August 30 is R. Crumb’s 76th birthday. To celebrate, we’ve dug up this rare, exclusive interview with the famous artist from the November, 1977 issue of High Times, which R. Crumb rendered for us in the form of—what else?—a comic strip.
Robert Crumb has changed America. He and his underground cartoonist colleagues transformed a minor medium into a major art form. He charted the hallucinations and revelations of a million acid trips. He gave us Mr. Natural, Angelfood McSpade, Flakey Foont, Mr. Snoid, Honeybunch Kaminski, Lenore Goldberg, Fritz the Cat, “Stoned Again” and “Keep On Truckin’” and a host of other characters more real to many people than they are to themselves. He wrote the Great American Novel in comic-book format a dozen times and made us realize that our lives were controlled by talking toilet bowls and black blues singers who died 30 years ago. He created a uniquely recognizable visual style in modern art and put it in the service of the revolution. He became America’s last living celebrity who wouldn’t sell out.
In recent years, Crumb’s work has become more dense and psychological than ever before, exorcising the demons of his bitter childhood, failed marriage and private life for an audience that sees itself in Crumb’s most painful and personal visions. As the intensity of his work has grown, he has published fewer strips and devoted more time to his band, the Cheap Suit Serenaders. Now Crumb publishes only rarely, yet he has become an American Dostoevsky, whose every statement commands spellbound attention. And, of course, every performance remains outrageously funny.
Crumb once said, “From the bedroom closet I operate a huge network of radios, sending out incantations, curses, voodoo hoodoo. I’ve been called an evil genius by cities of assholes, but I know who these people are, and they’re on my list. You might say I’m a mad scientist, for my plans have all been worked out quite methodically…logically…but the ends justify the means, heh heh. These comic books are part of that plan.
“I know the bastards are out to get me because I bring you the truth! And the truth is the one thing these bastards can’t tolerate! I only hope to God I am able to complete my mission on this planet before they succeed in exterminating me!”
Fortunately, the great Crumbum is still working. Still talking. And still telling the truth.