Tijuana Bible Bashers

paris_01Tijuana Bibles, for those not in the know, were little tiny small-press comic book pamphlets of a pornographic nature, popular particularly in the ’30s. They generally featured caricatures of figures from popular culture, movie stars and so on, making them the depression-era version of today’s slash fiction.

History is silent on this, but I’m pretty sure they were produced by the state, like the prole pornography in 1984, only with the purpose of turning the nation off sex, thereby reducing the excess population. Warning: what follows is not pleasant. In the interests of taste, I’m not reproducing any of the full on erection and penetration images, since Shadowplay is a blog intended for family entertainment, and in the interests of sanity I’m not going to show you the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy or Popeye engaged in risque byplay — some things are sacred, or, viewed from another angle, nauseating.

But how about this?


It’s a catchy title, I’ll grant you. And if you’re wondering if the anonymous author is going to explore the rhyming potential of the lead character’s name and species, I can answer that question. He is. This is also the only Tijuana Bible I’ve perused to feature male-on-male action (drake-on-drake, to be precise), with a plot that basically has a horny Donald D (with Pluto as pimp) test the limits of his heterosexuality with a dragged-up ladydrake, establishing beyond doubt that performing anal sex and receiving oral sex are fine, but performing oral would make him a queer. I’m glad that’s all straightened out.

And aren’t you glad I’m presenting this in synopsis, rather than in blow-by-blow panel reproduction? Trust me, the image of a rampant Donald with outsized humanoid member is one that would haunt you to your collective mausoleums.


Ingrid Bergman. I never knew she was a sort of human bust, truncated at the ribcage, and mounted on a brick. I guess all her walking and gesturing was done by stand-ins. It’s Hollywood’s best-kept secret. This is the story of how “Reberto” Rossellini makes Ingrid a star — in stag films. It’s the kind of ironic twist of fate one would never see coming, but for the fact that this is a Tijuana Bible and therefore it’s the only thing that can possibly happen.

1_c_charlie01The idea of a ventriloquist act becoming a smash hit on the radio sounds like a surreal joke, and not even a very good one, but it actually happened. The idea of the dummy, possessed of an animating consciousness of his own, being fitted with a vast phallus hewn from oak, and going forth to test it on living human beings, sounds like something from Michael Redgrave’s deepest, gin-sodden nightmares. Fortunately it never happened, except in this literary effort by ‘Feelma Box.’ Perhaps related to Edgar Box, the pseudonym used by Gore Vidal when writing crime novels? Do pseudonyms have families? Do monocled dummies have a chance with Carole Lombard?

I’d like to think the answer to both questions is “no,” but this T.B. says different.

1 (165)Don’t know who Evelyn is meant to be, but the girl under the car is Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and the dapper chap with the gun is John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). What follows could have made an entertaining DVD extra for Michael Mann’s PUBLIC ENEMIES, except for the disturbingly horrid artwork and even more appalling dialogue. In the world of the T.B., you’ll want to know, a large (or “brutal”, or sometimes “butal”) penis, is known colloquially as a “kidney disturber.” Ain’t that sweet. Excuse me while I disinfect my eyes and rub Germolene on my soul.

1 (193)A South Sea idyll with Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall. What could be nicer, more innocent, more… oh. The dialogue isn’t exactly Mankiewicz, is it? Or at least, not prime Mankiewicz. What else do we have to torture you with? Oh yeah.

x (107)

x (109)

Inevitably: Jean Harlot. Sometimes the stars would be identified by spoofy nom-de-guerres, like Mae Breast, or Sylvia Kidney. This was clearly not to avoid lawsuits, since the T.B. merchandisers were strictly under-the-counter operators anyway, nor was it to protect the innocent, since these guys inhabit a mindset where such a thing cannot exist — innocence would appear as a black inky nebula upon the page, an unknowable nothingness into which smut vanishes as if into a deep well — but simply to show off the riotous glee in language of these unsung Voltaires of the funnybook.

1_c_stalin02I particularly like how this guy spells “commuist” in a funny way, for no reason. And then does it again, like he really believes that’s how you spell it. You would only get that kind of genius in the kind of author who thinks the world really wants a pornographic comic book starring frickin’ STALIN.

Tijuana Bibles open, as they say, a window onto history, through which we can see that history is a foetid heap of rutting morons. In honour of those nameless, giftless artists, and their important work sterilizing a great nation, I’m opening my doors to similar works, starring the movie gods and goddesses of today. My only rule is that any submissions should be the kind of thing that such stars might reasonably be expected to chuckle over, rather than stare at, glassy-eyed with terror. I know you Shadowplayers are a talented bunch, let’s see your fan-fic!


33 Responses to “Tijuana Bible Bashers”

  1. I’d never imagined (in my most deranged nightmares) a Tijuana Bible artist taking a chance with Bergman and Rossellini… I mean, it’s like making a TB about, Hum, Dreyer and maria Falconetty, or Bergman (Ingmar) and Max Von Sidow.

    Gods, just imagine “Voyage in Italy” in TB version: I’d bet the remains the archaeologists find in Pompeii would be the remains of a Roman Orgy, or Bergman and Sanders doing kinky remarks upon watching the frescoes at the Villa of the Misteries

    P.S.: I’ve been just recalled of your post on Alfred Hicthcock… the one about Madeleine Carroll and the zipper

  2. Reading this, I’m actually surprised nobody in Italy attempted a sexed-up remake of Viaggio in the 70s. Probably with Udo Kier and Ornella Muti.

    It really seems there’s no depths to which the TB artists would not sink. The question “would anybody want to see this?” appears not to have been asked, or if it was, it was asked by insensibly drunk, illiterate perverts. Which is fine, I suppose.

  3. It’s a cliche to read that many discovered Tijuana Bibles inside the shoebox found in their father’s closet, but that’s exactly where I discovered them, along with a cluster of shotgun shells (my stepfather was an avid hunter and fisherman). As a reader of comic books in childhood and early adolescence I could easily discern that these were crude, amateurish works of expression, but it was also my first exposure to a graphic depiction of the sex act, and for that reason alone they left a hell of an impression on me. Interestingly, only a few short years later I was exposed to the same sort of product only produced in a different format, the underground comic book, written and rendered more skillfully than their forebears, thanks to artists like Robert Crumb and the like. “Goof Butts”? That could go either way, referring to the butt of a marijuana joint or something involving the color lavender. Mitchum in a gay context, I could see it being someone’s fantasy, but it’s difficult to imagine it being much more than that. Then again, who knows.

  4. Mitchum is portrayed as straight in this one. Although there were salacious stories about him sort-of flirting with-Laughton (probably untrue) in Confidential magazine.

    Crumb is on a whole other level, needless to say.

  5. Hahah these are hilarious. Fantagraphics has put out a bunch of collections of these kinds of things, but I don’t think I could take very much of this stuff. And of course besides Crumb, Alan Moore has done a lot of Tijuana Bible parodies, both in *League of Extraordinary Gentlemen* and his own outrageous porn comic *Lost Girls*.

  6. Yeah, too much is kind of depressing — and reading a whole one is too much. And the only way to parody them is to tone them down. I like Michael Kupperman’s comics, he uses some of the same surreal dumbness.

  7. Kupperman is hilarious, for sure, I never really thought of him as deriving from the TB tradition at all, but it does make some sense now that I think about it. His *Snake & Bacon* book is really funny, so many surreal little strips.

  8. Udo Kier and Ornella Muti in Viaggio in Italia ? FABULOUS!

    James Toback directs of course.

  9. I was thinking someone more incongruous, and from the Euro-trash tradition… the crazy cat who made Baba Yaga, maybe.

    Kupperman occasionally uses “adult situations,” but always in some kind of insane context where it’s just wrong. There’s one about Roger Daltrey looking for “birds” and continually being offered the winged variety, that has the TB flare for inappropriate celebrities, off-putting erotic set-ups, and deliberately awkward art.

  10. Speaking of Roger, giant wooden penis that Fiona Lewis rides in Lisztomania is better than any Tiajuana Bible.

  11. “My only rule is that any submissions should be the kind of thing that such stars might reasonably be expected to chuckle over, rather than stare at, glassy-eyed with terror.”

    So no Tom Cruise fictions then? :)

  12. I’m glad you didn’t include any Marx Bros. comics, as I’ve always thought Groucho was sexy and would like to continue thinking so. But I don’t think Donald Duck is sexy (Bugs Bunny is another matter), so I’m grateful to learn of the existence of poorly drawn renditions of oral sex as performed by beaks.

    I actually never heard of Tijuana Bibles before, so this was educational AND hilarious.

  13. Yeah, Groucho’s got a certain many charm. I did read that one… it was… not as bad as it could have been, I guess. There’s no way I’m looking at the Laurel and Hardy one.

    Tom Cruise seems like a jolly fellow, he goes laughing through the day, I’m sure he’d see the funny side.

    I wonder what happened to that giant Roger Daltrey penis from Lisztomania. I expect Ken took it home to use as a wigwam.

  14. I’ve read the Laurel and Hardy. Deeply disturbing. Thank you for sparing us the Wheeler and Woolsey TB. I don’t think I could survive that one again.

  15. There’s one with Alice Faye and the Ritz bros, but for some reason they’re called “Alice Farm and the Satz bros.” Jeez, what next, the Three Stooges? “It’s not just their eyes they poke.”

    People I’m surprised not to have found in TBs:
    Bela Lugosi
    Marie Dressler
    Lionel and Ethel Barrymore
    George Arliss

  16. For a second there I accidentally read “Lionel Barrymore” as “Lionel Atwill,” and I could easily see the latter in a TJ. In a version of “Dr. X.” Perhaps with the new name “Lionel Unwell”? Perhaps we should add Charles Laughton in “Island of Lost [fill in appropriate noun].”

  17. Lionel At-Will in The Mystery of the Sex Museum
    Charles Not-a-lot-on in This Gland is Mine!

  18. paul robesoff in MY DONG GOES FORTH

    seldom hardpricke in THINGS NOT TO COME

  19. Barbara Steeele in The Corpse Carried Traces of Carnal Violence

  20. I believe Feelma Box was the daughter of Betty Box and Carry On producer Peter Rogers. And if she wasn’t, she should have been.

  21. “Udo Kier and Ornella Muti in Viaggio in Italia ?”

    XD This asks for Tinto Brass as a director.

    “Charles Laughton in “Island of Lost [fill in appropriate noun].”

    What about “Island of Lost Dolls”?

  22. … or “Island of Lost Balls” the hair-raising tale of a mad doctor exiled in a remote island, where he conducts forbidden sterilization experiments

  23. You know, some enterprising soul could relaunch the whole Tijuana Bible enterprise on the basis of this post. Doesn’t have to be as crude and amateurish as its origins, but really, the possibilities are endless. Count me out though, I’ve my own dog and pony show to contend with, thank you.

  24. Charles Laughton in Island of Lost Dogs, Laughton’s job is catcher of stray dogs wandering the island, providing him with the means and opportunity to convert them to manimals… well, I’ll let you readers take it from here.

  25. A fullscale Tijuana Bible operation today would be sure to result in some entertaining lawsuits, although the laws protecting parody would probably win out in the end. To preserve the true spirit of the original, they wouldn’t be about Brad and Angelina and Jennifer, they’d be about Oprah and Adam Sandler and Spongebob Squarepants…

  26. They’d be about Queen Latifah, Colin Farrell and Squarebob Spongepants.

  27. …Jim Carrey and the Powerpuff Girls?

    (keep clean thoughts, Gloria, keep clean thoughts)

  28. How about Rush Limbaugh and Metatron?

  29. […] some reason, I keep thinking these captions were pilfered from a Tijuana Bible. Maybe it’s just that the guileless innocence of the whole thing induces an involuntary […]

  30. I’ve never seen the Carole Lombard/Charlie McCarthy Tijuana Bible, but what’s interesting is that she made several guest appearances on the McCarthy/Edgar Bergen radio show (known as “The Chase & Sanborn Hour”), although apparently only one recording of Carole and Charlie (from May 1937) is known to be extant. So it’s possible that when this TB (what an appropriate acronym!) was made, Lombard and McCarthy were a radio “team” of sorts. Heck, over the years she had more “wooden” leading men (e.g., Norman Foster).

  31. Heh! I’d reproduce more of “Using a Wooden One” but, like all the TBs, it really is horrid.

  32. I would have thought “really horrible quality” would be more suited to the subject matter! Still, I’m delighted!

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