver Country
and Visions of Liberty.
He vividly recalls his nervous excitement at first gaping at a Tijuana Bible. Nowadays he more maturely reads them for laughs and insights, but now and again their provocative powers become undeniable.
Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introductory Essay: Those Dirty Little Comics Art Spiegelman
The Lingo of the Tijuana Bibles Madeline Kripke
See You in the Funny Pages
Our Fellow Americans: Heebs, Wops, Traveling Salesmen, and the Farmer's Daughter
Theres's No Bizness Like Show Bizness!
Gun Molls, Heavyweights, and Assorted Tyrants
Odds 'n' Ends; or, Hot nuts and Wild Gooses
The Wide Stylistic Range of the Tijuana Bibles Richard Merkin
Talking Dirty: The Vocabulary of the Tijuana Bibles Madeline Kripke
Those Naughty End Pages Richard Merkin
Bibliography Madeline Kripke
List of Titles and Index of Subjects Parodied