This is the third post in a series of post describing the inspirations for my comic about Phill from GCHQ. Below you can see the two first entries.
Note: I have avoided offensive imagery, but the the portrayed comic-artist is in general not for children. (Even though some of us did get our brain flushed in those innocent years).
The third artist I will present, started like Gilbert Shelton's: The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, as an underground comix in the late sixties. He was a bit of a champion of the counter-culture and made, among other things a cover for Janis Joplin. There is a high probabillity that you already know him or at least some of his work. The man is Robert Crumb.
Compared to his contemporary, Gilbert Shelton, that I wrote about in the last installment, Crumb is much more edgy and extreme. The (all in all) friendly and tolerant attitude of Shelton is, even though they share the same humour and drawing technique, in the works of Crumb much more aggressive and idiosyncratic. Crumb's own person, his sexual fantasies, his cynicism, his bizarre imagination, his doubt. All is there, black on white. 1:1.
There is a lot of late sixties and seventies art that operate in this state of mind. With a self invented term I call it: Evil Hippie. But there is in Crumb's comics a self-ironic and down to earth humour that somehow makes his descent into topics like incest, cult-brain wash, human degradation, racism, perversion and borderline egotism (almost) harmlessly funny.
Fritz the Cat
Crumb has never really committed himself to one protagonist. Many stories is one off's and many running only for a shorter period of time. The most famous of them all is the funny animal cartoon Fritz the Cat. It is about a egomaniac, pot-smoking tramp and Don Juan, who exploit his way through life. Oh... and he's a cat. Crumb had big success with the character, and there was even made an animation about him by Ralph Bakshi
In the end Crumb got tired of Fritz and let him die as he had lived. Compared to the glorious death of his predecessor, Don Juan, who got dragged to hell, Fritz's death was much more rough and modern. After having insulted a girl he is stabbed in the back by her. The prize of unchivalrously behaviour.
Mr. Natural & Lenore Goldberg
But Crumb had other interesting Characters of which Mr. Natural is probably the most loved. He is a guru charlatan that goes through the Autumn of love in an undefined, but very California-like environment, answering his followers questions about the meaning of life with pocket philosophy, scorn, and coarse practical jokes.
He resembles in many way Fritz the Cat with his cynical borderline behaviour, but crumb was also trying to get with the more political parts of the early seventies.
In the comic about Lenore Goldberg, he tries to create a female hero with all the right revolutionary attitudes. Unfortunately, as it is often seen when artists try to let political or religious ideals govern the artwork it is rather dull, until Crumb's crazy tendencies take over and Lenore, completely naked flee the police over three-four pages. She ends up in a hippie community were she leave politics to concentrate on bringing up a baby. A very Crumb.like ending to a not very Crumb-like story.
Private life and comics
When reading Crumb it is like a direct communication between the man (not the artist) Robert and you the reader. He is the exact opposite of more remote and aesthetic artists like Vladimir Nabokov (the first one that came to mind.) Crumb tells you everything, and he even let you in on his private life. Over the years there have been more and more interest in Crumb the person, and in 1994 a documentary was made.
I will end this here by recommending the cooperative work he has done with his wife through many years: Drawn together. Where the couple takes us on a very bumpy ride through a not completely normal family life.
But Robert Crumb is not to be missed... except of course if you have weak nerves or suffer from a bad PC-infection.
Earlier Episodes of this series:
I have used images from:
And then of course my own stuff