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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more