Acid Heroes

March 3, 2014

A cartoon about cartoonist R. Crumb

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I remember when I did that strip I was trying to mimic Crumb’s drawing style. Not easy to do with my limited skills. As I studied Crumb’s stuff I marveled at his abilities. Every panel perfectly designed and executed. Every line in the exact right place. Its easy to take for granted until you actually try to draw like him. . . . And he’s an even better writer, in my opinion.

“One thing that turns me off Crumb are his occasional whines along the lines of “it’s slave labour drawing these comics,” wrote cartoonist Lee James Turnock.

Knowdja’ mean. Crumb is a kvetcher by nature. About everything. And I think part of it is because Crumb is such a naturally brilliant draftsman. You see the sketchbook stuff he dashes off, off of the top of his head and its more polished than anything I’d spend 100 years slaving over. So Crumb has a bit of chip on his shoulder that people don’t give him enough credit for how hard he works at it……  I’ve seen that too with naturally gifted superstar athletes like Michael Jordan. They always insist on pointing out how hard they worked and practiced at their craft.

“Even the stuff he just scribbles down quickly (like ‘Namby and Pamby’ in Black and White, or Mode O’ Day in Weirdo) looks professional,” wrote Turnock.   “You can tell, if you have half a brain anyway, that a genius is at work on pretty well anything he does. Whereas a schlub like me can’t even draw a decent car so I write comics that don’t often involve cars.”

Yeah. I often felt I was one of the least gifted draftsmen to ever attempt a go at cartooning. My whole drawing style (as it were) was really nothing but an attempt to hide the fact that I could barely draw. I found it difficult to draw EVERYTHING. And I was really handicapped by the fact that I didn’t really LIKE to draw. I was probably one of the few cartoonist who never kept a sketchbook.  In fact, the first comic strip I ever drew (age 20) was the first comic I ever sold. Drawing was so painful, it used to take me 3 hours just to draw a 4-panel strip.

What I DID love about cartooning was how you could communicate your thoughts. How you could package your ideas in this powerful way and have it almost explode in the reader’s head. I looked at it as a form of advertising almost.  But since I quit cartooning back in 1995 I’ve barely drawn a single cartoon or doodle since then……. Its a shame I didn’t have more drawing talent. Because I loved a lot of the other parts of the gig.

“Did you do a strip I vaguely remember from Weirdo called (something like) ‘Dipshit the Teenage Wanker’?” wrote Turnock.   “It was mostly matchstick men but it still made me laugh.”

Yeah, “Dip Shit” was mine. It was stick figures. It was just a doodle off the top of my head dashed off in about an hour. I never expected it to get published. In fact it wasnt even drawn on art paper. I drew it on an 8-and-a-half-by-11 piece of (practically transparent) typing paper that just happened to be lying around (when I look closely at the art I can still see where the ink bled on the cheap paper).  I just threw that one in with a batch of other comics that I had spent weeks pain-stakingly crafting. Of course “Dip Shit” was the one Crumb decided to run. To my annoyance. But to this day people still comment to me about that strip. So maybe Crumb was right to pick it.

I only got 4 pages in Weirdo. But I think I was one of the few people to get in there under all three regimes: when it was being edited by Crumb, Bagge and Aline. So I’m a footnote in the history of underground comics. Or perhaps a trivia answer on a future edition of Jeapordy (“Perverted Cartoonists of the 20th Century for 50 points, Alex.”).

I know what you mean when you say “Cartoons are easier to deal with than people.”  That sums up my approach exactly.

PS:   I don’t think we’ll be hearing Crumb making any more comments about “slave labor” any time soon.  His net worth is $20 million nowadays. . . . On the other hand, I just heard on the radio that Justin Bieber turned 20 today, and his net worth is $120 million.  So none of this life makes any sense.

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