By Leroy Douresseaux
October 28, 2010 - 13:13
|The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Anyone familiar with the work of R. Crumb, the famed Underground Comix creator and artist, knows him for his controversial work. Perverse, crude, cruel, nasty, vile, racist, misogynist, and just plain negative are all apt descriptions for comix by Crumb, but comic books in America would be far worse off without the work of this genius. Lovers of the comics medium know that the blunt satirist and perverse social critic who gave us wickedly funny “When the Niggers Take Over America!” is the same incredible artist who gave us the amazing “A Short History of America.”
Perhaps R. Crumb, a publicist, and/or his publisher decided it was time to show readers a less controversial, more artistic side of Crumb. So W.W. Norton & Company is publishing The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb. This combination art book, portfolio, and sketchbook offers an array of Crumb drawings that have nothing to do with the busty female revolutionaries, conniving funny animals, weird characters, and horny everyman’s that populate Crumb’s comic book and comix work. Also, the art here is in glorious black and white, the better to show off Crumb’s precision cross hatching and sumptuous, textured ink work.
The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb presents intimate portraits of Crumb’s family and friends as well as drawings of roots music figures – some obscure (Charlie Poole) and some fairly well known (B.B. King). This book offers marvelous landscapes from the French countryside and lovely still life drawings, and even eye-popping depictions of French alleyways and buildings. Many of these drawings may simply be work that Crumb did while quietly observing people or interior and exteriors scenes. There are even a few comic strip vignettes starring Robert and his daughter Sophie as a small child.
I look at The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb as a publication Norton is going to use to pad their R. Crumb catalog. Or maybe people who only know the controversial R. Crumb need a book like this. Even Crumb seems to suggest as much in his introduction to this book, an introduction that only seems partly tongue-in-cheek. As far as I’m concerned, I’m up for anything that will get more people to see R. Crumb’s comix and illustrations. If it means The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb, then, let’s have more.