Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Genesis by R. Crumb

R. Crumb, the comic artist who brought us Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural, has chosen an unexpected subject for his latest project: the book of Genesis.

The current issue of New Yorker includes a long excerpt. The 200-page book will come with a warning label “Adult supervision recommended for minors.” Crumb, who was raised Catholic, was fascinated by the raw power of the imagery. He started with the idea of doing a satire, and instead decided to present it straight, verse by verse.

In a recent interview with TIME’s Robert Hughes, he said,

“My problem was, how am I going to draw God? Should I just draw him as a light in the sky that has dialogue balloons coming out from it? Then I had this dream. God came to me in this dream, only for a split second, but I saw very clearly what he looked like. And I thought, ok, there it is, I've got God."

HUGHES: "And what did she look like?"

CRUMB: "I went through that whole thing too; maybe I'll draw God as a black woman. But if you actually read the Old Testament he's just an old, cranky Jewish patriarch. It's a lot of fun doing Genesis, actually. It's very visual. It's lurid. Full of all kinds of crazy, weird things that will really surprise people."

Interview in Time, link.


r8r said...

How do you not love R. Crumb's work? It's so American, and for anyone growing up in the 60's, it's practically a part of the cultural landscape.
Love that he'll lavish obsessive attention on elements that aren't part of the narrative, just because he's that way.

jeff jordan said...

Crumb is like Picasso or Warhol. Each of those guys changed fundamental perceptions of what it meant to be a "painter" or "sequential narrative" artist. Crumb even caused the word "comics" to mutate into "comix."

Crumb is my only living hero I've had the pleasure to shake hands with. Maybe he'll do the book of Revelations sometime. I'd love to see that.

Random York said...


Steve said...

Ah, R. Crumb. Wish I'd kept those long-ago Zap Comix.

In looking at this week's NYer with the Genesis panels, I was reminded of Crumb's Eggs Ackley (or was it Schuman the Human?) going off almost 40 years ago "in search of God." A sign in the margin said, "And believe me, he packed a lunch!"

The man's a genius; shading into perversity and neurosis, but a genius all the same.

Anonymous said...

I have "Introducing Kafka", illustrated by Crumb. There are quite a lot of those comic book introductions to authors and philosophers and usually, I'm not too fond of them. They tend to be an unhappy combination of superficial text and so-so drawings - but Crumbs drawings are simply perfect for the strange world of Kafka's tales, thoughts and antics.

Terry Zwigoff's 1994 documentary about Crumb is, in my opinion, a must-see. An equally funny, sad and inspiring journey into the strangely twisted mind of Crumb himself as well as his two brothers'.

jeff jordan said...

My understanding about the Crumb movie is that a lot of it was Zwigoff's take, and he apparently tweaked the stpry line a bit. It caused some animosity between the two of them, I heard. In other words, a great movie, but not necessarily an honest portrayal.

LandPainter said...

This is very interesting indeed. Speaking of religion and art, I was in the library today and found and old book titled "The Artists Guide to Sketching" by James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of art in this book. You guys were, and still are, so incredibly talented. It was a wonderful surprise to find this treasure and I can't wait to read it all. I was looking at the photos of you both together and you seemed like you were such close friends, do you still talk? I don't understand why so many people put Kinkade down, the guy is a master of drawing and painting. Is it because he believes in God? Or because he found what he loves painting? Or was there some unseen, unknown circumstance why people despise him? Anyway, I think you both are some of the best artists I've ever seen, period. And if no one has seen this book, go get it! I'm going to study every dot and tittle in it. :)

James Gurney said...

Shawn, Tom and I are still good friends, and we go painting together whenever we get the chance, but we've both been so busy that I haven't seen him in a while. The Artist's Guide to Sketching was an a book that grew out of a cross-country freight train adventure we took right after college, and there are a million stories from those days that I'll have to get around to someday.

Unknown said...

Ahh the Times, always trying to push their views.

This is the last guy I would see illustrating Genesis, which means it just may work.

DThompson55 said...

I may be forced to purchase in advance, although not a limited edition signed copy. Love R.Crumb. Our college rock band was called the Snoids. Goes back a looong way.

jeff said...

I love Crumb. I still have the original Fritz the Cat and some Zap comics.

Crumb hated Picasso and Warhol and what they stood for. If you here him talk about drawing and art he was into the masters, such as Rembrandt and Michelangelo. He always wished he had traditional training.

There was a show here in Boston recently at Mass Art of his original art work it was great to see his sketches and the ink drawings with his notes.

R. Crumb is a lot like Mark Twain with great illustrations, holding up a mirror to the absurdities of life. Of course Crumb has this perverseness that Twain does not.

Still Crumb's wit is a sharp and very American.

Anonymous said...

"How do you not love R. Crumb's work?"

Are you suggesting everyone should love it? I would certainly have to disagree; there is definitely an element of high school artist naivete in his work.

Smurfswacker said...

I was a big fan of Crumb in college. Of all the underground cartoonists his stuff attracted me the most, thanks in large part to his love of old popular culture and pen rendering.

I later years as I (supposedly) matured I found it myself cooling toward him because of the virulent misogyny underlying so much Crumb's work. In the 60s we sex-starved dormies shrugged it off as part of the scenery. Today I find it impossible to re-read many Crumb strips without getting the creeps.

This isn't to say misogyny is all there is to Crumb. Of course it isn't. If ever there were a complex person, it's Crumb. It's just that for me the subtext prevents my full appreciation. It's not always easy--or desirable--to separate the man, the method, and the message.

Unknown said...

The Bible is a great collection of stories. Sometimes Bible comics are too sanitized. I saw two pages of the Creation scenes by Crumb and they are some of the most mesmerizing comics pages I've ever seen.

Here are some of the Bible comics I've made: http://andrewwales.blogspot.com/search/label/Bible%20Comics