RCrumb Old Genesis

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?

5 Responses to “RCrumb Old Genesis”

  1. Figserello Says:

    “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.”

    I thought Crumb did a pretty good job of damning the whole thing by its own words. Yahweh in it is an obviously insane, psychopathic and genocidal monster. Check out Noah crapping himself as he realises he’s dealing with a being who’s about to kill every man, woman and child on Earth except Noah and his immediate family.

    Further, rather than just letting the pictures and words sit there without reference to its effect on our culture, Crumb himself puts glosses on the ‘Sons of Ham’ stuff that was used to justify the slavery of the African peoples for hundreds of years, and the whole sacred empowered female stuff that Abraham’s pimping of his wife was covering up. Also how Joseph of Dreamcoat fame was using the Shock Doctrine in a time of environmental disaster to enslave everyone and gain control of all the resources.

    I thought showing the whole thing largely on its own terms was critique enough of the Book of Genesis, and made Crumb’s judgement on it all the more scathing, than if he’d been shrieking about how nasty it all was.

    I’m sorry he’s not doing more like it, actually, although this seems to have taken him a fair chunk of his life to do. I’d love to see Crumb’s Book of Job.

  2. ant Says:

    The Bible is a bit (dare I say it…boring (except to Christian theologins) but of course I bought it, it’s Crumb most sophisticated graphical achievement ever, I think. Still haven’t finished it and I got it when it came out, though.

  3. ant Says:

    “theologians”

  4. Ken Quichey Says:

    Crumb isn’t the one-trick-pony you make him out to be.
    EG, he’s done: biographies of obscure blues musicians; adaptations of Kafka and Satre; feminism-positive action stories (alright, just the one that I know of); provided the art for some of Pekar’s scripts; collaborated with his far-from-demure wife, Aline; he’s done tons of stuff. He’s never been some insular outsider, drawing only from the pool of his own febrile impulses.
    I’m surprised you weren’t more interested in how the costumes and settings are all referenced from Hollywood blockbusters (right up your street, no?) or how Crumb conducted this hugely laborious project but is on record as an atheist and Biblical skeptic.
    Maybe that side of things is already adequately examined elsewhere?

  5. Ken Quichey Says:

    /\ Sartre, not Satre.

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