Rare new video interview with R. Crumb

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/01/02/rare-new-video-interview-with.html


“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

– from the Gnostic Gospels, Gospel of Thomas.


crumb gave me among other things political awarness when I was to young to even understand what that meant. hes one of my alltime heroes…wish harvey pekar would still be around. keep em comin, bob!


I think that Crumb alienated people with more than his art ‘being weird’. He’s influential, but let’s not whitewash it.

The hero worship really overlooks how much Crumb’s status did to downplay and push out minority & women comic creators; failing to come to terms with that has ongoing impacts.


I never read the controversial comics that he refers to towards the end of the video, but as anyone who posts comments on online message boards, you probably write lots of stuff that might controversial and perhaps totally unpopular, but then you press “cancel” instead of “post.”

He says you have to get that stuff out. Getting that stuff out is one thing. Publishing it for all the world to see is another. He could have drawn it and then destroyed it and had the same catharsis. Since he published it instead, I think it just proves that he’s a bit of an asshole.

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Can you elaborate on that? Crumb has always been independent/underground. It isn’t like he was an editor at Marvel or DC and blocking anyone from getting work. Granted I don’t know his whole history, so maybe you are referring to some underground works. But the problem with minorities and women in comics goes much deeper than Crumb and/or indie comics, and are a reflection of society as a whole. IMO the attitudes at the large companies were the worst offenders and had the most power in the industry.

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idk, that’s probably true in the most basic sense, i.e. funding and mainstream exposure - but at the same time, aren’t the margins of any genre the arena that could have the most potential influence on the paths of marginalized groups?

Seems like there’s a common downplaying of the role of the “underground” media in terms of social responsibilities - the first order analysis being that it isn’t in direct view of significant audience “numbers” - but on the other hand it’s often a key reference point for the decision makers who do make important funding/publishing calls (avant-garde?). Behind the scenes perhaps it’s a bigger factor. (and of course the crucial influence credits are welcomed when positively toned).

(fwiw, am not all that familiar with Crumb’s work, so no strong stance on his work specifically here).


I think it’s in relation to criticism of the imagery in many of his comics that depicts violence towards women and uses racist tropes.

Some of this Crumb has given explanations of them being critiques of those tropes rather than actively being racist and as an expression of his own insecurities towards women and the resulting hostility he has felt towards them. Something you can definitely see in action when you look at so-called “incel” communities, with or without knowledge of Crumb’s works.

Outsider art can often involve these subjects, as by its very nature it will explore many things we consider taboo.

Keep in mind that I am not defending any of this, just hoping to expand the point made by eccentriccog.


OK I am aware of some of his problematic art, and agree that is more than fair criticism and something we should acknowledge and discuss.

If that is what @audaxaxon was referring to, fair enough.

However their original comment I replied to made it sound like he was aware of times Crumb actively used his power and position to “push out minority & women comic creators”. I am unaware of anytime that has happened. If there were examples of this, I would like to learn about them. If this was just a general statement referring to the problematic art, but with a bit of clunky language that made me think it alluded to something else - fair enough. We all do that some times. Thanks.

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The profiles by Jacques Hyzagi are amazing, especially the second one, a full-scale abusive rant triggered by Crumb’s peevish reaction to the relatively kid-gloves original.

No-one in comics talks about these profiles, but all have read and absorbed them.


Thanks, hadn’t seen those, ugh.

Also makes me wonder if anyone writing edgy journalistic style can escape the shadow of H. S. Thompson.

"Boy, you tore this guy a new asshole,” the uptight, pervy, demented cartoonist with the appalling face ravaged by millions of hours of onanism told me as I was putting to my mouth what looked like a tomato-covered rabbit’s anus.



Indeed. All profiles are covertly about their authors.


Some have called Crumb the Breugel of our time. Art, even comic art can be beautiful without being pretty. Crumb describes comics as coming from a “lurid” tradition. You could consider Portnoy’s Complaint lurid. Phillip Roth airing his dirty laundry. Artfully. He got a ton of shit for it too. I was around when the first underground comix, the Zaps, came out, and every issue and most of the artists were a revelation to me. They were putting down on paper what no one even talked about, from drug experiences to inner conflicts and forbidden fantasies. I loved it. The outrageousness of a lot of it was part of the delight.


Okay, but huge parts of Crumb’s “forbidden fantasies” included portraying black people in all sorts of straight-up racist ways, and his masculine insecurities and hatred for women. His love for old blues artists doesn’t make up for the former, and I haven’t seen anything in his work that makes up for the latter either.

You love that, just because it’s forbidden or taboo? That sounds pretty juvenile to me. It’s like that minor Bush sniggering on a bus while Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. It’s like laughing at someone with some kind of sick admiration because they’re “edgy” enough to tell racist jokes.

That shit in Crumb’s work is okay because it’s “artful”? I’ve seen a lot of Crumb’s racism and misogyny on paper. It’s not “artful.” It’s just, vomit. From a man who refuses to deal in healthier ways with his own problems.


I tried to make it through 12 Apr 16, but couldn’t. I just couldn’t. The writer’s self absorption is nakedly obscene. It seems as if he’s kept a copy of Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” on his bedside table since he was a teenager but hasn’t quite mastered how to replicate it sufficiently to impress a professor with which he retains a lingering obsession.

Crumb is who he is, a performance for the public by an artist who has found some deeper pulse to measure.

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Should this be "It can even . . . . "?


“Cage match pits legendary cartoonist against enfant terrible profiler

Fixed their subheadline.


I wish that asshole Rubens would have destroyed some of his “art”, like

and so on, and so on. He could have had a wank on his sick garbage and then burned it and left the world a cleaner, safer, and more vibrant place.


What a silly rejoinder. Times change, my dude. And different cultures, not to mention different classes within them, have different values, morals and mores. As I’m sure you know.


Yes of course, but what I really dislike is how the Internet tends to flock around people who have accomplished great things, oftentimes people from another time (like Crumb), and pick them apart by applying the latest, cutting edge moral ruler to them. And fantasizing about acclaimed art do be destroyed in the name of morality (and the top poster did that) definitely crosses a line with me. Salvador Dali was best buddies with Francisco Franco who was best buddies with Hitler. It doesn’t get much worse, but I don’t hear anybody fantasizing about his works being destroyed. Destroying art (or artists for that matter) is something liberals don’t do, not even when it comes to fascist art. So why do we Internet dwellers do this to our culture? Why this desire for our culture to be morally perfect to the n-th degree? Maybe it is compensation for us being unable to solve the world’s material problems like brutal exploitation, looming war and mass extinction? So at least we can have a perfectly unambiguous cultural sphere maybe? But such a thing can of course not exist, and a morally cleansed culture is a sterile and dead culture, which does not reflect the world and can not grow any more, and encapsulates itself in idealism until it is one day overrun and swept away by a world that has moved on.