Underground and Alternative Comics

Authored by: Roy T Cook

The Routledge Companion to Comics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415729000
eBook ISBN: 9781315851334
Adobe ISBN: 9781317915386


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Underground comics were shaped by a number of distinct, albeit interconnected, influences. The earliest such precursors are the illicit comics known as Tijuana Bibles. Popular during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, Tijuana Bibles depicted popular comic strip and animation characters, movie celebrities, and other high-profile individuals engaged in sexual acts or other salacious situations. Although their influence on the later underground comics scene is rarely explicitly cited by underground comics artists themselves, Art Spiegelman writes that:

[…] though nobody has been eager to bring it up before, the Tijuana Bibles were the first real comic books in America to do more than merely reprint old newspaper strips, predating by five or ten years the format we’ve now come to think of as comics. In any case, without the Tijuana Bibles there would never have been a Mad magazine […] and without Mad there would never have been any iconoclastic underground comix in the sixties. Looking back from the present, a time simultaneously more liberated and more repressed than the decades that came before, it’s difficult to conjure up the anarchic depth-charge of the Forbidden that those little dirty comics once carried.

(Adelman et al. 2004: 5)

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