Comics / Comics News

Norton Begins R. Crumb "Genesis" Roll Out

By Leroy Douresseaux
July 23, 2009 - 14:21


ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4; hard cover
224pp, B&W, $24.95, $31.00 CAN

In October of this year, W.W. Norton & Company is scheduled to publish R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated.  This 200+ page book is a comic book adaptation of the first book of the Bible.  Norton is also the book trade distributor for Fantagraphics Books, the company that has published most of the R. Crumb books that have entered the market for the better part of the last three decades.

I remember reading about Norton’s announcement that it had obtained the publication rights to a Crumb Bible project a few years ago (probably at Tom Spurgeon’s The Comics Reporter).  I remember at the time not really being interested in whatever the finally book would be.  A few weeks ago, Norton began sending out a press kit for the book, which included a press release and an eight-page, 8.5” x 11” booklet containing 10 pages of this Biblical graphic novel.

The chapters previewed include portions of Chapters 1-3, 8, 19, 25, 34, 39, and 50.  The press release declares, “…Crumb has immersed himself in the first book of the Bible, stripping it of the theological and scholarly interpretations that often obscured its most dramatic stories, and illustrating it with the vigorous and raw energy for which he is famous.”

I can’t speak for stripping of interpretations, but I can testify, from what I’ve seen in this preview, that Crumb has more than illustrated Genesis with “vigorous and raw energy.”  In fact, the word “illustrate” does not do justice to what is powerful comics storytelling.  This is indeed comics, complete with splash pages, captions, and word balloons.  I’ve always believed that putting the Bible in comic book form could, if done by a skillful comics creator, be a mesmerizing, compelling work.  Crumb is a master, and what this book previews is indeed gripping.

Crumb’s cartoony drawing style – quirky compositions embellished by meticulous, ornate inking – belies its ability to convey the trappings of any genre.  In fact, Crumb’s ability to draw real life comics and stories involving history or historical storytelling surpasses the majority of comic book artists who’ve ever worked in the medium and is as good as the best.

Scenes like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Chapter 19) and the rampage of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi (Chapter 34), Crumb presents in a straightforward manner that does not fail to convey the fearsome process of both divine and earthly wrath.  Yet Crumb also deftly captures both the bestial lust of Potiphar’s wife and the opulence of her surroundings (Chapter 39).  Yes, I’m certainly looking forward to The Book of Genesis Illustrated.  Praise the Lord, indeed!

I used “The New Oxford Annotated Bible” for reference.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated cover image






















The Book of Genesis Illustrated, Page 1 - When God began to create Heaven and Earth...





















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