All Things Crumb Related.

I discovered Robert Crumb’s cartoons in the early 70’s after researching various cartoon collections and other anthologies related to cartoons and cartooning in general. When I first saw Robert’s work, I was intrigued by his attention to detail which was simple yet intricate in that it made his characters that much more appealing to the eye. It wasn’t so much as who drew the work as opposed to how they were illustrated. My first actual impression of his work lead me to believe it was created back in the 30’s or 40’s but that’s a testament to his Bactual style and technique.

I rarely try to dissect an artist’s work but his cartoons are so unique and distinctive and recognizable that I quickly began to read all of his comic strips and collections. In the world of underground cartoonists, he is truly revered. Those of us who are true aficionados can attest that he’s a master craftsman and it’s obvious he loves to draw and enjoys the actual creative process. Those of us who are creative can see this in Robert’s work. The cross hatching, the perspective and so on.


Another aspect I like about his work is the fact he has the freedom to step out of the box to express his opinions and ideas. He isn’t limited or restricted by a syndicate or the opinions rendered by those editors who are contracted with a syndicate. Some may assume he has a darker side when looking at his work but I don’t believe this. Simply put, Crumb possesses the ability to draw and illustrate the ideas that come to mind which many people cannot express but would like to. That’s the only difference. If Robert wanted to embrace commercialism to it’s fullest, he could easily do so, by licensing his characters for use on any product imaginable . . . he really isn’t concerned with licensing – only creativity. I think this is what truly sets him apart from the rest of the cartooning world. As of this writing, he’s undertaking one of his biggest projects and illustrating the Book Of Genesis.


It ought to be interesting to say the least. I recall as a teenage sprout when I ordered a copy of a comic called Arcade – The Comics Revue. I sent my money order out to the publisher in California and eagerly awaited my copy to arrive. I watched for the mailman to deliver it so my folks wouldn’t know what was in the plain brown envelope . . . the cartoons within were so “dirty”, bad and scandalous! Ah yes, my official introduction to the world of adult cartoons. Reading all the bizarre stories and absorbing the different drawing styles still left an indelible impression on my young mind – it was and is truly unique stuff.


A far cry from the monotonous comic strips in the newspaper where little cute kids or animals or married couples were stuck in tiny small panels with word balloons containing the same repetitive, boring writing. I do recommend any aspiring artist or cartoonist to study the work of Crumb for one simple reason . . . to basically understand what real creativity is. He can implement perspective into small panels of work and those cartoons stand out well. His pen & ink shading is very distinctive. Even as I began experimenting with different types of pen tips, I quickly saw Crumb was using Hunt Crowquills to ink many of his earliest cartoons and comics. It’s a difficult tool to get used to because the tip is very sharp and sticks into the paper if you’re not careful. Keep in mind, Crumb produced reams of work with this utensil, so needless to say, I was impressed.

Last I heard, Crumb’s weapon of choice is now the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph which is a cartridge ink pen that I also highly recommend. It was the tool he drew with, that I noticed in his documentary entitled ‘Crumb” which was produced by Terry Zwigoff back in 1994 so I know he’s used this device for well over 10 years now…and probably other kinds of implements. I still have that copy of Arcade and years ago I had air mailed it to Robert at his studio in France, asking he’d signed the book for me which he did. Crumb’s original artwork is in demand and has been exhibited at very well known art galleries around the globe.
For collectors, they are considered a unique piece to possess and many of his older works are priced very high. As cartoonists go, I can say he is a favorite of mine whose work I enjoy and look forward to. If you are an aspiring artist or cartoonist, give Robert Crumb some of your time to absorb as it is some of the best cartoon work you’ll see.