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The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb

The story of Paramount Records is a fascinating one—the beginning is set about 100 years ago, in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players, which in their early years were indeed whoppin’ big ol’ pieces of furniture. The middle sees that furniture company curating and releasing a jaw-dropping and still legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The end of the story sees the closing of the company and disgruntled employees flinging those now priceless shellac records into the Milwaukee River and melting down the metal masters for scrap. The whole story can be found in greater detail online, or in the books Paramount’s Rise and Fall and Do Not Sell At Any Price.

What concerns us here are the label’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency. The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb. Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads. Where the ad copy is adequately readable, I encourage you to give it a look, because some of this stuff is priceless—I’m wondering how many old blues songs weren’t about wangs and adultery. Bear in mind, please, that the ads I chose to post here weren’t necessarily selected for resemblance to Crumb’s work. Some I simply felt like sharing because they were just too much!




More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Crumb’ director Terry Zwigoff’s first film, ‘Louie Bluie’

movie poster
Detail from Robert Crumb’s poster for ‘Louie Bluie’
Before I even knew who R. Crumb was, I was obsessed with Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World (I know, I know, I’m in my 20s, give me a break). As per a lot of weirdo girls my age, I read the book and watched the movie religiously, eventually looking into director Terry Zwigoff’s more famous work, his documentary Crumb, which was buttressed again by my interest in comics, and my love of Zwigoff’s tone.

The root of Crumb and Zwigoff’s friendship was actually their shared love of Americana and roots music—Zwigoff played in Crumb’s string band, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders—so it makes sense that Zwigoff’s first project was a documentary on Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, country blues fiddler, folk artist and expert story-teller.

The movie is an absolute gem, and Armstrong’s story and music, along with Zwigoff’s genuine love of the music, really shines through.

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Robert Crumb talks Paris museum show, new interactive animation
03:56 pm


Robert Crumb

Dangerous Minds pal—and man about town in Los Angeles, New York and Paris—Michael Kurcfeld has just posted a new interview with Robert Crumb on the occasion of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris retrospective of his work. The show is on view until August 19.

You get to catch a peek of “Chichi Biguine,” the delightful Max Fleischer-esque interactive piece Crumb made in collaboration with Frederic Durieu, starring his “Mr. Natural” and “Angelfood McSpade” characters. Interestingly, Crumb also addresses criticism that “Angelfood McSpade” is a racist stereotype.

Via The Los Angeles Review of Books

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
R. Crumb’s reject New Yorker cover art
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Robert Crumb
R. Crumb
The New Yorker

Nadja Sayej got the bottom of why the New Yorker didn’t use this art by Robert Crumb: They never told him...

Did the rejection offend you?
I’m in a privileged position because I don’t need the money. When you go to the cover editor’s office, you notice that the walls are covered with rejected New Yorker covers. Sometimes there are two rejected covers for each issue. I don’t know what the usual policy is, but I was given no explanation from David Remnick, the editor in chief, who makes the final decisions.

Has the New Yorker attempted to commission work from you since this cover?
Yeah, Françoise [Mouly, the art editor] keeps mailing me these form letters, which they send to various artists they like to use. It says something like, “OK, so here are the topics for upcoming covers.” They send it out a couple of times a year or something. But it’s a form letter, not a personal letter.

Did you receive an apology?
An apology? I don’t expect an apology. But if I’m going to work for them I need to know the criteria for why they accept or reject work. The art I made, it only really works as a New Yorker cover. There’s really no other place for it. But they did pay me beforehand—decent money. I have no complaint there. I asked Françoise what was going on with it and she said, “Oh, Remnick hasn’t decided yet…” and he changed his mind several times about it. I asked why and she didn’t know. Several months passed. Then one day, I got the art back in the mail, no letter, no nothing.

The Gayest Story Ever Told (Vice)

Via The Daily What

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Watch Out Kids’: Legendary UK underground publication

Dangerous Minds pal Mick Farren will be performing at SPACE Exhibitions in London this Thursday night, where the 1972 alternative comic he put together with the late underground psycheledelic cartoonist, Edward Barker will be be on display. Watch Out Kids features Barker’s own work along with work by Spain, Robert Crumb, Malcolm Livingstone, Gilbert Shelton and others. From Mick’s email:

The event is a re-examination and maybe a celebration of the agitprop tome Watch Out Kids that Edward Barker and I put together way back in the 20th century. The book was a highly subjective compendium of counterculture graphics and the rogue philosophy of the psychedelic left. Since a gallery show, by definition, is primarily visual, the major tribute is really to the work of the late great Edward. But I will be showing up with master guitarist Andy Colquhoun - a once and future Deviant and Pink Fairy - plus our new friend and percussionist, Jaki Miles-Windmill, to perform poetry and other rhymed writings.

The deal is that doors open at 6.00pm; allowing us to stand around, drink free beer, pose and chat, observe and be observed, until sometime just after eight, when we the performers get down and perform. Finally after the show, we head into the after-party at which a good time will be had by all.

For the exhibition at SPACE the entire book will be displayed on the Library walls alongside a video archive featuring a new interview with Mick Farren by SPACE curator Paul Pieroni. As a lifelong Mick Farren fan, I am gratified to see that this national treasure is beginning to be properly respected about a year in from his move back home to England. (Farren lived in New York, then Los Angeles, where I know him, for many years). People of Great Britain, a counterculture legend walks among you (again).

Preview Thu 1st Sept, 6 - 9 pm at SPACE Exhibitions, 129-131 Mare Street in Dalston. 020 8525 4330

Below, Mick Farren interviewed about the underground press by John Peel.



Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Big Robert Crumb retrospective in NYC
10:50 am


Robert Crumb

This Friday, March 25, 20011, The Society of Illustrators is presenting “R. Crumb: Lines Drawn on Paper,” an exhibition of his original artwork spanning the past four decades. Both R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb will be in attendance at the opening. On Saturday night, Crumb will be performing with the East River String Band, but that performance has already sold out.

This 90-piece exhibit showcases seminal covers and interior pages from ZAP, HEAD COMIX, THE EAST VILLAGE OTHER, MOTOR CITY COMICS, BIG ASS, HOMEGROWN FUNNIES, SAN FRANCISCO COMICS, and much, much more.

This retrospective, curated by BLAB! magazine founder Monte Beauchamp, editor of The Life & Times of R. Crumb (St. Martin’s Press), presents key pieces culled from the private art collection of Eric Sack, with contributions from John Lautemann, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner.

Society of Illustrators, 128 E. 63rd St., NYC, March 25, 7:00pm-10:00pm

Below, The Confessions of Robert Crumb documentary:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Special Exits: An interview with Joyce Farmer

An exclusive interview with Joyce Farmer, author of the extraordinarily powerful new graphic novel Special Exits (Fantagraphics). No less of an expert than Robert Crumb himself has said of Special Exits, “One of the best long-narrative comics I’ve ever read, up there with Maus. I actually found myself moved to tears.” High praise indeed!
Buy a copy of Special Exits.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Robert Crumb extols the virtues of Joyce Farmer’s new graphic novel ‘Special Exits’

Dangerous Minds pal Deborah Vankin has gotten some nice scoops lately from the normally press shy Robert Crumb in her new gig contributing to the Hero Complex blog at the Los Angeles Times. Speaking to Vankin, Crumb recently extolled the virtues of Special Exits (Fantagraphics), the new graphic novel, 13-years in the making, from Joyce Farmer.

“It’s a completely unique work,” he says. “Nobody else will ever do anything like that again.”

Farmer was once a fellow traveler of S. Clay Wilson, Gilbert Shelton and R. Crumb. In the mid-1970s, Farmer, along with Lyn Chevely, decided to counter the male chauvinism they dealt with in the world of underground comix, by publishing a title called Tits and Clits. Tits and Clits called it quits in the late 1980s. Farmer found work as a bail bondsman and cared for her elderly parents. Special Exits is a 208-page chronicle of their slow deaths.

Working from memory and old photographs, and using an old-fashioned dip pen, she sketched, inked and hand-lettered the entire book, panel by panel, page by page, with her face 6 inches above her paper and a patch over one eye. Special Exits took 13 years to create. She didn’t think anyone would actually publish the work; it was, simply, therapeutic.

At this point, if you’re going to have an advocate, it might as well be the underground comics giant Crumb, who made big waves last year with his illustrated “The Book of Genesis.” He liked Farmer’s new work a lot. Though they hadn’t seen each other since the ’70s, they’d kept up through letters. Farmer sent early pages of Special Exits to Crumb at his home in France, and he encouraged her to keep going. When the manuscript was finished, he contacted Fantagraphics in Seattle on her behalf.

The book, which had a healthy first-print run and generated a starred advance review in Publisher’s Weekly, is an almost uncomfortably honest memoir that’s dense with details. It’s also layered with meaning and sub-themes. There’s the family story, the firsthand account of shepherding ailing parents out of this world. But the book is also a not-so-subtle condemnation of nursing homes, as Farmer’s stepmother was treated poorly; soon after checking into a home, she took a sharp turn for the worse and died.

South Los Angeles itself is a character in the book, telling what it’s like to be one of the only white families in a predominantly African American neighborhood in the late ’80s and early ’90s. For a dark two-day period in April 1992, during the riots following the verdict in the Rodney G. King police brutality trial, Farmer’s sick, elderly parents hunkered down inside their house with little food and no electricity, eating soft ice cream and pies for breakfast until the turmoil settled down. Farmer doesn’t allude to it in the text, but she drew barely noticeable bullet holes in the walls of her parents’ home. “It’s just a little detail,” she says.

“It’s a very powerful story,” Crumb said in a telephone interview.  “And the patience to draw all that — you have no idea what that takes!” He puts Special Exits up there with Art Spiegelman’s trailblazing Maus, as well as more recent heavyweights such as Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

As Crumb was about to hang up the phone, he sweetly told Vankin, “Tell Joyce she was very beautiful back then.”

R. Crumb: Joyce Farmer’s ‘Special Exits’ on par with ‘Maus’ (Los Angeles Times)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
An Atheist’s Review of Crumb’s Book of Genesis


Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis (previously covered on Dangerous Minds here) as reviewed by atheist Greta Christina:

Of course I’ve read Genesis. More than once. It’s been a little while since I’ve read the whole thing all the way through, but it’s not like it’s unfamiliar. But there’s something about seeing the story fleshed out in images to make some of its more striking narrative turns leap out and grab your brain by the root. There’s nothing quite like seeing the two different creation stories enacted on the page to make you go, “Hey! That’s right! Two completely different creation stories!” There’s nothing quite like seeing Lot offer his daughters to be gang-raped to make you recoil in shock and moral horror. There’s nothing quite like seeing the crazed dread and burning determination in Abraham’s eyes as he prepares the sacrifice of his own son to make you feel the enormity of this act. Reading these stories in words conveys the ideas; seeing them in images conveys the visceral impact. It makes it all seem vividly, immediately, humanly real.

Now, that is something of a mixed blessing. Spending a few days with the characters in Genesis isn’t the most relaxing literary vacation you’ll ever take. Richard Dawkins wasn’t kidding when he said, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.” The God character in Genesis is cruel, violent, callous, insecure, power-hungry, paranoid, hot-tempered, morally fickle… I could go on and on. And God’s followers aren’t much better. They lie, they scheme, they cheat one another, they conquer other villages with bloodthirsty imperialist glee, they kill at the drop of a hat. This isn’t Beatrix Potter here. It’s more like Dangerous Liaisons by way of Quentin Tarantino. With tents, sand, and sheep.

(AlterNet: An Atheist’s Review of the Book of Genesis Illustrated by a Legendary Comics Artist)

(Check out Crumb’s The Book of Genesis here.)

Posted by Jason Louv | Leave a comment
The Crumb Bible
06:34 pm


Robert Crumb
Book of Genesis
Posted by Jason Louv | Leave a comment