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venerdì 29 luglio 2016

Robert Dennis Crumb (Filadelfia, 30 agosto 1943) Artist

Robert Crumb


Robert Dennis Crumb (Filadelfia, 30 agosto 1943) è un fumettista e musicista statunitense.


Anni sessanta

Nel 1962 si trasferisce a Cleveland e dal 1964 inizia ad avvicinarsi creativamente al vasto movimento del fumetto underground.
Nello stesso periodo sperimenta alcune sostanze stupefacenti tra cui l'acido (LSD) esperienza che gli lascerà ricordi contrastanti ed inizia a collaborare con la nota rivista di cultura radical newyorkese East Village Other.
Si trasferisce nel 1966 a San Francisco, punto focale per tutta la cultura underground occidentale, dove collabora con i maggiori cartoonist indipendenti (tra cui Rick Griffin, Spain Rodriguez, S. Clay Wilson e Victor Moscoso).
Con alcuni di loro nel 1967 crea Zap Comix una rivista a fumetti tascabile dove pubblicherà con regolarità le tavole dei suoi maggiori personaggi (tra cui Fritz il gatto e Mr. Natural).
Collabora in parallelo a moltissime riviste underground, non solo americane (Oz, Gothic Blimp Works, Motor City, Yellow Dog, Actuel) e suo materiale a fumetti inizia ad essere pubblicato e tradotto in buona parte dei paesi occidentali (in Italia da Milano Libri, da Stampa Alternativa e da svariate riviste tra cui Linus, Fallo!, Re Nudo).
Sua la copertina di Cheap Thrills, uno dei più noti album di Janis Joplin.
Nel 1969, per una storia pubblicata sul numero 4 di Zap, viene arrestato a New York City con l'imputazione di oscenità.
Nel 1970 vende i diritti per un film a cartoni animati dedicato a Fritz the Cat (che verrà animato da Ralph Bakshi) e che otterrà un successo internazionale ondivago.

Dal 1971

A metà anni settanta, superata la febbre underground dei primi anni, crea con alcuni amici di vecchia data una band di jazz tradizionale, chiamata R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders, attività che va a sommarsi al tradizionale lavoro grafico.
Nei tardi anni ottanta la sua fama, ormai consolidata a livello internazionale, si arricchisce di riconoscimenti ufficiali importanti che culminano nel 1990 quando alcune tavole dell'artista entrano al Museum of Modern Art di New York City.
In quel periodo, diventato ormai un modello per tanti cartoonist non solo americani, si trasferisce con la famiglia nella Francia del sud, dove continua ad operare anche come musicista part-time (suonando il banjo ed il mandolino in un gruppo denominato Les Primitifs du futur).
Nel 1993 pubblica due fumetti satirici di tematica razzista e antisemita: When the Niggers Take Over America! e When the Goddam Jews Take Over America!.
Nel 1994, il regista Terry Zwigoff realizza un film documentario, Crumb, sulla sua vita e sulla sua famiglia.
Nel 1999 gli viene attribuito il Grand Prix della città francese di Angoulême per l'insieme della sua vasta opera creativa.

Robert Dennis Crumb (born August 30, 1943) is an American cartoonist and musician who often signs his work R. Crumb. His work displays a nostalgia for American folk culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and satire of contemporary American culture.
Crumb rose to prominence after the 1968 debut of Zap Comix, the first successful underground comix publication. Popular creations of his from this era include countercultural characters such as Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural, and the images from his Keep on Truckin' strip. Following the decline of the underground in the mid-1970s, he moved towards biographical and autobiographical subjects while refining his drawing style, a heavily crosshatched pen-and-ink style inspired by late 19th- and early 20th-century cartooning. Much of his work appeared in a magazine he founded, Weirdo (1981–1993), which was one of the most prominent publications of the alternative comics era.
In 1991, Crumb was inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. He is married to cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb, with whom he has frequently collaborated. Their daughter Sophie Crumb has also followed a cartooning career.

Early life (1943–1966)

Robert Crumb was born on August 30, 1943, in Philadelphia to a Catholic household of English and Scottish ancestry. His father, Charles V. Crumb, authored the book Training People Effectively, and was a Combat Illustrator for 20 years in the United States Marine Corps.[citation needed] His mother Beatrice was a housewife who reportedly abused diet pills and amphetamines. Charles and Beatrice's marriage was unhappy and the children were frequent witnesses to their parents' arguments. The couple had four other children: sons Charles Junior (1942–93) and Maxon (b. 1944), both of whom suffered from mental illness; and daughters Carol (b. 1940) and Sandra (b. 1946). The family moved to Milford, Delaware, when Crumb was twelve; there he was an average student whose teachers strongly discouraged him from cartooning.
Inspired by the works of Walt Kelly, Fleischer Brothers animation, and others, Crumb and his brothers drew their own comics. Crumb's cartooning developed as his older brother Charles pushed him and provided him with constant critical feedback on his work. In 1958 the brothers self-published three issues of Foo in imitation of Harvey Kurtzman's satirical Humbug and Mad. They sold them door-to-door with little success, souring the young Crumb on the comic-book business. At fifteen, Crumb became obsessed with collecting jazz and blues records from the 1920s to the 1940s. At 16 he abandoned the Catholic faith.


Early work (1962–1966)

Crumb's father gave him $40 when he left home after high school. His first job, in 1962, was drawing novelty greeting cards for American Greetings in Cleveland, Ohio. He stayed with the company for four years, producing hundreds of cards for the company's Hi-Brow line; his superiors had him draw in a cuter style that was to leave a footprint on his work throughout his career. In Cleveland he met a group of young bohemians such as Buzzy Linhart, Liz Johnston, and Harvey Pekar. Dissatisfied with greeting card work, he tried to sell cartoons to comic book companies, who showed little interest in his work. In 1965, cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman printed some of Crumb's work in the humor magazine he edited, Help!. Crumb moved to New York, intending to work with Kurtzman, but Help! ceased publication shortly after. Crumb briefly illustrated bubblegum cards for Topps before returning to Cleveland and American Greetings.
Crumb married Dana Morgan in 1964. Nearly destitute, the couple traveled in Europe, during which Crumb continued to produce work for Kurtzman and American Greetings, and Dana stole food. The relationship was unstable as Crumb frequently went his own way, and he was not close to his son Jesse (b. 1965).
In 1965 and 1966 Crumb had a number of Fritz the Cat strips published in the men's magazine Cavalier. Fritz had appeared in Crumb's work as early as the late 1950s; he was to become a hipster, scam artist, and bohemian until Crumb abandoned the character in 1969.
Crumb was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with his job and marriage when in June 1965 he began taking LSD, a psychedelic drug that was then still legal. He had both good and bad trips. One bad trip left him in a muddled state for half a year, during which for a time he left Dana; the state ended when the two took a strong dose of the drug together in April 1966. Crumb created a number of his best-known characters during his years of LSD use, including Mr. Natural, Angelfood McSpade, and the Snoid.

Zap and underground comix (1967–1979)

In January 1967 Crumb came across two friends in a bar who were about to leave for San Francisco; Crumb was interested in the work of San Francisco-based psychedelic poster artists, and on a whim asked if he could join them.There, he contributed upbeat LSD-inspired countercultural work to underground newspapers. The work was popular, and Crumb was flooded with requests, including to illustrate a full issue of Philadelphia's Yarrowstalks.
Independent publisher Don Donahue invited Crumb to make a comic book; Crumb drew up two issues of Zap Comix, and Donahue published the first in February 1968 under the publisher name Apex Novelties. Crumb had difficulty at first finding retailers who would stock it, and took to selling the first run himself out of a baby carriage.
Crumb met cartoonist S. Clay Wilson, an art school graduate who saw himself as a rebel against middle-class American values and whose comics were violent and grotesque. Wilson's attitude inspired Crumb to give up the idea of the cartoonist-as-entertainer and to focus on comics as open, uncensored self-expression; in particular, his work soon became sexually explicit, as in the pornographic Snatch he and Wilson produced late in 1968.
The second issue of Zap appeared in June with contributions from Wilson and poster artists Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin. Unsatisfied with Donahue's handling of Zap Crumb took it to the Print Mint, who in December published the still-unreleased issue as #0 and a new third issue with Gilbert Shelton joining the roster of regulars.
Crumb was a prolific cartoonist in the late 1960s and early 1970s; at his peak point of output he produced 320 pages over two years. He produced much of his best-known work then, including his Keep on Truckin' strip, and strips featuring characters such as the bohemian Fritz the Cat, spiritual guru Mr. Natural, and oversexed African-American stereotype Angelfood McSpade.[citation needed]

Weirdo (1980–1993)

While meditating in 1980 Crumb conceived of a magazine with a lowbrow aesthetic inspired by punk zines, Mad, and men's magazines of the 1940s and 1950s. From 1981 Crumb edited the first eight issues of the twenty-eight issue run of Weirdo, published by Last Gasp; his contributions and tastes determined the contents of the later issues as well, edited by Peter Bagge until #16, and Aline for the remainder of the run. The magazine featured cartoonists new and old, and had a mixed response; Art Spiegelman, who co-edited the slicker Raw, called it a "piece of shit", and Crumb's fumetti was so unpopular that it has never appeared in Crumb collections.

Later life (1994–present)

The Crumbs moved into a house in southeastern France in 1991, which is said to have been financed by the sale of six Crumb sketchbooks. The Terry Zwigoff-directed Crumb documentary appeared in 1994—a project on which Zwigoff had been working since 1985.
In 2009, after four years of work, Crumb produced The Book of Genesis, an unabridged illustrated graphic novel version of the biblical Book of Genesis.

Professional collaborations

In the early 1980s, Crumb collaborated with writer Charles Bukowski on a series of comic books, featuring Crumb's art and Bukowski's writing.
Crumb's collaboration with David Zane Mairowitz, the illustrated, part-comic biography and bibliography Introducing Kafka, a.k.a. Kafka for beginners, is one of his less sexual- and satire-oriented, comparably highbrow works since the 1990s. It is well-known and favorably received, and due to its popularity was republished as R. Crumb's Kafka.
A friend of Harvey Pekar, Crumb illustrated many of the award winning American Splendor comics by Pekar, including the first issues (1976). Crumb collaborates with his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, on many strips and comics, including Self-Loathing Comics and work published in The New Yorker.
Crumb's work also appeared in Nasty Tales, a 1970s British underground comic. The publishers were acquitted in a celebrated 1972 obscenity trial at the Old Bailey in London; the first such case involving a comic. Giving evidence at the trial, one of the defendants said of Crumb: "He is the most outstanding, certainly the most interesting, artist to appear from the underground, and this (Dirty Dog) is Rabelaisian satire of a very high order. He is using coarseness quite deliberately in order to get across a view of social hypocrisy."
A theatrical production based on his work was produced at Duke University in the early 1990s. Directed by Johnny Simons, and co-starring Avner Eisenberg and Nicholas de Wolff, the development of the play was supervised by Crumb, who also served as set designer, drawing larger-than-life representations of some of his most famous characters all over the floors and walls of the set.[citation needed]

Musical projects

Crumb has frequently drawn comics about his musical interests in blues, country, bluegrass, cajun, French Bal-musette, jazz, big band and swing music from the 1920s and 1930s, and they also heavily influenced the soundtrack choices for his band mate Zwigoff's 1994 Crumb documentary. In 2006, he prepared, compiled and illustrated the book R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country, with accompanying CD, which derived from three series of trading cards originally published in the 1980s.
Crumb was the leader of the band R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders, for which he sang lead vocals, wrote several songs and played banjo and other instruments. Crumb often plays mandolin with Eden and John's East River String Band and has drawn three covers for them: 2009's Drunken Barrel House Blues, 2008's Some Cold Rainy Day, and 2011's Be Kind To A Man When He's Down on which he plays mandolin. With Dominique Cravic, he founded "Les Primitifs du Futur"—a French-style band based on musette / folk, jazz and blues—and played on its 2000 album World Musette. He also provided the cover art for this and other albums.
Crumb has released CDs anthologizing old original performances gleaned from collectible 78-rpm phonograph records. His That's What I Call Sweet Music was released in 1999 and Hot Women: Women Singers from the Torrid Regions in 2009. Crumb drew the cover art for these CDs as well.
In 2013, Crumb played mandolin with the Eden and John's East River String Band on their album Take A Look at That Baby and also took part in the accompanying music video.

Album covers

Crumb has illustrated many album covers, including most prominently Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company and the compilation album The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead.
Between 1974 and 1984, Crumb drew at least 17 album covers for Yazoo Records/Blue Goose Records, including those of the Cheap Suit Serenaders. He also created the revised logo and record label designs of Blue Goose Records that were used from 1974 onward.
In 1992 and 1993, Robert Crumb was involved in a project by Dutch formation The Beau Hunks and provided the cover art for both their albums The Beau Hunks play the original Laurel & Hardy music 1 and 2. He also illustrated the albums' booklets.
In 2009, Crumb drew the artwork for a 10-CD anthology of French traditional music compiled by Guillaume Veillet for Frémeaux & Associés. The following year, he created three artworks for Christopher King's Aimer Et Perdre: To Love And To Lose Songs, 1917–1934  and, in 2011, he once again played mandolin on an Eden and John's East River String Band album (Be Kind to a Man When He's Down) for which he also created the album cover artwork.


Crumb is a prolific artist and contributed to many of the seminal works of the underground comix movement in the 1960s, including being a founder of Zap Comix, contributing to all 16 issues, and additionally contributing to the East Village Other and many other publications including a variety of one-off and anthology comics. During this time, inspired by psychedelics and cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s, he introduced a wide variety of characters that became extremely popular, including Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. Sexual themes abounded in all these projects, often shading into scatological and pornographic comics. In the mid-1970s, he contributed to the Arcade anthology; in the 1980s, to Weirdo (which he created and co-edited).
As Crumb's career progressed, his comic work became more autobiographical. He frequently collaborates with his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, on comics.
From 1987 to 2005 Fantagraphics Books published the seventeen-volume Complete Crumb Comics and ten volumes of sketches. Crumb (as "R. Crumb") contributes regularly to Mineshaft magazine, which, since 2009, has been serializing "Excerpts From R. Crumb's Dream Diary".
In January 2015, Crumb was asked to submit a cartoon to the left-wing magazine Libération as a tribute for the Charlie Hebdo shooting. He sent a drawing titled "A Cowardly Cartoonist," depicting an illustration of the backside of Crumb's friend Mohamid Bakshi, while referencing the prophet.


As told by Crumb in his biographical film, his artwork was very typical in the beginning. His earlier works show a more restrained style. In Crumb's own words, it was a lengthy drug trip (possibly LSD) that "left him fuzzy for two months" and led to him adopting the surrealistic, psychedelic style for which he has become known.
Crumb has been acclaimed for his attention to detail and satirical edge, but has also generated a significant amount of controversy for his graphic and very disturbing portrayals of sexuality and psychology. There exists a feminist backlash against his comics because they became more "violently misogynistic, as he graphically poured what were essentially his masturbatory fantasies onto the printed page. Women were raped, dismembered, mutilated, and murdered, sometimes all at once."
A peer in the underground comics field, Victor Moscoso, commented about his first impression of Crumb's work, in the mid-1960s, before meeting Crumb in person: "I couldn't tell if it was an old man drawing young, or a young man drawing old." Robert Crumb's cartooning style has drawn on the work of cartoon artists from earlier generations, including Billy DeBeck (Barney Google), C. E. Brock (an old story book illustrator), Gene Ahern's comic strips, George Baker (Sad Sack), Ub Iwerks's characters for animation, Isadore Freleng's drawings for the early Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes of the 1930s, Sidney Smith (The Gumps), Rube Goldberg, E. C. Segar (Popeye) and Bud Fisher (Mutt and Jeff). Crumb has cited Carl Barks, who illustrated Disney's "Donald Duck" comic books and John Stanley (Little Lulu) as formative influences on his narrative approach, as well as Harvey Kurtzman.
Crumb has also cited his extensive LSD use as a factor that led him to develop his unique style.
After issues 0 and 1 of Zap, Crumb began working with others, of whom the first was S. Clay Wilson. Crumb said, about when he first saw Wilson's work "The content was something like I'd never seen before, ... a nightmare vision of hell-on-earth ..." And "Suddenly my own work seemed insipid ..."
Crumb remains a prominent figure, as both artist and influence, within the alternative comics milieu. He is hailed as a genius by such comic book talents as Jaime Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware. In the fall of 2008, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia hosted a major exhibition of his work, which was favorably reviewed in The New York Times and in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Awards and honors

Crumb has received several accolades for his work, including a nomination for the Harvey Special Award for Humor in 1990 and the Angoulême Grand Prix in 1999.
With Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Gary Panter, and Chris Ware, Crumb was among the artists honored in the exhibition "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museum in New York City, from September 16, 2006 to January 28, 2007.

In the media

In addition to numerous brief television reports, there are at least three television or theatrical documentaries dedicated to Crumb.
  • Prior to the 1972 release of the film version of Fritz the Cat, Austrian journalist Georg Stefan Troller (de:Georg Stefan Troller) interviewed Crumb for a thirty-minute documentary entitled Comics und Katerideen on Crumb's life and art – which he describes as "the epitome of contemporary white North America's popular art" – as an episode of his Personenbeschreibung (literally "Person's description") documentary-format broadcast on the German TV network ZDF. The documentary also includes a "making-of" look at the [then?] forthcoming Fritz movie, featuring production background interviews with Ralph Bakshi. By the mid-to-late 2000s, it could still be seen on rotation as part of the Personenbeschreibung series on the ZDF-owned digital specialty channel ZDFdokukanal (in 2009 replaced by the new channel ZDFneo).
  • The Confessions of Robert Crumb (1987)
  • Crumb (1994), a documentary film by Terry Zwigoff
In the 2003 movie American Splendor, Crumb was portrayed by James Urbaniak. Crumb's wife Aline was quoted as saying she hated the interpretation and never would have married Robert if he was like that.
In 2006, Crumb brought legal action against after their Web site used a version of his widely recognizable "Keep on Truckin'" character. The case was expected to be settled out of court.
Underground rap artist Aesop Rock mentions Crumb several times in his lyrics, including in the songs "Catacomb Kids" from the album None Shall Pass and "Nickel Plated Pockets" from his EP "Daylight".
R. Crumb's Sex Obsessions, a collection of his most personally revealing sexually-oriented drawings and comic strips, was released by TASCHEN publishing in November 2007. In August 2011, following concerns about his safety, Crumb cancelled plans to visit the Graphic 2011 festival in Sydney, Australia after a tabloid labeled him a "self-confessed sex pervert" in an article headlined "Cult genius or filthy weirdo?".
In 2012, Crumb appeared in five episodes of John's Old Time Radio Show talking about old music, sex, aliens and Bigfoot. He also played 78-rpm records from his record room in southern France. He has appeared on the show and recorded at least fourteen one-hour podcasts.

Personal life

Crumb has been married twice: to Dana Morgan in 1964 who gave birth to their son Jesse in 1965. In 1978, Crumb divorced Dana and married cartoonist Aline Kominsky, with whom Crumb has frequently collaborated. In September 1981 Aline gave birth to Crumb's second child, Sophie. They moved to a small village near Sauve in southern France in 1991.

Bibliography (selection)

  • Zap issues from 1 and 0 (1968) through at least 9 (1978) and several more, Apex Novelties, Print Mint, Last Gasp and other transient brand names, generally under Crumb's control. 0 and 1 are all drawn by Crumb, the rest have strips by others also.
  • R. Crumb's Head Comix', anthology published by Viking Press in 1968, ISBN unknown. Re-issued by Fireside Press in 1988, with a new introduction by Crumb; ISBN 0-671-66153-1.
  • R. Crumb's Fritz the Cat, Robert Crumb, 1969, Ballantine, New York, (no ISBN listed)
  • R. Crumb's Comix and Stories, April 1964, Number One, "copyright 1969", Rip Off Press. This contains a single story about Fritz the Cat and incest.
  • Uneeda Comix, "the Artistic Comic!', July 1971, The Print Mint. Several short strips by Crumb. The longest, last and strongest continues onto the back cover in color.
  • Hytone Comix, all Crumb, 1971, Apex Novelties
  • The People's Comics, 1972, Golden Gate. All Crumb. This contains the strip in which there is Crumb Land (a black void), and also the strip in which Fritz the Cat is killed.
  • Artistic Comics, 1973, Golden Gate Publishing Company. All Crumb, but pictures of Aline(?).
  • Best Buy Comics, 1979, Apex Novelties. R. Crumb and Aline Kominsly.
  • Snoid Comics, 1980, "Kitchen Sink Enterprises, a division of Krupp Comic Works, Inc.". All Crumb.
  • Bible of Filth, Futuropolis, 1986.
  • The Complete Crumb Comics, 17 Volumes, Fantagraphics
  • R. Crumb Sketchbook, Vol 1–10, Fantagraphics.
  • Mineshaft #5–#26
  • R. Crumb's America, 1995, SCB Distributors. ISBN 0-86719-430-8
  • The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book, Edited and designed by Peter Poplaski, 1997, Little Brown and Company, ISBN 0-316-16306-6
  • Odds & Ends, 2001, Bloomsbury UK. ISBN 978-0-7475-5309-0
  • R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country, 2006, Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-81093-086-5
  • Your Vigour for Life Appalls Me, 2008, Turnaround Publisher, ISBN 978-1-56097-310-2
  • The Book of Genesis, 2009, W. W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-06102-4 OCLC 317919486
  • The Book of Mr. Natural, July 2010, Fantagraphics. ISBN 978-1-60699-352-1
  • The Complete Record Cover Collection, November 2011, W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-08278-4
  • Sweeter Side of R. Crumb, 2011, W. W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-33371-8
  • Drawn Together: The Collected Works of R. and A. Crumb, October 2012, Liveright. R. Crumb and Aline Crumb. ISBN 978-0-871-40429-9
 As a kid growing up in the 1950s I became acutely aware of the changes taking place in American culture and I must say I didn't much like it. I witnessed the debasement of architecture, and I could see a decline in the quality of things like comic books and toys, things made for kids. Old things seemed to have more life, more substance, more humanity in them.

    The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 23
What we kids didn't understand was that we were living in a commercial, commodity culture. Everything in our environment had been bought and sold. As middle class Americans, we basically grew up on a movie set. The conscious values that are pushed are only part of the picture. The medium itself plays a much bigger part than anyone realizes: the creation of illusion. We are living surrounded by illusion, by professionally created fairy tales. We barely have contact with the real world.
        The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 56
 I Remember the Sixties, from Weirdo no. 4, Robert Crumb, 1981

 The end of Fritz the Cat 

   About the only power you have is the power to discriminate. Living in a culture like this, you have to make choices and search out what has the most authentic content or substance. In the 1960s, while on LSD, I realized that my mind was a garbage receptacle of mass media images and input. I spent my whole childhood absorbing so much crap that my personality and mind are saturated with it. God only knows if that affects you physically! As a kid I became increasingly interested in earlier periods of culture. I turned into a little nostalgia boy, and I became steeped in the Our Gang fantasy from watching them on TV. So much so, that my speech patterns were affected. The style of those Our Gang comedies was so charming that I started acting and talking like Jackie Cooper and Alfalfa. They had these cute kids, artificial mannerisms. It must have been embarrassing for people to hear me talk like that.

    The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 60
Mr. Natural, by Robert Crumb

From Crumb's Book of Genesis  

  I took some bad acid in November of 1965, and the after effect left me crazy and helpless for six months. My mind would drift into a place that was very electrical and crackly, filled with harsh, abrasive, low grade, cartoony, tawdry carnival visions. There was a nightmarish mechanical aspect to everyday life. My ego was so shattered, so fragmented that it didn't get in the way during what was the most unself-conscious period of my life. I was kind of on automatic pilot and was still constantly drawing. Most of my popular characters—Mr. Natural, Flaky Foont, Angelfood McSpade, Eggs Ackley, The Snoid, The Vulture Demonesses, Av' n' Gar, Shuman the Human, the Truckin' guys, Devil Girl—all suddenly appeared in the drawings in my sketchbook in this period, early 1966. Amazing! I was relieved when it was finally over, but I also immediately missed the egoless state of that strange interlude. LSD put me somewhere else. I wasn't sure where. All I know is, it was a strange place. Psychedelic drugs broke me out of my social programming. It was a good thing for me, traumatic though, and I may have been permanently damaged by the whole thing, I'm not sure. I see LSD as a positive, important life experience for me, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.

    The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 132

I was totally amazed. This little home made underground comix thing was turning into a business before my eyes. It went from us going around Haight Street trying to sell these things we had folded and stapled ourselves to suddenly being a business with distributors, lawyers, contracts, and money talk. … The whole thing began to take on a heaviness that I believe had a negative effect on my work. I was only twenty-five years old when all this happened. It was a case of "too much too soon," I think. I became acutely self-conscious about what I was doing. Was I now a "spokesman" for the hippies or what? I had no idea how to handle my new position in society! … Take Keep On Truckin'... for example. Keep on Truckin'... is the curse of my life. This stupid little cartoon caught on hugely. … I didn't want to turn into a greeting card artist for the counter-culture! I didn't want to do 'shtick'—the thing Lenny Bruce warned against. That's when I started to let out all my perverse sex fantasies. It was the only way out of being "America's Best Loved Hippie Cartoonist."
The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 163

Robert Crumb /Bukowski 

   Before industrial civilization, local and regional communities made their own music, their own entertainment. The esthetics were based on traditions that went far back in time—i.e. folklore. But part of the con of mass culture is to make you forget history, disconnect you from tradition and the past. Sometimes that can be a good thing. Sometimes it can even be revolutionary. But tradition can also keep culture on an authentic human level, the homespun as opposed to the mass produced. Industrial civilization figured out how to manufacture popular culture and sell it back to the people. You have to marvel at the ingenuity of it! The problem is that the longer this buying and selling goes on, the more hollow and bankrupt the culture becomes. It loses its fertility, like worn out, ravaged farmland. Eventually, the yokels who bought the hype, the pitch, they want in on the game. When there are no more naive hicks left, you have a culture where everybody is conning each other all the time. There are no more earnest "squares" left—everybody's "hip", everybody is cynical.
        The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 180

Original portrait of Jack Kerouac by Robert Crumb from Meet the Beats, published by Water Row Press, 1985.

    I was lucky to be part of the "underground comix" thing in which cartoonists were completely free to express themselves. To function on those terms means putting everything out in the open—no need to hold anything back—total liberation from censorship, including the inner censor! A lot of my satire is considered by some to be "too hard." My "negro" characters are not about black people, but are more about pushing these "uncool" stereotypes in readers' faces, so suddenly they have to deal with a very tacky part of our human nature. … Who did I think I was appealing to? I don't know. I was just being a punk, putting down on paper all these messy parts of the culture we internalize and keep quiet about. I admit I'm occasionally embarrassed when I look at some of that work now.
        The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 256

People have no idea of the sources for my work. I didn't invent anything; It's all there in the culture; it's not a big mystery. I just combine my personal experience with classic cartoon stereotypes.
 Comment made to the press in 1976, quoted in The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 260
 The fine art world and the commercial art industry are both all about money. It's hard to say which is more contemptible: the fine art world with its double talk and pretensions to the cultural high ground, or the world of commercial art trying to sell to the largest mass market it can reach. A serious artist really shouldn't be too deeply involved in either of these worlds. It's best to be on the fringe of them. In general, if you want to be a success and make the money, you have to play the game. It's no different in the fine art world, it's just a slightly different game. Essentially, you're marketing an illusion. It's much easier to lie to humans and trick them than to tell them the truth. They'd much rather be bamboozled than be told the truth, because the way to trick them is to flatter them and tell them what they want to hear, to reinforce their existing illusions. They don't want to know the truth. Truth is a bring-down, a bummer, or it's just too complicated, too much mental work to grasp.

    The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 297

Robert Crumb original Frank Zappa art for ‘The New Yorker,’ 1991. The John Scher Collection. Estimate $2,000-$5,000.

My generation comes from a world that has been molded by crass TV programs, movies, comic books, popular music, advertisements and commercials. My brain is a huge garbage dump of all this stuff and it is this, mainly, that my work comes out of, for better or for worse. I hope that whatever synthesis I make of all this crap contains something worthwhile, that it's something other than just more smarmy entertainment—or at least, that it's genuine high quality entertainment. I also hope that perhaps it's revealing of something, maybe. On the other hand, I want to avoid becoming pretentious in the eagerness to give my work deep meanings! I have an enormous ego and must resist the urge to come on like a know-it-all. Some of the imagery in my work is sorta scary because I'm basically a fearful, pessimistic person. I'm always seeing the predatory nature of the universe, which can harm you or kill you very easily and very quickly, no matter how well you watch your step. The way I see it, we are all just so much chopped liver. We have this great gift of human intelligence to help us pick our way through this treacherous tangle, but unfortunately we don't seem to value it very much. Most of us are not brought up in environments that encourage us to appreciate and cultivate our intelligence. To me, human society appears mostly to be a living nightmare of ignorant, depraved behavior. We're all depraved, me included. I can't help it if my work reflects this sordid view of the world. Also, I feel that I have to counteract all the lame, hero-worshipping crap that is dished out by the mass-media in a never-ending deluge.
The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 363
What the hell is this?? Who can tell me?? Does anybody know?? How can I find out more about it?? One thing's sure: the human mind can't "know" it...why does one want to "know"?? Is it a quest for "freedom"? One no longer wishes to be a puppet dancing on the strings of...of what? Animal instincts?? Learned reflexes? Programmed behavior?? Ingrained habits of perception?? How limited are we by the experience of our senses, by our physical nature?? To be fully alive is a stupendous struggle! We want the rewards without the struggle--- ---a fatal error! ...No such thing as an easy life! Everybody has a hard time...struggle or die! To find out what's really going on it's necessary to get around the art requiring persistent and determined effort...Me, me, me...myself & I...oh no!!! Trapped in my stupid self!

    From his sketchbook (28 March 1998), reproduced in The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 372

    I never had a strategy in my dealing with other humans! I've always been very passive socially. I went along with their agenda. I had none of my own! Left to my own devices I stayed in my room or wandered aimlessly in the streets, fantasizing about bizarre things I yearned to do to big ladies, or filled with self-pity and resentment. I was helpless in the presence of other people! My main concern was to make them like me by being as agreeable as possible, and secondly to impress them with my brilliance, my sharp wit, my originality, and my fundamental saintliness. Over time, and after years—decades—of diligent practice, I became very good at this cute little performance of mine. But this performance was improvised in the moment, catered to suit whoever I happened to be with. There was no strategy. It was always an effort. Only in solitude was I completely relaxed. Funny thing...
        From his sketchbook (16 February 1998), reproduced in The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 380

Robert Crumb’s 2002 drawing of Serena Williams. Photograph: Courtesy the artist, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York/London 

Untitled, 2002 Page from Art & Beauty Magazine, Number 2, 2003 Credit: Robert Crumb, 2002. Courtesy the artist, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York/London

A cartoon drawn by Robert Crumb is seen at the private view for “Robert Crumb: A Chronicle Of Modern Times” at the Whitechapel Art Gallery on March 30, 2005 in London. The first major UK retrospective of the US cult-cartoonist – who is renowned for producing controversial and politically incorrect work – surveys his career spanning 40 years. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

 Sex Obsessions

I'm such a negative person, and always have been. Was I born that way? I don't know. I am constantly disgusted by reality, horrified and afraid. I cling desperately to the few things that give me some solace, that make me feel good. I hate most of humanity. Though I might be very fond of particular individuals, humanity in general fills me with contempt and despair. I hate most of what passes for civilization. I hate the modern world. For one thing there are just too goddamn many people. I hate the hordes, the crowds in their vast cities, with all their hateful vehicles, their noise, their constant meaningless comings and goings. I hate cars. I hate modern architecture. Every building built after 1955 should be torn down! I despise modern popular music. Words cannot express how much it gets on my nerves—the false, pretentious, smug assertiveness of it. I hate business, having to deal with money. Money is one of the most hateful inventions of the human race. I hate the commodity culture, in which everything is bought and sold. No stone is left unturned. I hate the mass media, and how passively people suck it up. … I hate having to eat, shit, maintain the body—I hate my body. … Nature is horrible. It's not cute and lovable. It's kill or be killed. … How I hate the courting ritual! I was always repelled by my own sex drive, which in my youth, never left me alone. … I hate the way the human psyche works, the way we are traumatized and stupidly imprinted in early childhood and have to spend the rest of our lives trying to overcome these infantile mental fixations. And we never fully succeed in this endeavor. I hate organized religions. I hate governments. It's all a lot of power games played out by ambition-driven people, and foisted on the weak, the poor, and on children. Most humans are bullies. Adults pick on children. Older children pick on younger children. Men bully women. The rich bully the poor. People love to dominate. I hate the way humans worship power—one of the most disgusting of all human traits. I hate the human tendency toward revenge and vindictiveness. I hate the way humans are constantly trying to trick and deceive one another, to swindle, cheat, and take unfair advantage of the innocent, the naïve and the ignorant. I hate all the vacuous, false, banal conversation that goes on among people. Sometimes I feel suffocated. I want to flee from it. For me, to be human is, for the most part, to hate what I am. When I suddenly realize that I am one of them, I want to scream in horror.
  • "The Litany of Hate" in The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 386.
R. Crumb, The Amazon with braids, 2007 – 2011. Collection Paul Morris and Sam Grubman, New York © Robert Crumb

 Robert Crumb’s Untitled, 2015, from Art & Beauty magazine. Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Paul Morris, and David Zwirner Gallery

Crumb from Art & Beauty magazine. Photograph: Courtesy the artist, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York/London  

As a matter of survival I've created this anti-hero alter-ego, a guy in an ill-fitting suit—part humunculus and part clown. Yep, that's me alright … I could never relate to heroes. I have no interest in drawing heroic characters. It's not my thing, man. I'm more inclined toward the sordid underbelly of life. I find it more interesting to draw grotesque, lurid, or absurd pictures, and I especially enjoy depicting my fevered sexual obsessions.

The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 393

 My work has a strong negative element. I have my own inner demons to deal with. Drawing is a way for me to articulate things inside myself that I can't otherwise grasp. What I don't want to do, what I dread more than anything, is to leave a legacy of crap. I don't want my work to be tossed in the dustbin of history, and become more of the second rate, mediocre junk that future connoisseurs will have to move out of the way so they can get at the good stuff.

The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 394

 Killing yourself is a major commitment, it takes a kind of courage. Most people just lead lives of cowardly desperation. It's kinda half suicide where you just dull yourself with substances.

"Simon Hattenston talks to Robert Crumb", The Guardian, 7 March 2005.

 When I come up against the real world, I just vacillate.

"Simon Hattenston talks to Robert Crumb", The Guardian, 7 March 2005.

 I knew I was weird by the time I was four. I knew I wasn't like other boys. I knew I was more fearful. I didn't like the rough and tumble most boys were into. I knew I was a sissy.

"Simon Hattenston talks to Robert Crumb", The Guardian, 7 March 2005.

  I wasn’t that passionate about it [the radical counterculture]. I agreed with it, but at the political demonstrations I would get very nervous when people started chanting in unison. I didn’t like that. I usually disliked those smash-the-state kind of guys, even though I agreed politically with them. I took LSD, I said “groovy” and “far-out,” but I was kind of a detached observer.
        "R. Crumb, The Art of Comics No. 1", The Paris Review, Summer 2010, No. 193.

 I was taking LSD periodically, every couple of months. I was in a strange state of mind, influenced by these visions. … I was trying to draw it in my sketchbook, and that began to coalesce into these comic strips that were stylistically based on grotesque, vulgar humor comics of the thirties and forties. … All of those characters came out of that crazy visionary period that I couldn’t shut off. It was spontaneous, but I was so crazy, I was really out of my mind, it was like schizophrenia. It was like what produces art by crazy people in a madhouse. Anything could be an influence, anything I heard. I was in Chicago in early ’66 and the radio was on, there was some tune playing, it was a black station, and this announcer said, That was Mr. Natural. I just started drawing Mr. Natural, this bearded guru-type character in my sketchbook, it just came out.
        "R. Crumb, The Art of Comics No. 1", The Paris Review, Summer 2010, No. 193.

A Crumb illustration from Art & Beauty No 2. Photograph: Courtesy the artist, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York/London 

For a while I was most well known for that [the Janis Joplin album cover], and for “Keep on Truckin’.” That was a drawing that came out of LSD trips, and the words came from a Blind Boy Fuller song from 1935. I drew it in my sketchbook and then for Zap. It sort of caught the popular imagination. It became a horrible popular thing.

    "R. Crumb, The Art of Comics No. 1", The Paris Review, Summer 2010, No. 193.
 I was never as cocksure again after that first LSD inspiration. Especially with fame and reputation. You become very uncertain, you have to follow your own act. I never did get that kind of spontaneous cocksureness back again. It’s like going from being the observer to the observed. I had been used to being invisible when I was young. After I became well-known, it was very hard to be anonymous in the world. Of course, at first I liked all the attention. Suddenly, good-looking girls were interested in me! Wow! I couldn’t believe it.
        "R. Crumb, The Art of Comics No. 1", The Paris Review, Summer 2010, No. 193.
 I’m an outsider. I will always be an outsider.

    "R. Crumb, The Art of Comics No. 1", The Paris Review, Summer 2010, No. 193.

La donna Yeti, 2000. Copertina di Fate Magazine (Clark Publishing Company), novembre 2000. Collezione Paul Morris and Samuel Grubman, New York © Robert Crumb

  ‘I was always a contrarian’ … Robert Crumb at his Art & Beauty exhibition in London. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Robert Crumb: ‘I was born weird'

"I don't want to be a propagandist. I can't. The thing I'm best at is just expressing my own personal absurdity, or something. That's all I'm really comfortable doing."



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