|R Crumb's Carload O'Comics, second printing, Bélier Press (1976)|
Once upon a time in the distant year of 1976, my mother, Barbara Diehl, and her sisters Maris and Cindy, along with their numerous children had gone to the city of Denver to enjoy the Christmas holiday in the Larimar Square shopping district where they held a yearly celebration honoring the works of Charles Dickens.
People in costume walked the area caroling, chestnuts roasting, a puppet show production of a Christmas Carol played every hour, bitter hot chocolate with peppermint sticks to drink, the air was cold and sharp and there was a nice dusting of snow on the ground, but the sky was a rich, deep, blue. A perfect all American Christmas scene filled with families shopping, children laughing, people still wearing their red, white and blue sweaters at the end of this bicentennial year.
In this idyllic setting my mom more or less unknowingly, bought me porn.
|Dale Steinberger, The Jewish Cowgirl, originally published in Big Ass Comics #1 (1969)|
These days Robert Crumb is a world famous artist with a huge body of work behind him, most recently a fairly brilliant adaptation of the book of Genesis. But in 1976, Arcade was just getting started and Weirdo was a decade away, still Crumb with his deeply neurotic, highly explicit exploration of his own sexual dysfunctions, was already an internationally famous figure.
I had just turned 14 that Christmas, and while being a comic fan I had heard of Crumb and the undergrounds, I hadn't actually been exposed to them yet. We were in a bookstore when I saw, sitting on a remainder table, a copy of R Crumb's Carload O'Comics. Looking around to make sure my mother or my aunts weren't looking I opened the book and started reading some very strange stuff.
|A Gurl, originally published in Big Ass Comics #2 (1971)|
Back in 1976, collections of comics, let alone undergrounds comics were very rare. There had been a bunch of histories of comics written during that era, and Marvel had begun the "Origins" series, but it still just wasn't common. So I dived on the book when I saw it, especially as it had a topless girl on the cover. I only got to peak for a second or two when my mom turned the corner and I quickly put the book down so that I didn't get busted. I moved on to a different part of the store and figured that was it for me and this strange, and fascinating little book.
Carload O'Comics has numerous sexually explicit comics packed inside of it's pages. And being from Crumb, pretty unhealthy sexually explicit comics at that. Certainly nothing a mother would want her 14 year old, reading, I'm sure.
Because of that, I have to admit that I was quite surprised to find a brand spanking new copy of R Crumb's Carload O'Comics under the tree that Christmas morning.
My mom, bless her, had seen me looking at the Crumb book, and once I had moved on, and obviously, clearly, absolutely, without actually looking at the cover, let alone noticing the naked Angelfood McSpade on it, bought me the book.
Mom was not always on top of things when she was distracted.
I only bring it up because I was moving some books on my shelf and ran across my copy, that I don't think I have looked at in at least 30 years. I'm a fan of Crumb and if you like his early stuff, this book is certainly the collection to find, but as interesting as I once found it, having seen what Crumb has grown into as an artist, most of the material just seemed sadly lacking.
Doesn't matter though, this is a book I'll keep on the shelf until my dying day. After all it's not every day a man gets a dirty book from his mother. And those kind of presents, well those kind of presents, you hold on too.
Merry Christmas one and all.
|Robert Crumb, self-portrait (1969)|