One of the greatest things about art, whether it consists of words or images, is that it can create fantasy worlds that have never existed, and never could. Mention the literary genre of fantasy, and the first images that come to mind might be unicorns, fairies, swords and sorcerers, or other stock elements of children's books. But another kind of fantasy, the adult, sexual kind, has also inspired a genre of art with its own instantly recognizable icons: New York City's Museum of Sex has just mounted pun intended a new exhibition of the erotic art of comic strips and comic books in the 20th and 21st centuries, to "reveal how the comic book medium has been used over time to depict sexual fantasy, poke fun at taboo topics and lampoon icons of popular culture.
A Selection Of Tijuana Bibles. Image Courtesy of The Museum of Sex. The exhibit begins with 18 examples of the rare, underground comic books known as "Tijuana Bibles. In what may well be the most shocking statement in the exhibit's press release, the Museum of Sex staff maintains these crude little comics were frequently used by teenagers as sexual "instruction books. Despite their lowbrow pedigree, the Museum points out that some notable comic book artists moonlighted by producing "bibles," including Wesley Morse , who created the Bazooka Joe and Gang characters featured inside the wrappers of Topps' bubble gum.
Tijuana Bibles also took on the most sacred cows of wholesome cartoon characters, those created under the auspices of Walt Disney. Featured in the Museum of Sex exhibit are two rare and Disney wishes rarer "bibles" featuring Donald Duck and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in compromising positions.
Another artifact lampooning the squeaky-clean Disney characters is a centerpiece of the show. Surprisingly, the ever litigious Magic Kingdom chose not to sue the orgy's creators, in order to avoid bringing any more attention to the blasphemy. For those of you can't wait to see Goofy having his way with Minnie Mouse, a link is thoughtfully provided here. But Goofy and Minnie Mouse were far from the only comic icons to be eroticized by the sexual comics, or comix, movement.
And Eric Stanton's Blunder Broad series starred a less-than-wonderful version of Wonder Woman, forever enduring sexual humiliations due to her own ineptitude. Five original issues of issues of Nights of Horror will be on display during the exhibition as well as six original illustrations from Blunder Broad. The exhibit also features the erotic cartoon art of risque "men's magazines" from Captain Billy's Whiz Bang , through Ballyhoo , and on to Playboy.
Of the Playboy cartoonists, the Museum's press release notes, "Visitors to Comics Stripped will enjoy original art, on loan from the Playboy Enterprises, Inc. Cole may be best known for creating the superhero Plastic Man. His cartoons for Playboy became the gold standard for creating cartoons published in the popular men's magazine. Dedini's watercolor depictions of horny satyrs chasing voluptuous nymphs were an iconic Playboy feature.
Comics Stripped also examines the ongoing censorship of erotic comics in the United States, culminating in the creation of Comics Code Authority in The repressive legislation of the red-baiting McCarthy Era ironically led to the proliferation of underground publications, containing outrageous, shockingly graphic images, deliberately unsuitable for publication in even the raciest mass market men's magazine.
The most famous artist who got his start in those publications was R. Crumb , the creator of such characters as Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural and Devil Girl. Homoerotic comic art from gay underground publications is also on show at the Museum of Sex, including the iconic work of Tom of Finland , who proudly proclaimed: Yoe has been called "Indiana Jones of comics historians," the "archivist of the ridiculous and sublime," and "a fine cartoonist and a comic book historian of the first water.
Yoe himself modestly says of his curatorial duties for Comics Stripped, "Many artists of 'dirty drawings' had full time gigs in mainstream entertainment. I consider myself to be following in a fine tradition of men who knew what they wanted and how to put it on paper.
Comics Stripped opened at the Museum of Sex on January 13, , and continues indefinitely.