Regardless of the nature of Robert Crumb’s prior works, he presents a faithful rendition of the Book of Genesis, carried out in a manner which illustrates the Book of Genesis into images which are revealing, as well as brutally honest. With any visual medium, artistic presence is inevitable, if not expected, and is seen through the book’s interpretation of God’s will and the duality of his nature regarding the humans he had created.
Throughout the first few chapters, Crumb remains relatively within the lines of the biblical representation of Genesis, not taking artistic liberties concerning the construction of the novels message. However, as the novel progresses it can be seen through the scenes involving the great flood, Crumb takes an interesting stance on the meaning and interpretation of God’s judgement on earth. Even following the Book of Genesis as the source, how would anyone truly know this stance without postulating hypotheticals? So it is in these scenes which he develops a certain tone about his own investigation of the underlying biblical meaning of God’s demeanor.
One facet presents a beautiful harshness regarding the human race, imperfect from his first prototypes when Adam and Eve betray his ultimatum regarding the tree of life in the garden of eden. His growing dissent is evident early from Cain’s exile, but continues to manifest as he oversees the evils capable from man as they began to populate the face of the earth. God’s wrath seems to reach its peak with his regret of mans creation and decision to eliminate man from the world with the coming of the great flood. Focusing on only this first exposure, God is seen to be a vengeful deity capable of mankind's destruction, with little allusion to mercy or forgiveness. However distraught God was from the vile actions of man, perhaps he sought to preserve his work including the animals and man who was formed from his own image. With mankind’s destruction imminent, the formation of the covenant with Noah shows the second facet of God’s demeanor, one of mercy and passion. He wishes to preserve justice and godliness on earth, but cannot allow the hedonistic tendencies and sin of the general mankind to course through the earth.
The tone of the flood scenes has two sides in nature representing the duality of God, one of brutalistic wrath and justice, as well as forgiving and merciful. God took an active role in creating the crisis of mankind, and then subsequently works to undo the problem he has created by means of an extinction. The crux of the flood scenes occurs when God shows compassion in the peak of his rage by reaching out and warning Noah of the coming flood. Faithfully following the articulated instructions of God, he prepares for the flood with the construction of his ark and collection of male and female animal couples. When the flood ascends and it begins to rain for forty days and nights, God’s wrath is highlighted in the brutal fashion of numerous illustrated corpses floating to the surface of earth’s abyss. When the floods descend, like the waning tides, God’s humanistic side is again shown in his interactions with Noah. God honors his covenant with Noah and his family, and shows that the flood was a necessary punishment for mankind’s sin and wickedness, but blesses Noah righteous ways and those who obey God’s laws.
Noah functions as God’s instrument to save animal life on earth, but is illustrated by Crumb to show features of simple mindedness and confusion rather than sacrificial, or that of a martyr. Crumb intentionally represents Noah as a weathered man with a slight hunch and a facial expression which seems permanently frozen in dumbfounded shock while interacting with God. In this sense, Crumb has created a holy archetype out of a mortal with imperfections, and shows that God has not completely given up on the human race by entrusting this task to one of his subjects that was born out of the world of man’s chaos.