The last lecture we had in English 388 Dr. Beaty mentioned a celebrated cartoonist named Robert Crumb, who is referred to as “The Godfather of Comics”. He started taking LSD at the age of 22 and his whole outlook on cartooning changed forever: “I started taking LSD in Cleveland in June of ’65. That changed my head around. It made me stop taking cartooning so seriously and showed me a whole other side” (Crumb). Without this drug, Crumb would still be stuck drawing for the American Greetings Corporation and none of his beloved characters would have been discovered. He even credits using the substance for his new life, new friends and how he became “a legend”. So my question is: to become a memorable and celebrated cartoonist, does your imagination need to be as tripped out as Crumb’s?
Crumb’s first graphic novel was created in 1963 and was called The Yum Yum Book. It is a fragmented fairytale about a frog named Oggie who climbs a magic beanstalk, only to discover a female naked giant who wishes to devour the frog. The drawings are amusing and simplistic; emphasizing that this was Crumbs’ first work. The comic was not a giant success and Crumb went back to the drawing board.
Two years later, Crumb began using LSD and discovered a new way to think and draw, “It was during that fuzzy period that I recorded in my sketchbook all the main characters I would be using in my comics for the next ten years; Mr. Natural, Flakey Foont, Schuman The Human, The Snoid, Eggs Ackley, The Vulture Demoness, Shabno The Shoe-Horn Dog, this one, that one … it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like a religious vision that changes someones life” (Crumb). His comics took a new twist and he created an array of work, Zap Comix, Bijou Funnies, Motor City Comics, Fritz the Cat, etc. Several of his works feature sex, humour and a lot of obscure cartoons that he has taken out of his real life situations.
Similarly, there have been an array of cartoonists who have participated in drug abuse and have become celebrated with their trippy work. Most notably is Alan Moore, a British comic artist, best known for his series including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Lost Girls and From Hell. He began working on poetry in his early youth and made small contributions to The Arts Lab. When he reached the age of seventeen, he began dealing with LSD and changed his vision and outlook on his cartooning style. “LSD was an incredible experience … but for me it kind of – it hammered home to me that reality was not a fixed thing. That the reality that we saw about us everyday was one reality, and a valid one, but there were others, different perspectives where different things have meaning that were just as valid. That had a profound effect on me” (Moore). While living in England, he felt that he was not fulfilling his love for his work and so moved to America. He began working for DC Comics, working on big name characters such as Batman, and Superman. During this period, Moore helped bring a great social respectability to the genre form. With the help of LSD, he has become one of the most prominent figures in the comic industry.
So again, the question remains… to become a memorable celebrated cartoonist, does your imagination need to be tripped out by drugs? I believe that craziness and drug use are requisite conditions for creative genius.