Friday, October 28, 2011

Crumb: Anger and Obsession

After watching the documentary Crumb, the film shows us Robert Crumb's early family life and his struggle living in a "damaged household." The documentary gives us a full understanding of Robert Crumb's childhood and upbringing. His depiction of his comic illustration of Genesis has an impact on our understanding of both his earlier work and his family. Crumb incorporates his own life experiences to his genuine interpretation of the biblical text of Genesis. In Crumb, Crumb continuously illustrates himself as someone abnormal and rejected by society which connects to his childhood problems with his father and mother. Crumb's anger towards his family and his obsession with women is obvious in his autobiographical documentary. He approaches these themes of his past through text and illustrations in Genesis.

Some may argue that Robert Crumb's influence to become an artist comes from his dysfunctional family. Crumb's father was a frustrated war veteran who was strict and violent with his children. His mother was probably "manic depressive and behaved erratically."( Basically his mother was insane and abused medication not necessarily being a good influence on children. He has two brothers Max and Charles. Both of his brothers were talented and artistic but also struggled with mental illness. The certain qualities and characteristics of Crumb's family proves the troubled upbringing.

Since he was a young child Crumb has always been "different" than the typical child. He experiences certain strange fixations in his early childhood, one of Bugs Bunny and a television character, Sheena from Queen of The Jungle. In the documentary it is revealed that he is becomes sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny and would carry around this buck-tooth rabbit. After his mother destroyed the picture of Bugs Bunny he developed a new obsession with Sheena. “I was one of those social rejects, but then, you know, a lot of people were — nothing unusual about being an outcast in high school.” ( Crumb felt rejected and alienated in high school. He always had difficulty "fitting in" with his peers in high school and considers his adolescence stage to be one of the worst periods in his life. Robert Crumb's artistic talents with cartoons derives from his past experiences which allows him to cope with his problems growing up. 

Robert Crumb's parents create a defective family environment based on their own personalities. In Genesis, God is a parent to all the characters by speaking to them and helping them create the world we live in today. Crumb's parents and God are connected in the fact that they are the leaders of their respective families but somehow create a harmful environment for their children. Robert's father beats his children and constantly acting cold with strong disapproval for his kids. God does not approve of the people when he first creates the world and decides to destroy everyone and start from scratch. God acts tyrannical in a sense that he punishes people in Genesis based on his justification even though it may be false. This is Crumb's interest in Genesis because it reminds him of his past where his father figure was not there for him to assist him in growing up but instead looked down on his children causing intense anger within the family. 

Crumb's obsession with sex and women is obvious throughout the early stages of his childhood. There seems to be a controversy on Crumb's opinion on women through Genesis and his childhood. In Genesis the women are drawn more reserved compared to illustrations from Crumb's earlier work where he draws pictures of women exceptionally sexual. He uses his vintage illustrations in Genesis specifically in regards to women with there hips and breasts. He shows an acceptance of women in his drawings but keeps his opinionated spin of his image of women.

Robert Crumb has proven to be one of the most successful cartoonists in the world. Crumb's childhood ultimately reflects on his work and his detailed genuine illustrations. Specifically in Genesis, he shows the connections between the story of the creation of the world to his childhood. His anger and obsessions are evident during his upbringing which is why he used comics to cope with his fixations. Robert Crumb's issues with his family and his sexual addiction with women allowed his graphic novel of Genesis to be an interpretation that different from what anyone has seen before. 

Crumb, R. "Crumb's 'Genesis,' A Sexy Breasts-And-Knuckles Affair : NPR."NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>.

Holden, Stephen. "Movie Review - Crumb - Anger and Obsession: The Life of Robert Crumb -" Movie Reviews, Showtimes and Trailers - Movies - New York Times - The New York Times. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>. 

 "R. Crumb's Early Family Life." The Official R. Crumb Website. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>.

"Crumb Review." CSUSM Campus Wide Information System. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>.


  1. In your first paragraph, you bring up a number of different ways in which you could connect Crumb's life with Genesis. While all of these seem perfectly legitimate to me, that's a lot to tackle in one short essay - one would have been better. The next two paragraphs then basically summarize parts of the film - again emphasizing the point that you may be trying to do more here than easily be done in one short essay.

    The final two paragraphs don't do much for me - they're taking you in even more directions, and not doing it particularly well. The real potential is in the third from last paragraph, where you try to make an explicit connection between Crumb's family and how he portrays God (and possibly other characters) in Genesis.

    This is a good, worthwhile approach, but because this is quite short, and because you're pulled in any number of directions here, you don't really focus on turning this into a functioning argument. At the very least, you needed to move on to some particular images which help you make your point: where, in other words, is Crumb *interpreting* the text using his own family background? There should be ways in which you can begin pinning it down to specific images, moments, etc.

  2. I don't know if I would agree with the comment that God necessarily acts as tyranical as Crumb's father. He does tend to punish harshly, but in many instances He provides for characters in His favor- Joseph, Abraham, Leah etc.

    "God acts tyrannical in a sense that he punishes people in Genesis based on his justification even though it may be false."

    That's a pretty big claim- I kind of wished you elaborated more on how and specifically why it would be on false terms. Expanding on your discussion of Crumb's relationship with his father, I think it would be interesting maybe if you made a connection to the father/son relationships depicted in Genesis.

  3. agreeing with Adam, I feel it would have been best to have choose one topic to work with here. The ideas are good but to be more focused on one topic I will say I feel you could have done more with 4th paragraph and elaborate with it.