Wednesday, May 22, 2013

© R.Crumb

 Welcome back to Premium Panels, the special section here at Plopish! where we pay tribute to a single image which we believe stand out amongst the thousands and thousands that make up the magic world of comic books...

And since we feasted on the European ligne claire virtuosity of Hergé last week, why not go to the direct opposite - the gritty darkness of American underground artist Robert Crumb!

The panel above taken from his early masterpiece "Fritz bugs out", appearing at the very last page where Crumb's character Fritz the Cat  (a rambunctious, free-spirited but also egotistical proto-hippie) has to face a serious come-down from his careless escapades as he ends up in an big unknown city and staggers lonely and bewildered through its industrial wastelands.

Crumb's panel catches well the eeriness of the floodlight-lit industrial area, set against the blackness of the night sky, and is drawn in his early "easy-does-it" -style which was sloppily artistic enough to find the appreciation of the underground and counterculture crowd, but beneath the surface lies the basic craftsmanship which set Crumb apart from so many other practitioners of underground comics: control of perspective and proportion, balancing of solid areas and line, etc, etc.

Such skills were partly the product of one of Crumb's many obsessions: walking around odd and remote parts of Cleveland, where he lived in the early part of the 1960's, drawing what he saw into one of the sketchbooks he was always (and still is) carrying with him.

Fritz the animal, tin-pan Casanova, paper maché revolutionary, master bullshitter...
Here he is, walking down a lonely and deserted street in an unforgiven environment, heading for disaster (he gets mugged in an alley a few moments later) and not really grasping any of it!

To me this panel represents the dark seriousness that is part of great art like Crumb's. A basic knowledge of the sad fact that we could be partying for our lives today, only to face pain, death and destruction no later than tomorrow, and if the main ingredients of your life is to stay hip and up to the moment, you better pray that moment lasts forever.

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