Thursday, October 27, 2011


After watching the movie “Crumb” I have a completely different view on his illustrations of the bible. I now believe that he was attempting to bring the bible down from its sacred pedestal and call out some interesting circumstances that it contains.

According to the movie, Crumb was a very controversial artist. The movie shows one comic where 3 men appear to “rescue” a black woman from a jungle and bring her to the city with talks of looking sharp and classy, but she winds up being a part of a cruel joke and ends up with her head in the toilet where the men literally and metaphorically “shit all over” her. This comic is extremely offensive on multiple levels, but it is also clearly satire. There was also discussion of one of his darker comics in which a father and mother commit very disturbing acts of incest with their children and then at the end joke about needing more family time. The woman who brought up this comic discussed how some of Crumb’s comics go beyond satire and wind up in the pornography section. Crumb’s comics generally were shocking and normally rocked the boat in someway. With this in mind he decided to illustrate the bible. The bible is something that many people, believers and non-believers, respect and hold up to be a sacred item. Simply by illustrating it, Crumb in effect brings the bible down to a level that it is hardly ever seen at. Genesis becomes a part of Crumb’s work and is therefore placed in a category with these others works that are considered to be offensive and often have a morally corrupt aspect. Crumb seemed to be well aware of the stigma that his work carried and as an atheist he probably found it interesting to take the bible and overtly add the same stigma to it. Crumb not only puts a new spin on the idea of the bible as a whole, but he also takes the chance to point out a few hypocrisies that the all so “sacred” bible contains.

By literally and graphically illustrating the text of the bible, Crumb ends up pointing out things that most followers of the bible tend to ignore or look past. In his depictions of Abraham and Isaac we see Crumb pointing out cult-like tendencies. According to the story God told Abraham to kill his only son and Abraham was going to obediently obey. There is a series of panels where Abraham is tying up and placing his son on the pile of wood and then he stands menacingly over his son with a knife, ready to do the deed. Abraham has the same blank stare in all of these images. He blindly follows as God tells him with seemingly no questioning. It is as if Crumb is saying look at this, it is clearly cult behaviour. The message that is probably trying to be put across is we should obey God and he will take care of us, but contemplating killing your one and only son is pretty extreme. Is a rather drastic thing for a so-called loving God to ask for and it’s pretty cult-like behaviour for Abraham to blindly obey. Crumb clearly points this out in his images. Abraham seems to be in a trance while wielding a cleaver over his son in one panel but then in the very next he seems to be startled out of his trance as he finally begins to panic about what he is about to do. The messenger from God suddenly snaps him out of it and he simply looks up and wonders what’s wrong. The messenger tells him he doesn’t have to kill his son and that it was just a test. Crumb doesn’t depict any panic or worry until this point when Abraham is snapped out of his trance. He depicts him as suddenly being self aware and only now aware of his actions.

Crumb later makes a comical comment about how ridiculous parts of the bible are. In the story of joseph where he interprets the pharaoh’s dreams Crumb seems to be poking a bit of fun at the bible. In the dream 7 meager looking cows eat 7 healthy cows. Crumb’s depiction of the cows goes a bit past meager looking and more into the territory of zombie-cows. They are drooling and savagely eating the healthy cows. It is as if Crumb is pointing out just how ridiculous the story is. He depicts the cows as crazed zombies to exaggerate the fact.

Simply by illustrating the bible, Crumb is making a statement. He brings it down from its holy convention. He also points out some instances that, if you pay close attention, make you take a double take. There are multiple cases of deceit and immoral activity that Crumb exaggerates to call attention to them. He points out the cult-like behaviour of Abraham and the ridiculousness in one of the stories. Crumb clearly does not believe the bible to be sacred and he is clearly pointing out some interesting instances that it contains.


  1. Christy,
    I found your blog very interesting. As far as offering some critical advice, I am having a difficult time because I felt that your main points were supported well.
    If I had to offer some advice though, I would probably suggest connecting the movie to Crumb's Genesis in a more specific manner. I know you say that the movie suggests he is extremely controversial, but I feel as if you could offer more examples other than just the comic with the black woman. What I mean is that I am having a difficult time relating that specific comic to his Genesis. Maybe you could point out more specific similarities between his Genesis and things discussed in the movie.
    Aside from that, I enjoyed your cult examples and feel as if this is a well written blog!

  2. This is strong in terms of concept, and in the details of the execution. The different parts of it could have been more carefully integrated, though.

    The introduction re: Crumb's extreme offensiveness is good. You pick good examples, obviously, hitting the relevant details without overdoing it. One problematic moment, though, is when you note in passing that Crumb is an atheist. I'm not sure that he isn't, but I'm not sure that he is, either - there's nothing in either the book or the movie to give me any definite indication (he says that he doesn't believe the bible is the word of God, but that's not the same as believing he doesn't believe in God).

    The strongest reading here is your analysis of the look in Abraham's eyes. This probably could have been even further developed, but it's good material the way that it stands, too.

    The silliness of the two groups of seven cows is much less developed. I think it could work well if there was more material; I also think it could be cut entirely.

    What I would have liked to see here is a return to Crumb's radical offensiveness, with which you began. I'm not sure exactly what you want to do with it, but I do know you had a lot to say about it. Why not return to it, then, if it's important, if it's central to your conception of Crumb?

    Or, alternatively, maybe the idea of Crumb's offensiveness isn't actually all that important here; maybe what's important is strictly your analysis if his expose of the Bible as being cult-like or cult-driven at its core.

    To try to bring it all together: your argument re: Abraham is strong. Your analysis of Crumb's offensiveness is strong. But what is their relationship, really?