Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Eulogies #1

I have decided to write a series of 'eulogies.' In these pieces I want to write as to why I admire certain individuals. I am particularly fond of eccentrics, misfits, loners and innovators.

The first part of 'Eulogies' will be about Charles Crumb, brother of cartoonist of Robert Crumb.

Charles Crumb appeared in a film called Crumb, which documented the creative process of cartoonist Robert Crumb. The film also documented the lives and habits of his other brothers, Charles and Maxon. The film is about the three brothers, rather than just a portrait of Robert Crumb as a cartoonist. (Hence the title.)

Robert became a world-renowned cartoonist, justifiably so. His panels are densely layered, methodically detailing the minutia of quotidian American life. However, like many artists, he was also a product of circumstance. He was drawing transgressive and iconoclastic comics at a time when 'hippie' and 'underground' comics kicked off.

Robert Crumb is obsessive about comics and the creative process. However, his love for comics started at childhood when Charles introduced them to him. If anything, Charles was more obsessive than Robert. All he cared about was comics. If anything, his work - back then, at least - was more accomplished than Robert's. It was so baroque that each panel was stuffed with 'wrinkles' and knotted patterns. Robert had other interests, but all Charles cared about was comics.  

But Robert left the house and started a career in comics. Charles stayed at home until he died at the age of forty. He became mentally ill. He ceased drawing comics.

Robert talks in the documentary as to how Charles started to 'lose it' in his late teens. His comic strips became more and more elaborate, more ornate. He developed a strange writing style, where perfectly legible handwriting would break off into an intricate, blotchy scrawl. The characters in his comics started to become even more unhinged; he developed a penchant for 'psychotic bunny rabbits.'

Charles also became obsessed with the Walt Disney adaptation of Treasure Island. Like other 'normal' kids, Charles and his siblings would play 'pirates' in the streets. Pirates became the sole subject matter of his comics. Like Robert, Charles was also quite the sex fiend. The interest escalated so much that Charles became obsessed sexually with the film's lead star, child actor Bobby Driscoll.

Charles was mortified should anyone else find out, so he suppressed his desires and died a virgin. His suicidal tendencies, his depression and his monomania were all heightened. He stayed indoors and  read his sizeable book collection. When a film crew arrived at his house, he said that he really wanted to read Kant and Hegel, but he hadn't got around to it yet.

Yet Charles had so much promise. He was very handsome as a young man. For this reason, he was bullied by envious jocks. Charles was quiet, self-effacing, sweet, intelligent, creative and articulate. Granted, he was deviant. However, he was also philosophical and resigned.

He was like a monk from antiquity, who withdrew from the rest of the world to confound his sins. He never left his room because he was too scared of the outdoors. The world is a callous and unforgiving place and would have spat him out. Whenever things went against him, Charles would always quip 'How perfectly goddamn delightful it all is to be sure.' Robert said 'That always took the wind out of my sails.' The life of Charles Crumb is a sad tale, but it can be uplifting. Yes, his talent went to waste. Yes, his entire life went to waste. It is also a reminder of how the world can be so cruel and inhospitable to eccentric individuals. However, it is uplifting to find an individual who wrestled with his demons and turned them into strange and warped art.