a.k.a. dirty little comics
a.k.a. comix, the kind men like!
The Tijuana Bible is a relic of a bygone time and different way of thinking about smut. This is not to say that the vintage Tijuana Bible is in any way less filthy than the porn we have now. Grandpa may not have had the internet to collect porn, but that didn't mean that he wasn't a pervert. My collection has examples of everything from homosexuals, transgender, forced sex, bestiality, and more. All very graphically portrayed. No, the 8-pager smut came out of the same idea as vaudeville. To sell sex - with a smile.
Popeye, Blondie, Mutt & Jeff, Jiggs & Maggie, Joe Palooka, Andy Gump, and any number of other comic strip stars that are all but forgotten now took their turns being lampooned in this very blue art form. The comic strip characters were a godsend to the 8-pager artist. Not only were they immediately identifiable, but as they were already cartoons, their styles were easily copied. Not that it stopped some very ugly almost unrecognizable drawings from being churned out to cash in on the craze.
Comic strip characters were not the only ones to suffer under the pen of the 8-pager artist. Popular celebrities of the time were all considered fair game, often with a not-so-subtle play on words to obscure their identity. Jean Harlow became Jean Harlot, Mae West became Mae Breast, and Joan Blondell became Joan Dumbell. Often the cover has a very good likeness of the celebrity, but the inside comic had the celebrity indifferently drawn at best. Few personalities escaped this treatment, some becoming regulars. The ribald possibilities of Jimmy Durante's nose are all too apparent!
Into the late 40's and 50's the artists had to go further afield as their subjects became stale. Gandhi seems an unlikely subject for an 8-pager, but I know of two with him in the starring role. Another example of an odd subject is an 8-pager featuring convicted (later acquitted on a technicality) Soviet spy Judy Coplon. During this time, many printshop still churned out the comix from the bygone years as well. Copies were made from copies until they became almost unreadable.
There may be many reasons as to why the form declined so suddenly, but the one that makes the most sense to me involves the loosening morals of the country and the availability of actual picture pornography for general consumption. Why would you go out and buy a cheaply made comic book of Dagwood & Blondie acting out stale jokes when you could buy a centerfold pinup of Marilyn Monroe? Much of the allure of the form was held in the naughtiness and schoolboy fun, and with the success and acceptance of Playboy and other groundbreaking magazines the 8-pagers just weren't that interesting anymore. Part of the fun of present day collecting is to rediscover just how sick grandpa really was and the fun of jokes that are new again because we don't know them.
The form was born in the 20's, came to adulthood in the depression and mayhem of the 30's & 40's, and fell quickly into senility in the 50's. However the form has never entirely died out. My collection includes a number of examples from the 60's (Ronald Reagan, Spiro Agnew, Jackie Onassis, even Dean Martin) and one from the late 70's staring Luke Skywalker and his overly friendly robots!
In the 70's, a resurgence of interest in the 8-pagers came with the publication of a number of cheaply made reprint books. These in turn inspired artists working at the time to take the ideas and situations of the older comics and update them to characters their current market would recognise.
As long as there are public figures to lampoon, there will be Tijuana Bibles. I have seen ones with the Ayatollah Khomeini and Sadam Hussein and I'm sure there is one out there right now where a certain Bin Laden is getting it up the ass from an overly endowed camel.
NOTE: All dates attributed to Tijuana Bibles are educated guesses. There were little to no records kept and one can only go by art style, printing, and referential humor contained in the pages. If you disagree with some of my guesses here... Oh well!
This page is © 2002 Brian Hunt