Juliane Pieper, unsere Korrespondentin in New York, hat vor wenigen Tagen Robert Crumb im Gespräch mit Francoise Mouly erlebt (siehe auch vorhergehender Beitrag). Im zweiten Beitrag ihrer Rubrik »New York Posts« berichtet sie davon.
Robert Crumb, the most prominent icon of underground comics, around since the 1960’s, was guest at Barnes & Noble bookstore at Unions Square, Manhattan on October 24, to talk about his freshly published mammoth project: “The Book of Genesis”. All 50 chapters, taken word by word from the creation to the death of Joseph, were illustrated by Crumb. He stuck to the original text because “the language is so strange and interesting, no comment or other words were needed.”
At the talk, Francoise Mouly, best known for her cartoon work at RAW, a cutting edge magazine for comic art and art director at The New Yorker, guided the evening and talked to Crumb. Crumb, a compulsive drawer, stated that drawing is his way of breathing and getting through the day. Nevertheless, he admits that the Genesis project was one he slaved on day after day because it was so huge. He worked on it for 4 years.
“We were nerds and perverts”
Mouly and Crumb talked about his youth and his brother Charles who was the one who forced Robert to draw cartoons with him. While his brother, who was also enormously talented, stopped drawing, Crumb kept on doing it. Drawing was his way to escape from his tyrannical father. When Crumb left school and was looking for a job he went to a job center. The guy behind the desk asked him what he is good at and he said t he could draw very well. The guy picked up the phone, called a greeting card company and told them: “I have this very talented kid whose drawing abilities are amazing!” He didn’t even look at Crumb’s work, but through him he got his first job where he could make a living from drawing. The way he describes the company: “There were one hundred of artists sitting in cubicles: They were all alcoholics.”
He eventually got into the underground comic scene. His way to depict things was very controversial: the drawing of a whole family having sex with each other in the living room – with even the dog joining in – was for him “a punk thing of shocking”, as he puts it: he was 21 and he wanted to break all taboos. One answer, mimicking a question from the audience: “Why is he doing the bible when he illustrates all this sex stuff? “ His answer: ”I don’t know. For the money!” A badge on the book cover says: “The first book of the Bible graphically depicted! NOTHING LEFT OUT!” You bet.
For some it might seem a long way from his underground background to the Genesis project, but it is in fact not too far apart. Moreover, the bible is a huge source for juicy, lively stories and Crumb is a born visual story-teller. His approach is not religious, it is the one of an illustrator being assigned to do the job -- respecting the source he has to deal with. But regarding the spiritual side of it, he says “The book of Genesis is too primitive to usefor spiritual guidance. And if you use that for moral guidance, you should be in trouble!”