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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Tjuana Bibles

These are some examples of the underground phenomena called "Tijuana Bibles."

For those unfamiliar with the term, "Tijuana Bible" meant an underground comic produced by persons unknown, starring famous characters (like Superman, Archie, Terry and the Pirates, Annie, etc.) engaging in...let's say adult-oriented activities, to be kind. In many cases, these books went further than that, featuring stuff that went way beyond what most people would label "pornography."

Of course, these books were totally unsanctioned, created, bought, and sold via the underground. They were produced mainly from the 1920s to the 1960s (when, I would guess, Playboy's place in the culture made such material less than compelling anymore).

Normally, I wouldn't cover this topic on the Shrine, because, as you might have guessed from the covers you see above, only the biggest names in pop culture (before that term was even coined) were used as subjects: Popeye, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Tarzan, and The Phantom all got put through the ringer. Aquaman just wasn't a big enough "star" for anyone to think to use him in such a manner.

Or was he?

A few years ago, in the late, great magazine Comic Book Heaven, editor Scott Saavedra featured this startling scan:
Green Arrow and Speedy, in a Tijuana Bible?!?

That completely floored me (I am easily floored)--never in a million years would I have thought Green Arrow was a big enough "name" to appear in one of these. I did a little research, and found the cover to this:
Now, of course, even though Green Arrow and Aquaman debuted in very same comic, I guess DC immediately considered GA a bigger star, featuring him and Speedy on the cover of almost every issue of More Fun Comics, while Aquaman was relegated to just appearing on the insides.

Maybe just being on the covers was enough, though the artist of the Green Arrow Tijuana Bible clearly knew enough about the characters to draw what looks like The Arrowcar, so maybe he/she (oh come on, surely it was a he) was some sort of fan...or was so dedicated to his craft he did research!

Anyway, I did some more searching on the TBs, and found no evidence there ever was an Aquaman one. I wrote the webmaster of a site all about them, and am awaiting a definitive answer. But, for now, I'm going to assume an Aquaman Tijuana Bible doesn't exist.

So...is that a good thing? On the one hand (no pun intended), we're spared the image of Aquaman engaging in some pretty humiliating behavior (Porn + Aquaman + sea creatures = yeesh). On the other hand, an Aquaman Tijuana Bible would be an incredibly interesting artifact, an early piece of Aqua-Arcana that would be a great example of the Sea King's burgeoning presence in the culture.

So I'm not ready to label this post a "Missed Opportunity"...yet.

(BTW, if you want to learn more about Tijuana Bibles, check out the Wikipedia page. As I mentioned, there are sites devoted to them, but they are definitely NSFW. Google with caution!)

Update: Todd F. Sheffer (our newest F.O.A.M.er!) of Hakes Americana and Collectibles was nice enough to send the Shrine some more examples of Tijuana Bibles:
Seeing these, I'm trying to decide whether these mean there's a better or worse chance there's an Aquaman one of these around somewhere.

I have to admit, TBs starring Plastic Man and Captain Marvel Jr. are pretty surprising, but both did have their own comics series, and the Captain Marvel family of comics were, at one point I think, the best-selling comics on the market. So in the 40s and 50s, way more people had heard of CM Jr. than Aquaman, I'm sure.

I was also contacted by the webmaster of TijuanaBibles.org, who told me he has never seen one starring Aquaman. But of course, who knows...?

Fun Fact: I should have mentioned this in the original post, but of course Tijuana Bibles show up in Watchmen. In the final issue (#12), we see there's one of Sally Jupiter (the original Silk Spectre), sent to her by an overzealous fan. Thanks to F.O.A.M.er Eric Stettmeier for reminding me!


Wings1295 said...

I have never heard of these. I knew of NSFW-type art and stuff, but never knew there was a term or even a fandom around them.

And yeah, torn about Aquaman appearing in such. Like you said, would show how he was getting popular but... bad images of the misuse of tentacles...

Russell said...

Haha, this is hilarious! I'm on my way to work, so obviously I'm not going to conduct any research on this topic right away, but...wow.

I love your formula, Rob...
Porn + Aquaman + Sea Creatures = Yeesh. Is it wrong that I immediately envisioned an octopus? Haha!

Aaron said...

So... I have to ask (since according to someone I'm obsessed with sex)...were there "trick" arrows involved? Did Speedy live up to his name? Talk about "More Fun" comics!!!

All right, that's all I've got.

BTW, at a SPACE (Small Press expo) I went to a few years back, someone had revived the Tijauna Bible format (now featuring Dilbert, Bone, etc.) into a compilation called "Lo-Jinx". The things Phoney Bone was doing to Thorn were...unsettling.

rob! said...


Considering the amount of children you and the missus have, I think its safe to say you ARE obsessed with sex.

I haven't seen any more of the GA bible than what you see. I have to admit, I am curious--I'd buy it on eBay if I found it cheap enough.

Plaidstallions said...

I'm not at all interested in "Terry and the Pirates" erotic adventures.

Aaron said...

@rob!- Well, it beats feeding the feral cats ;)

@Plaidstallions (love your website, BTW)- I have to assume the Dragon Lady is in there somewhere. I hope?

Bubbashelby said...

They mention Tijuana Bibles in the Watchmen.

Maybe someone with artistic abilities should do one of Aquaman as a sort of homage to the concept.

Russell said...

The Plastic Man one is the one that made me think, "of course Plastic Man had one of these....!"

As for Capt Marvel Jr, this made me think of a book I read *years* ago about a super-hero patterned after Superman who had blue hair (a knock on the terrible coloring of comics thru the 70s where all black hair was colored blue) and there was a scene where the Mary Marvel and Capt Marvel characters had sex just as they called out their word, and that orgasm registered 9.9 on the Richter Scale as measured at the Rock of Eternity or something... Does anybody know what book I'm talking about? (and no, I'm not obsessed with sex, either, haha!)

Daniel said...

I've run across these several times and actually looked through a few of them. They are all the same: graphic sex drawings done in the style of whoever was penciling whatever strip was being "parodied." The paper is cheap and the sentiments inside are even cheaper. I guess I could see an anthropologist being interested in these as an insight into society at a given time, but as a comics fan, they do not appeal to me at all. To each their own.

Unknown said...

rob! I've just been asked to go through a friend's deceased father's personal effects, and guess what I stumbled upon? The exact Tijuana Bible featuring The Green Arrow and Speedy....excellent condition. 8 others to go with it

Phyll Smith said...

I've got a feeling there is an Aquaman one, from the later, shoddier period. I'll go check. Anyone interested in the aforementioned 'anthropologists interest' might be interested in my article on the use of Hollywood and cartoon stars in them. There's a translation of it here http://www.academia.edu/2075931/Tabu_-_Trend_-_Transgresja_Tom_2_Skandal_w_Tekstach_Kultury
I'm always keen to find out more about these things, so if anyone want's to get in touch do so via the academia page i link to or my email at the University of East Anglia.