September 4th, 2013
The pleasure here comes not only in having some beautifully textured visuals to help you through the awkward, self-serving language; but also from the strange tension in seeing one of medium’s most idiosyncratic and defiantly independent artists work with a text that both belongs to everyone, and in some sense lies at the root of so many commonly held social and cultural structures. Crumb has spent several lifetimes somehow convincing the world that by sticking to his personal vision – repellent and antisocial as that so frequently was- he was somehow serving a greater collective good, by clearing space where the pure freedom of the artist might flourish. No matter how arseholeish the art he’d fill it with, that space itself performed a transcendent function – a dream of freedom, even a freedom to support racist or misogynist repression – that many sections of postwar Western culture sincerely believed it needed to have. Maybe they were even right.
Strange to pick Genesis then, a book that justifies its own archaic madnesses and hardcore rhetoric of obsolete social evil by appeals to divine authority and the vicissitude of historical longevity itself. Crumb takes its toxic content (and legacy) and tries to turn it into pictures and words alone, as if they don’t touch or connect to anything, as if this book, like his own back catalogue, should only ever be understood as harmless marks on paper and nothing else. If Genesis, with its holy massacres, its hatred of women and nature can be redeemed on artistic merit alone, maybe Crumb can too.
And if he just wanted to turn a new audience on to a founding text of the occidental canon, then maybe he could’ve picked a book that wasn’t such a cunt, y’know?
Despite all that, two points of genuine brilliance worth mentioning:
The limb-rocking, pre-curse serpent in Eden reworked as cosmic horror and Sitchinian(?) paranoiac scifi:
And perhaps the funniest panel Crumb’s ever drawn – the looks on the guys’ faces as they’re queueing up to go into the tent. Oh yeah, all us dudes have got to be circumcised from now on, God says, ‘kay?.
Were those later Cerebus issues that I never read as good as this?