Three More Old Comics

     Now, I have mentioned this is not a food blog, and have repeated that.  Something I have not mentioned is that this is not, technically, a blog dedicated to reviewing vintage smut.  But I have acquired three more comic books of the type I discussed in the space a while back, and I thought I should let you know about them, as most of you (yeah, I see you back there in the corner, leaning forward, eyes aglow.  Stick your tongue back in your mouth.) are not going to be reading these.

     And, anyway, writing book reviews of books which are only eight pages long is a beguiling way to pass the time.

     I do not believe I mentioned in my previous discussion, that these are known as Tijuana Bibles, or simply “dirty little eight-pagers”.  They seem to have originated somewhere around the 1920s, and flourished in the years as cheap duplicating machines were made available.  Although the freer access to naughtiness in the Sixties pruned away a lot of the publishers (who found cheaper ways to make more money as porn progressed) they have never quite disappeared, with artists inspired by them still producing similar works today.

     There is some variety in Tijuana Bibles, but they generally run along certain lines.  You take a celebrity, sometimes two: these are most often popular comic strip characters (fairly easy to copy, as they are already two dimensional) or movie stars, and you then write a story exactly eight cartoon panels long.  This should be as explicit as possible.  Explicitness takes precedence over, say, drawing ability, writing ability, or credibility.

     Take, for example, the title shown at the top of this column.  The anonymous artist has made an attempt, at least, to make the faces in the story KIND OF resemble William Powell and Myrna Loy.  But any Tijuana text worthy of its eight dirty pages knows the faces are not what you want to see.  So in virtually every panel of the story, one or both of the characters are posed so their head is out of sight.  This saves time in drawing so the artist can get bon with the story.  (The word “story” is an exaggeration.  The plot, as often happens, is taken care of in the first panel, where our two protagonists, who appeared as man and wife in the Thin Man movies, announce they’re tired of being married onscreen but never having sex, thanks to the movie oversight board, the Hays Office, run by conservative Postmaster General Will Hays.  The next seven pages are all about what the readers wanted, “readers” being as accurate a term, I suppose, as ”story”.)

     The second volume under consideration here is a little more attentive to the character of its hero, though it does not come right out and mention Jimmy Durante’s name.  (There are Tijuana Bibles which make him Jimmy “Schnozzle” Durante, though the real Durante preferred Schnozzola.)  The plot here may derive from Durante’s stand-up act, which involved long bizarre narratives.  Schnozzle here simply narrates his souvenir album to a visiting damsel, showing some highly unlikely (and even mildly funny) scenes from his amorous past.  These inspire the young lady, and if you think Schnozzle’s nose is not going to come into the story, let me reassure you.  This scene on the cover has nothing to do with the story, but this was common in mainstream comic books and paperbacks of the time, too.

     The cover of the third book also has no relation to the story inside, and it’s a pity, because although it is the best book of the three, the cover is naughtier than this space needs to be.  The star here is a comic strip hero now largely forgotten, Pete the Tramp, part of a general flood of comic strip tramps in the early twentieth century, many following in the footsteps of happy Hooligan.  (The comic tramp is an English staple, too, dating back to Hooligan’s much older cousin, Ally Sloper.)  Comic tramps tended either to be audacious scoundrels or luckless losers.  Pete fell into the second category: every time he thought he was winning, the world would smack him back down.

     This little eight-page story is perfectly true to his character, giving us a wildly unusual story. Pete, amazed, is not only to be offered a good meal, but invited into the house to eat it.  The plot thickens when his hostess opens a door and he spies a young lady disrobing.  By the fourth panel, both women are naked and forcing Pete through a number of sex acts, keeping hi pinned underneath because all Pete wants to do is escape.  He ends the story still hoping to get away, threatened with violence (or a bad pun) if he makes a break for the door.  This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that would have happened to Pete in his real comic strip, had newspapers allowed such bedroom ventures.

     One expects only cookie cutter stories and characters from quickie comics produced for buyers in a day when there was no Interwebs to offer naughty pictures, but even in a mere eight pages, the largely anonymous writers and artists could offer something surprising.  Maybe that’s why the art form, if we may call it that, continues.  These three are, in fact, modern reprints from the 1980s or thereabouts, produced for no purpose of historical research.   So some perv…oh, right.  I just wrote a whole blog about ‘em.  Well, when I do it, it is historical research.

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