Crumb and Co.
I was first introduced to R. Crumb—the man credited with founding the underground comics movement—while attending a wedding reception in Davis a couple of decades ago. Crumb, who lived in Winters at that time, was friends with the groom. The comic artist’s band, the Cheap Suit Serenaders, took up instruments and played old-time music throughout the afternoon while people danced and drank champagne.
Strumming his banjo, wearing a dark suit and trademark coke-bottle glasses, Crumb looked angular and amused, like a caricature he might draw of himself. Most noted for creating iconic countercultural characters like Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat, Crumb was already renowned back then for being a subversive artist with a twisted way of looking at the world.
Next we come to his wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb. I met her on several occasions during the 1980s through a mutual poet friend from Winters. Like her husband, Kominsky-Crumb struck me as countercultural to the core, but insecure, too, like someone who hadn’t come into her own yet. Later, though, she rose to become a successful comic artist in her own right, with works like Twisted Sisters and Wimmen’s Comix #1. Decades later, it was strange to see the couple’s marriage and Crumb’s family dissected in the brilliant but disturbing Terry Zwigoff documentary Crumb.
Surprisingly, the Crumbs (who now live in France) weren’t the only renowned underground comic artists ever to have taken up residence in the region. As part of our Feature Story package, see Jackson Griffith’s “Comedy central” for details on other notable artists who somehow succumbed to the magnetic pull the region obviously has with comics.
As for Carol Tyler, whose art and life are the subject of this week’s Feature Story, it can be said that, like Kominsky-Crumb, she also moved to the Sacramento region and proceeded to marry a comic-book artist and raise a child here—with dreams of drawing all the while. Now living in Cincinnati, Tyler has a new book, Late Bloomer, featuring lots of panels that recall her family’s years living in Sacramento and Yolo counties. See “Comix relief” for a look, through Tyler’s eyes, at a very familiar neighborhood.