Robert Crumb

From Academic Kids

Robert Crumb (born August 30, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an artist and illustrator who signs his work "R. Crumb". Crumb was one of the founders of the underground comics movement, and is often regarded as the most prominent figure in that movement. Though Crumb is among the most celebrated of comic book artists, his entire career has unfolded outside the mainstream comic book publishing industry.

In the mid 1960s, Crumb lived in Cleveland, Ohio with his first wife, Dana Morgan Crumb, where he designed greeting cards for the American Greetings corporation. Encouraged by the reaction to some drawings he had published in underground newspapers, including Philadelphia's Yarrowstalks, Crumb moved to San Francisco, California, the center of the psychedelic flower power movement, in 1967. Crumb published the first issue of his Zap Comix in early 1968.

Zap - Cover Art by R. Crumb

Crumb used antiquated early-century cartoon styles to produce satirical stories that were sexually and politically outrageous, particularly so when seen in the form of a comic book. He soon attracted a number of other artists who were excited by the possibilities of publishing countercultural comic books. Crumb shared the pages of later issues of "Zap" with such artists as Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin, S. Clay Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Robert Williams and Gilbert Shelton.

In the pages of Zap, the East Village Other, OZ magazine, and scores of other comix, underground newspapers, and countercultural publications, Crumb created characters that became icons of the anti-establishment counterculture, including "Mr. Natural" and "Fritz the Cat". Crumb's work was suddenly in great demand, and Crumb himself became an anti-establishment icon, a figure who genuinely resisted "selling out". His friend Janis Joplin hired him to draw the artwork for the cover of her album Cheap Thrills, but Crumb rejected an offer to illustrate an album cover for the Rolling Stones because he hated the band's music. Animation director Ralph Bakshi made a feature-length animated film of Fritz the Cat (the first animated film to garner an "X" rating), and the film was a box-office hit. Crumb disliked the film so much that he killed the fictional cat in his comics (an ostrich-woman stabbed the pompous movie-star Fritz in the head with an ice pick), and has since refused other lucrative offers to base films on his work.

Robert Crumb’s cartooning style draws elements from many cartoon artists of earlier generations, including Billy De Beck ("Barney Google" comic strip), C.E. Brock (an old story book illustrator), Gene Ahern’s comic strips, the Merrie Melodies animated characters of the 1930s, Sidney Smith ("Andy Gump" comic strip), early Rube Goldberg work, E.C. Segar (early "Popeye"), and Bud Fisher ("Mutt and Jeff"). Crumb has cited Carl Barks (who drew early Disney "Duck" cartoons) and John Stanley as formative influences on his narrative approach, as well as Harvey Kurtzman, the comics artist who was also the founding editor of Mad magazine.

Crumb's comic artwork has elicited sharply divided commentary from his readers and critics. He has been hailed as one of the century's greatest artists, and compared to literary satirists such as François Rabelais, Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain; art critic Robert Hughes has likened Crumb to Breughel and Goya. Others, including comics historian Trina Robbins, denounce Crumb's work as misogynistic pornography, socially degrading and emotionally immature. Crumb has admitted that he has an abnormal "fear of women".

Crumb created and edited the Weirdo alternative comics anthology in the early '80s, and he remains a prominent figure, as both artist and influence, within the alternative comics milieu. While Crumb's career has unfolded outside the mainstream comic book publishing industry, he has done covers for New Yorker magazine.

Harvey Pekar was a friend who shared Crumb's love of 78 records. Pekar solicited Crumb's help to illustrate an autobiographical comic about Pekar's own life called American Splendor.

A theatrical production based on his work was produced at Duke University in the early 1990s. Directed by Johnny Simons, 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.

The 1994 documentary film Crumb which looks at Crumb's work in relation to his troubled family life, made a younger audience aware of Crumb and his work. The film was directed by Crumb's longtime friend Terry Zwigoff.

In the mid-1990s, Crumb traded six of his sketchbooks for a house in the small town of Sauve, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France where he and his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb (also a well-known "underground" cartoonist) and their daughter, Sophie (herself a comic artist) moved. He plays banjo in the band Les Primitifs du Futur.

Crumb is an avid collector of 78 rpm phonograph records; he has over 5000 records as of 2004. In 2003, the collection was the source for Hot Women: Women Singers From The Torrid Regions Of The World, his compilation of world music from Mexico, Cuba, Turkey, Burma, and Tahiti. All but two of the 24 tracks were recorded between 1927 and 1934.

Further reading

  • Robert Crumb; edited and designed by Peter Poplaski The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book; (ISBN 0316163066, 1997). "Crumb's Whole Career, from Shack to Chateau!" - Crumb tells his life story in 247 pages.
  • The R. Crumb Handbook, Published by MQ Publications, London, 2005, ISBN 1840727160

External links

de:Robert Crumb sv:Robert Crumb fi:Robert Crumb


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