Fuzzy the Bunny by Charles and Robert Crumb
Fuzzy the Bunny, by Robert & Charles Crumb (Zap Comix #5, 1969)

Charles Crumb was the older brother of legendary underground artist Robert Crumb. It was Charles who pushed his year and a half younger brother into making comic art. But he has also made comics himself, although his mental problems kept him from ever pursuing a professional career. Later, as Charles and Robert became more socially reclusive it was again Charles who introduced his brother to more intellectual, philosophical and mystic literature. This too would shape the content of many of Robert's later more adult comics.

Charles Crumb was born in 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When he and Robert were 16 and 14, respectively, they self-published three comic books under the title FOO, which contained parodies of the brothers' favorite horror and funny animal comics. An avid fan of Mad Magazine, Carl Barks, Walt Disney and especially Bobby Driscoll, the child star of the film 'Treasure Island' (1950), most of Charles' early comics were variations on this film, but often with a psychologically twisted and sexual undertone. His rather Crumb-esque artwork later evolved into pages with ever growing text balloons and eventually into painstaking concentric lines with no actual drawings at all.

Comic art by Charles Crumb

Charles lived a reclusive life with his mother, according to himself to restrain himself from his "homosexual pedophiliac tendencies", as can be seen in the 1994 documentary film 'Crumb' by Terry Zwigoff and David Lynch. He made a first suicide attempt in 1971, after working as a phone solicitor at the Philadelphia Enquirer for six months. Charles survived, but was put under medication for the rest of his life. In 1992, shortly after the filming of the documentary, he committed suicide, reportedly dying from an overdose of pills. His artwork was never officially published during his lifetime, but he is credited as co-creator with Robert of two 'Fuzzy the Bunny' stories, that were published in Zap Comix and XYZ Comics. The story from Zap (published in 1969) is rather childlike. It stars Fuzzy, a rabbit, and Donny, a dog, who find a magical lamp in their attic, which kicks off a series of wild, naïve adventures set in exotic places. Robert based it on a story they had made in childhood and redrew it in his more mature and professional drawing style as an adult, without changing anything about the content or lay-out. The story in XYZ Comics is named 'Nut Factory Blues' (1972), after an old blues record from 1931. It involves Donny visiting Fuzzy in a mental hospital. Robert drew it after visiting Charles in Philadelphia, who also resided in a mental institution at the time. Much of Donny and Fuzzy's conversations in the comic were taken directly from things Charles had written or things he said to Robert. Apart from inspiring this therapeutical story, Charles had no involvement whatsoever in actually writing or drawing this story.

Fuzzy the Bunny by Robert and Charles Crumb
Fuzzy the Bunny in "Nut Factory Blues" (XYZ Comics, June 1972)

Charles Crumb received more posthumous attention after the release of 'Crumb' (1994). His work has been exhibited and featured in later collections like 'Fandom's Finest Comics' (1997) and 'Crumb Family Comics' (1998). Despite his troubled life and equally troubled artwork, Charles Crumb will go down in history as the man who had the most significant influence on Robert Crumb's artistic career. Even though Robert was more or less forced to draw out his brothers obsessions it was still beneficial to him in the end. It honed his graphical skills and showed him the potential of comics as a means of personal expression.

Foo by Charles Crumb

Series and books by Charles Crumb in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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