R. Crumb – The Weirdo Years :1981-’93 Review

Author: Robert Crumb  (London :Knockabout Ltd.,2013) 240p.

crumbIf you are looking for a hefty, crazy, ground-breaking tome to make your comics year, you may have just found it. Whilst not to everyone’s taste, the work of Robert Crumb is always worth a look and fans will not be disappointed by this compilation of his own work from his inspirational publication.

Weirdo was a magazine-sized comics anthology created by Robert Crumb in 1981, which ran for 28 issues and acted as a “low art” counterpoint to its contemporary highbrow publication Raw. Although only maintaining editorship himself until Issue 10 before passing the job on to Peter Bagge (and later to Crumb’s wife, Aline, who writes a fantastic introduction in this compilation) the influence of Crumb was always felt in the publication, and it is interesting to view his own work separately for the first time along with all 28 covers, which was a nice added touch.

Highlight strips include TV Blues, Life of Boswell, People Make me Nervous, The Old Songs are the Best Songs, Uncle Bob’s Mid-Life Crisis, Kraft Ebbing’s Psycopathia Sexualis, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the outstanding The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick. I was very pleased to see the amusing photo strip stories (usually featuring Crumb accompanied by a variety of well built ladies, often his wife) interspersed with the strips, alongside other random items such as a very funny advertisement for fake breast enlargements.

The full breadth of Crumb’s talent and interests are shown very well here, an artist who is willing to go anywhere his crazy mind takes him with you along for the ride. His imagination, playfulness and strange fascinations are given full rein and by compiling his work from this period together in this volume, we get a real sense of his personal and artistic development in a crucial period of his life.

I must say however, that it was very odd to have a Weirdo compilation without the many, MANY other artists and contributors work included. It can be jarring to follow just one persons work for a publication, however influential, and particularly when the covers for all issues are included along with the magnificient overview by Aline Kominsky-Crumb it really did leave me wanting more, and feeling bereft at the exclusion of the other artists. This however is of course the point, this is intended as a celebration of Crumb’s work for the magazine he founded, and works very well as that. I hope this will lead in the future to a complete Weirdo anthology where we can appreciate his work alongside that of the then fledgling artists such as Dan Clowes, Joe Matt and Gary Panter to single out only two from around 85 contributors.

If you are a fan of Crumb and his guerilla style of work and editorship then this will bring you great joy, and fits in well with the other Crumb publications out there from recent years. More please!

Claire Hyypiä

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