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'For my artwork, I have to use antique, archaic tools.'
October 18, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

R Crumb talks to the Paris Review about his adaptation of The Book of Genesis, cartoons, LSD, Winnie the Pooh, Terry Gilliam, and some other things.
posted by shakespeherian (30 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Genesis book is amazing. It's as if his whole life has built up to that. (It's touring as an art museum exhibit, every original page -- highly recommended.)
posted by msalt at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2010


I originally posted the following back in June of last year, but hey, it's as semi-relevant now as it was then:

1992: I was 15 and attending what would be one of my last comic conventions, the Dallas Fantasy Fair. I collected comics, sure, but mostly the conventions were an excuse to get a hotel room with a bunch of friends and get fucked up for three days straight. I never had a lot of money to spend at them, and what little money I had went mostly towards pot and booze. The comics I bought were usually from the quarter or dollar bins. For a couple of years I'd made it a tradition to buy some goofy book - Tom & Jerry or The Cross & the Switchblade - and try to get as many artists as I could to sign it.

On the second day of the convention, word spread that Robert Crumb was going to be making an appearance. Though not yet well schooled in the department of underground comics, I knew this was a big deal. My friends and I took a few gravity bong hits in out room and headed down to the Crumb thing. When we got there, we were disappointed to find that he wasn't doing a panel or signing books. He was playing music, a mixture of the old-timey jazz & bluegrass that he was known to love, a style of music that we found to be unbelievably dull. Still, I knew I was in the presence of greatness, and while my friends filed out one by one, I sat through the whole nostalgic set. When he was done playing, I was one of the only people left in the room. I timidly approached him and asked him to sign the Smurfs comic that I'd been asking all the other attending artists to sign.

"What?" he asked. "I didn't draw this! I'm not going to sign it."

I started to stammer out some excuse as to why I didn't have one of his books for him to sign, but he interrupted me. "Look," he said, pulling out his wallet, "Here's two dollars and fifty cents. Go buy one of my comics. If I'm still here when you get back, I'll sign it." I nervously thanked him, took the money, and took off running towards the convention floor, which was really far from the hotel across a huge parking lot.

It was summer and it was Texas and it was hot but I ran the entire way. When I got to the floor, I went up to the first dealer I saw and blurted out what had happened and that I needed a cheap Crumb comic. The dealer freaked out. "He's signing? Here, take this comic for free if you'll get him to sign this one!" He gave me the books and I ran all the way back.

Crumb was still there when I returned, packing up his ukulele. I gave him the comics and he signed them. In mine he wrote "I paid for this comic for Chris, 1992. R. Crumb". I still have it.

It was a few years later when the movie Crumb came out. The scene that amused me the most was the one where Crumb is visiting a comic store and refuses to sign a book for someone, saying that he doesn't do that. Poor geek. If only he'd let Crumb buy the comic for him first...
posted by item at 11:40 AM on October 18, 2010 [42 favorites]


Great post! This tidbit in particular blew me away: A lot of good artists worked for Topps over the years. Art Spiegelman worked for them for a long time—he invented Garbage Pail Kids for Topps. They made a fortune off him.

I am not a particular fan of comics, but have always been captivated by Crumb. What strikes me about this interview is how connected he is, compared to the outsider portrayed in the movie.
posted by TedW at 11:52 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Comic Book Confidential, though a little dated, is probably worth watching as a follow up ti Crumb.
posted by Artw at 12:24 PM on October 18, 2010


I can't tell you how delighted I was to scroll all the way down that page and see that it was all interview and no comments. Bookmarked, and thanks so much.

msalt is right; Crumb's Book of Genesis adaptation is amazing - one of the best graphic novels I've ever read, definitely in the top ten, and one to savor slowly, and multiple times. It's such a perfect match of deadpan, realistic style and bizarre myth that it's easy to overlook just how artful every page (hell, nearly every panel) is.
posted by mediareport at 12:25 PM on October 18, 2010


Nine years ago Mr. Padraigin and I went to the Musee de l'erotisme in Paris, which is by the way totally rad, and I don't know if they still have their R. Crumb installation, but at the time we went, there was a whole floor of this, which was amazing.
posted by padraigin at 12:29 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post!! My most prized posession is a complete set of Crumb's "country legends" trading cards and "blues legends" cards, each in signed boxes. He illustrated the cover for my father's first novel, and through the relationship that ensued my dad was able to collect a good amount of great Crumb stuff.

Crumb and S. Clay Wilson are, far and away, the largest artistic and creative influences on my life, and reading something like this article just helps solidify that. Thanks!!
posted by broadway bill at 12:33 PM on October 18, 2010


R. Crumb is the right tool for the right job.
posted by elmaddog at 12:34 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, the hippie revolution happened. In 1964 I first got laid, I met my first wife, Dana, and all these protohippies in Cleveland. A lot of them were Jews from Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights. They started taking LSD and urged me to try it, so Dana got some LSD from a psychiatrist, it was still legal in ’65. We took it and that was totally a road-to-Damascus experience. It knocked you off your horse, taking LSD. I remember going to work that Monday, after taking LSD on Saturday, and it just seemed like a cardboard reality. It didn’t seem real to me anymore. Seemed completely fake, only a paper-moon kind of world. My coworkers, they were like, Crumb, what’s the matter with you, what happened to you? Because I was just staring at everything like I had never seen it before. And then it changed the whole direction of my artwork. Other people who had taken LSD understood right away what was going on, but the people who hadn’t, my coworkers, they didn’t get it.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:40 PM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Comic Book Confidential, though a little dated, is probably worth watching as a follow up ti Crumb.

...and as a prelude to American Splendor.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:42 PM on October 18, 2010


Crumb was really quite the visionary.

Who would have guessed that women with huge butts would ever become so popular?
posted by digsrus at 1:23 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Me, I'm all about the crosshatching.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have watched Crumb at least 40 times and every time I see something new. My favorite part is how he describes his method of drawing outdoor scenes, with the little fixtures on the telephone poles and electric power poles. Other artists have stressed that lesson, but Crumb really sunk it in that first you have to look at what you are drawing. Half of your task is just to see what all is in front of you.
posted by bukvich at 2:13 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh man, i totally notice all the crap in the sky on American streets because of that.

(also the crappy 80s horror movie "Pulse".)
posted by Artw at 2:15 PM on October 18, 2010


I really hope he does Revelation next.
posted by trip and a half at 2:41 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


so right about the Vellum and New York Central Art Supply.
posted by The Whelk at 3:21 PM on October 18, 2010


I really hope he does Revelation next.

Heh.

Now I’m sick of the whole thing. I’m finished with the Bible. Back to drawing pornography.
posted by Artw at 3:27 PM on October 18, 2010


.....Song Of Songs!
posted by The Whelk at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Apocymon hosted anywhere these days?
posted by Artw at 3:41 PM on October 18, 2010


My review of Crumb, cut and pasted from Netflix, please excuse a bit of self indulgence:

The first time that I saw this film I spent the first third of it thinking that it was a "mockumentary". I honestly thought that it was an actor playing R. Crumb. By the time that I realised it was serious, I felt that I had missed the point of the film. I felt cheated by my own ignorance. Now that I have seen it again, I see that it is a loving and deep portrait of a disturbed genius and his equally disturbed family. I grew up with R. Crumb, his comics and some of the drugs that he, himself, did. I also spent some time with a group of comicbook artists in the 1980-1990s. Many of them considered him a god. And I can't argue with them. One friend bought a notebook of his and we spent several days going over it page by page, line by line. The brilliance of this documentary is the complete and total honesty of Crumb and his family. The only times, in my opinion, that it bogs down is when people try to analyze his work. He does a fine job himself. The pretentious "experts" are quite unecessary. You'll like this film if you have an open mind, (at times) a strong stomach and mostly the ability to empathize with a flawed artist. Who happens to be a true genius. IMHO.

I love R. Crumb and i love this FPP. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 4:18 PM on October 18, 2010


When I was twelve and starting to get into jazz, my dad got me a comic book biography of a lady singer (Billie Holiday, I want to say, but I sense this is incorrect) that Crumb had drawn. I was really taken with it, and after reading it several times I went to the local comix shop to see if they had anything else he'd drawn.

I will never forget the look on the clerk's face when I walked into the store and asked what comics they had by "Robert Crumb". Let's just say I left the store empty handed, and many years later learned why.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:03 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite part is how he describes his method of drawing outdoor scenes, with the little fixtures on the telephone poles and electric power poles. Other artists have stressed that lesson, but Crumb really sunk it in that first you have to look at what you are drawing. Half of your task is just to see what all is in front of you.

bukvich, I'm reading Temple Grandin's book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, in which she argues just that (and that autistics - by which she actually seems to mean "visually oriented autistics" - are especially well suited to do so). Not just for drawing, but for understanding and solving all sorts of issues.

Crumb as an autistic isn't much of a stretch, either. Not meant as a slight; he's purely a genius.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:39 PM on October 18, 2010


Oops, that first paragraph in my post above was a quote from bukvich.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:40 PM on October 18, 2010


Basil Wolverton's Apocalypse
posted by wobh at 10:07 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really hope he does Revelation next.

'If you like really-hatched Godly stuff and PLOP!, you'll love The Wolverton Bible!'
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:22 PM on October 18, 2010


Well, dagnabbit.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:23 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post. Great interview. I know the part of the south of france where he lives. His head may still be in cleveland, but his body is in a beautiful part of the world. Knowing his biography I can't help but feel he deserves it.

Incidentally I remember last year I was home in NY visiting a comic book store. I asked if they had any copies of his Genesis book. The clerk stared at me as if I had just farted in church. Then he mumbled something about bookstores instead of comic book stores carrying the new book. Perhaps someone would know:

IS there some kind of anger at his success and/or work in comic circles? I'm an artist myself, and have known countless comic book guys in my life and never knew anyone who had anything less than admiration for Crumb. The main reason I ask is the guy in the comic book store appeared to view Alan Moore as a deity. Doens't seem to make sense.
posted by Hickeystudio at 4:56 AM on October 19, 2010


I really don't think Alan Moore would agree with comicbookguy's snootiness.
posted by Artw at 9:16 AM on October 19, 2010


I'm not aware of any blowback in the comics community re: Crumb's success. If anything I'd guess the comic store guy's reaction was based on the idea of don't-care-what-they're-selling stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are going to receive most of the copies of The Book of Genesis rather than the independent we-cared-before comics stores.

Also, for what it's worth, both Chicago Comics and Quimby's in Chicago carry Genesis, so it's not just B. Dalton and Waldenbooks.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:06 AM on October 19, 2010


digsrus: Who would have guessed that women with huge butts would ever become so popular?

Me, but that's just because I'm pretty much built like a flatchested R. Crumb fantasy ass model come to life.

When my parents pass away, part of my inheritance includes a large collection of original Crumb comics. (Hey, this is what happens when hippies meet in art school and have kids...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:25 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


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