Master_SiteArticle284012.jpgThe Complete Crumb Comics Volume 16

Originally posted October 8, 2002. Excerpt from Cinescape.

Since 1987, Fantagraphics has been slogging through every line that R. Crumb has ever drawn; that’s when THE COMPLETE CRUMB COMICS VOLUME ONE (The Early Years of Bitter Struggle) was first published. The current volume at hand brings us up to the material that Crumb was working on at the time when Volume One was published (more or less).

The mid-’80s were for Crumb, uh, more years of valiant struggle. He and his wife were co-editing WEIRDO, nearing the end of its long run as an artistically ambitious anthology title on Last Gasp. WEIRDO was a kind of West Coast answer to Speigelman’s RAW, publishing underground and alternative veterans as well as breaking new cartoonists. Among those new cartoonists (to me anyway) was Crumb’s wife and co-editor Aline Kominsky-Crumb, with whom Robert co-authored and drew several projects in the time-honored “jam” fashion.

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10 thoughts on “The Complete Crumb Comics Volume 16

  1. Is this the same R. Crumb who was one of the original members of “The Cheap Suit Serenaders”, the swing/bigband ensemble?

  2. Still is, as far as I know. Not that they play out much these days.

    Crumb plays the banjo in that outfit; as far as I know, that band is also led by him. There were a number of other cartoonists in the band as well.

    Crumb is generally credited (more or less accurately) with inventing the whole genre of underground comics, via his writing, drawing, and publishing ZAP #1 in San Francisco in 1969.

    He’s also wel-known for the cover to a Big Brother and the Holding Company record, Cheap Thrills.

    This page,, provides a bunch of album cover art.

    That site’s probably beggin’ for a lawsuit, actually. Crumb got ripped off a bunch in the early seventies and ain’t afraid of using the lawyers, no sir.

  3. Interesting art. I haven’t had much exposure to the underground art scene. I was actually around the Bay Area in the mid/late 60’s, but a little young to appreciate any of it. Also (see blog entry Early Days, Early Ways I was a trifle sheltered from the raw hip-culture scene.

    Well, no time like the present to catch up. I know Tony Marcus (violin) from the now moribund Cheap Suits. It was he who mentioned Crumb.

  4. Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Crumb lives in fance these days and has released at least one recording from those parts.

    Crumb’s banjo may have also influenced a brilliant cartoonist of my age, Chris Ware, who shares Crumb;s enthusiasm for old-time tunes.

    I love the old time music too, but came by it honestly, via the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk music.

    I have a purty tenor banjer with an original skin sounding surface that someone in the distant past had the foresight to decorate with slighly primitive heads of Mickey and Minnie.

    here ’tis before I bought it.

  5. sweet! I kinda like the minnie and mickey. Myself, I don’t know much about the provenance of banjos. I like listening to them. Does the painting on the skin affect the playability at all?

    The Cheap Suits in their US manifestation is retired (I think. They seem to be already doing “ghost” appearances at the Freight & Salvage) I wonder if R. Crumb has his own version? Or, maybe you just can’t keep a good banjo player down.;)

    Having not heard of Chris Ware, I went and checked out some samples. I like. It is very spare, kind of sad. The Acme Novelty Library is pretty cool, what I found of it so far.

    Also not having heard of Harry Smith’s Anthology, I had to check that out as well.

    Did I say my upbringing was slightly sheltered? Also, my main music influence and training was classical music. A pity, really, as there surely is a wealth of goodness out in the world that is not classical.

  6. Wow!

    Ware’s work is earth-shakingly sad, absolutle merciless. Yet, somehow, it’s hilarious at the same time. It’s also all about Chicago.

    There’s a hardback edition of one of his long story arcs, Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid on Earth, that’s worthwhile; the comics themselves are always worth getting but can be hard to find.

    Chicago is practically a character in Corrigan, and Ware’s brilliance makes it one of the all-time greats for Chi-town in lit.

    Regarding the Anthology: put simply, it’s the single most important set of recordings released in the US in the 20th Century. No “Anthology”, no Bob Dylan; no Band, no country music the way we know it today, possibly no Elvis (well, that’s pushing it), maybe no rock ‘n; roll, probably no blues revival or interest in the delta blues at all. In short, American popular music’s direction and sense of self was redefined by the initial release of the collection, and once it came out on CD, in the mid-nineties, alternative pop changed direction again.

    It’s fantastic, like a collection of music recorded by aliens in the distant past; yet somehow you already know all the songs.

    Smith explicitly considered the collection to be a spell, or a kind of incantation. It worked.

  7. Oops, forgot.

    The tone of the banjer is not apparently affected by the drawings, although they are in old india ink and variant thicknessess of the ink are clearly visible to the naked eye.

    If anything, the tone is most strongly affected by the fact that the head is of real hide; it’s amazing that it retains any elasticity or bounce this long after it was stretched, presumably in the 1920’s. It’s a softer, warmer tone than an artificial head gives; but that may be also result from the wooden sound ring.

  8. That the head should still be flexible, playable no less is quite remarkable. The parchment ought to be completely dried out by now. Usually with time and playing, the parchment will become so brittle, that it breaks. I suppose it is the same kind of thing as gut strings for the violin.

    I wonder if having it in a very damp climate helps keeping it from losing its elasticity?

  9. That’s a possibilty. The sound ring has opened up a bit over time – it’s not as clear a change in the wood as you get with a fiddle, but as you know, 70 years is about when the wood begins to mature for that kind of instrument (underlying some of the absurd prices for Loar Gibson mandos) – but instead of just thumpin’ it kindof goes “bong” if you tap it.

    I have no idea how the hide stayed good. The V-neck (back side of the neck comes to a V rather than a rounded surfcase as we expect in contemporary intruments) and the brightly yellowed, presumably celluloid Bacon logo plus the mice make me think it’s 20’s or earlier.

    t has a vey warm mellow tone but not much volume and the sustain falls off but quick – I suspect that’s a function of he parchment.

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