Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
Robert Dennis Crumb is one of the more singular artistic talents America has ever produced. His deeply weird and unfettered genius gave birth to the underground comix of the 1960s and helped to separate comic books from capes and wish-fulfillment, bringing about the field of alternative comics as we know it. His work, beloved by some, reviled by others, has had a giant impact on comics people, from writers to publishers to editors, and they've all got something to say about the man.
The style and length of these appreciations vary greatly, from Alan Moore's commentary on Crumb's impact on him as a teenager, to the Rev. Ivan Stang's vision of Crumb as trend-evading creator, to Matt Groening's relived glee as a childhood consumer of illicit cartoons. This book makes for a fine, episodic read, the perfect thing to pick up, read some essays, and put it down again for a few days. Whether you enjoy it or not depends on how much you like comics, the history of comics, general weirdness, and the reminiscences of aging hippies about the zany 60s.
Those unfamiliar with Crumb's work should probably be aware that his detractors have labeled much of it as variously depraved, racist, misogynist, and obscene. Crumb's response to such criticisms has typically been to acknowledge and apologize for his flaws. At the same time, he defends his work on the grounds artists often use to defend transgressive works — that censorship is not a good thing, and that artists need to overcome voices of repression.