Robert Crumb J. D. O'Hara

Start Your Free Trial

J. D. O'Hara

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Download Robert Crumb Study Guide

Subscribe Now

[The] best young comics-makers, Robert Crumb and Vaughn Bodé, aren't sick and dirty; they're gross and funny. Their grossness takes the form of four-letter words and more or less naked women … or animals. So what's new? The grossness is new. In our day, gentlemen of the jury, those words and that nakedness were dirty; they generated sniggers and sidelong looks. Grossness is better. Laughing is better than leering.

As for the humor, well, it's television humor, I suppose, but it works. In the second of Fritz the Cat's three stories, Fritz is a C.I.A. agent ordered to discover the new Chinese ultimate weapon. The James Bond gags are okay, but when Fritz is captured and thrown before "Captain Stin Ki Chin Ki … Head of Seclet Porice Folce! Most fealed man in arr of China!" and he says, "Gleetings, paper tiger Amelican! Terr us, what has blought you to Peking?" then the reader can relax, knowing he's in safe hands. All the old heroes come back, blessedly transmogrified, as Fritz meets "Su-Su, Chinee sex bomb and beautiful temptress … No man can lesist my charms!" Silliness, sure, but silly satire, and satire demands a relatively bright audience.

The best of the three stories …, and one of the best things ever written/drawn about Today's Youth, is "Fritz Bugs Out," in which hip college-boy Fritz loses his girl, drops out, gets involved in social issues and the race problem … hides from the police, heads West, and in short encounters every cliché available. The pictures are "appropriately raunchy," according to an artist of my acquaintance, and the dialogue will warm your heart, especially if you fell for Easy Rider….

Hero Fritz and the swinging life are put down, gently and humorously—and that's another characteristic of these new comics. Crumb and Bodé, like their granddaddy Jules Feiffer and Mad comics, are moralists (the third Fritz story fails because Crumb blows his cool over nasty revolutionists), and therefore you can safely let your kids sneak Fritz the Cat into the house. They won't see any words they haven't heard or any acts they haven't imagined, but they might learn something while they laugh. Besides, they're going to buy it anyway. Like everyone else.

J. D. O'Hara, "A New Kind of Comic Book: Learn While You Laugh" (© 1969 Postrib Corp.; reprinted by permission of The Washington Post and the author), in Book World—Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1969, p. 7.