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Robert Crumb: Mixtures of Revolting and Appealing in a Unique Individual and Life

The funny thing about Robert Crumb  is that I have never actually seen one of his cartoons “in the wild” — perhaps I have at some point but it didn’t make an impression.  In fact, although I deeply respect Crumb’s artistic talent and dedication, his drawings and style don’t appeal to me in a strong way … perhaps maybe in a prurient way only (I will admit).

However, over the last several years I’ve become aware of the controversy about Robert Crumb’s life and artistry and the films that have been made about these.  Before seeing the 1987 BBC documentary on Robert Crumb, I had the impression that he must be some horrible misogynist monster (to elicit so much sustained spleen); however, after watching the documentary I find myself liking Crumb.  His complexities and quirks — as a person, as a man, as a cultural witness, etc. — seem familiar, even typical.  The difference with Crumb is that he reveals all in his public art — he is the proverbial open book with filter off.  Perhaps he is a bit of the insensitive but brilliant engineer-type as well (with a spot of Asperber’s Syndrome) — social filters off but smart enough to realize it.