NEW YORK (Reuters) - Robert Crumb and his daughter Sophie may lovingly squabble about the life they have shared, but they can agree on one thing: the underground scene that allowed the elder Crumb to become a comic book cult hero hardly exists anymore.
Crumb, better known as R. Crumb, emerged in the late 1960s as founder of the alternative movement known as comix — self-published comic books with explicit adult content — and his 29-year-old daughter is now entering the market with her first title, “Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist.”
“Now there is a spectrum, from the most weird, crazy, psycho pornographic stuff to pop mainstream superheroes and all that crap,” R. Crumb told Reuters in a rare interview with Sophie. “There isn’t really an underground in the old sense.”
His daughter, sitting opposite him in a small New York art gallery where some of her drawings are being shown, was more emphatic: “I don’t think the underground exists any more. It’s all a big mish mash now.”
She and her famous parents — R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb — have collaborated on “Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist,” a collection of more than 250 sketches saved from her life growing up, starting at the age of two.
“It’s not crazy like psychotic, it’s crazy like zany,” she said of the book, while her father quickly deadpanned: “You are not psychotic.”
Both say Sophie’s book, which follows her life from growing up in France to living in New York and becoming a mother, was not influenced by drugs, such as LSD, that her father has long admitted affected his work.
Neither was her style of drawing modeled after R. Crumb’s, which, famously, is characterized by the funky “Keep On Truckin’” guy from the 1970s or iconic Fritz the Cat.
Sophie Crumb said she had no real insight into how his work may have influenced hers. “To me, you can’t have an opinion about it when you are born into it, it’s just normal.”
She was inspired by early cartoonists such as Frederick Bean “Tex” Avery, who created several Looney Tunes characters, as well as figures like “Popeye” and the “Fritzi Ritz” and “Nancy” comic strips. She counts contemporary comic book artists such as Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, Joe Sacco and Julie Doucet among people whose work she admires.
“People say they recognize his artwork in mine, but I don’t — obviously,” she said of her father.
Instead, Sophie mocked her father for his “weird drawings all over the house” when she was growing up.
“It was, really, always me and my parents together. When we moved to France, I made friends there. We lived in a village, but we were still the weirdos,” she said, while he laughed.
Looking back, she also disagrees with her iconic dad on whether he was aware of his fame. “It is weird , I don’t get it,” he said of his celebrity status.
“But you always wanted to be famous,” she interjected.
“I wanted to be appreciated,” he calmly corrected her. “I wanted to be recognized for my work, any artist does.”
But both agreed that, with the movie and art worlds now embracing comics and cartoons more than ever, current times were far removed from the underground days of the 1960s.
“Comics were made for print, they are not really made to look at on a wall,” he said. “To me it is not a finished book until it is printed, until you have a book in your hand.”
editing by Bob Tourtellotte