‘Comics Stripped’ at the Museum of Sex
While we at ComicsAlliance tend to focus our world-weary minds on the more imaginative, awe-inspiring and perhaps childish material produced in the comics medium, the art form has of course been the conduit through which far more subversive, humorous and tantalizing statements have been made. Such adult themes are the subject of Comics Stripped, a new exhibition at New York City’s Museum of Sex that concerns the “dirty drawing,” or material that depicts sexual situations, political taboos and undermines the sacred cows of society. Featuring over 150 drawings, comics, magazines and videos , Comics Stripped will display work created from the Great Depression through the present. Featured artists include Joe Shuster, R. Crumb, Wally Wood, Jack Cole, Tom Finland and more. The exhibit begins January 13.Curated by Craig Yoe, author of the excellent Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Joe Shuster (which is a genuinely valuable read for those curious about the plight of the Superman co-creator), Comics Stripped seeks to examine the nature of erotic comic book art across a number of contexts. In a press release, the exhibit links the once underground adult comics to the present day popularity of animated series like The Simpsons and Ugly Americans. Comics created expressly for the purpose of sexual gratification will also be on display, including Tijuana Bibles from the 1930s that bootlegged characters like Blondie, Dick Tracy, Donald Duck, Snow White and other wholesome icons. The exhibit will also deal with the politics of sexual comics, including the kind of work seen in Playboy editorial cartoons and the impact of McCarthyism.
New York, NY – During the Great Depression, before Joe Shuster’s illustration of Superman gave comics a mainstream voice in 1938, many other cartoonists dabbled in the creation of “dirty drawings.” This risqué artwork featured busty women, fetishes, bondage, homosexuality and other explicit sexual encounters. Beginning January 13, the Museum of Sex will flip through the pages of erotic history 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. The exhibit, aptly named Comics Stripped, will feature drawings from the Great Depression to the present, all which remind us of the fun, frivolity and impact of sexual expression and innuendo on our lives.
Comics Stripped, an illustrated exploration of the dirty drawing, will feature more than 150 artifacts, including original drawings, illustrated books, comic books, magazines and videos. The exhibit addresses the adult nature of comics and cartoons, a concept now widely popularized in television series like The Simpsons and Family Guy on FOX and Ugly Americans shown on Comedy Central. The exhibit is tantalizing, racy and is sure to stoke more than a few libidos.
Tom of Finland, a prominent artist in gay comic culture, once said, “If I don’t have an erection when I’m doing a drawing, I know it’s no good.” It’s a metric used by many erotic cartoonists, whose fantasies are found splayed across the printed page for their reader’s enjoyment. Comics used as a medium for sexual gratification isn’t a new concept. Among the most historic artifacts on display in Comics Stripped are Tijuana Bibles, which marked the rudimentary beginning of the sexually oriented comic in the 1930s. This collection of 18 original pulp comic books, once used as instruction booklets for fornication or fun, feature the comic strip characters Blondie, Dick Tracy, Olive Oyl, Wimpy and many more in suggestive scenarios. Wesley Morse (1897â1963), the creator of the Bazooka Joe and Gang comic wrapped around Topps’ bubble gum was one of the most wellâknown cartoonists to create Tijuana Bibles.
The wholesome image of Disney has often been a prime target for sexualized illustration. The Tijuana Bibles entitled Donald Duck has a Universal Desire and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves are among the Disneyâbased artifacts on display. Perhaps the most wellâknown sexual artifact which depicts Disney characters in precarious positions, The Disneyland Memorial Orgy, which was drawn by Wally Wood, a master cartoonist who drew for MAD Magazine and EC comics, will be prominently featured.
Disney wasn’t the only company to have their characters lampooned in sexual situations. Joe Shuster’s Nights of Horror depicts doppelgangers of Superman and Lois Lane in fetish scenarios. Eric Stanton’s Blunder Broad mimicked Wonder Woman. The inept superheroine often failed at capturing her nemesis and ended up enduring rape and torture as a result. Five original issues of issues of Nights of Horror will be on display during the exhibition as well as six original illustrations of Blunder Broad.
The sexual depiction of characters seemingly intended for children did not sit well during the period of McCarthyism. Comics Stripped explores the McCarthy era of comic censorship, the creation of the Comics Code Authority in 1954 and the impact these events had on illustrated erotic expression. The exhibit takes an inside look at underground publications that utilized comics to satisfy people’s need for titillation. The artists Robert Dennis Crumb (1943â ), best known by the moniker R. Crumb for his characters Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural and Devil Girl, is considered to be one of the greatest cartoonists of all time. His participation in the underground sex comic movement (comix) inspired many others to join. Comics Stripped will display R. Crumb originals that sparked the growth of the comix movement. The exhibit showcases risqué contraband of the time including Ballyhoo, Whiz Bang and an original illustration of Betty Boop. These and other pieces of sensual contraband gave rise to a new form of entertainment, the men’s magazine.
Cartoons and comics were and still are a staple of Playboy editorial. Visitors to Comics Stripped will enjoy original art, on loan from the Playboy Enterprises, Inc., of iconic Playboy artists Jack Cole (1914â1958) and Eldon Dedini (1921â2006). 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 iconic watercolor depictions of horny satyrs chasing voluptuous nymphs were an iconic Playboy feature. The original Little Annie Fanny will be shown steps away from the most current cartoon fem fatale to grace the cover of Playboy, Marge Simpson.
Comics Stripped will reveal every segment of the sex comic and its modern evolution. Original gay comics from Tom of Finland, fetish drawings from John Willie and international sex comics from France, Brazil and Japan will be shown.
“Sex comics straddle borders and realms of possibility. Some of the most eyepopping animated sex comes from the Japanese. The French are masters of coitus. Europeans illustrate positions that I couldn’t get into without becoming a yoga master. Americans? Well, plastic surgeons can’t even come close to accomplishing what we can with a pencil,” quips Craig Yoe, wellâknown entertainment executive and curator of Comics Stripped.
Better known as C.E. Yoe, Craig Yoe is responsible for the creative development of classic toys like Cabbage Patch Kids and My Little Pony. He was personally recruited by Jim Henson to be Creative Director, and later VP/General Manager, of the Muppets. Yoe’s experience spans the gamut, from comics to toys to television and even theme parks. After Henson’s death, Yoe started YOE! Studio! with his business partner Clizia Gussoni. The exhibit is coâcurated by Sarah Forbes of the Museum of Sex.
“Many artists of ‘dirty drawings’ had fullâtime gigs in mainstream entertainment,” says Yoe. “I consider myself to be following in a fine tradition of men who knew what they wanted and how to put it on paper.”
About The Museum of Sex
The Mission of the Museum of Sex is to preserve and present the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality. In its exhibitions, programs and publications, the Museum of Sex is committed to opening discourse and exchange and to bringing to the public the best in current scholarship. The Museum’s permanent collection of over 15,000 artifacts is comprised of works of art, photography, clothing and costumes, technological inventions and historical ephemera. Additionally, the museum houses both a research library as well as an extensive multimedia library, which includes 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm, BETA, VHS and DVDs. From fine art to historical ephemera to film, the Museum of Sex preserves an everâgrowing collection of sexually related objects that would otherwise be destroyed and discarded due to their sexual content. In a city that never sleeps, the Museum of Sex is constantly evolving and has no plans to slow down.www.museumofsex.com