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R. Crumb

R. Crumb - Collecting Book Illustrators

The art of American cartoonist Robert Crumb (b. 1943) displays a distinctive style and satirical tone towards contemporary American culture. Growing up as one of five children with a physically and verbally abusive father and a mentally unstable mother, Crumb spent much time drawing as a kid. He was closest with his older brother Charles and the two often produced their own comics. In the late '50s, young Robert discovered Mad magazine and later Humbug, which introduced him to the work of Harvey Kurtzman. After graduating from high school, Crumb moved to Cleveland and found work with the American Greetings Corporation as a color separator. Within a year, he was promoted to commercial illustrator, drawing hundreds of cards for the company over the next several years.

In 1964, Crumb married Dana Morgan. After a temporary break-up with her during the next year, he began experimenting with LSD, which had a dramatic impact on his art. It was during this period that Crumb created many of his best-known characters, including Mr. Snoid, spiritual guru Mr. Natural, and oversexed African-American stereotype Angelfood McSpade. Crumb moved to San Francisco in 1967. Dana followed him there shortly after, and the two settled in Haight-Ashbury. The next year, Crumb and Dana's son Jesse was born and the first issue of Zap Comix (Zap #1) was published. The countercultural comic was filled with gratuitous sex, drugs, and violence; it sold well and marked the beginning of the underground comix era. (Shortly after the third issue of Zap was to be published, Crumb found photocopies of an earlier issue, and published it as Zap #0.) Around this time, Crumb created his famous cover art for Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills (1968), which featured several drawings of lead singer Janis Joplin.

In the early 1970s, Dana gave permission for Ralph Bakshi to use Fritz the Cat in a full-length X-rated film. Crumb, entirely dissatisfied with the project, decided to kill off Fritz the Cat, one of his most famous characters which he had created in adolescence. The hipster cat, Fritz, was murdered by an old girlfriend in his final comic book appearance. In 1978, Crumb divorced Dana and married cartoonist Aline Kominsky, with whom Crumb collaborates on many strips and comics, including Self-Loathing Comics and work published in the New York Times. A few years later, Crumb and Aline's daughter Sophie was born and around the same time, Crumb produced and edited a new comic magazine called Weirdo, which included the work of other artists. By the mid-eighties, Crumb decided to let Peter Bagge (and eventually Aline) take over as editor of Weirdo so that he could focus on his own comics.

In 1991, with suburban sprawl increasing, the Crumbs became discontent with America and, at Aline's instigation, moved the family to a small village near Sauve in southern France. Crumb's friend, Terry Zwigoff, filmed the family before they moved and the resulting documentary, "Crumb," won several major critical accolades. After moving to France, Robert and Aline collaborated on a series together called the Dirty Laundry Comics, which was published in book form in 1993. Four years later, a collection entitled The Crumb Family Comics (1998) was published, featuring work from Crumb, his wife Aline, his daughter Sophie, his son Jesse, and brothers Maxon and Charles. Crumb also collaborated with David Zane Mairowitz to create the illustrated part-comic biography Introducing Kafka (1993), one of Crumb's less sexual- and satire-oriented works. Due to its favorable reception and popularity, Introducing Kafka was republished as R. Crumb's Kafka in 2005. In 2009, after four years of work, Crumb produced The Book of Genesis, an unabridged illustrated graphic novel version of the biblical book of Genesis.

First Edition Identification

Notable and collectible books illustrated by R. Crumb

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