Drawn Together by Robert R Crumb and Aline Crumb

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Drawn Together by Robert R Crumb and Aline Crumb

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A comprehensive summary of the work of this raunchy, artistic and chatty couple.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 264 Date: October 2012
Publisher: Knockabout
ISBN: 9780861661787

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This book is, as it says several times, the collected works of the world's only comic-strip creating husband-and-wife partnership. While this is to ignore the work Joyce does to co-write some of Harvey Pekar's titles, there certainly is not a couple such as this. Over several decades of work, we see just how joined at the hip they are. Most of the panels are drawn by him - R - with Aline drawing herself on top of his inked backgrounds. Later on, their self-created titles are split, with him doing half the pages, and her own opus on the other half - by this time she had had works out under her own name. But so close are the couple in each other's intimate works, they are never very far from the edge of the frame.

The work and career of Crumb was never too far removed from that of Pekar - who he did of course illustrate. Both spent too much of their career writing self-revelatory, exceedingly revealing and often downbeat autobiographies that were seen by six men and a dog, with the occasional commission from a newspaper or magazine to bring some money in. Both eventually had the fame and energy to make a major life-change - Pekar from out of the record office where he worked, Crumb and his empire to the south of France. Both had a quirky film made revealing possibly too much of their own private persona. Both factored all those changes and films and their personal reaction into their work.

Both, as a result, made comics that were self-reflecting, talking about their own creation, and the response to same, but here we get the added impetus of Aline, who many Crumb fans saw as a kind of Delilah-type figure, spoiling his output and grabbing on to his coat-tails for fame. A lot of the dialogue here circles around many of the same issues - including how her over-bearing manner should not work with his more petite, diminutive, quiet (and older) personality.

There is no attempt to annotate this volume, so sometimes we have no idea how and where the material first appeared. The full works come with covers and introductions, but there are also commissioned strips from a place unknown - one monthly spread, curtailed it seems by the arrival of their first-born, one that might have been daily, curtailed it seems within a fortnight. But the majority of the content is more long-form, either over three wordy pages, or over 32.

Over the whole output the content - like Pekar's, to a similar extent - can feel quite repetitive. The appeal her arse holds for him, the fact she's what some might think of as a Jewish harridan and he's not, the hard work he found it encouraging her own creativity, and the frenetic, violent-seeming sex they enjoyed over all the years yet doubt should be shown in this form to their offspring - all is here in graphic detail. It's a bizarre look at a quiet, seemingly unassuming man and his wife's imagination - Pekar never got absorbed by an alien and taken into space, and he certainly never duelled with Zorro as R Crumb does here.

In a way this is a volume more to be admired for its comprehensive archiving of American comics of this kind, as they slowly reached a kind of acceptance from the mainstream. It does feel a little too much in one dollop. It also can be very awkward for those new to the genre - certainly the lettering, from both, tripped me up copious times as to what balloon should be read first. They certainly do have distinctive styles - he is very recognisably Crumb, with his shading, hatching and character design. If you think him a little loose and rough-and-ready you have not seen Aline's work, where she can change hairstyle and clothing between panels (which raises its own discussion points within the work). But together they have an artfulness - the intriguing focus of an autobiographical tale that covers moments of life but takes years to create. On the page, in bed, and in life, they clearly work incredibly well together.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Do not confuse this with his latest long-form work, his very staid by comparison retelling of Genesis.

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Buy Drawn Together by Robert R Crumb and Aline Crumb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Drawn Together by Robert R Crumb and Aline Crumb at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Drawn Together by Robert R Crumb and Aline Crumb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Drawn Together by Robert R Crumb and Aline Crumb at Amazon.com.


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