Robert Dennis Crumb (born August 30, 1943), often credited simply as R. Crumb, is an American artist and illustrator recognized for the distinctive style of his drawings and his critical, satirical, subversive view of the American mainstream. He currently lives in France.
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' drawing, which became a widely distributed fixture of pop culture in the 1970s. Others are the characters Devil Girl, Fritz the Cat, and Mr. Natural.

Robert Crumb was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in an unhappy family, surrounded by artistic brothers and sisters, which was chronicled in the 1994 Terry Zwigoff documentary film Crumb. His older brother, Charles Crumb, was an avid comic book fan and relentlessly pushed Robert to draw comic books from childhood into their teenage years. Together they created a comic called Foo; they attempted to sell it at their school and even door to door in their neighborhood, but Robert Crumb has said that they had little success. Eventually, Charles gave up drawing, but Robert kept at it.
The son of a Marine Corps sergeant, Crumb grew up around military bases in Philadelphia and Oceanside, California, and later in Milford, Delaware. In the early 1960s Crumb moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to live with a writer friend, Marty Pahls. There he designed greeting cards for the American Greetings corporation (some of them are still in circulation today) and met a group of young bohemians including Buzzy Linhart, Liz Johnston, and Harvey Pekar. Johnston introduced him to his first wife, Dana Morgan Crumb. Crumb became a friend and protege of his idol, Mad creator Harvey Kurtzman, contributing early Fritz the Cat strips and other work to Kurtzman's short-lived magazine Help! (which featured other budding talents including Terry Gilliam and Gloria Steinem). Encouraged by the reaction to some drawings he'd published in underground newspapers, including Philadelphia's Yarrowstalks, Crumb moved in 1967 to San Francisco, the center of the counterculture movement. Crumb self-published the first issue of his Zap Comix in early 1968, and its success soon established Crumb as the best-known artist of the underground comix movement.

Crumb's artwork referenced the detail of early 20th-century cartoon styles. However, his stories were frequently satirical, sexual and politically outrageous, particularly in the context of comic books, which, thanks to the enforcement of the Comics Code, were generally wholesome children's fare. He soon inspired and attracted a number of other artists who were excited by the possibilities of publishing countercultural comic books. Crumb shared the pages of later issues of Zap with a collective of cartoonists: Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin, S. Clay Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Robert Williams and Gilbert Shelton.
In the pages of Zap, the East Village Other, OZ, Gothic Blimp Works, Motor City, Yellow Dog and scores of other comix and counterculture publications, Crumb created characters that became counterculture icons. The best-known of these are Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat. Crumb's work was suddenly in great demand, and Crumb himself became an anti-establishment icon, a figure who genuinely resisted "selling out." His friend Janis Joplin hired him to draw the artwork for the cover of her band's album Cheap Thrills. Asked to illustrate an album cover for the Rolling Stones, Crumb rejected their offer because he hated the band's music. Animation director Ralph Bakshi made a feature-length animated film of Fritz the Cat (the first animated film to garner an "X" rating), and the film was a box-office success. Crumb was highly ambivalent about the project and has claimed that his wife signed the rights to Fritz over to Bakshi when Crumb was away. Crumb disliked the finished film so much that he killed the fictional cat in his comics (an ostrich-woman stabbed the pompous movie-star Fritz in the head with an ice pick). He has since refused other lucrative offers to base films on his work. Crumb and Zwigoff collaborated on a script based on Crumb's story Whiteman Meets Bigfoot. It was never filmed, but it did turn into a short-lived stage production.
The 1970s were a difficult decade for Crumb, as he lost the legal rights to his ubiquitous Keep on Truckin' cartoon and endured protracted legal battles with the Internal Revenue Service. His work became more bitter and satirical, and was outright misanthropic by the time he began Weirdo, the influential comics anthology that ran through the 1980s. Crumb was the first editor, but even after he stepped down from that position he had a story in every issue and usually drew the covers. In 1985, Crumb illustrated the 10th anniversary edition of Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang".
The Crumb documentary became a surprise hit in 1994, introducing Crumb to a whole new generation. Since then he has become an occasional contributor to The New Yorker, producing covers and multi-page stories. In recent years, he has also dabbled in fine art paintings and sculpture, creating a lifesize statue of one of his "Vulture Demoness" characters and another of his character Devil Girl in a contorted, sexualized and anatomically dubious pose that has her sitting on her own head.



disrupt said...

Crumb is the man no doubt.