Most people know Robert Crumb as that esoteric cartoonist from the ’60s who did the “Keep on Truckin’” guy. Comic nerds like myself, however, see him as the second coming of Christ. He has completed dozens of graphic novels over the years and the drawings just keep getting better. His writing is another story. Crumb’s fiction almost always falls behind his auto-bio stuff and this latest attempt at writing is no exception.
Most people know Robert Crumb as that esoteric cartoonist from the 60s who did the “Keep on Truckin’” guy. Comic nerds like myself, however, see him as the second coming of Christ. He has completed dozens of graphic novels over the years and the drawings just keep getting better. His writing is another story. Crumb’s fiction almost always falls behind his auto-bio stuff and this latest attempt at writing is no exception. The Book of Genesis is a fifty-chapter opus that chronicles, er, dozens of people over, um, thousands of years. Here are ten reasons why Crumb’s pictures surpass his words:
1. ADAM AND EVE
We start off with the most pedantic and unimaginative metaphor I’ve ever seen. Two young people in a magic kingdom enjoy all the fruits of innocence until they eat the wrong fruit and are banished from this place for good. OK Crumb, I get it. Children lose their innocence when they discover sexuality and become adults. This is a shame. Way to hammer me over the head with your lead sledgehammer of subtlety.
2. CAIN AND ABEL
Possibly an allusion to his horrible childhood (his brother committed suicide during the documentary Crumb), Robert randomly pulls in a brother who massacres his sibling and is banished from the first village ever, forever.
Again, this is in a magical world where nobody exists. So, how is it that Cain is “able” (get it?) to walk over to a new part of this world and start a village? Who did he procreate with? If masturbating can generate an entire village, I’d have created the favelas of Rio a hundred times over by now.
3. THE CHARACTERS
Jesus Christ, Robert, can you squeeze more crazy names in this thing? It’s painfully obvious Crumb has been reading a lot of Dostoevsky because he is constantly confusing the readers with crazy-named characters. Oh, Nebaloth begot Kedar and he begot Ishmael and Adbeel and Mibjam etc, etc, etc? Thank God this thing is illustrated because there is no way in Hell I could keep track of all Crumb’s absurd characters in just written form.
4. THE “GUY SAYING HIS SISTER IS HIS WIFE” THING
Crumb reveals himself as being twice as unimaginative as most writers by employing the exact same plot device, twice. At the beginning of the book, a guy named Abram pretends his wife is his sister so nobody will rape her. The head of the village starts dating her and is mortified to find out she’s taken. “Why did you not tell me she was your wife?!” he yells.
Then, about a 50 pages later, a guy named Abimelech pretends HIS wife is his sister. In classic Crumb half-assedness, the exact same thing happens and we’re left with yet another town leader saying, “How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Apparently the publisher couldn’t afford an editor.
5. SODOM AND GOMORRAH
One of the only fun parts of Crumb’s story was the annihilation of two orgy-fueled towns called Sodom and Gomorrah (the former no doubt being a shout out to sodomy). Crumb is a notorious pervert and his guilt for all this dehumanizing sex comes billowing out in a mind-blowing scene of pure carnage that makes September 11 look like a photo-op for Air Force One. This scene is a perfect example of Crumb doing what he’s good at: drawing. It actually made going back to the literary parts more depressing.
6. THE CIRCUMCISION MASSACRE
In another revealing look into Crumb’s perverted mind, we see a woman named Dinah get raped by “The son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the land.” Her brothers then dupe the entire village into getting circumcised and then chop all their heads off and rob them. What happened to this guy as a kid? His unfortunate childhood is evident on almost every page. When a man tries to murder his son as an example of how faithful he is, Crumb portrays him as a hero — yet incest is portrayed as some kind of beautiful act. Crumb’s art rivals Michelangelo but his writing comes across as a pretentious Rob Zombie with a guilt complex. Save it for your therapist, buddy. I’m getting nauseous.
7. RACISM — STRAIGHT UP
Crumb has been accused of racism in the past. He often draws blacks like cartoon Sambos and he once did a comic called “When the Niggers Take Over America.” In his old age however, Crumb’s racism is more muted but also more sinister. On page 56, all the people of the world come together and build a tower to get closer to God. Crumb punishes this act by inventing different races and languages and cultures so the people of the world can never get together again. He is so against multiculturalism, he invents a universe where nobody can understand each other and everybody looks different. Sad.
8. WAIT, HE’S HOW OLD?
Not one to keep track of how old his characters are, Crumb lends himself the crutch of semi-immortality by making some guys live for hundreds and hundreds of years. This may have helped him avoid inconsistencies with who died and whose son is whose, but it leaves the reader totally confused as to what legacy is over and what’s barely begun. Leave the immortal banter to New Moon, Grandpa.
9. NOAH’S ARK
Crumb is constantly writing himself into a corner wherein the only way out is to wipe the slate clean and start again. He uses this disadvantage as a platform to bore us all to death with warnings of environmental disaster. In one instance, he has a guy named Noah fill a boat with innocent creatures so they will survive the imminent apocalypse. In a bout of hysteria that would make Al Gore proud, he pretends the entire world was wiped out with floods and every animal outside the ark is dead.
Eddie Izzard, who apparently has also read Crumb’s work, brought up a huge hole in this part of the plot: What about ducks?
10. BIG GOVERNMENT
Despite being a crucial part of the hippie zeitgeist in San Francisco, Crumb’s allegories are nothing but an enthusiastic tip of the hat to Obama and his big government policies.
Around chapter 42, a magic guy named Joseph purports to read people’s dreams and claims the country’s headed for a terrible drought. Joseph matter-of-factly claims government’s role is to move in and seize all of the villagers’ assets so they can be doled out later in systematic portions. By the end of Crumb’s book the government is bursting with wealth as farmers beg for their own food back. In Crumb’s heavenly Never Never Land, this is seen as a good thing. Maybe Crumb thinks 13 trillion is too little and is encouraging the rest of us to “stop impeding progress” as the Obamaniacs insist. I, for one, ain’t buying it.
Robert Crumb needs to understand his role is to entertain and not beat us about the head with motherhood statements about morality. He’s a great cartoonist, possibly the greatest, but it’s time he left the writing to us writers.