By Leroy Douresseaux
October 21, 2012 - 10:55
|Drawn Together cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, has just published a new collection of comics from R. Crumb entitled Drawn Together. This new book, however, is a collection of work that Crumb produced with his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who is also a cartoonist. This hardcover includes black and white comics with some color material spanning a period of four decades.
R. Crumb (Robert Crumb) was one of the founders of the Underground Comics movement and was one of the creators of the seminal underground comic book, Zap Comix. Aline Kominsky-Crumb became an important figure in the Wimmen’s Comix collective. Beginning in the early 1970s, Robert and Aline became a team, working in partnership to produce comics and comic strips. Part autobiographical, part slice-of-life, part jam comics, and part human interest, these comics laid out the life of the Crumbs and were and still are both idiosyncratic and candid. The couples’ wicked sense of humor and their familial abuse of each other are in evidence throughout four decades of comics.
Each cartoonist depicts himself or herself. Robert draws most of the contents of each panel. Aline only draws herself into the panel, except when she appears without Robert; then, Aline draws the entire contents of those panels. Later on, daughter Sophie Crumb (b. 1981), draws herself in a few episodes. These comics were collected over the course of five comic books. There were two issues of Aline and Bob’s Dirty Laundry Comics and The Complete Dirty Laundry Comics – all published by Last Gasp. In the mid-1990s, Fantagraphics Books published more of the Crumbs’ comics in Self-Loathing Comics and Self-Loathing Comics #2. Drawn Together collects all five of these comic books.
In “Aline ’n’ Bob’s Funtime Funnies, we watch as Aline struggles to fit her art in with Robert’s and each goes on an epic adventure after being separated by a flood. “Everyday Funnies” and “The Crumb Family” are essentially running-gag strips of stand-up comedy, situation comedy, and commentary. The second issue of Aline and Bob’s Dirty Laundry Comics also introduces Sophie to the act. The Complete Dirty Laundry Comics includes the episodes that depict the Crumb’s move to Southern France, where they still live.
I think I was in my early 20s when I first read a comic drawn by R. Crumb (probably something he did with Harvey Pekar). Gradually, I got to read more of his comics, and I loved them. I think I was first exposed to Robert-Aline comics through Self-Loathing Comics, some years ago. Initially, I was not happy to see Crumb share space with his wife, although I had read and liked a collection of Aline’s solo comics (Love that Bunch). Even in the comics the Crumb’s produced together, Aline mentions that people hate to see her collaborate with Robert.
It didn’t take me long to warm up to this unique collaboration. R. and Aline aren’t the first couple of underground comics for nothing. They depict their self-centeredness with startling candor, but as comics characters, they are interesting in a way that few other underground or alternative characters are. I have never met them in person. If they are like their cartoon versions of themselves, I’d probably be horrified by them. In the privacy of the reading experience, I love to watch as they talk, work, play, ruminate, and love in a world that does indeed revolve around them.
This is a book for R. Crumb fans. This is a book for Aline Kominsky-Crumb fans. This is a book for fans of Aline and Bob’s comics. If someone is ready to enter the world of R. Crumb’s comics, however, I don’t think that Drawn Together is the best book in which to do that. For the new readers, I would suggest Fantagraphics Books’ The Complete Crumb Comics (www.fantagraphics.com) and the mind-blowing, The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb (W.W. Norton).
Still, Drawn Together, a long-rumored collection, is an essential entry in the bibliographies of the Crumbs. Eventually, it will have to be in your collection.
Rating: 8.5 /10