wimpy

those dirty little comics

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Tijuana Bibles:
Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies, 1930s-1950s

By Bob Adelman, with introductory essay by Art Spiegelman, commentary by Richard Merkin, essay by Madeline Kripke

Simon & Schuster, 160 pages

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PLUS:
a personal essay by Susie Bright
on "Tijuana Bibles"

The introduction to "Tijuana Bibles:
Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies, 1930s-1950s"

BY ART SPIEGELMAN

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Cartoons have a way of crawling past our critical radar and getting right into the id. It may be that their reductive diagramatic qualities echo the way the brain sorts information. This subversive knack for lodging memorably in the deepest crevices of the psyche has never been more clearly demonstrated than by the genre of comic-book pamphlets sometimes known as Tijuana Bibles that first flourished in the thirties. They were cheerfully pornographic and downright illegal.

From today's perspective, part of the early Tijuana Bibles' appeal lies in their peculiar combination of debauchery and innocence. Perhaps because the blue-collar sexual environment they were hatched in was so oppressive, they didn't usually venture into the truly outré and kinky sado-masochistic domains that pervade much of today's popular culture, let alone contemporary hard-core pornography. They seem to marvel at the very idea of sex. A passage in Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" captures their adolescent tone perfectly:

Amazing! Astonishing! Still can't get over the fantastic idea that when you are looking at a girl, you are looking at somebody who is guaranteed to have on her -- a cunt! They all have cunts! Right under their dresses! Cunts -- for fucking!

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INTRODUCTION COPYRIGHT © 1997 BY ART SPIEGELMAN