Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy 69th Birthday, Robert Crumb!

Robert Crumb is a controversial, influential, shockingly honest, troubled, internationally known, and technically expert figure in comics. Born in Philadelphia and raised Catholic, Crumb created a number of characters with his brother Charles, including Fritz the Cat, who would feature in his later work. After learning to draw in a cute style while working for American Greetings making cards and experimenting with drugs, Crumb moved out to San Francisco and became one of the driving forces behind the underground comix scene in the 1960s.

Crumb's work often combines confession, social commentary, autobiography, and sexuality, making a huge impression on those who read it. Love or hate it, his work creates a strong response. Among his most famous creations are Mr. Natural, the "Keep on Trucking" man, the cover art for Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & The Holding Company, and Zap Comix. Fritz the Cat gained special notoriety for being featured in an X-rated film adaptation by Ralph Bakshi, but Crumb hated the movie so much that he immediately killed off the character in his comix.

became the venue where many other prominent artists, such as Spain Rodriguez and Robert Williams gained notice. Later, Crumb also created and edited another anthology named Weirdo, which became a launchpad for many alternative comix figures including Peter Bagge. Crumb also played a huge role in the beginnings of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor comics.

Crumb's works have had a massive influence on comics and graphic novels in the US, in terms of tackling difficult, adult, and taboo subject matter. He was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame in 1991. Currently, Crumb lives in the south of France with his wife and frequent collaborator Aline Kominsky-Crumb. He also sometimes publishes with his daughter, Sophie, a strong comics creator herself.

His work still creates strong responses, as seen in this recent brouhaha about attending the 2011 Graphic Festival in Sydney, Australia.

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