In the film, Crumb, we are taken into the subconscious mind, both past and present, of Robert Crumb. He was brought up in an unhappy household with a tyrant father and a mother who abused pills while him as well as his four other siblings saw all that went on behind closed doors. Being raised in a military family can be a big strain on a kids childhood memories and cause psychological problems. When it comes to understanding what Crumb’s idea was behind his illustrations in Genesis, I believe that one can say he uses the novel and story line to express feelings about his life and family.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family, R.Crumb turned toward comics which helped him cope with his grievances growing up as child. As he states in the documentary, “words fail me, pictures are much better.” When R. Crumb was 6 years old, he was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny and would even carry around a picture of this buck-toothed rabbit in his pocket. At age 12, he developed a new fixation in which he became obsessed with the Sheena, an actress of the television series Queen of the Jungle. Once he became a shadow in high school, he chose to reject society’s conformities because they rejected him and decided he would use his talent and go down in history as a great cartoonist. His comics, such as Genesis, have become more autobiographical throughout the years and his illustrations are so realistic that they easily pull in the viewers’ attention. He touches on issues such as sex, drugs, politics, and religion and as stated by Martin Muller, “he is the Daumier of our time.” His unique style was somewhat developed during his extensive use of LSD. R.Crumb would do the unthinkable, always surprising people with his next piece of work.
When looking at Genesis, the illustrations the R.Crumb has provided I feel are not even close to being “perverted” as some of his earlier drawings. He definitely tones his style of work down by being less sexual and illustrates what the words are portraying. Genesis is in a way a replica of R. Crumb's damaged household. The illustrations succeed at showing how his psychological wounds contributed to a skill that transforms personal pain into visual mockery. In the novel R.Crumb shows through his illustrations the stories within show the families being torn apart because of anger and obsession with no protection from supreme Being. I believe he does this to show the connection between how he was treated by his father and mother and how characters throughout Genesis were treated by God. God was seen as their creator or perhaps father figure by the people but instead he harmed them, abandoned them, or even killed them. I believe that Crumb used the stories of Genesis to illustrate his life as a child and adult. He was unsupported by his peers and rejected by his own father for what societies felt was not considered right or normal. God tends to carry out the same actions by punishing people for the actions they carry out that he feels are wrongful in his eyes but okay in others.
One last subject to touch on that I thought to be interesting is the way he illustrates women in Genesis. Yes, he has hostility for women but accepts women for who they are and it tends to show in his drawings. As I said early, R.Crumb was sexually attracted to actress Sheena whose “descendants are the devouring Amazonian women portrayed in work that is often savagely misogynistic and pornographically explicit” (Holden). If we look at the women within Genesis this seems to be the way in which he illustrates the women to be as well which I believe tell us that he incorporates his desires and obsessions into his masterful artwork.
From his broken apart family to his mental disturbance as a child, R.Crumb has brilliantly been able to transform pieces of his life into well thought out comics all pertaining to past and present events.
Crumb, R. The Book of Genesis Illustrated. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009.
Crumb. Directed by Terry Zwigoff. 1994; Sony Pictures Classics.
Holden, Stephen. Anger and Obsession: The Life of Robert Crumb. New York Times, 1994.