Charlie Hebdo Massacre

R. Crumb on Charlie Hebdo

One cartoonist's response to a massacre.


Celia Farber has interviewed cartoonist Robert Crumb about the Charlie Hebdo attack. The whole conversation is worth reading; I'll just highlight Crumb's comments about the cartoons he and his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, drew in response to the massacre:

Tales calculated to drive you back into bed!
R. Crumb

Crumb: …All the big newspapers and magazines in American had all agreed, mutually agreed, not to print those offensive cartoons that were in that Charlie Hebdo magazine. They all agreed that they were not going to print those, because they were too insulting to the Prophet. Charlie Hebdo, it didn't have a big circulation. A lot of French people said, "Yes, it was tasteless, but I defend their right to freedom of speech." Yeah, it was tasteless, that's what they say. And perhaps it was. I'm not going to make a career out of baiting some fucking religious fanatics, you know, by insulting their prophet. I wouldn't do that. That seems crazy. But then, after they got killed, I just had to draw that cartoon, you know, showing the Prophet. The cartoon I drew shows me, myself, holding up a cartoon that I've just drawn. A crude drawing of an ass that's labeled "The Hairy Ass of Muhammed." [Laughs.]

Farber: You did what?!

Everybody Draw Jehovah Day
R. Crumb

Crumb: Yeah, I sent that to Liberation, so we'll see what happens. You know, that's the most I've stuck my neck out for a long time…

Farber: Did you discuss that with Aline?

Crumb: I showed it to her, and she said, "Oh, my God, we're going to have to go into hiding." [Laughs.] So, then Aline had this idea for another cartoon, which we also sent to Liberation, a collaboration, that's showing her looking at the drawing saying, "Oh, my God, they're going to come after us! This is terrible…I want to live to see my grandchildren!" And then she has me saying, "Well, it's not that bad. And, besides, they've killed enough cartoonists, maybe they've gotten it out of their system."…

Farber: So why wouldn't you just not do it? Why would you go ahead and submit a cartoon like that? Isn't that really scary and risky?

Crumb: Well—they asked me to. Liberation called me and said, "Crumb, can you do a cartoon for us? About what you think about this, you know, you are a major cartoonist, and you live in France." So I thought about it. I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I'm doing the dishes, or whatever, I was thinking, "What should I do for that cartoon…" I had a lot of ideas. Other people come up with these, you know, clever cartoons that comment on it, like…This one guy did a cartoon showing a bloody dead body laying there, and a radical Muslim standing over him with a Kalashnikov, saying, "He drew first!" Stuff like that. That's good, that's clever, you know, I like that. But, me? I gotta like, you know, when I do something, it has to be more personal. I said, first: "I don't have the courage to make an insulting cartoon of Muhammed."

Then I thought, "OK, I'm the Cowardly Cartoonist….As a Cowardly Cartoonist, I can't make some glib comment like that, you know? I have to, like, make fun of myself. So instead of drawing the face of Muhammed [laughs], I drew the ass of Muhammed. [Laughs.] But then I had myself saying, in small lettering, "Actually, this is the ass of my friend of Mohamid Bakshi, who's a film director in Los Angeles, California." [Mr. Crumb is referencing Ralph Bakshi, the director of animated films including Fritz the Cat and the Lord of the Rings.]

So if they come at me, I'm gonna say, "No, look, it's not Muhammed the Prophet, it's this guy, Mohamid Bakshi."

Crumb also discusses the differences between French and American attitudes toward satire, his fears of a police-state response to the massacre, and more; to read the rest of the interview, go here. His cartoon is below:

Please please please let me keep on truckin'.
R. Crumb