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Erotic Comics: A Graphic History from Tijuana Bibles to Underground Comix

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This international survey of erotic comics chronicles a groundbreaking form of sexual expression up to 1970, the years when mainstream culture spurned explicit eroticism. In the 1930s, American “Tijuana Bibles,” little pornographic comic books that parodied popular comics and comic strips, were widely available. World War II gave a boost to erotic comics, especially illust This international survey of erotic comics chronicles a groundbreaking form of sexual expression up to 1970, the years when mainstream culture spurned explicit eroticism. In the 1930s, American “Tijuana Bibles,” little pornographic comic books that parodied popular comics and comic strips, were widely available. World War II gave a boost to erotic comics, especially illustrated pin-ups. This set the stage for men’s magazines such as Playboy, which included racy cartoons from the beginning, and fetish comics. The flowering of the counterculture in the next decade gave rise to underground comics, whose acknowledged master was Robert Crumb. A parallel development occurred in Europe, where erotic comics like Barbarella were suddenly the rage. Erotic Comics tells this story with hundreds of illustrations, informative text, and insights from key artists, writers, and publishers. It’s sexy, artistic, entertaining, intriguing, and informative.


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This international survey of erotic comics chronicles a groundbreaking form of sexual expression up to 1970, the years when mainstream culture spurned explicit eroticism. In the 1930s, American “Tijuana Bibles,” little pornographic comic books that parodied popular comics and comic strips, were widely available. World War II gave a boost to erotic comics, especially illust This international survey of erotic comics chronicles a groundbreaking form of sexual expression up to 1970, the years when mainstream culture spurned explicit eroticism. In the 1930s, American “Tijuana Bibles,” little pornographic comic books that parodied popular comics and comic strips, were widely available. World War II gave a boost to erotic comics, especially illustrated pin-ups. This set the stage for men’s magazines such as Playboy, which included racy cartoons from the beginning, and fetish comics. The flowering of the counterculture in the next decade gave rise to underground comics, whose acknowledged master was Robert Crumb. A parallel development occurred in Europe, where erotic comics like Barbarella were suddenly the rage. Erotic Comics tells this story with hundreds of illustrations, informative text, and insights from key artists, writers, and publishers. It’s sexy, artistic, entertaining, intriguing, and informative.

30 review for Erotic Comics: A Graphic History from Tijuana Bibles to Underground Comix

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    This is an excellent, if very NSFW and often nerdish, account of the graphic illustration of sex up until the late 1970s. Much of the background to this era has already been covered in a series of book reviews elsewhere in GoodReads. We direct you to our sexuality and erotica list with special reference to McDonough's biography of Russ Meyer and to the Taschen edition of Men's Adventure covers. The review of Gillian Freeman's 'Undergrowth of Literature' (written in the 1960s) and Paul Willetts' bi This is an excellent, if very NSFW and often nerdish, account of the graphic illustration of sex up until the late 1970s. Much of the background to this era has already been covered in a series of book reviews elsewhere in GoodReads. We direct you to our sexuality and erotica list with special reference to McDonough's biography of Russ Meyer and to the Taschen edition of Men's Adventure covers. The review of Gillian Freeman's 'Undergrowth of Literature' (written in the 1960s) and Paul Willetts' biography of Paul Raymond add a British perspective. You can read all these and more at http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/... Lavishly illustrated, this is not a book to leave lying around the house if the vicar or a sheltered maiden aunt is coming to tea but the sexual representation is only half the story. The other half is what this material says about repressed male desire during a sexual dark age. We see the role of war and the failure of mainstream entertainment to offer a realistic model for sexual relations when Hollywood, literature and advertising offered only a sensualised romanticism (at most), one that seemed constantly geared to female aspiration and a presumed male gentility. The First World War and its aftermath appear to have allowed some form of male sexual expression that was not entirely vicious (though the Tijuana Bibles were scarcely kind, women appeared to be allowed a sexuality of their own) but this was crushed with the new puritanism of the 1930s. What we think of as sexism probably reached its highest point from the 1930s to the 1970s when a repressive public morality shifted its gaze from alcohol suppression to sexual conduct, not for the first time in American history. American puritanism is and always has been a deep neurosis in the American soul. Neither the British nor the Europeans were ever quite so obsessed with sexual rectitude, a position that still affects the rhetoric of politics in the three worlds today. There is no doubt that this deliberate repression of both male and female desire resulted in an inability for honest dialogue between the sexes to take place, whose worst manifestations were female lack of fulfilment and a male rage that erotic comics fully expressed. The objectifying pin-ups of the period were often delightful (there is reference to them here) but this book is about comics. Comics in America could be deeply unpleasant in their misogyny and in their attitude towards women as not objects of desire but objects of use, almost alien artefacts. It might be said that, by denying the instinctive need of both sexes to be objects of desire (as the French do so well), Anglo-Saxon culture turned men and women into opposing forces who were obliged to see each other in terms solely of their use-value. The result was a suppressed rage and hatred in some quarters - an entrapment of women that led to a vicious feminist reaction that would crush male desire further and a misogyny that became the blokish way of surviving sadness and a sense of loss of manhood under a feminising culture. This degenerate farce of Judaeo-Christian misery was compounded by war. War (as we have seen in the case of Russ Meyer) liberated men to think new thoughts about comradeship and sex but the women of a defeated or dislocated Europe had presented a contradiction to the expectations of the home front. Women went from relatively free spirits in the 1920s through the experience of war work to enforced domestic slavery just as men were returning to a mythic homeland of Norman Rockwell domesticity that was endorsed by magazines, churches, anti-communist politicians and advertisers. Neither the women nor the men stood a chance against the dead weight of 'normality' where sexuality was presumed to be deviant if not straight, where women were supposed to be passive lest they become rapacious and a real man had to be a chivalrous (in public) brute (in private). These comics represent a superb guide not to female but to male alienation. It might good for women to see this book not in order to lambast men as misogynistic apes (a first reaction) but to ask what it is that makes men want this cruel humour since most do not want it now. Many of the cartoons (in particular) express a paradox - the women are strong and emasculating. The men may have formal power but they are psychologically weak, putty in the hands of feminine sexual power or what is now called their erotic capital. The misogyny is linked to weakness and fear. The dominance of fetish and bondage imagery (represented in the pin-up sector by the now oddly charming and innocent representations of Betty Page), if for only small minorities of the male public in practice, constantly remind us that many males were fetishised by their condition. One trope is the strong and frightening female - Wonder Woman was the creation of such an acknowledged fetishist - crushing the will or body of a weaker girlish figure in an avowedly sado-masochistic lesbian relationship. Where is the male here. He is not just observer but secret participant. He has become the woman in a fantasy of revenge where the powerful are brought into play to bring to heel the 'feminine' that oppresses through subtle means that confuse a male who has no language for what is happening to him. The situation changes again with the 1960s. The 'sexual liberation' took rather a long time to work through the culture, certainly for women. The first fruits were in popular culture where Playboy, then Penthouse, developed a gentler pornography until Hustler returned to old misogynistic ways. To an extent, the last part of the book shows a culture that allowed liberation to mean merely the more effective artistic licensing of cruelty, although, in Europe, the bondage culture shifts gear into a type of sado-masochistic eroticism that is so fantastic as to become appealing to women. It is often women who lap up the Sadean 'Histoire d'O' because we see a reversal of the 'Wonder Woman' theme of revolt against submission. In modern female eroticism, women are seeking the fantasy of safe submission because they miss the romantic strength of the male. It is not that men have become 'wimps' but that they have no longer a sphere (war and industry) where they were strong so that they came home to a feminised environment but from a presumed masculine culture where their strength could be presumed (or their failure despised). The whole elite world has become partially feminised (not entirely since women have learned 'male strength' in the public sphere) but the men have given up without much of a fight, perhaps almost with relief at not having to fight any longer. There is a point in the late 1970s where you can see the seeds of what will become sex-positive feminism, something reaching out to the world we have today where it is women as much as men who decide the nature of erotic representation at the smarter end of popular culture. It has to be said that there are some very sick and deviant minds present in this book, much darker than the relatively benign Russ Meyer and Paul Raymond. On the other hand, there is some genuine humour and some genuine eroticism and beauty but it is a long way from Violet Blue and Coco de Mer. What this excellently produced and detailed account tells us is that these erotic and pornographic comics were reflections of a very mentally disturbed mid-twentieth century culture that, it must not be forgotten, coped with two world wars and human slaughter on an industrial scale. We Anglo-Saxons may still not have resolved ourselves into a civilised stance on desire and transgression but at least the two sexes are talking to each other and allowing space for phantasy and (despite feminist idiocy) mutual objectification. The cruelty is proportionately disappearing. It is to be hoped that our current troubles do not turn us back to those days of repression. Sadly, a malign alliance of faith-based groups and progressive feminism against sex workers and male desire suggests that the seeds of a new hell are in the making. The fact that Google has foolishly directed funds towards faith-based groups involved in the sex-trafficking lobby (according to SWAAY) should fill us all with trepidation that the new capitalism will follow the old capitalism into making alliances with the devil. Now a word for the British who get honourable mentions not only as providing some fine artists but for wartime contributions like 'Jane' and the comic seaside postcards of the persecuted Donald McGill, lauded by no less than George Orwell. The authorities here were pragmatic about sexuality, seeking to contain it when it was disruptive, mobilise it (as did the American military) when it was useful and ignore it when it was harmless and hidden. Social mores did the rest in that way the British have of ignoring troublesome things. This did not mean that sexual life was any less painful and repressed than in America but at least it was enforced by something closer to a Japanese style of mutual conformity - a shame culture - rather than the unpleasant guilt culture perpetrated on Americans by puritan miserabilism. In America, that beacon of light and idealism, there was always some organising lobby for 'decency' with a hold on the political process who would add ideology to the pot. Sexually, America was a cesspit trying to pretend that it was an ornamental lake. It was not only sex, American attitudes to alcohol, drugs and gambling are and were much the same. Somewhere there is always a schoolmistress or a priest or a politician trying to tell people in the land of the free how to live their lives. The result is a swing to cruel excess in response. For all its faults, I am glad I live on this side of the Atlantic ... and these comics help to tell me why ...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alexandria

    Ok so maybe it's not your cup of tea. Maybe you're not interested in the history of erotic comics and how they're constantly changing. But I can tell you this collection of comics are not for the faint of heart. They are graceful, vulgar, lush, and striking all at once. Alan Moore writes a great forward, softly pushing the reader into the dark and gorgeous world of quality erotica. I'm not even going into detail on the artists. Just pick it up and read. Then read Volume 2.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Pretty images combined with poorly written text and a noticeable absence of citations.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Lambert-Maberly

    Interesting overview of the subject. I would argue that much of the work isn't erotic in the slightest (women being murdered while pleasuring men is disturbing, not erotic), but I suppose somebody somewhere must have deemed it so, unfortunately. Also, it seemed very straight. If I were a gay man in the 1950s I'm sure I would have found L'il Abner or Terry and the Pirates quite erotic, to say nothing of those many hunky superheroes out there, but nothing like that was explored--it was pretty much Interesting overview of the subject. I would argue that much of the work isn't erotic in the slightest (women being murdered while pleasuring men is disturbing, not erotic), but I suppose somebody somewhere must have deemed it so, unfortunately. Also, it seemed very straight. If I were a gay man in the 1950s I'm sure I would have found L'il Abner or Terry and the Pirates quite erotic, to say nothing of those many hunky superheroes out there, but nothing like that was explored--it was pretty much sexy women all the time, with the exception of two Victorian images and one Tiajuana Bible.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cynde Moya

    Historic timeline of erotic comics, with a page or two on each genre or artist. Good contextualization of some of the materials we have been working with at Alta-Glamour. Plus it's a big beautiful color-illustrated book for your coffee table.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dan's Obsessions

    http://www.betterworldbooks.com/eroti... or perhaps look on this one? http://www.betterworldbooks.com/best-... [ inconjuction we shall see] http://www.betterworldbooks.com/eroti... or perhaps look on this one? http://www.betterworldbooks.com/best-... [ inconjuction we shall see]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    Comics and erotica go together like dogs and Michael Vick. At least I imagine they would... as I will never read this.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Thong

    cool

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    It was interesting, I just felt like it was lacking in something I can't really pin point.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    A book full of large, glossy illustrations; suitable as a coffee table book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Barclay

    This was an interesting book, with a lot of great images and information. It's kind of bitty and less a history than a lot of information about important people and images. Still, fun to read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Guilherme Smee

    Fazia tempo que eu estava buscando encontrar livros que falassem sobre quadrinhos eróticos e, principalmente que abordassem a sua história e desenvolvimento de maneira crítica. Me deparei com este livro de Tim Pilcher, que é ricamente ilustrado, mas que, infelizmente eu só consegui achar na versão em formato EPUB, que eu acho horrível de ler no desktop. Foi por isso que enrolei para ler um livro simples por vários meses. Mas ainda assim o conteúdo do livro fica mediano, merecendo três estrelas d Fazia tempo que eu estava buscando encontrar livros que falassem sobre quadrinhos eróticos e, principalmente que abordassem a sua história e desenvolvimento de maneira crítica. Me deparei com este livro de Tim Pilcher, que é ricamente ilustrado, mas que, infelizmente eu só consegui achar na versão em formato EPUB, que eu acho horrível de ler no desktop. Foi por isso que enrolei para ler um livro simples por vários meses. Mas ainda assim o conteúdo do livro fica mediano, merecendo três estrelas de cinco. Isso porque o texto começa todo analítico sobre as origens do erotismo visual na cultura humana, explorando diversas culturas e depois dessa explicação, como todo livro norte-americano, se foca no seu umbigo e praticamente só fala do desenvolvimento dessa indústria nos Estados Unidos. Além disso, os textos passam a ser menos analíticos e pensados para serem mais pontuais e explanativos, descritivos, sem o mesmo aprofundamento que acabamos nos deparando no começo do livro. Existe uma segunda parte deste livro, que vou partir para a leitura em breve, que dá conta dos quadrinhos eróticos a partir dos anos 1970. Vamos ver se essa segunda parte logra mais sucesso comigo!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa R. Smith

    A good resource. I thought the book was interesting. Tracing explicit comic art from the 17th Century (England, Japan) to the explosion of erotic comics in the 1960s in France, America, and Mexico to name a few. It was especially interesting to learn about the first successful female authors and artists in the industry. Most notably, Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevely who conceived and produced “Tits & Clits”, a series of comics that delt with previously taboo subjects like pregnancy. They were arrested A good resource. I thought the book was interesting. Tracing explicit comic art from the 17th Century (England, Japan) to the explosion of erotic comics in the 1960s in France, America, and Mexico to name a few. It was especially interesting to learn about the first successful female authors and artists in the industry. Most notably, Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevely who conceived and produced “Tits & Clits”, a series of comics that delt with previously taboo subjects like pregnancy. They were arrested and threatened with jail, $400,000 in fines, loss of their homes and their children - this was in 1972! Eventually the issue was dropped and they went on to make more erotic comics. Many artist and authors left the mainstream comic industry for the more lucrative erotic side of the business. There might be better books on the history of blue comics but this was my first look at the industry so I think the book is informative. The references are plentiful and linked to the net. The illustrations can be enlarged for better viewing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tajanae Cole

    History with a twist I loved the book. It was a real page turner. Different, but a good different. I now know more than I did before.

  15. 5 out of 5

    dejah_thoris

    OMG I MUST buy this book! (Proof positive ebook borrowing DOES generate print sales.) An amazing overview of all the erotic comic greats with a few choice examples from each starting from the pre-history of ancient civilizations to the modern era. I think my only complaint is the occasional omission of artwork on a subject discussed in an individual's or publisher's biography, like Annie Fannie not being depicted in her section. (I assume this has to do with Playboy and others not willing to rel OMG I MUST buy this book! (Proof positive ebook borrowing DOES generate print sales.) An amazing overview of all the erotic comic greats with a few choice examples from each starting from the pre-history of ancient civilizations to the modern era. I think my only complaint is the occasional omission of artwork on a subject discussed in an individual's or publisher's biography, like Annie Fannie not being depicted in her section. (I assume this has to do with Playboy and others not willing to release copyright.) But aside from that, simply AWESOME and VERY enlightening.

  16. 5 out of 5

    wildct2003

    Some history, some examples. I started looking into Wally Wood art because of this. Very graphic at times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  18. 4 out of 5

    william graham

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christian Bates-Hardy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Martinez

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jack Webb

  23. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

  24. 4 out of 5

    ratonfoker

  25. 4 out of 5

    Greg Pycroft

  26. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Ardis Jr

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tanwen Ravensword

  30. 4 out of 5

    Clawful

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