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Crumb, Robert


CRUMB, ROBERT (1943– ), U.S. cartoonist. Born in Philadelphia, Crumb began his art career by drawing greeting cards in Cleveland. He soon began to work with Harvey *Kurtzman, creator of Mad magazine, on his post-Mad humor magazine, Help! When that magazine folded, Crumb moved in 1967 to San Francisco, where he drew comics for underground newspapers. In 1968, with his first wife, Dana, Crumb hawked copies of the first issue of Zap Comix from a baby carriage in the hippie Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Crumb's comics mixed a nostalgia for comics' rich history with a psychedelic exuberance. Crumb became known as the godfather of underground comics when he created the characters Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat and introduced the catchphrase "Keep on truckin'," which struck a note in the collective hip unconscious. Images of the characters and their odd mode of ambulating were made into merchandise, mostly without permission.

Crumb, who is credited with single-handedly creating the underground comic-book industry, acknowledged having taken lsd and other drugs in the 1960s and 1970s when he produced what he says is his best known work: the "Keep on truckin'" graphic, which continues to be seen on mud flaps; his cover for the album Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin); and Fritz the Cat, who became the star of a full-length animated cartoon made by Ralph *Bakshi. Crumb hated the film.

In 1971, Crumb married Aline Kominsky (1949– ). Kominsky-Crumb became known for her very personal comics, which look at life as a humiliating, dehumanizing experience. Her work generally focuses on the plight of a naïve heroine who believes in romance and in the infinite possibility of the world to be a perfect place. The Crumbs moved to Sauve, a small village in the south of France, in 1990. The film Crumb, a dark portrait of the cartoonist and his family, directed by Terry Zwigoff, won the top prize for documentaries at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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