Two people who will not do things any more: Robert Crumb and Alan Moore

From various sources, great artists who like to do things their way, and have earned the right to do so.

§ RIch Johnston watches an Alan Moore video in order to report that the Damon Albarn/Gorillaz/Moore opera about John Dee is never going to happen. BOO, hiss!

Alan Moore describes the situation above as “It didn’t work out, shall we say” – he puts it down to Gorillaz not completing reciprocal pages for Dodgem Logic and Moore’s role on the project expanding beyond his original committment. What he created will instead be appearing in the next long-awaited volume of  Strange Attractor Journal. As Moore quotes from TV game show Bullseye “let’s see what you could have won.”


GIven that Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and Alan Moore are all pretty difficult to work with, file this under “we should never have hoped.”

§ The Awl reports that R. Crumb isn’t working for The New Yorker any more after a cover idea was rejected:

I was asked by one of the art editors, Françoise Mouly, Art Spiegelman’s wife, to submit both covers and comic strips to them. I don’t remember how it came about that all the strips ended up being collaborations with Aline. I guess maybe, probably, it was that I didn’t feel comfortable doing solo strips for The New Yorker because of all the obvious restrictions and limitations–no explicit sex, etcetera–but, hell, the pay was good, and it’s easy to do those strips with Aline without feeling too terribly confined. But I began to feel compromised after an editor there rejected a cover I did for them and would give me no explanation, and so I’m through working for The New Yorker. I refuse to work for anyone under those circumstances, no matter how much they pay. I saw what that did to Harvey Kurtzman’s confidence as an artist, and resolved when I was still in my twenties to never let myself get into a trap like that.


Without knowing the full story, we can understand a commercial need to fine tune a cover — that’s what corporations do — but just blanking one of the great artists of the past 100 years? Kinda lame, people.

chapter 30 Two people who will not do things any more: Robert Crumb and Alan Moore

On the plus side, a Crumb exhibit of his art for GENESIS just opened at the Portland Museum of Art! Patrick Rosenkranz went and took pictures and all. There was even free booze at the opening!

Of course I was totally blown away by his superb draftsmanship and mastery of human anatomy, animals, landscapes, and architecture. I bought and read the book when it came out, but that crisp black ink on white art boards looked so much more precise than their reproduction onto printed pages. Even the crosshatching and shadowing was revealed in all its convoluted entirety.

On the downer side, Tom Crippen is peeved that Crumb thought that Charles Schulz and Jules Ffeiffer’s art was “not much to look at” compared to Jack Davis or Wally Wood. A hullabaloo ensues in comments. Admittedly when we first heard this, we thought Crumb had actually dissed other cartoonists — but anyone who thinks the genius Charles Schulz drew in the same way Wally Wood did needs to get his head examined.

Aside: Great artists in many media often put down other great artists who are their contemporaries. Often it’s a competition thing, or jealousy, or someone stole someone’s girl or whatever. When you are in the heat of the passion of creation sometimes you need to stay focused on making your own art your own way and reject other equally valid (from an observer’s viewpoint) paths. Our further observation is that when great artists mature and have their own place established, i.e. “lose their edge,” they often admit that, yes, The Beatles were great.

Anyway this isn’t one of those times. Tell it, R.!

UPDATE: Wait, Scott Edelman is also mad at R. Crumb!

But that wasn’t what so horrified me I felt compelled to set the issue down and come tell you about it. No, what disturbed me was one of the things Crumb had to say in answer to a question about which art supplies he uses. His response caused smoke to erupt from my ears and nostrils, and I had to stop and vent.

When asked what kind of paper he used, Crumb said:

Well, I use the old Strathmore vellum surface paper, which is the best paper you can get in the Western world for ink line drawing. It has a good, hard surface. I have it mailed from the New York Central Art Supply in New York. For a while I was using this old Strathmore paper from fifty years ago that some guy sent me, it had bad comic art on one side, hacked-out comic work from 1959, 1960, but the paper is superior to anything you can get now. It just holds the ink better. I ran out of that and now I use this new stuff that’s not quite as good.


What do you think? Is one scribble from Crumb the worth of 100 hack cartoonists?

Comments

  1. Al™ says:

    Sometimes my brain starts to daydream and wander, when I start to read about artists not wanting to do “such and such”.

    What it really wants to ask, after an appropriately polite pause, is “ok, so what WILL you do that we could purchase from you to support you?”

  2. I’d be interested in knowing what the artwork was on the other side of the 50-year old Strathmore that Crumb was using.

  3. Right on R. Crumb for being cranky and categorical and not trying to get along. Dude just gave us a mindblowing personal version of one of Western civ’s foundational documents. Given this, I can live with not seeing future New Yorker strips from him and his weird Pete Poplaski-inspired opinions about Feiffer and Schulz.

  4. Synsidar says:

    Perhaps it’s my age and my editorial orientation — but if someone is going to submit material to an editor, he has to meet whatever requirements there might be. Nobody is such a genius that whatever he produces should be regarded as a gift from God. A rejection isn’t a deliberate insult to the artist’s intellect.

    SRS

  5. What was the deal with R. Crumb either lifting or redoing some sort of SUPER DUCK story in (I think) MYSTIC FUNNIES #3? I looked around on the net and couldn’t get a sense of what the story behind that story was. I saw the art long ago and thought it looked like Crumb had simply taken the original Al Fagaly art and inserted new dialogue, but I’ve never seen a writeup on the subject.

    *If* Crumb did lift some other artist’s artwork, that would bug me more than his drawing on the back of original art. Anyone know fer sure?

  6. OK, just after writing that I found a reference on TOONOPEDIA that seems to say it was Crumb’s imitation of Fagaly.

  7. Gary Leach says:

    Gee, Tom Crippen goes off about the perfectly valid personal opinions of R. Crumb about some of his fellow comics artists? Was it that Crumb dared to voice his opinions, or that he dared to even have them?

  8. “if someone is going to submit material to an editor, he has to meet whatever requirements there might be.”

    I agree, but at the same time, if it’s true that they rejected some of his work without giving any explanation as to why, I could see why that would irk someone enough to quit.

    I don’t know. I’m sure there’s lots of details behind this that we’ll never know.

  9. Crippen’s hardly one to talk about unjustified disses. At least Crumb’s opinion may have been just an odd but honest opinion. But what did it mean in Crippen’s MEN OF TOMORROW review for THE JOURNAL when he referred to WONDER WOMAN creator William Marston as “lumpish?” That the man himself looked like a lump? That his feministphilosophy had lumps in it?

    In his post Crippen also seems to think Harold Bloom should be his ally in the “simplicity vs. complexity” war. Given Bloom’s own dissing of JK Rowling, I don’t think so, Tom.

  10. Steve Weiner says:

    I agree with the comment that if Crumb is going to reimagine Genesis then I’ll forgo the New Yorker covers if that’s the price.

    I happen to be partial to Feiffer & find Schulz agreeable, but I’m for Crumb speaking up! Sometimes it seems like among comics professionals its just one big group hug.

  11. Regarding Crum reusing old art paper: I remember reading in the intro to some For Better or For Worse collection that Charles Schulz had sent Lynn Johnston a bunch of old paper that he’d used to draw Peanuts strips, and she was using the flip side to draw her early For Better or For Worse strips.

  12. Crumb using the back of other artists’ work?! Now we finally know what happened to the original art from Fantastic Four #1!

  13. michael says:

    Ah, the crazy old men, make comic book headlines again!! :)

  14. “Perhaps it’s my age and my editorial orientation — but if someone is going to submit material to an editor, he has to meet whatever requirements there might be.”

    Of course, but the editor has to explain what those requirements are. Crumb wasn’t upset at the rejection, but with the lack of any explanation or feedback. Heck *I* wouldn’t want to work with an editor like that, and I’m nobody.

    As for the “not much to look at” comment, I think Crumb has a valid point. Without Schulz’s writing, his art would be just… nice. That was the key to this strip’s brilliance: simple and appealing art combined with writing that was both funny and profound.

  15. “Great artists in many media often put down other great artists who are their contemporaries. Often it’s a competition thing, or jealousy, or someone stole someone’s girl or whatever. “

    Why aren’t they allowed to simply not like something or someone?

  16. What people might fail to consider is that this same artwork which was rejected by the goofballs at the New Yorker, can easily be sold on the open market to the highest bidder
    where Robert Crumb could probably get more money for the original art compared to the price that the new yorker was willing to pay him for it as cover art.
    Can’t feel sorry for Crumb.

  17. We’ll never know the full story but I wonder if Crumb asked the editor for an explanation.

  18. “We’ll never know the full story but I wonder if Crumb asked the editor for an explanation.”

    Who cares if Crumb asked? He makes it clear in the interview (and it’s clear to anyone that knows much about him) that he decided fairly early on in his life as an artist that he would never compromise. He has repeatedly made “career decisions” that seem self-sabotaging–he turned down an offer to draw a cover for a Rolling Stones album because he didn’t like their music, for example. Now he’s sitting pretty–his originals sell for a lot of money and his latest book was a best-seller. But there were periods when he was poor (most of the 70s)–and in part, it was because he was unwilling to “sell out.”

    Few artists are willing to go there. I mainly admire Crumb because I consider him one of the all-time great comics creators–a a master whose work has been a continuous revelation for me. But I also admire his uncompromising nature.

  19. I think Crumb is okay, but I feel like people are getting mad at him for having an opinion.

    If he said that about Liefeld, nobody would care. It’s not about whether artists “should” criticize one another. It’s about people getting mad that somebody that they like (Crumb) has the audacity to publicly not love somebody else that they like (Schulz).

    I think that it’s just comics’ smallness talking. Everybody is supposed to “play nice,” “or else!” I think it’s a dangerous position to assume that cartoonists–no matter how great they are–must be protected with reverence and deference at all times.

    A lot of cartoonists severely dislike other cartoonists but aren’t in the lofty position of “one of the greatest cartoonists ever” that they can publicly speak their minds. It seems that even Crumb can’t!

  20. Robert-

    It does matter if Crumb asked why the editor killed the cover. If he didn’t that means he’s reacting to something he doesn’t know the answer too.

    He has work for the New Yorker for years and it’s no secret that they have editors (every magazine does). If he wants to work for them then it’s no surprise that there will be times when things like this happen.

    If he doesn’t want to work for them I can understand but what I don’t get is going into it knowing the situation and then being upset when it doesn’t go your way.

    Having said that I respect Crumb and think he’s a great artist. Overall I’d rather see him work on personal projects than do work for magazines.

  21. “If he wants to work for them then it’s no surprise that there will be times when things like this happen.”

    But as he said in the interview, he decided as a very young man that whenever this happened to him, he would walk rather than take it, as his idol, Harvey Kurtzman, did. And that’s what he did. I’m not suggesting that every artist be this uncompromising, but I’m glad Crumb is.

  22. What’s this? Does The Beat mean to tell me that there is a comics artist out there who is willing to exercise his or her individual taste in who to work for, or who to praise?

    This is obviously an unacceptable situation, because having an individual taste, and exercising one’s prerogative to work with whom one chooses (and for whatever reason one chooses), is apparently looked down upon in comics. Clearly we must delve into this further! Viewpoints may threaten to become too diverse. Comics editors may be forced to think twice about how they deal with artists. Whatever will we do about this??

  23. Just because someone holds the title ‘editor’ it doesn’t mean he/she has superior artistic judgment over the artist. It may mean he/she knows what corporate line the magazine follows but that’s an entirely different thing.

    I’m proud of Crumb for sticking to his artistic integrity no matter what. He just can’t be bought. Hallelujah.

  24. Cksunar says:

    I think, Crumb always interested in the literary and emotional side of Schultz and Feiffer’s works and tried to put that forward when he had talked to Poplaski for the “RC Hand Book”. In a recent interview with Paris Review he pointed out;

    “Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy was one of my favorites, because it was really easy to read. I liked Peanuts for a while in the late fifties through to the early sixties. It was a well-written strip, a literary strip, the drawing was minimal. In my late teens, I got into Jules Feiffer. He did one of the first personal and psychological, adult comics. I found that inspiring. There was neurotic introspection in those strips.”

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