Culture War

Cancel Culture Comes for Counterculture Comics

Today it's creators, not cops, who want to banish R. Crumb, onetime king of the comics underground.


Robert Crumb is the undisputed godfather of alternative comics. His work has appeared in museums across the world, from the Venice Biennale to New York's Museum of Modern Art; he was the subject of Terry Zwigoff's acclaimed documentary Crumb (Gene Siskel's favorite film of 1994); his drawings are so coveted by collectors that a sale of some sketchbooks in the early 1990s bought him a centuries-old chateau in southeast France. The legendary art critic Robert Hughes has favorably compared his portrayals of the human grotesque to Pieter Bruegel and William Hogarth, declaring Crumb "the one and only genius the 1960s underground produced in visual art, either in America or Europe."

Nearly every milestone on the long road comics have crawled from derided trash to treasured American art form was inspired either directly or secondhand by Crumb's choices and achievements. With his first issue of Zap in 1968, Crumb singlehandedly invented a format and sensibility, under the broad label of "underground comix," that permanently changed how printed cartoon stories are perceived. Along the way, it opened the form to social criticism, history, outrageous satire, and the full range of deeply personal human experience, including the both lightly and darkly sexual.

Crumb's occasional collaborator Harvey Pekar, one of the major innovators of quotidian comic autobiography, says his partner demonstrated that "comics were as good an art form as any that existed. You could write any kind of story in comics. It was as versatile a medium as film or television." Similar praise from other creators for Crumb's mind-blowing importance to them could go on for pages; anyone making noncorporate, nongenre, self-expressive comics occupies a space he created.

But events in the comics world last year served notice that the social-justice re-evaluation currently sweeping comedy, film, and literature has arrived at the doorstep of free-thinking comics. In September, at the Small Press Expo's Ignatz Awards ceremony in Bethesda, Maryland, Crumb's successor generation of alt artists let the 75-year-old have it with both barrels.

While presenting the award for Outstanding Artist, the cartoonist Ben Passmore, who is black, asserted that "comics is changing…and it's not an accident." He lamented the continued industry presence of "creeps" and "apologists," then called out the godfather by name: "Shit's not going to change on its own. You gotta keep on being annoying about it.…A while ago someone like R. Crumb would be 'Outstanding.'"

The room erupted with both "ooohs" and booing. "A little while ago there'd be no boos," Passmore responded. "I wouldn't be up here, real talk, and yo—fuck that dude." The crowd burst into applause.

The brief against Crumb is both specific to his famous idiosyncrasies and generally familiar to our modern culture of outrage archeology. His art has trafficked in crude racial and anti-Semitic stereotypes, expressed an open sense of misogyny, and included depictions of incest and rape. Crumb's comics are "seriously problematic because of the pain and harm caused by perpetuating images of racial stereotypes and sexual violence," the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) explained last year when removing Crumb's name from one of its exhibit rooms.

Such talk alarms Gary Groth, co-founder of Fantagraphics, the premiere American publisher of quality adult comics, including a 17-volume series of The Complete Crumb Comics. "The spontaneity and vehemence" of the backlash, Groth says, "surprised me—and I guess what also disheartened me was, I'm pretty sure the vast majority of people booing Crumb are not familiar with his work.…This visceral dislike of him has no basis in understanding who Crumb is, his place in comics history, his contribution to the form."

Key to the misunderstanding is Crumb's willingness to probe human darkness, including his own, and his sheer maniacal delight in transgression. (Crumb's own explanation for one of his more notorious incest-related strips was, "I was just being a punk.") The Ignatz Awards crowd, Groth worries, "will not tolerate that kind of expression, and I think that's disturbing. Cartooning has a long history of being transgressive and controversial and pushing boundaries, and now we have a generation very much opposed to that, who want to censure fellow artists from doing work they don't approve of—even though they are able to do what they are doing and want to do precisely because of trailblazing on the part of artists they now abominate."

Crumb blew minds and inspired a generation with his eagerness to portray and explore "the stark reality at the bottom of life," as he put it, delivering "a psychotic manifestation of some grimy part of America's collective unconscious." In pursuit of that goal, he produced many comics, sometimes with reasonably clear comic grotesquerie, sometimes with undeniable—Crumb himself never denied it—truly dark personal expressions that would strike most people now (and many even then) as unacceptably hostile toward women.

Two of his most notorious stories were titled "When the Niggers Take Over America!" and "When the Goddamn Jews Take Over America!" His fans insist they were obvious pitch-black satires of bigoted madness. But they were so outrageous that they were reprinted in actual American Nazi papers. Crumb told The New Yorker in 1994, "I just had to expose all the myths people have of blacks and Jews in the rawest way possible to tilt the scale toward truth."

Trina Robbins, the first female cartoonist in Crumb's San Francisco coterie in the late 1960s and a co-founder of Wimmen's Comix (the longest-running all-woman-made comic series), was the first prominent voice raising feminist objections to how he portrayed women and sex. She says she was written off as an annoying scold by the scene's "little boys club" for noting the violent hostility toward women expressed in some of his work.

Defenses of Crumb, who is no longer producing new comics, read as anachronistic to many in our woke age. The Massachusetts Expo's reasoning for shunning Crumb follows an all-too-recognizable one-two formula for casting problematic artists adrift: "We recognize Crumb's singular importance to the development of independent and alternative comics, the influence that he has had on many of our most respected cartoonists, and the quality and brilliance of much of his work," the organizers explained. But! "We also recognize the negative impact carried by some of the imagery and narratives that Crumb has produced, impact felt most acutely by those whose voices have not been historically respected or accommodated."

Passmore did not respond to emailed attempts to interview him for this story. But MICE-like, he seemed to imply that respect for Crumb necessarily means disrespect for black cartoonists—that the racial and gender diversity flourishing in comics today is definitionally opposed to Crumb. As he said at the Ignatz Awards, "I wouldn't be here."

His comments elicited a wave of social media support from fellow artists and fans. A white male cartoonist named Derf Backderf, who belongs to the generation between Crumb and Passmore and is best known for a gripping memoir about being childhood friends with Jeffrey Dahmer, initially came to the master's defense on Twitter. But Backderf soon deleted his pro-Crumb tweets, admitting on further contemplation that he was prepared to "box up Crumb and stick him in the attic."

In Backderf's final tweet on the episode, he said he was moved by a post from black female cartoonist and publisher C. Spike Trotman, who said, "Personally speaking, I'm pretty relieved I no longer live in a world where I walk into a comic shop and there are Angelfood McSpade chocolate bars by the register."

Trina Robbins cartoon. Fantagraphics Books

Angelfood McSpade was Crumb's absurdly exaggerated and sexed-up depiction of an African wild woman. It is very easy to understand why a black woman would feel uncomfortable viewing that character. And yet, as the comics historian and New Republic writer Jeet Heer commented in a post not directly responding to Trotman at The Hooded Utilitarian blog, "anyone who can't see the satirical (indeed outlandishly satirical) element of Angelfood McSpade has no business being a comics critic.…I think it is to Crumb's credit that he is willing to implicate himself in his satires on racism—that he doesn't see racism as cultural phenomenon outside of himself that needs to be condemned but as cultural legacies that pervasively shape his own sensibility and need to be confronted internally."

Today, many think that fine distinctions between racist art and art that satirizes or complicates American racism are a luxury for people who, because of color or status, don't have to personally endure bigotry or its vestiges. Whatever the intent, they say, a racist caricature is a racist caricature, and it's long past time for that sort of thing to disappear.

But those familiar with Crumb's history have reasons to be suspicious of the idea that some art is so vile and offensive that its creators, distributors, and even consumers should not be tolerated. That attitude has led to bad places, in living memory.

'Zap No. 4 Is an Exploiter'

Crumb made the first two issues of Zap by himself, but soon a murderer's row of cartoon superstars formed a collective to produce the book. One of them was Robert Williams, now a founding father of a school of "lowbrow" figurative painting valorized in galleries from New York to Japan. At a 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel discussion, Williams cheekily said that "me and Crumb appreciated that what we did, someone would have to pay for." Meaning: "Someone at a newsstand had to sell the damn thing, and that poor clerk could be arrested."

Indeed, many clerks were. On the panel, Ron Turner of the underground publisher Last Gasp told tales of his friends at stores and galleries being dragged downtown by vice squads. Joyce Farmer, founding co-editor of one of the first underground comix entirely by women, Tits & Clits, somberly revealed that she was scared off of creating anything potentially controversial for years after seeing a bookstore that had been run by her editing partner raided because of the comics she made and enjoyed. On a separate Comic-Con panel, Robbins said that the legal heat in the early 1970s around underground comix was so severe that Ms. magazine refused to print an ad for Wimmen's Comix for fear that Ms. itself could wind up charged with marketing obscene material.

Even finding a printer was fraught; some might keep and destroy your negatives after deciding they didn't approve of the comic you'd paid them to reproduce.

Most of the arrests from this era did not result in convictions, for various reasons. At Comic-Con, Turner and Williams tag-teamed a well-honed tale of an early '70s prosecution coming a cropper after an offending comic was apparently purloined from the evidence room by a sleazy cop, leaving a judge to ask in open court, to no avail, "Where's the Felch?"

An existing network of head shops and record stores, which had first centered around the market for psychedelic concert poster art, eventually took up the wave of underground comix being made by Crumb and his pals. Although Crumb himself cares for almost no American culture past 1930, Zap and a plethora of fellow travelers became a core part of the hip revolutionary counterculture of the time.

Thus, some suspect there was more than a concern with the moral fabric of Manhattan—something more like animus toward youth culture—that led a New York undercover agent from the Morals Squad to enter two different bookstores in August and September of 1969 to buy copies of Zap issue No. 4. On the second visit, he arrested several employees for selling an obscene publication.

East Side Bookstore manager Peter Dargis admitted to having stocked and sold around 200 copies of the comic, though he said he had not read it himself. He pointed out to the court that his business stocked more than 16,000 titles and that comics such as Zap amounted to less than 1 percent of the store's gross. Charles Kirkpatrick, manager of the New Yorker Book Store, told a similar story of a huge stock, a tiny percentage of which was potentially naughty comics whose specific content he had not studied.

The case was presided over by Judge Joel Tyler, the same man who declared the movie Deep Throat to be legally obscene. The district attorney offered no evidence other than the copy of Zap 4, whose scurrilousness was supposed to speak for itself. The sellers pointed out that the material was marked "adults only" and that the undercover agent was indeed an adult.

Expert witnesses from the world of comics and art—including Whitney Museum curator Robert Doty, who had included some Crumb comics in an exhibit, "Human Concern/Personal Torment: The Grotesque in American Art"—tried to convince Tyler there was more to Crumb and Co.'s work than smut.

Sidney Jacobson, who worked for the children's comic company Harvey, home of Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost, shook things up by insisting that Archie Comics, a rival, produced cartoons "purposely written and drawn to arouse sexualities in teenagers." The publishers and creators of Archie, Jacobson maintained, "are trying within it to appeal to the sexual desires of their public," while Zap's more grotesque representations of sex, including Crumb's depiction of sex acts between family members, were designed to be less arousing than Betty and Veronica. (Jacobson offended Tyler by referring to his own company's work as aimed at the lowest age group. The judge harrumphed that he himself read Harvey comics regularly.)

Dargis and Kirkpatrick were convicted in October 1970, with Tyler deciding that Zap was "utterly unredeemed and unredeemable, save, perhaps, only by the quality of the paper upon which it is printed. It is patently offensive.…It is a part of the underworld press—the growing world of deceit in sex—and it is not reality or honesty, as they often claim it to be. It represents an emotional incapacity to view sex as a basis for establishing genuine human relationships, or as a normal part of human condition.—Zap No. 4 is an exploiter; its effect is to purvey 'filth for filth's sake.' It is hard-core pornography.…The material must fail by any legal test yet announced."

Sellers of such filth, Tyler ruled, should have known it was impermissibly obscene (even though it did not become legally obscene for sure until the judge said so). As for those eggheaded claims to artistic value, he found "these witnesses failed to particularize in understandable lay terms their generalizations that the cartoonists were 'original,' or how they were 'influencing a new generation of cartoonists,' or how they showed 'enormous vitality,' or where was the satire or parody of the sexual experiences depicted…or how do these cartoons, dealing as they do in the main with perverted sexual experiences, attempt to 'humorously outrage' the reader and place in perspective human values."

In lieu of a 90-day jail sentence, the store managers were fined $500, the equivalent of more than $3,200 today. Their appeals in the New York state system failed essentially on grounds that they couldn't prove they didn't know Zap 4 was obscene. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that outcome in October 1973, leaving in place a ruling that the then-chief of the American Booksellers Association called "frightening," since "no one can possibly know in advance what a judge will consider obscene. The effect of this decision is to make every bookseller in the state a censor."

In a blistering dissent, Justice William Brennan repeated his assertion from an earlier case that "the First and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the state and federal governments from attempting wholly to suppress sexually oriented materials on the basis of their allegedly 'obscene' contents." Yet the Court seemed to have it out for Crumb and his compatriots in 1973. Earlier that year, in Miller v. California, it had shifted obscenity law by giving localities the power to punish expression for being obscene if it violated local mores while lacking "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." Many blame Miller for wrecking underground comics as a viable business, with hippie entrepreneurs in college towns across the nation deciding that the profit margins on these curious 50-cent pamphlets were not worth risking fines or jail time.

To Crumb's Zap partner Williams, applying a square's community standards to their transgressive work was an outrage. These comics "were not made for the general public," he said at Comic-Con. "They were made for an audience that seeked them out…an intellectual group in favor of free thought and imagination."

Censure, Not Censorship

No one of significance in the comics community today is calling for 1970s-style legal punishment for unwoke cartoonists. Charles Brownstein, who heads up the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, points out that "there's a distinction between censorship in the courts vs. dissenting points of view in the public square."

Trina Robbins cartoon. Fantagraphics Books

Brownstein's organization was born of a 1986 arrest and conviction (later reversed) of a comic shop clerk for selling, among other things, an issue of a Crumb-founded comic called Weirdo. The cases he deals with these days are more likely to be about censoring comics in specific public places, such as public schools and libraries. Arrests of comic sellers aren't much of a thing anymore.

Fantagraphics' Groth, who keeps in print the very same comic that got Kirkpatrick and Dargis hauled into court, grants that he hasn't once over the last two decades seriously feared any legal trouble for selling Crumb. Prosecutions of printed materials not clearly marketed as masturbatory aids are rarely pursued this century. And thanks to Crumb's gallery cred and fame, most prosecutors probably assume that judges and juries will consider his work, if only because it is his, to have literary or artistic value.

But obscenity laws still exist, and that prosecutorial energy has been especially fierce in the past few decades when targeting sexual depictions involving children. One of Zap 4's more offensive strips is an incest riff featuring kids having sex with their parents, so it isn't completely insane to fear that Crumb's work might once again come to be seen as not merely unwoke but illegal. The anti-Crumb sentiments are "still dangerous," Groth says, "because laws can in fact change because of public attitudes." Those attitudes now include mainstream consideration of legislation aimed at curtailing "hate speech."

During the social media storm kicked off by Passmore's comments, Jules Rivera, a black female cartoonist, tweeted out two panels of a Crumb comic in which an obvious cartoon version of him is having sex with a woman identified as being in "a drunken stupor," with no signs of consent. "I'm keeping that rapist ass Crumb art on my phone," she continued. "If anyone challenges me, I'll bust out my phone and say 'so you're down with this?' In person. To your face."

But holding art and expression to the moral demands implicit in that tweet may actually hobble what art is for. Appreciating a creator isn't—or needn't be—a matter of being "down with" the actions portrayed in his every work. One of the many reasons humans have art is to understand, play with, portray, question, and explore the human condition. Which, as Crumb firmly believes, includes a lot of awful, unacceptable thoughts and behavior.

Portraying darkness and evil in art is not the same as celebrating darkness and evil, even when the depiction is not safely anchored to a clear statement of the artist's anti-evil sympathies. Offense and transgression can be a vital part of how expression stays lively, fresh, startling, moving, and true to the human condition. That transgressive art is hard to defend in sober, sensible ways is precisely the point. As Simpsons creator Matt Groening wrote in an introduction to 1998's The Life and Times of R. Crumb, "it sure is a relief to read someone's beautiful Bad Thoughts and realize the world won't come crashing down after all."

The teen Crumb in his published letters saw himself as a good liberal condemning the racial ignorance and prejudice of the yokels surrounding him. The adult Crumb, in addition to his transgressions, did some excellent cartooning on the lives of black musicians who had made the old-time music he revered. Building a wall of exclusion around his art denies audiences the galvanizing work of an artist whose declared intent often aligns with that of his modern-day indicters, even if he's willing to toy with imagery they recoil from.

In a world of free expression and diminishing legal speech controls, if you want to "cancel" Crumb, well, it's your right to try. But Groth for one finds that attitude troubling. It "feels similar to trying to erase Ezra Pound or Yeats or Wyndham Lewis, any number of reactionaries in the history of art and literature," he says. "It's provincial and philistine and based on historical ignorance, and I don't think that's what art should be about."

The Frustrating Tango of Liberal Tolerance

The American culture that R. Crumb and his contemporaries grew up in restricted the ways people could talk about sex, violence, race, and class. The first wave of underground comix artists reacted with metaphorical explosive violence, especially once they realized nothing was stopping them but the constraints of their own minds. That freedom, in all its messiness and ugliness, upset and unnerved and offended many. It also inspired massive amounts of interesting, strange, life-enhancing art, not just in the comics world but in such offshoots of Crumb's aesthetic as National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, and The Simpsons.

The attitudes Crumb satirized were real and, he thought, deserving of ridicule via crazed exaggeration. His feelings of hostility toward women are, as he has insisted in his comics and in interviews, true to him (and, he is certain, to many other men). What is to be gained by pretending they're not? Crumb was honest about being the sort of resentful nebbish who in his pre-fame days saw women as controlling something he desperately wanted and couldn't have—what would now be called a corrosive "incel" mentality, after the men who self-identify as involuntarily celibate.

In a 1991 interview with The Comics Journal, Crumb said art should be judged not on ideological purity but on whether it is "interesting or boring…honest and truthful and real…saying what's really on [the artists'] minds.…If it's really in there it ought to come out on paper." At the same time, he reflected, "I don't know, maybe we're all just dragging society down. Maybe we should all be locked up."

The paradox of liberal tolerance remains: Neither the transgressors nor the offended have a right to force the other side to just shut up about what its members think, feel, or imagine. The two are intimately linked in a mutually frustrating tango. The offended want certain expressions to go away or be universally recognized as unacceptable, and the transgressors want a social space to express themselves without feeling driven from society.

Liberal tolerance, as exemplified by the First Amendment—refusing to violently punish someone for his or her expression—offers a way for these battles to take place without anyone being physically hurt. The figurative game of expression, reaction, pushback, and constantly shifting mores can keep being played without either side mistaking the contest for mortal combat. Although cancel culture (without law enforcement involvement) stops short of violence, those who like to wield it should understand that human beings are social animals. To be told that you and anyone who doesn't join enthusiastically in condemning you should be expelled from society can feel like war when you're the target.

Many people understand that art is for expressing and exploring the human mind and soul—and the human mind and soul contain darkness, sexual mania, racism, hostility, and any number of awful truths. To force those things out of the conversation is to unreasonably limit the whole project, they say. Art is a treasured aspect of the healthy human condition, even if what the art says is unhealthy on various dimensions. Many others consider that tradeoff worth it in the name of protecting the status and feelings of previously excluded or oppressed groups.

Crumb's attempt to open comics to a vast range of human expression was victorious: Whether they want to acknowledge it or not, those working in the field today are his descendants. Like all children and grandchildren, they can choose whether or not to understand their patriarch, whether to emulate him or tell him to fuck off. Their choices may not always be kind or wise, but such is human freedom.

NEXT: Brickbat: Slipping the Leash

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  1. The counterculture has managed to raise a deadly earnest generation. Congratulations.

    1. No kidding. Try to crack a semi-subtle joke on somewhere like Reddit and prepare to be called a nazi.

      1. Which is rich, coming from the part of the political spectrum that fields modern Brownshirts.

        The Left REALLY hopes nobody will recognize that a Progressive is a Socialist is a Communist is a Fascist is a Nazi. They may snap and snarl at each-other, but their animosities are intra-tribal rivalries. There are no practical differences between the lot of 'em.

        1. Exactly. These young adults are so ignorant of history they are actively choosing to relive the worst parts during their lifetimes.
          The Socialists of the 20th Century killed nearly 100 million people. Between Hitler, Stalin, and Mao these Socialists did most of the killing.
          Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism Is Totalitarian

          1. *whispered over your shoulder* Pol Pot, don't forget Pol Pot.

            1. What about Macias? Just because Fernando Poo is so small, he gets off?

        2. "The relative ease with which a young communist could be converted into a Nazi or vice versa was well known, best of all to the propagandists of the two parties. The communists and Nazis clashed more frequently with each other than with other parties simply because they competed for the same type of mind and reserved for each other the hatred of the heretic. Their practice showed how closely they are related. To both, the real enemy, the man with whom they had nothing in common, was the liberal of the old type. While to the Nazi the communist and to the communist the Nazi, and to both the socialist, are potential recruits made of the right timber, they both know that there can be no compromise between them and those who really believe in individual freedom." - FA Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

        3. From what I can see, there are load of GOP Nazis over here in Albany, NY and they are trying to take the traditionally left-wing's culture. This is just another ploy. The only "socialist nazis" are those that agree with the GOP on certain things, like being anti-sex-worker (in public). You did a good job in creating this censorship culture when in fact you all are the ones who have issues with consent. You just don't like to have to see art work about it then you don't have to think about it.

    2. Doesn't every generation seek to contradict and annoy their parents?

      1. That's certainly a gloss on today's Red Guard.

        Hopefully they won't go the full Mao this time.

      2. Contradict and annoy, sure.

        How many generations have sought to censor or tear down the previous generation.? The current crew are not just trying to contradict and annoy, they want to censor and destroy anything about the past they don't like.

        1. They're the nights king!
          It's all so simple now

    3. I think there is another generation in between somewhere. Children of the actual 60s counterculture are in their 40s and 50s now.

    4. As twittermeister Iowahawk put it, the boomers laughed at what their parents censored; millennials censor what their parents laughed at.

      1. Is that similar to "What the father wants to forget, the son wants to remember"?

        (yeah, I know it's sexist because it leaves out mothers and daughters, but I'll leave it if /only/ to antagonize the Red Guard crowd.)

    5. As always the left and their brownshirts completely miss the point of counterculture. The good news is that there will always be someone to counter today's intellectually barren, SJW-approved comic scene.

  2. I was deep into the Comix scene in my teens, working foe a comic book shop in downtown Cleveland and hanging around a bookstore with some of the crew that created AMERICAN SPLENDOR. I never got as deep into Crumb as some people, but if he offends the perpetually snotty, GOOD!

    1. Yeah. That's kind of the point, isn't it?

      1. Yes. These artists and critics don't seem to realize that they are The Man now.

  3. What is that they say about history repeating itself, first as tragedy and then as farce? I'm sure R. Crumb is having a laugh at the New Puritanism, it's only new to those who didn't see it the first time around.

  4. fuck all SJWs for they're humorless and sexless zombie turd commie rat fucks.

    do I make myself clear?

    1. Aye-aye, Cap'n!

    2. I don't understand how being a "SJW" means that you are like this. I have respected R. Crumb since I was 12 years old, but I also happily spent my 20's and 30's fighting for people with disabilities funding and laws, for people who are homeless, poor students, and the list goes on. I don't see how caring about peoples' human rights means you automatically are into censorship. I never was into that am not now. Crumb helped me to understand the men who were starting to sexually harass me out in the street (and this was back in the day when if you complained about it, all the women around me would say, "but it means you're attRACTive") and have a heart for them, but also gave me a license to speak my truths, too. I was like, wow if he can be so totally honest, I can too. Many things we assume to be mutually exclusive really are not.

  5. Anyone ever see a copy of "Snatch Sampler" by Crumb? If not, and you can find a copy, be prepared to go very very dark.

    I'm willing to bet it will offend even Crusty's sense of propriety.

    1. Wait, what?
      You are saying Crusty has a sense of propriety?

  6. "Cartooning has a long history of being transgressive and controversial and pushing boundaries, and now we have a generation very much opposed to that, who want to censure fellow artists from doing work they don't approve of—even though they are able to do what they are doing and want to do precisely because of trailblazing on the part of artists they now abominate."

    Replace "cartooning" with speech or any freedom and you get the same result; problem being that their "work" is terminal and not tolerant of any new developments, or old ones like Crumb either.

    1. This has been playing out for quite some time in the world of stand-up comedy.

      Probably because stand-up is uniquely personal... on person at a microphone offering forth their own vision - whatever that might be. So when they take a swing at something edgy or offensive, it is the stand-up personally who is transgressing. Many other art forms are less individual - a movie has a writer, director, actors, producers... etc. Because of that the blame is spread around. And because they are not singular visions, they tend to be less risk-taking.

      Enter the comic. Another singular vision, one voice speaking one artist's thoughts. So transgressions are attached to a single person. In this, it is like stand-up. As such it is probably only the obscurity of comics that has protected that world thusfar. Even in a world where the latest Avengers movie made a billion dollars in a weekend, I doubt that even 3% of that crowd has ever read an avengers comic, let alone anything from the underground.

      I suppose what we need is for some really, really big names to go full-on Trump and refuse to kowtow, bow and scrape or apologize in any way. Standup is kinda dead these days - Kevin Hart? He's pretty big... but is he big enough? Probably not.

      It has been a long while since standup was important. Chris Rock was huge. Even Louis CK was a pretty big deal.... but that's all been quite a while back. You'd need the equivalent of the top 90's names all going all-in. Seinfeld, Rock, Chappelle, Gaffigan.. all just putting out the edgiest stuff and refusing to back down or even acknowledge that the critics have a point. In fact, that would be the time that a Carlin would come out with the 7 words you can't say on television.

      But we don't have that now. We have bow and scrape and hope that your liberal bona-fides are enough to earn your way back in to the tent after doing your penance.

      No comic artist can do this. Luckily, they are less beholden to the crowd, being an alternative niche to begin with. But someone needs to make a stand. Unfortunately, all those someones who might be able to do it are carrying the torches and pitchforks right now - the George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson... None of those guys are going to jump in front of the train... They are probably more likely to shovel the coal and blow the whistle.

      1. The modern religion of progressivism sees racism, sexism, etc. as the core problems standing in the way of heaven on Earth. They are the worst sins possible, and at the root of all that is bad. Anyone who questions this is therefore bad.

      2. "Seinfeld, Rock, Chappelle, "


        1. Yeah, way back in the 90's, these guys were selling out big arenas for their comedy shows.

          But sadly there are no comedians with their stature today. And even with their combined efforts, I don't know if they could have made a dent in this mess.

  7. Interesting intersection of counterculture and SJW hectoring...

    The NYT... Yes, the New York Times located in New York City shows how even the most fervently espoused tenants can be cast aside for political points-scoring.

    They published a (now deleted) cartoon featuring a plethora of anti-Semitic tropes. It depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in jewished-up caricature as a dog (for some reason a Dachshund) leading a yarmulke-wearing and kinda jewished-up blind Trump.

    In the NYT, may I repeat. The home of "dog whistle" shaming of invented racist hints and signs.

    Their case of TDS was so strong that they tossed aside years of SJW lectures, support for Israel and US-Israeli relations, extreme sensitivity to even the slightest hint of Antisemitism ... gone in a poof of Trump hatred.

    Of course, in a fit of ignoring the log in their own eye while wailing about the motes in the eyes of others, they issued a perfunctory apology and the world moves on. The same world that had to burn the TV show "Rosanne" to the ground because the star tweeted something offensive about a political figure.

  8. Nearly every milestone on the long road comics have crawled from derided trash to treasured American art form was inspired either directly or secondhand by Crumb's choices and achievements.

    OK, that's such a blatant overstatement and so dismissive of many other talented, groundbreaking cartoonists that both preceded and followed him that it doesn't even bear refuting.

    1. It’s fairly par-for-the-course for people who have only a glancing acquaintance with comics in general. Very few had even HEARD of Will Eisner before that abortiin of a THE SPIRIT movie came out, and the industry’s major award is NAMED AFTER HIM.

      1. That said, Crumb was important, and turning on him frankly revealed the shallowness of the Left...except that anyone paying attention has known that they were about as deep as damp pavement for decades.

        1. Right there with you on the lunacy of turning on Crumb.

  9. "First they came for Kate Smith..."

    1. I wonder if SJWs will ban her recordings on the YouTube, like this one?

      1. I heard that referenced as an evil, racist stereotype song.. .but I had never heard it.

        I wonder. It seems like really satirical commentary to my modern ears. Not like it really means what it is literally saying. It is written in the form of a spiritual, lamenting a lot in life. I have no idea what people thought at the time - but the artists might have been putting a bug in their ear about how ludicrous their worldview is, even if a huge chunk of the audience was to ignorant to know it.

        Whatever, it was pretty high on the charts, but I found it unlistenable and gave up after less than a minute. Maybe it charted for reasons other than the music?

        1. Yes, it was satirical. Supposedly Paul Robeson sang it, and I doubt that someone as left-wing as Robeson would have sung a song he thought was racist.

  10. the left continues to eat their own tail only hopefully they will consume the their entire body and disappear.

  11. Why don't they have a compromise type of speech at these awards?:

    "Yes, Crumb was a pioneer without whom we wouldn't be here. But society has moved on, as it always will, and we should put his product behind us."

    1. Or better yet...

      Holy crap! That was some messed up stuff! I laughed my butt off... and I was more than a little grossed out and a whole lot offended! That was great!

      That was one of the things I really liked about "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" - I actually was surprised to find myself offended. It was terrific and educational.

      Don't try to go through life without running into things that are offensive to you. That's where you learn things. And definitely stand up and oppose people who don't want you or anyone else to see something that they deem offensive. That's the real evil.

      1. Yeah, the critics are missing the point entirely. It's supposed to be offensive and in poor taste.

        1. Satire wasn't supposed to be offensive for the sake of offense. It was supposed to throw a cultural shibboleth into such stark relief that people would be offended at where the culture was going.

          Jonathan Swift didn't propose eating babies because he thought simple outrage was enough.

          I'm not a huge fan of stuff that simply tries to make you offended. I want something more intelligent than the extreme version of fart jokes. Make me question cultural mainstays by highlighting it's disgusting absurdity.

      2. See, there's three kinds of people: dicks, pussies, and assholes. Pussies think everyone can get along, and dicks just wanna **** all the time without thinking it through. But then you got your assholes, Chuck. And all the assholes want is to shit all over everything! So, pussies may get mad at dicks once in a while, because... pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes, Chuck. And if they didn't fuck the assholes, you know what you'd get? You'd get your dick and your pussy all covered in shit.
        Assholes who just wanna shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick with some balls.

  12. I look forward to our sanitized, hermetically sealed future, totally devoid of peanut dust.

  13. Breaking news: Youtube to add a third vote widget to the video. Alongside the traditional 'thumbs up/thumbs down' will be a "problematic" button.

    1. Actually, they've had that for quite a while now. You just have to be the right sort to have access to the "problematic" button.

  14. so called 'social-justice' and TDS censorship proves that every new millennium should be begun artlessly, and with everybody having the same mind-numbing corporate job

  15. R. Crumb is probably laughing at the sanctimony of a marginally talented hack like Passmore casting judgment on him. Is anyone going to remember doodling tripe like "My Black Friend" even five years from now?

    1. I don't even remember it now.

    2. I don't know 'My Black Friend' and I don't care to know 'My Black Friend'. ^^

  16. This highlights another problem with the culture of identity politics, I think. People get the message that their racial or sexual "identity" is supposed to be so central to their existence that they see any offensive stereotype that involves one of their identity categories as a personal attack. The ridiculous caricature of a black woman is interpreted as an offense to all black women, rather than as a ridiculously overdone representation of cultural stereotypes that actually exist.

    1. by eliminating any and all of the pasts outlandish caricatures, people will not know what true racism was and only repeat it again since they will have no in site into what is offensive with out reference to it.

  17. So to be clear...

    The "problem" is that someone said something mean, and some people agree with them?

    No government, no force, no coercion... just someone saying something mean, and some people agreeing with them?

    Pretty sure that this being worthy of a full-length article should be counted as a "win" in the fight against censorship in comics. After all, if there were real problems, this piss-ant shit wouldn't have merited an article.

      1. Of course it "wooshed". It's all just hot air. A lot of fuss over nothing.

        Which is my point. That it's just a "woosh" is a good thing. As the article made clear, this guy used to be subject to actual censorship. Getting insulted by someone is just a "woosh" in comparison.

        1. EscherEnigma
          April.29.2019 at 2:57 pm
          "Of course it “wooshed”. It’s all just hot air. A lot of fuss over nothing."
          Woosh once more, dipshit.

          "Which is my point. That it’s just a “woosh” is a good thing. As the article made clear, this guy used to be subject to actual censorship. Getting insulted by someone is just a “woosh” in comparison."
          Woosh again. Man, you are both stupid an dishonest. Is it worth explanation to an idiot like this?
          The article had to do with snowflakes whining about someone who changed the views of cartooning now whining that he didn't support the snowflakes' issues.
          Censorship was not a part of it, but idiots like you are not likely to understand such nunace.
          Fuck off; you're tiresome.

    1. Just because you don't understand that we're walling ourselves in with every brick of this social anti-free speech culture that we allow to exist isn't anyone's fault but your own for deciding that ignorance is truly bliss.

      1. Having a bit of perspective is now ignorance?

        That's hilarious.

        1. "Having a bit of perspective is now ignorance?"
          Claiming "up" is "down" is now the left's claim of 'reality'.
          Your rep is well established for good reason; you're a fucking lefty ignoramus.

  18. The problem is the same as it always is:

    We have a generation of young people who didn't get the joke because they have no sense of humor.

    How sad for them

  19. My cartoonist pal did a great naked Mohammed
    character at work and then photocopied it.
    He was on the shitter when he was struck with panic after realizing he left the original in the copier 😀
    He rushed out to the copier and it wasn't there!
    Knowing full well he could be shitcanned, he sheepishly axed people in the office if they se
    en it: a little old lady staffer pulled it out of her desk and admonished him to be more careful....

    1. That was due to the influence of R. Crumb!

  20. Both Crumb and Gilbert Shelton were essentially do-your-own-thing libertarians--which is why communists, conservatives and econazis hate them. Shelton did a cartoon in which Phineas picks up a hitchhiker, who turns out to have a large dog. When stopped by a polite California cop the hippie hollers "Fuck you Pig! Sic 'im Fang!" and Phineas escapes the affray. On another day, lesson learnt' he refuses to stop for Mr Natural hitching a ride. This diplomatically explained why Freak Brothers Comix no longer let uneducated stoners sully its pages.

  21. I am currently enjoying the BBC's revision of "Les Misérellenials", where Buffy Javert discovers a 12 year old blog post by Jean Valjean misgendering a loaf of bread and organizes a twitter mob to deprive him of any livelihood. In this version Valjean is the

  22. So here are samples of Ben Passmore's strictly proper, non-creepy comics.

    1. Unreadably bad, but they do seem to like actual violence against people the “artist” disagrees with.

  23. "The paradox of liberal tolerance remains"

    No, it doesn't. These people aren't liberals, they just stole the word because "socialist" and "fascist" had acquired negative connotations.

    1. And then they ruined that word, so they tried to put "progressive" back on, which they had long ago ruined but having never been very successful in their horrible aims, everyone forgot about that.

      So now some are trying to reclaim liberal, just as libertarians have been doing for the last couple of decades. But it seems like "socialist" is surprisingly winning out.

  24. My roomate's half of-sister makes $77/hr on the internet. She has been without artwork for 7 months however very last month her pay have grow to be $14333 in truth walking at the internet for some hours. test This Out...

  25. Crumb drew people as they really are. That's the problem. Why caricture when you can just walk down the street and draw what you see? Truth hurts.

  26. Cool headline, bro.

  27. "I'm keeping that rapist ass Crumb art on my phone," she continued. "If anyone challenges me, I'll bust out my phone and say 'so you're down with this?' In person. To your face."

    To that, I would reply:
    "Crumb did not condone. He depicted. Are you saying this does not happen?" I still have a Zap or two somewhere... it was an interesting time in America.

  28. Have to buy some of those back issues before someone starts burning them.

  29. That said, Crumb pales in importance to the great Dock Chick

  30. These people getting outraged and offended by R. Crumb are gonna have a major cerebral aneurysm when they come across S. Clay Wilson....

  31. The leftist mobs are the new puritans. Actually being tolerant of weird shit is heresy again.

    An interesting thought too is that back then being straight laced was the mainstream, and the counter culture was weird and degenerate... Now being conservative and moral is counterculture. How fucking weird is that shit???

    Gen Z is more conservative in SOME views (but not all) than any generation since the Silent Generation. Pendulum is already swinging back to some degree, although there are some bits of progressive rot that seem to have fully soaked into Gen Z too. There's no better way to offend sensitive, progressive parents than to tell them they're a bunch of commie fag cucks and you're going to vote for Donald Trump when you turn 18! LOL

    We'll see how it all goes!

    1. "The leftist mobs are the new puritans. Actually being tolerant of weird shit is heresy again." So true man. New generation are the eighties moral majority. ^^ I doubt these moralists will be able to censor everything, though, there is just too much of it. (And that's a good thing. =D)

  32. God, this made me want to reread my old Crumb's comics. They were hilarious. XD

    1. I just want to write somewhere that I masturbate to the Fritz, Tha Cat comics when I was fifteen. =P

    2. "A white male cartoonist named Derf Backderf, who belongs to the generation between Crumb and Passmore and is best known for a gripping memoir about being childhood friends with Jeffrey Dahmer, initially came to the master's defense on Twitter. But Backderf soon deleted his pro-Crumb tweets, admitting on further contemplation that he was prepared to 'box up Crumb and stick him in the attic.'"
      I am disappointed with Derf. =/ I still like My Friend Dahmer, though.

  33. Transgressions are transgress! Duh! Don't spend a career putting transgressions to paper and than acted shocked when the puritans come. The whole point of transgressive art is to offend people, so don't be surprised when people are offended. Art has no special immunity to this.

  34. I read this with deep sadness because the current zeitgeist of what is acceptable has touched the underground. R. Crumb, and the like, live in a domain outside of this. This concept is completely lost on these modern sanitizers. Its supposed to be dark, "unacceptable", and irreverent. They should look inward and ask themselves, why is this offensive to me?, why am I agog?, Am I mad at the artist or myself? why do I like this so much!? Ha ha!

    1. "Am I mad at the artist or myself?"
      Hit that nail on he head...

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