Dirty Little Comics: A Pictorial History of Tijuana Bibles and Underground Adult Comics of the 1920s - 1950s
Publisher: Jack Norton
Tijuana Bibles were palm-sized, underground, explicit comic books. Produced in the United States, they were extremely popular in the 1920s and 30s. Most artists were unknown, as the publication of this explicit work was illegal at the time. For the first time in recent history, these obscure works are now brought back to light. Included within this collection are over forty original comics and a short essay about the history of this uniquely American medium.
During the Great Depression era of the 1930s, “Tijuana Bibles” were called eight-pagers, Tillie And Mac books, Jiggs and Maggie books, Jo-Jo books, bluesies, blue bibles, gray backs and two by fours. In the 1940s they were simply called “Dirty Little Comics”, and by the early 1950s these glorious works of dirty art would finally be known as “Tijuana Bibles” - a term still in use today. The term “Tijuana Bible” originated in southern California, playing on the untrue belief that these cheap little comics were manufactured and smuggled across the border from Tijuana, Mexico.
This seedy backstory only added to the smutty appeal of these comics. They were sold under the counter for a quarter anywhere men hung out: bars, bowling alleys, auto-shops, tobacco stores, barbers, burlesque halls and tattoo parlors. If a gentlemen knew the right second hand bookstore or magazine stand, he could ask for the latest blue bible.
The artistry of these images is simply amazing. It’s clear where groundbreaking artists of the 1960s such as R. Crumb drew inspiration from: Tijuana Bibles!
With pen names such as “Mr. Prolific”, “Mr. Dyslexic” and “Blackjack” the artists in this pictorial history of Tijuana Bibles and the underground adult comics of the 1920s through the 1950s worked under great legal risk to bring their work to the public. Today we should celebrate with a smile the brilliant artistry and bold bravery for creating art during such a repressed time. We look to these early artists for inspiration and amusement.