Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Odds and Ends" by R. Crumb

This collection of odds and ends, is exactly what it claims to be. A book filled with odds and ends from one of the most prolific, and influential, artists of the comic book genre. His characters are more plentiful than all of O. Henry's rouques, combined with all of the minions ever dreamt up by Damon Runyon. That is saying quite a lot, but it is true.

From the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers to the antics of Mr. Natural, Robert Crumb entertained an entire generation during the 1960's and early 1970's with Zap Comics. Those were some of the edgiest comics ever seen.

But what happened to those pieces that never made it to print? Like Hollywood, often the best bits are left on the cutting room floor, or in the case of Mr. Crumb, in the wastebasket. This book is like going through his outtakes. And what a journey it is!

There are portraits of blues artists such as Memphis Minnie, Robert Johnson, The North Carolina Ramblers and many others. There are also invitations, like the one to the 1999 celebration of Jesse Crumb and Erica Detlefsen's "Fifteen Year Thing Together." (They didn't know what else to call it.)

There are portraits of George Jones, weird machines grinding meat, there is even a section titled "R.Crumb's Early Weirdo Period 1981-85." That kind of threw me a bit, as I have always considered his work to be slightly off center, that's what makes it so enjoyable. If I wanted normal I'd read "Batman", not that a caped man with a young boy speeding out of a cave in a Batmobile is any less strange, but it is an "accepted" norm of the genre.

One of the funniest sections in this collection is composed of illustrations with captions we have all heard spoken in movies, or cheap novels. "He couldn't get a piece of ass in a whorehouse with a fistful of fifty dollar bills", is a line I have actually heard spoken aboard ship concerning a fellow shipmate. The illustration of this line, provided by Mr. Crumb, actually had me in tears of laughter. The same is true of his illustration of a "Belt Buckle Polisher", which is an expression I have heard used to describe people who dance seductively in public, holding one another close and grinding their loins against one another.

Filled with illustrations of street scenes and various character studies, this book will have you turning pages faster than the leaves falling from the trees in November. Though some of the art is from the 1990's, indeed a good bit of the book is composed of his post 1970's work, the style and wit are all intact. It was interesting to find this in the Library, and just one more example of why I love the Library so much. It's kind of like "Alice's Restaurant", you know, "You can get anything you want..."

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