Not the most ambitious Crumb work, but there’s a lot of love here.

DRAWN TOGETHER

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF R. AND A. CRUMB

A scrapbook from the first family of American cartooning, containing collaborative strips that date back to the mid-1970s.

The title serves a dual purpose, underscoring the claim, made throughout the book, that the authors are “The World’s Only Cartooning Couple,” as the two-headed cover proclaims, but also indicating the qualities that drew them together and keep them together. In a flyer for the aptly named Dirty Laundry Comics, Robert Crumb dubs them “the John and Yoko of Underground Comics!!” There are some parallels. In both cases, he had a wider following, and some fans have suggested (as these panels admit) that she was horning in, co-opting his work by capitalizing on his renown. In both cases, he proved to be his wife’s strongest defender, suggesting that, if anything, she is carrying him. “Aline, I can’t do this without you,” he writes in one of the four-panel “The Crumb Family” strips (changes of pace from the longer, more elaborate narratives that dominate). “If I tell stories about my life it just comes out grim & sad.” Not only does her presence provide comic relief, but the two of them present her as the stronger, both physically and emotionally. And then there’s the sex (and there’s plenty of it). “I go where the butt goes,” he reflects while she beams, “So nice you’re actually moving to a remote village in a foreign country just to satisfy an impulsive whim of mine!!” Generally, each of them draws themselves, though the panels make note of occasional reversals. The collection documents the changes in their lives as they’ve grown older, had a daughter (now a published cartoonist herself), moved to the south of France, and received more attention than they’d wanted through a couple of films (a documentary on the Crumb family and the adaptation of American Splendor, the acclaimed bio-pic of friend and collaborator Harvey Pekar). From the bathroom to the bedroom, they respond to the question of just how open and honest a marital comic can be.

Not the most ambitious Crumb work, but there’s a lot of love here.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-87140-429-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

A FIRE STORY

A new life and book arise from the ashes of a devastating California wildfire.

These days, it seems the fires will never end. They wreaked destruction over central California in the latter months of 2018, dominating headlines for weeks, barely a year after Fies (Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, 2009) lost nearly everything to the fires that raged through Northern California. The result is a vividly journalistic graphic narrative of resilience in the face of tragedy, an account of recent history that seems timely as ever. “A two-story house full of our lives was a two-foot heap of dead smoking ash,” writes the author about his first return to survey the damage. The matter-of-fact tone of the reportage makes some of the flights of creative imagination seem more extraordinary—particularly a nihilistic, two-page centerpiece of a psychological solar system in which “the fire is our black hole,” and “some veer too near and are drawn into despair, depression, divorce, even suicide,” while “others are gravitationally flung entirely out of our solar system to other cities or states, and never seen again.” Yet the stories that dominate the narrative are those of the survivors, who were part of the community and would be part of whatever community would be built to take its place across the charred landscape. Interspersed with the author’s own account are those from others, many retirees, some suffering from physical or mental afflictions. Each is rendered in a couple pages of text except one from a fellow cartoonist, who draws his own. The project began with an online comic when Fies did the only thing he could as his life was reduced to ash and rubble. More than 3 million readers saw it; this expanded version will hopefully extend its reach.

Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3585-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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