Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tijuana Bibles

My dearest Readers,
Every month, I delight in the possibility that you might walk away from this blog tickled and astounded by the underbelly of the past. And you had best believe I intend to tickle and astound. Tijuana Bibles. Have you heard of them? If you have, YOU are one bad ass underbelly historian and I'd like to shake your dirty little hand because this is one history that is as muddled and fascinating as it gets. I was fortunate enough to get an up close look at these suckers at none other than the Museum of Sex itself. I've heard of them prior to visiting the museum, but never actually got to see them in person, so it really was a treat and one I'm sharing with you.

So...Tijuana Bibles. They weren't REALLY bibles. As you might have guessed given that it is getting its own post on my blog. The origin of the name itself is actually unknown. Some say it was a jab on the vices of Border Mexican towns and others say it was used merely to throw off the authorities. Either way, these Tijuana Bibles have quite the naughty history. Tijuana bibles were also called jo-jo books, fuck books (which best describes them), blusies, gray-backs, and eight pagers, to name a few. I should probably note that these were American in origin.
So what were they? It was a creative form of incredibly artistic pornography. They were explicit, hand drawn CARTOON booklets stapled together in a convenient "pocket" size. They made their debut in the 1920's but really exploded in the Depression Era of the 1930's when cartoonists were looking to make a living just like everyone else. Though they altogether petered off in popularity by the 50's, these dirty little booklets consisted of cartoons that created "a story" involving sex. They were sold in school yards (they are cartoons, after all!!), tobacco shops (under the counter), back alleys (with the booze) and out of the trunks of cars (with the booze). They were collected like baseball cards and traded and shared (and shared and shared).

What made these popular? They were without any doubt funny as freakin hell (humor during the depression went a looooong way) and more importantly, featured popular comic strip cartoons, celebrities of the era, and politicians in every dang sexual position known to man and woman (and animal). You get to page through Minnie and Mickey Mouse's adventures of having rowdy rodent sex. Or Clark Gable using his ears to make a woman scream. Or my favorite (below), Donald Duck in all his cocky glory. Puts his character in a whole new light, doesn't it?

I bet you always dreamed about seeing Popeye....well...pop an eye. And believe me, he does. Right along with us!

Ever wonder where Dick Tracy got his name? Oh, yeah, he EARNS his name in these suckers. As for good old Dagwood? Well...he's just got wood. And Snow White? She DOES all seven drawfs in style. Setting aside the dirty details, the drawings in and of themselves were actually done with a quality that made these even more popular.

Now despite its popularity, all of the booklets themselves were drawn and printed anonymously due to all the indecency laws in the united states (which weren't lifted until the 1960's). Shipments were occasionally seized by authorities but with no source and no names, it was very difficult for them to press charges against anyone. Fascinatingly enough, the cartoonists behind the Tijuana Bibles have never stepped forth with their names, even long after bans were lifted and to this day, identification of the creators are done based off of the styling of the cartoon itself.
Wesley Morse, the creator of Bazooka Joe (yes, the bubble gum cartoons!), was believed to have been one of many cartoonists who drew anonymously during a time when there was no work. Not much more is known.

In the end, what is utterly fascinating about the depression era itself was the people's desperate need for escapism given the hardships. That need is what created the booming film industry. And that need is what created this titillating form of pornography that took tongue and cheek to a whole new level known as Tijuana Bibles. So now that you know all about Tijuana Bibles, I suggest you keep your eyes open. Because who knows? Maybe your grandma or your grandpa have some of these puppies stashed up in the attic somewhere. Or better yet, maybe your grandma and your grandpa are STILL paging through these suckers, chuckling and tickling each other under the covers as they make use of it. All I do know is that the good old days were exactly that...good. Gotta love history.

Until next time,
Much love to you,
Delilah Marvelle


Kristine Cayne said...

Your blog is incredibly eye-opening and I for one find it facinating that the our ancestors were not as straight-laced as some would have us believe.

Awesome post, Delilah!


Linda said...

Loved your post.. as always. We have a local band named Tijuana Bibles and kept meaning to look it up. Perhaps the creators had incredible jobs that prevented them from coming forward even after laws were lifted?

Amalia said...

There is something kind of squicky about the idea of cartoon characters having sex. it's always creeped me out.

which is not to say, boo Delilah! as always, you are fantastically informative :)

Suzi said...

Thanks so much for sharing your fun,
I longed to buy a pile of those cartoon books in NYC to bring home. But I couldn't buy any - sigh!
Stopped by my fear of an overzealous Customs official opening them in front of the other 1,000 arriving airline passengers and asking in a loud voice..."Are these all yours?"
Could imagine the headlines - Sweet-looking writer lady hauled off to jail after ridiculous claim her 50 adult cartoons books were entirely for research.

Maryrose said...

It's amazing how nothing much changes over the years, centuries, except that we're not as "hush, hush," as previous generations.

Fascinating Delilah!

Judith Ashley said...

I've checked my grandparents and parents attics and safe deposit boxes - nada.

And I've never seen Tijuana Bibles on Antiques Roadshow! Go figure.

Jean Paradis said...

Hi Delilah, the article in RT is great and I love your website! I was very impressed to read that your agent is Donald Maass. He's my dream agent. I've read all his books. Now I'll start on yours.

Delilah Marvelle said...

My dearest Kristine,
Thank you for the post!! And yes, we always have a tendency to forget that our generation is the only generation having sex...ha.

My dearest Linda,
I imagine that it wasn't just the well paying jobs that kept them in the closet. It was also the fact that these guys were married, with children, went to church and people back then just were anal about these things (no pun intended, lol). They would have been cut off from respectable society (I so would have been one of those). Thanks for posting!

My dearest Amalia,
Hey, I'm with you. When I see Snow White getting raped by the Seven Drawfs, I about reverted to being 2 years old and balled. If you come at it with humor, it works. If you come at it to...well...cum...well...yeah, no.

My dearest Suzi,
Haha about customs getting you! They'd swipe them just for themselves, I imagine. I'd love to just see the looks on some of these serious "security measure" guys when donald duck comes through with a dick the size of Texas. Snort.

My dearest Mary Rose,
I agree. It's funny how the "hush, hush" ends up NEVER getting hushed...thanks for posting!

My dearest Judith,
Keep looking for that secret stash in the attic. You know it's gotta be there somewhere! LOL. Thanks for posting.

My dearest Jean,
Thank you so much for hunting my blog down! And yes, Don is the man and the reason my writing stays afloat. Thanks for posting and looking into my books. You rock!