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

READ REVIEW

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

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

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more