In the film Crumb, we are able to get a good insight into his early childhood and life with his family. Being an navy brat and raised as a catholic myself, I can certainly share some insight as to how things can be a little "crazy" growing up. It is very easy to lose oneself in the bible when trying to escape from a chaotic world, but the words of the lord can take you in one of two directions: the person reading them can let the scripture define their live, or the person can apply their own meaning to the bible and develop a whole new interpretation completely. This can certainly be applied to Crumb's work with The Book of Genesis, but the true "inspiration" for Robert Crumb's works can be seen when delving further into his home life and his childhood.
One thing that can lead to developing some sort of neurosis is a constant "broken household" that does the complete opposite of nurture creativity. From personal experience, while living in a strict, military household, stepping outside the line and developing new ideas and ways of thinking is not always a good thing. One is pressured into the book. This means two things. Children are pressured into a general book of rules that can include: a relentless and tight schedule, impeccable cleanliness, following direct orders, and above all, demonstrating a profound respect for superiors. The other book that children in the army have to live their lives by, of course, is the bible. While public school may be tolerated in a more "lax" army society (as was in my case), strict studying of the bible and its lessons happened every Sunday...all day. With Crumb's strict military lifestyle coupled with a mother's drug problems could certainly lead to a need to break free from a life of perfectly made beds and suppressed thinking that some level of neurosis can eventually develop. For Crumb's case, he and his brothers took solace in drawing comics. As the years progressed, the more and more disturbing the subject matter of their comics became. Not only were there images that exemplify an extreme hatred of women, but the violent images that progressed over time were a direct link to the rapid mental decline of the Crumb brothers.
Another aspect of Robert Crumb's childhood aside from the strict upbringing and the eventual usage of LSD that can cause neurosis which can later be seen in his works is the abuse. As a form of suppression and keeping people in line, members of the military can use verbal abuse to make sure that orders are strictly followed. The verbal and physical abuse that Crumb experienced and witnessed as a child is certainly not something that lends to maintaining a good outlook on life and sanity in general. This is yet another way that Crumb's creativity and artistic abilities had to grow and flourish on the "down-low" with his siblings. I wanted to be an art major, but my father told me that, "drawing pictures for a living is for hippies" and he would not pay for an education that would "eventually lead to me doing drugs and eventually dropping out of school anyway". Seeing as how Crumb's father was just about as nurturing as mine, it is easy to see how and why he rebelled and went the direction that he did. In the film, Crumb talks about his father's disappointment for not having a strong, successful son. All three boys of the Crumb family were nerdy and awkward to a degree, and had no interest in playing football or joining the military. Robert and his brothers came together and nurtured their creativity by creating their own little publishing company withing the home. While his siblings deteriorated a little more quickly, Robert, much to the chagrin of his father, was eventually able to gain success through his artwork.
The Book of Genesis is a production of Crumb's fractured home life. The illustrations throughout the book definitely lend to a life of suppression and abuse. Interpreting the bible in a visibly violent manner is a demonstration of how Crumb feels that although he grew up learning Catholicism and its lessons, they did not protect them like they promised. God is often portrayed as a father figure, and men and women are His children. The Old Testament is the part of the bible that shows God's authority over humanity and His vengeance against sinners. Each time a human being is sentenced to death by God for breaking his holy laws, the image is depicted in an extremely bloody way. In chapter 38, as a part of the story of Joseph, God put Er, Judah's, son of Joseph, son to death based merely on the fact that he was evil in the eyes of the Lord. The images that follow are of a man slain on the ground, bleeding profusely as a man with a blade skulks away in the background. On the same page, Onan, also son of Judah is put to death by God. This time, the panel displays a man's head being smashed in with a rock. God's punishments throughout Genesis could possibly be construed as a father punishing his children, or perhaps, something that Crumb himself witnessed as he was growing up. In the film, Crumb, Charles details how their mother and father would fight as a result of the drugs, and the extent of the physical damage that occurred. At one point, Charles compared his father's face to hamburger meat. Many of the images of man in this book depicts them as physically harmed, downtrodden and defeated after God has dealt with them. These images are certainly childhood experiences that Robert Crumb transferred from his mind to pen and paper.
The images and the interpretation of the lord's text in Crumb's Book of Genesis is a direct result of the treatment from his mother and father during his childhood. While many signs point to having developed a slight neurosis over the years from not only his upbringing, but his later experience with drugs and alcohol, this work from Crumb is definitely a protest to an early life of suppression and strict rules. With the lessons of the bible failing to comfort a young Crumb, a visual interpretation is an easy way to rebel from the years of Catholic school where he was treated as an outcast and gained nothing. While I may not have had a physically abusive childhood, and my mother is mentally sound, I can definitely relate to Crumb and his early life. My older sister and I managed to avoid a life of drugs and becoming a "god-forsaken" hippy, as our parents so eloquently put, but we managed to rebel in our own subtle ways. As every military child who never got to nurture their dreams at a young age would agree, and as Crumb certainly experienced, you may go a little crazy, but you eventually find a way to stick it to your parents