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Robert Crumb

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(born Aug. 30, 1943, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.) U.S. cartoonist. He had no formal art training but was obsessed with drawing as a child. In 1960 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to work for a greeting-card company. In 1967 he moved to San Francisco and became a prominent member of the hippie counterculture and a founder of the genre of underground comix, satirical magazines that poked fun at U.S. culture. His often obscene strips with their various obsessive themes, starring such characters as Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural, had great influence and are still regarded as classics of the genre.
For more information on Robert Crumb, visit Britannica.com.

Robert Crumb

Crumb in Brazil, 2011
Born Robert Dennis Crumb
August 30, 1943 (age 69)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist, Artist, Writer, Musician
Pseudonym(s) R. Crumb
Notable works Zap Comix
Keep on Truckin'
Fritz the Cat
Mr. Natural
Official website
Robert Dennis Crumb (born August 30, 1943)—known as Robert Crumb and R. Crumb—is an American artist, illustrator, and musician recognized for the distinctive style of his drawings and his critical, satirical, subversive view of the American mainstream.[1]
Crumb was a founder of the underground comix movement and is regarded as its most prominent figure. Though one of the most celebrated of comic book artists, Crumb's entire career has unfolded outside the mainstream comic book publishing industry. One of his most recognized works is the "Keep on Truckin'" comic, which became a widely distributed fixture of pop culture in the 1970s. Others are the characters Devil Girl, Fritz the Cat, and Mr. Natural.
He was inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1991.

Life and career

Robert Crumb was born on August 30, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is of English and Scottish ancestry, and is related to former U.S. president Andrew Jackson on his mother's side.[2] His father, Charles, was a career officer in the United States Marine Corps; his mother, Beatrice, a housewife who reportedly abused diet pills and amphetamines. Their marriage was unhappy and the children — Robert, Charles, Maxon, Sandra and Carol — were frequent witnesses to their parents' loud arguments.
Crumb's first job as an artist was for the Topps company. He was hired by Woody Gelman and drew illustrations for an internal publication that offered premiums to gum salesmen such as toasters and blenders.[3] Crumb's first major production was a hardcover graphic novel entitled The Yum Yum Book which he drew in 1963. It is a "fractured fairy tale" concerning a frog named Oggie. Oggie climbs a magic beanstalk to escape the fools of earth and there in the clouds falls in love with a giant, silly, sexy girl named Guntra who wants only to devour the frog. This story also introduces the character of Fritz the Cat. As of 2011, the book is in print as a paperback retitled Big Yum Yum Book: the Story of Oggie and the Beanstalk.
In the mid 1960s, Crumb left home and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he designed greeting cards for the American Greetings corporation, and met a group of young bohemians including Buzzy Linhart, Liz Johnston, and others. Johnston introduced him to his future wife, Dana Morgan. In 1967, 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 counterculture movement. Crumb, with the backing of Don Donahue, published the first issue of his Zap Comix on January 18, 1968, printed by Beat poet Charles Plymell.[4] After years in California, and a second marriage to Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Crumb and family moved to a small village near Sauve in southern France in 1993,[5] where he now resides.


Front Cover
Crumb is a prolific artist and contributed to many of the seminal works of the underground comics 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, and in the 1980s, to Weirdo (which he created and co-edited).
As Crumb got older, his comic work became more autobiographical. He frequently collaborates with his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, on comics. His complete comics and selections from his sketchbooks have been published by Fantagraphics[6] in seventeen volumes of comics and ten volumes of sketches to date. R. Crumb contributes regularly to Mineshaft magazine. Since 2009, Mineshaft has been serializing "Excerpts From R. Crumb's Dream Diary".[7]

The Book of Genesis

In 2009, he published his illustrated graphic novel version of the Book of Genesis.[8][9][10] The book includes annotations explaining his reactions to Biblical stories. It was reported on NPR in October 2009, that it was a four-year effort and does not rewrite any part of the text. Crumb did extensive research in the earlier language versions of the text to support the interpretations. It contains all 50 chapters of Genesis and comes with a warning on its cover: "Adult Supervision Recommended for Minors."[11][12][13]

Influences and critical response

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."[14] Robert Crumb’s cartooning style has drawn on the work of cartoon artists from earlier generations, including Billy De Beck (Barney Google), C.E. Brock (an old story book illustrator), Gene Ahern’s comic strips, George Baker (Sad Sack), 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.[15][16]
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...." [17]
Crumb's comic artwork has elicited harsh commentary. Numerous critics cite his pictures of overly sexualized women, often in subservient roles, calling him "the chief sexist of underground comics".[18] Other critics, such as African American cartoonist and author Charles Johnson, claim that Crumb's comics are inherently racist because of their racially stereotyped portrayals of minorities, such as "darky" Afro-Americans.[19] Crumb and his supporters say that the subject is white male attitudes, not the women and minorities themselves.
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[16] and in the Philadelphia Inquirer.[20]

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, aka 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."[21][22]
Crumb has created several sets of trading cards. His full-color, pen & ink portraits of 36 early great blues singers and musicians is entitled "Heroes of the Blues Trading Cards". In the fashion of baseball cards, the back of each card contains a short bio written by Stephen Calt. Crumb's portraits capture the humanity and individuality of each performer. This set of 36 3"x4" cards was originally published by Eclipse Books in 1995. Other similar sets of cards published since that time are entitled, "Early Jazz Greats" and "Pioneers of Country Music". In 2006, all 3 sets of cards were collected together in a 240 page book entitled, "R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country", which included a 21-song CD of songs by many of those depicted in the trading cards. Terry Zwigoff, the film maker, and Dave Jasen, the ragtime pianist and pop archivist, contributed to the written text. Another set of 36 cards published in 2010 is entitled "R. Crumb Trading Cards" (Denis Kitchen Publishing Co.) and features short stories on the back of each card about Crumb's familiar comic book characters: Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat, etc. As of 2011, all 4 of these decks of trading cards are still in print.
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.

Devil Girl Choco-Bars

In 1994, Kitchen Sink Konfections, a branch of comic-book publisher Kitchen Sink Enterprises, used Crumb's character Devil Girl to promote chocolate candy bars named Devil Girl Choco-Bar.[23] Kitchen Sink went out of business and the candy bars went out of production.

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 30's, and they also heavily influenced the soundtrack choices for his band mate Zwigoff's 1994 Crumb documentary.
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" which he also plays mandolin on. He was - together with Dominique Cravic - the founder of "Les Primitifs du Futur", a French music band, based on French musette/folk, jazz and blues, and played on that band's 2000 album "World Musette".[24] He as well drew the cover art of this, and some more albums.
Crumb has also 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. His "Hot Women: Women Singers from the Torrid Regions" was released in 2009. Naturally, Crumb drew the cover art for these CDs as well.

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 a Dutch formation, The Beau Hunks, and for both their albums "The Beau Hunks play the original Laurel & Hardy music" (1 & 2), he was the album cover illustrator, as well as for the albums' booklets.
Also in 2009, he drew the artwork for a 10-CD anthology of French traditional music (compiled by Guillaume Veillet for Frémeaux & Associés).[25]
In 2010 he drew three artworks for Christopher King's "Aimer Et Perdre: To Love And To Lose Songs, 1917-1934" released on CD on Tompkins Square in 2012.[26]
In 2011 he drew his third album cover for Eden and John's East River String Band "Be Kind To A Man When He's Down", on which he also plays mandolin.

Crumb in the media

At least three television or theatrical documentaries are dedicated to Crumb, not counting numerous reports running 10 minutes and below:
  • Prior to the 1972 release of Fritz the Cat, Austrian journalist Georg Stefan Troller (see German Wikipedia) interviewed Crumb for a 30-minute documentary entitled Comics und Katerideen on Crumb's life and art, as an episode of Troller's Personenbeschreibung ("Personality account") documentary format broadcast on German ZDF. The documentary also included a making-of the upcoming Fritz movie with production background interviews of Ralph Bakshi. In this documentary, Troller called Crumb's work "the epitome of contemporary white North America's popular art". As part of Troller's Personenbeschreibung series, it can still be seen on rotation on ZDF-owned digital specialty channel ZDFdokukanal dedicated to highclass documentaries.
  • The Confessions of Robert Crumb (1987)
  • Crumb (1994) by Terry Zwigoff
In the 2003 movie American Splendor Crumb was portrayed by James Urbaniak.
In 2006, Crumb brought legal action against Amazon.com after the web site used a version of his widely recognizable "Keep On Truckin'" character. The case is expected to be settled out of court.
Also in 2006, Sirius Radio host Howard Stern revealed that Crumb had contacted his show, offering to swap some of his art prints in exchange for a subscription to Sirius that he could listen to in France. However, it was not Robert Crumb who contacted the Howard Stern Show. Crumb is not a listener of the show and claims that he has never even heard it. The actual caller was his brother-in-law Alex, who moved to France from New York and deals in R. Crumb prints.
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 from TASCHEN publishing in November 2007. In August 2011 Crumb cancelled plans to visit Graphic 2011 festival in Sydney, Australia due to safety concerns after a tabloid labeled him a "self-confessed sex pervert" in an article headlined "Cult genius or filthy weirdo?".[27][28]

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, New York, from September 16, 2006 to January 28, 2007.[29][30]


  • Zap issues from 1 and 0 (1967 or '68) 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. 


  1. ^ New York Times
  2. ^ Crumb, Robert Crumb Family Comics. Last Gasp, 1998. ISBN 0-86719-427-8, where he discusses his ancestry at length in a hand-written essay.
  3. ^ Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession, p. 128, Dave Jamieson, 2010, Atlantic Monthly Press, imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc., New York, New York, ISBN 978-0-8021-1939-1
  4. ^ "Hand printed first issue of ZAP Comics". Undergroundcollectibles.com. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  5. ^ McKenna, Kristine (23 April 1995). "Creep Show: A new film shines disturbing light on the very dark family secrets of cartoonist Robert Crumb. There's a lot more there than just Mr. Natural.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  6. ^ "Fantagraphics Books - Complete Crumb Comics". Fantagraphics.com. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  7. ^ Palmieri, Gioia. "Update". Mineshaft Magazine. Retrieved 2010-12-11.
  8. ^ Gustines, George Gene (October 23, 2009). "Graphic Books Best-Seller List" (book review). New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2009.
  9. ^ "R. Crumb on Genesis (slide show)". Nytimes.com. 2009-10-18. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  10. ^ Bloom, H., "Yahweh Meets R. Crumb", The New York Review of Books, 56/19 (December 3, 2009)
  11. ^ R. Crumb. "Crumb's 'Genesis,' A Sexy Breasts-And-Knuckles Affair". Npr.org. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  12. ^ Heer, Jeet. "Word Made Fresh: R. Crumb gives visual form to the first book of the Bible", Bookforum, September/October/November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-04 (access requires registration)
  13. ^ "Robert Crumb" and "Robert Crumb, Part 2" (transcript of National Film Theatre appearance), The Guardian (UK), March 18, 2005. Genesis referenced in latter.
  14. ^ The Comics Journal #246 http://www.tcj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=267&Itemid=48
  15. ^ The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book at p. 67
  16. ^ a b Mr. Natural Goes to the Museum, September 5, 2008, New York Times
  17. ^ The Art of S. Clay Wilson, Ten Speed Press, 2006, p. vii.
  18. ^ BookForum.Com, September 3, 2009, by Jeet Heer
  19. ^ ImageText, September 3, 2009, "Racial Imagery, Racism, Individualism, and Underground Comix"
  20. ^ Out from underground, August 31, 2008, Philadelphia Inquirer
  21. ^ "Nasty Tales Trial 2". Funtopia.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. 1973-02-09. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  22. ^ "International Times" journal, No.147, February 9, 1973, pp.17-20.
  23. ^ "Devil Bottom JPG". Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  24. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/world-musette-r861093
  25. ^ "World music France : une anthologie des musiques traditionnelles Enregistrements realises entre 1900 et 2009 (10 cds) - Frémeaux & Associés éditeur , La Librairie Sonore". Fremeaux.com. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  26. ^ http://www.tompkinssquare.com/archives/197
  27. ^ http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jrBi3_IndAeM5NHwBfytMNcFebBw?docId=CNG.90a0ab9652c589f1e90438beda86c9ea.211
  28. ^ Fulton, Adam (August 10, 2011). "A toxic turn and safety fears soured cartoonist on visit". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  29. ^ "Exhibitions: Masters of American Comics". The Jewish Museum. Retrieved 2010-08-10.. WebCitation archive.
  30. ^ Kimmelman, Michael. "See You in the Funny Papers" (art review), The New York Times, October 13, 2006

Further reading

  • Crumb Family Comics. Trade Paperback Collection of stories by each member of the R Crumb family
  • The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book. (ISBN 0-316-16306-6, 1997).
  • The R. Crumb Handbook, Published by MQ Publications, London, 2005, ISBN 1-84072-716-0
  • The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship (1998) written by Charles Bukowski and illustrated by Robert Crumb.
  • Busted! Drug War Survival Skills (2005) written by [M. Chris Fabricant] and illustrated by Robert Crumb.
  • Robert Crumb, written by [D. K. Holm], published by Pocket Essentials, 2003 (revised edition 2005), 13 digit ISBN 978-1-904048-51-0.
  • R. Crumb: Conversations, edited by [D. K. Holm], published by the University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, MS, 2004, ISBN 1-57806-637-9.
  • R. Crumb and Mineshaft. A brief history, with letters and art, of Robert Crumb's ongoing collaboration with Mineshaft magazine.

External links


Underground treasures

1344 pages of Crumb's hand-picked selections from his notebooks

This six-book boxed set is the first collection of Robert Crumb sketches to be printed from the original art since the hard-bound, slipcased, seven volume series issued by the German publisher Zweitausendeins between 1981 and 1997. Unlike the Zweitausendeins edition, which included every doodle ever made by the preeminent underground artist, our best-of edition has been personally edited by the notoriously picky artist to include only what he considers his finest work, including hundreds of late period drawings not published in previous sketchbook collections. Robert Crumb requested that the books representing the second half of his career be published first due to fan demand for new Crumb material (Volumes 7-12 cover the period 1982-2011, and the forthcoming Volumes 1-6 will cover the period 1964-1981).

In the last 20 years Crumb's artistic output has slowed considerably, making new works more rare and highly prized. This collection of over 600 unseen drawings created between 1982 and 2011 makes this a must-have collectible for every Crumb fan.

The Little Guy That Lives Inside My Brain
(Frame not included)

  • The slipcased set is made with loving attention to detail in a size and format selected by the artist.
  • Each book in the boxed set contains 224 pages, for a total of 1,344 pages of prime Crumb.
  • The set includes a hand-written introduction by Robert Crumb.
  • Each set of this 1,000-copy limited edition also includes a signed color art print of the Crumb original The Little Guy That Lives Inside My Brain
Robert Crumb.

Dian Hanson
6 vols. in slipcase
incl. signed print
20.5 x 27 cm, 1344 pages
$ 1,000

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