In honor of R. Crumb’s birthday today, here are a few of my favorite outtakes from his interview, the first Art of Comics, which appears in our summer issue, still on newsstands. Interviewer Ted Widmer asks Crumb how he feels about publishing hardcover books:
You’ve taken what was a medium of thirty pages of flimsy, low quality paper with a paper cover and now you’ve conquered the hardcover book format.
Reluctantly. I love the old, cheap comic book format so much because the format itself is a statement. It keeps you from becoming too pretentious. I like that about it. Keep it cheap and low-grade, the format, keep it cheap and accessible and then you’re not required to be overly artistic or have overly deep, profound meaning or whatever, you know, all that stuff that can make you very self-conscious. I got reluctantly dragged into hardcover books.
But I think your fans are happy that those hardcover books exist because you would have to be a maniacal collector to get all of your stuff otherwise. It’s basically impossible to find back issues of The East Village Other, but for hardly any money you can buy The R. Crumb Handbook and see your greatest hits.
Yeah, that’s true. And also, the whole context of cheaply produced comic books is gone, basically. All those newsstands, that kind of distribution is gone.
In June we posted a slideshow of Crumb self-portraits. My favorite is the one where he’s squinching up his nose to keep his glasses on his face.
I love Crumb’s answer to Widmer about his next projects:
Do you see a sequence of more literary stories coming out? You’ve done some Samuel Johnson, Philip K. Dick.
The classics illustrated. I did a sequence from Nausea by Sartre a couple of years ago. I did a couple of other things like that. I have lots of ideas about stuff like that but there’s always so much work in it, it’s so time consuming. I’m getting old, you know.