The Bunch, from Powerpak Comics, by Aline Kominsky 1979
Cover drawing from 'The Bunch's Power Pak Comics' (1977).

Aline Kominsky, since her marriage also known as Aline Kominsky-Crumb, was an American alternative comics artist, painter and sculptor. One of the first women active in the underground comix movement, Kominsky was a regular contributor to Wimmen's Comix, co-founder of Twisted Sisters and chief editor of Weirdo (1986-1993). Her audacious and witty autobiographical comics explored many taboos, ranging from sex, drugs, facelifts and abortion to her Jewish upbringing. With a great gift for self-mockery, Kominsky dared to portray women, including herself, as being just as mundane as men. She often depicted herself in an unflattering, even disgusting light. Despite the sometimes grim subject matter, Kominsky always found comedy in her topics. Her honesty was refreshing and helped readers take things not that seriously. In their crossover comics ('Aline & Bob', 'Dirty Laundry'), Aline Kominsky and her husband Robert Crumb took this approach even a step further, mocking their relationship without sugarcoating anything. Historically, they are the first cartoonist couple to have done this. In irregular production since the mid-1970s, the couple visualized many key events in their respective lives in uncensored but funny comics for nearly half a century. Although Aline Kominsky's comics were often overshadowed by Crumb's, she is nowadays recognized as a groundbreaking and influential artist in her own right.

The Bunch by Aline Kominsky
'The Bunch's Power Pak Comics' #1.

Early life
Aline Ricky Goldsmith was born in 1948 on Long Island, New York, but lived in Far Rockaway, near Queens, for four years. The majority of her childhood was spent in Woodmere, a hamlet in Hempstead, Nassau County, also on Long Island. Her father was a Jewish businessman, who co-founded BARG Industries. Her mother worked as an ad salesperson for the Yellow Pages. Kominsky remembered her family and Jewish upbringing as "very oppressive and suffocating". Her father was a violent man, involved in shady criminal activities. During angry outbursts, he often yelled at his wife and children. One time he beat Kominsky's head against a wall. Another time he saw his insecure daughter in make-up and scoffed: "You can't shine shit". Kominsky had no fond memories of her mother either. She described her as a stereotypical Jewish princess, overly narcissistic and obsessed with keeping up appearances. Although the family wasn't rich, they still tried to pass themselves off as such. Many of her parents' fights were about money. The psychological stress wore hard on her and her brother, who later became a heroin addict. Kominsky also disliked the Jewish environment she grew up in. At age eight, she asked her grandmother why she and all the women had to sit behind a curtain in the synagogue. She was told that they were "dirty" and should therefore not be seen by men during the ceremony. Even as a child, Kominsky felt this was nonsense and soon after abandoned her religion for good. Nevertheless, her grandmother was the only relative she actually liked. At her home, she felt safe and secure.

In high school, one of Kominsky's classmates was future TV actress Peggy Lipton, later famous as Julie Barnes in 'The Mod Squad' and Norma Jennings in David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks'. In 1991, Kominsky made a two-page comic story about her: 'I Remember Peggy', printed in Raw issue #3 (June 1991). As a teenager, Kominsky became more rebellious, swept away by the counterculture of the 1960s. She loved novelists like Charles Bukowski, John Fante and Jean Rhys. Although she sometimes described herself as a "self-loathing Jew", she adored the dark, self-deprecating humor of Jewish comedians like Woody Allen, Joey Bishop, Alan King, Jackie Mason, Don Rickles, Henny Youngman and especially Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. She also fancied rock music. When the Beatles arrived at JFK airport in New York in 1964, Aline Kominsky broke away from the crowd and jumped into George Harrison's arms, a moment also caught on camera. But the band who really liberated her were The Fugs. They openly sang about sex, drugs and politics in a time when mainstream media didn't give airplay to such acts. After attending a concert, she went backstage and became acquainted with the band members.

'I Remember Peggy' (Raw #3, June 1991).

Aline Kominsky particularly remembered 1966 as a "wild summer". She smoked marijuana, took LSD and experimented with her sexuality. During her first week at the state university in New Paltz, Kominsky got pregnant. In a panic, the 17-year old ran away from home and hid in the Lower East Side of New York. Since abortion was illegal, adoption was her only option. Her father eventually tracked her down, right when Kominsky was in her ninth month. Frightened of facing him, she had her psychiatrist arrange a meeting. When father and daughter were reunited, he was indeed very upset and started to cry. But he agreed to keep her pregnancy a secret from Kominsky's mother, since she would never forgive her daughter for giving up her grandchild for adoption. In June 1967, the boy was born. Kominsky left her identity information and address at the adoption agency, in case the child ever wanted to contact her. Otherwise, she deliberately never contacted his foster parents, not wanting to interfere with his upbringing. Two months later, Kominsky's father died. Although they were never close, there was more respect and open communication in their final months together. Looking back, it gave Kominsky a vindicated feeling. The same happened decades later, after her mother watched the documentary 'Crumb' (1994), in which Kominsky talks about her bad relationship with her mother. Since the old woman didn't read comics, she was never aware of how her daughter saw her. The documentary was an eye-opener and mother and daughter reconciled. By then, Kominsky also developed more understanding and empathy for what her mother must have gone through with a husband who was a pathological liar and criminal. This became particularly clear once he died and her mother found more happiness in a new relationship. In the comic story 'Mommie Dearest Bunch' (Wimmen's Comix #9, May 1984), Kominsky acknowledged how she inherited both the best and the worst traits of her mother.

Aline Kominsky describes her time in art academy in Power Pak Comics #2 (1981).

Higher studies and artistic influences
Kominsky's parents were not cultivated people. They didn't care about art and didn't allow comics in the house, save for John Stanley's 'Little Lulu'. Luckily, her neighbors often went to museums and took the girl along. This exposure motivated Kominsky to pick up painting. At the encouragement of her art teacher, her parents allowed their daughter to go to art school. She studied at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in East Village, Manhattan. Kominsky was particularly inspired by impressionism, German expressionism, art brut and outsider art. Her favorite artists were Paul Cézanne, Otto Dix, James Ensor, George Grosz, Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse, Alice Neel and Pablo Picasso. However, she didn't enjoy her time at the academy. The teachers were so critical of her skills that she actually abandoned painting for several years. After graduation in 1968, she convinced her best male friend, Carl Kominsky, to marry her. That way she could avoid moving back in with her mother. The couple lived on a farm in Tuscon, Arizona, along with his two brothers and father. Kominsky continued her art studies at the University of Arizona and graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Although she was asked to become an art teacher, she declined the offer. She later explained that many teachers there were depressed alcoholics. Since she was already a heavy drinker herself, she didn't want to pursue a career that could make her habit worse. Instead, she worked as a bookkeeper at the Glide Memorial Church Publication Company.

After six months, Aline and Carl Kominsky divorced, but she kept his last name. Interviewed by Peter Bagge for The Comics Journal (1990), she explained that Kominsky "sounded better because it was more ethnic". Within two months after she left him, Carl Kominsky was shot and killed in a gunfight over a love triangle. His brother shot his murderer and was sentenced to life in prison. Shortly after that, the Kominsky’s father died of a heart attack. In 1971, Aline Kominsky moved to San Francisco, California, where she lived together with Ken Weaver, drummer of the rock band The Fugs. There she was introduced to many big names in the Bay Area underground comix comix scene. The idea of comics strictly intended for adults appealed to her. These taboo-shattering stories were similar to the cartoons she drew in her own sketchbooks. Her favorite artist was Justin Green, who had just published 'Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary' (1972), an autobiographical comic about his strict Catholic upbringing. Through her own dysfunctional and suffocating religious family background, Kominsky could relate to his account. But most of all, she liked his simple, homely graphic style, which proved that you didn't need sophisticated, elaborate drawings to tell entertaining, thought-provoking stories. Later in life, she additionally expressed admiration for Lynda Barry, Mark Beyer, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Lloyd Dangle, Julie Doucet, Michael Dougan, Phoebe Gloeckner, Bill Griffith, the Hernandez Brothers (Gilbert, Jaime and Mario), Ted Jouflas, Carol Lay, Cathy Millet, Diane Noomin, Dori Seda, Art Spiegelman, Carol Tyler and Chris Ware. But she felt the strongest bond with Robert Crumb, who would eventually become her lifelong husband.

Aline Kominsky meets Robert Crumb in 'Sex Crazed Housewife or My Troubles With Men' (Weirdo #21, Fall 1987).

Robert Crumb
In October 1971, Kominsky caught the attention of Robert Crumb, known as the godfather of the underground comix movement. By sheer coincidence, she happened to share her looks, ethnicity and part of her name with one of his comic characters, Honeybunch Kaminski from his one-shot book 'Big Ass Comics' (1969). Crumb had a preference for women with massive thighs, huge buttocks and strong legs. He also admired Kominsky's attitude, humor and independence. Her comics appealed to him, since her raunchy self-mockery resembled his own work. Likewise, Kominsky always had a soft spot for geeky men. She was charmed when Crumb complimented her "cute knees". Contrary to many other women, she wasn't repulsed by his sleazy, cynical, misogynist stories. She actually saw the comedy in them. Above all, Kominsky felt that Crumb was honestly himself. He didn't hold anything back, which she admired. In later interviews, Kominsky said that she had a somewhat prophetic feeling that they were destined for each other. Indeed, she gave him well-needed stability in his life and career, doing the same for her too.

Crumb and Kominsky met at a perfect moment. In the early 1970s, the underground comix movement had run out of steam. Many youngsters who bought these comics a couple of years earlier had now matured. They had grown out of the formulaic smutty sex fantasies and stopped buying them. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local communities were allowed to decide for themselves whether they would allow distribution of "pornographic" material. Many U.S. States banned underground comix under this rule or threatened stores that sold them with legal harassment. Several underground artists toned down the sex scenes and shock comedy, paving the way for a new genre, alternative comics. Thanks to Crumb's fame, he had enough commissions to continue living from his art. But this work left him with too little time to actually draw his own stuff. On top of this, he had broken every possible taboo in his comics and wondered what else he could explore. Kominsky encouraged him to draw more autobiographical, self-analytical comics. Elements from his youth and personal obsessions had already seeped into his comics, but usually with fictional characters. On Kominsky's advice, he also expressed more thought-provoking social commentary, using his comics as a graphic editorial column. In return, Crumb motivated Kominsky to draw more comics, despite her initial reservations about her graphic skills. Thanks to his stature, she was able to get her work published and noticed.

At the time, Robert Crumb was married to a woman named Dana Morgan, with whom he also had a son, Jesse (1968-2018). But their bumpy marriage had evolved into an open relationship. As such, Crumb and Kominsky became a couple, while Dana developed a relationship with Fugs drummer Ken Weaver. In 1978, Crumb and Dana divorced, whereupon he married Aline Kominsky. Their daughter, Sophie Crumb, was born in 1981 and would later develop a comic career of her own. Crumb credited Kominsky with keeping his spirits up whenever he was depressed or fatalistic about the future. She managed everything he was incapable or unwilling to do himself. When Crumb, for instance, launched his own alternative comic magazine Weirdo in 1981, he eventually made her the chief editor. From issues #18 (Fall 1986) through #28 (Summer 1993), she was in charge of the content. In 1991, Kominsky also convinced her husband to move to the South of France, which was beneficial for his mental health. France, they found out, was a more open atmosphere to people with non-conventional opinions and respect for cultural traditions and nature. Kominsky also took the initiative for the compilation book, 'The Sweeter Side of Robert Crumb' (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), which collected Crumb's more gentle comics. Even though she remarked in an interview by Daniel Robert Epstein for Suicide (22 November 2008), that the content was actually all more melancholic and existential than "sweet".

During their marriage, Crumb and Kominsky still maintained an open relationship. Both continued to meet other partners. One of them, printmaker Christian Coudurès, was Kominsky's unofficial "second" husband. Since the Crumbs moved to Sauve, a French village nestled in the Cévennes foothills, he even shared their home. Kominsky described him as being "more suited to help her with chores or other practical household problems than Robert". Christian also had a daughter from a previous marriage, Agathe McCamy, who became Kominsky's comic colorist. Interviewed by Daniel Robert Epstein on (22 November 2006), Kominsky said that her open relationship worked because "most people lie and sneak around about it. (...) Deception is the most destructive aspect of what undermines a relationship."

Goldie, appearing in Wimmen's Comix.

Wimmen's Comix
When Kominsky debuted in 1971-1972, the underground comix scene had been dominated by male cartoonists. Only a few women were active in the field, among them Nancy Burton, Willy (Barbara) Mendes and Trina Robbins. Although Kominsky's comics were well-received, her relationship with Robert Crumb made some of her feminist colleagues suspicious of her. Crumb's comics were, after all, filled with things Wimmen's Comix reacted against. They were not only sexist and women unfriendly, but had also inspired countless other male cartoonists to draw similar stories. Robbins and her colleagues didn't understand what Kominsky saw in him and his work. The women also disagreed over gender politics. In Kominsky's opinion, Robbins glamorized women too much as some kind of "superheroes" (...) under the auspices of feminism". Although Kominsky had her fair share of unpleasant experiences with men, she didn't see them as enemies, nor rivals. She had no frustrations about male chauvinist oppression either. While she acknowledged that inequality between the sexes existed and discrimination was a genuine problem, she didn't want to complain about it. Her feminist colleagues also felt women shouldn't be pigeonholed as lust objects, again something Kominsky disagreed with. She actually enjoyed male attention and dressing up sexy. Even if men's comments were sleazy or sexist, she simply laughed it off. In a nutshell, her general problem with Robbins and her feminist colleagues was that they took everything too seriously. Kominsky wanted to make funny autobiographical comics and poke fun not only at men, but also women. The only artist on her wavelength was Diane Noomin, so in 1975, both women left Wimmen's Comix, with plans for a new publication.

Cover illustration for Twisted Sisters (1976). Didi Glitz insert by Diane Noomin.

Twisted Sisters
After leaving Wimmen's Comix, Aline Kominsky and Diane Noomin established their own underground comix magazine, the stand-alone Twisted Sisters, published in June 1976 by Last Gasp, the same imprint that also released Wimmen's Comix. Twisted Sisters was literally a two-women project: Kominsky and Noomin were the only contributors. All comics were solo stories, except for 'Hot Air', which they wrote and drew together. Compared with Wimmen's Comix, the magazine had a less militant feel, with a strong emphasis on self-deprecating comedy. The cover set the tone: it featured Kominsky on the toilet, stressing whether people still find her attractive. The drawing was apparently so controversial that the cartoonists couldn't find a printer willing to print the issue. Eventually the job got done in Mexico, "where they just didn't care," as Kominsky recalled. Apparently, the cover also repulsed many potential readers, and the sales remained low. Interviewed by Sarah Lightman for Closure (15 April 2016), Kominsky expressed her amazement that a woman sitting on a toilet was considered far more problematic than the horribly cruel sex and violence in the rest of Twisted Sisters' pages.

Despite the low sales of the Twisted Sisters anthology, by the time of its release several female cartoonists credited it as an inspiration, including Julie Doucet, Ellen Forney and Phoebe Gloeckner. In interviews, Aline Kominsky has mentioned that there was a band that named itself after the 1976 comic book, but in fact the hard rock band Twisted Sister had been performing under that name since 1973.

Two decades after the original 1976 issue, Twisted Sisters returned as an anthology title, this time edited solely by Noomin. 'Twisted Sisters. A Collection of Bad Girl Art' (Penguin, 1991) reprinted earlier stories from other underground publications by Diane Noomin, Aline Kominsky and several additional female cartoonists, including Joyce Brabner, M.K. Brown, Julie Doucet, Mary Fleener, Phoebe Gloeckner, Liza Kitchell, Krystine Kryttre, Carol Lay, Caryn Leschen, Carel Moiseiwitsch, Dori Seda, Leslie Sternbergh, Carol Tyler and Penny Van Horn. Unlike the original 'Twisted Sisters', this new edition was picked up by a larger audience. Between April and July 1994, Kitchen Sink Press released a Noomin-edited 'Twisted Sisters' comic book series with new stories by many of the contributors to the previous anthology, but without Aline Kominsky's participation.

'Nose Job' (Wimmen's Comix #15, 1991).

All of Kominsky's comics are autobiographical, because, as she put it: "It's the only thing I know about." In many of her early comics, she talked about her childhood and wild teenage years. She portrayed her mother as a grotesque woman who can't shut up. Blabette, as she nicknames her, is self-obsessed and ignorant of the needs and interests of her children. With her heavy make-up and large pointy-toothed mouth, she looks like a caricature of TV star Zsa Zsa Gabor. Kominsky's father is presented as a cold, racist, pragmatic asshole. But nobody was treated with more scorn and ridicule than Aline Kominsky herself. The cartoonist drew herself with a large nose, a chubby body and a huge ass. In later comics, like 'Saving Face' (The New Yorker, 2005), she mocked her cosmetic surgery. Although her embarrassed mother told her to remain silent about such private matters, Kominsky still laughed with her own hair extensions, teeth implants and botox treatment. Apart from drawing herself unattractively, Kominsky portrayed herself doing gross things. She has depicted herself squeezing out acne, masturbating, shaving her legs, squirting bathtub water from her vagina or sitting on the toilet. In some stories she portrayed herself drunk, smoking like a chimney or having lewd sex. Kominsky sometimes presents herself as obnoxious, clueless or making embarrassing remarks in public. As she jokes in the final panel of 'Bunch Plays With Herself' (1975): "My body is an endless source of entertainment!"

A nickname Kominsky often used for herself was "The Bunch", referring to Robert Crumb's character Honeybunch Kaminski, with whom she shared a coincidental resemblance. But in terms of personality, she has nothing in common with this cute, passive character. Kominsky also used a male alter ego, Mr. Bunch. He is a cigar-smoking male chauvinist and represents her personal ego and "biting, caustic edge". In some stories, Kominsky suddenly transforms into 'Mr. Bunch' whenever she becomes obnoxiously arrogant. She modeled him after her father, who represented everything she hated at the time: not only male chauvinism, but also patriarchal society in general. Kominsky also loved to write down dialogue phonetically, emphasizing her Yiddish-New York accent. Certain words are deliberately misspelled, like "gawgeous" ("gorgeous") and "rilly" ("really"). In her stories, she also frequently addressed her husband Robert as "Rohbit".

'The Many Loves of Valerie Feldman' (The Bunch’s Power Pak Comics #1, 1979).

Aline Kominsky's openhearted and uncompromising comic stories were not always received with gratitude by the people surrounding her. On one occasion, Aline Kominsky took her good friend Valerie Feldman as her subject. With her permission, she made a comic strip about Feldman's romantic life, 'The Many Loves of Valerie Feldman', published in The Bunch’s Power Pak Comics #1 (1979). However, Feldman found the comic so confrontational that she broke all ties with Kominsky. Kominsky always felt guilty, since she had tried so hard to make her look attractive and sympathetic, but still lost a good friend. It took until 2019 before the two women got back in touch. Although their friendship wasn't restored, Feldman forgave her. A similar thing happened when Kominsky drew the story, 'The Saga of Stuie Spitzer' (The Bunch Power Pak Comics #2, 1981), about Marilyn Schwartz, a friend of her mother, and her son. Kominsky had known the boy since kindergarten. He was the most popular kid in school, but also a bully. He tormented her for years. Convinced that the Schwartzes would never read her revenge comic, she didn't hold anything back. But through cousins in San Francisco, the targeted mother and son eventually did receive a copy and read the story. Outraged, Mrs. Schwartz refused to ever speak with Kominsky's mother again. Again, Kominsky felt bad for her mother, but still considered the comic a "well-resolved piece of art." Still, both incidents made her realize that it would be safer to only draw comics about herself, since at least then she could be as harsh as she wanted.

Many scenes in Kominsky's comics still have the power to shock and repulse. Interviewed by Kristen Schilt for Critical Inquiry (19 May 2012), Kominsky explained: "I don't romanticize life. And I don't think that romanticizing women makes other women feel better. It makes most people feel worse." Indeed, her comics are refreshingly honest. Kominsky's "warts and all" approach, injected with Jewish self-deprecating comedy, helps to put the grittier side of life in perspective. Nobody constantly looks attractive or is always a success. Not even women, despite what society - and even other women - expect them to be. In that sense, Kominsky's comics are far braver and more liberating than several well-intended, self-empowering feminist comics. She was so confident that she didn't feel scared of portraying herself in embarrassing, controversial situations. She directly attacked her own upbringing, where her parents tried to keep up appearances at all costs, despite never feeling safer or happier underneath this façade. A case in point is her comic, 'Of What Use Is a Bunch?' (1980), in which Kominsky lists her 11 worst qualities, with "forcing personal neuroses on you..." as her worst habit.

'The Bunch Has A Friend' (The Bunch’s Power Pak Comics #1, 1979).

Kominsky has gained a reputation for telling grim topics in an entertaining way that puts things in perspective. In 'Blabette 'n' Arnie' (1976), she delved into her parents' dysfunctional relationship. In 'Goldie, A Neurotic Woman' (from Wimmen's Comix 1, 1972), Kominsky described the first time she had sex. She wanted to go to bed with an attractive guy from high school, but he forced himself on her. Although this could be considered rape, Kominsky reflected differently on the experience. Interviewed by Elon Green for The Rumpus (1 June 2018), she said: "I really wanted to do it with him even though he was a real cad and a serial deflowerer of younger women (...) It's really a complicated situation, and it's one of those gray areas where, yes, he was a nasty piece of work, but boy, I was so attracted to him, and I really wanted to have sex badly with him." To her, the real traumatic part was more that he immediately dumped her the day after: "That was the real rape." In the same matter-of-fact manner, Kominsky also discussed unwanted pregnancy. In her graphic memoir 'Need More Love' (2007) and comic 'My Very Own Dream House' (2018), she talks about how she gave up her first-born son for adoption. In 2022, Aline and daughter Sophie Crumb made a crossover comic reflecting on her unwanted pregnancy in 1967, her abortion in the mid-1980s and Sophie's teenage abortion. However, Kominsky revealed that there were still topics she never addressed in her comics, usually because she couldn't find a proper way to deal with them within the format.

Since Kominsky didn't grow up in an artistic household, her graphic style evolved instinctively. It wasn't until she went to the academy that she actually studied other artists' styles, which gave her a different background in drawing comics than other people. Her stories could be considered a continuation of the sketches with notes she penned down in her notebooks. She worked in a loose, graphic style. Realism, details, correct anatomy and perspective were of no concern to her. If she made a mistake, she used to draw a small caption, explaining what the drawing is supposed to represent, or just simply to laugh at her incompetence. Since she doesn't imitate other, more virtuoso artists, Kominsky's comics have a spontaneous and original look. Only once did Kominsky take direct inspiration from her husband. When Robert Crumb drew a two-part comic strip, 'My Troubles With Women', printed in Zap Comix (issue #10, 1982) and Hup (issue #1, February 1986), he reflected on his personal issues with women. He observed both specific individuals and women in general. Kominsky replied with her personal issues with men in 'Sex Crazed Housewife, or My Troubles with Men' (Weirdo issue #21, Fall 1987).

Kominsky's solo comics have appeared in Arcade, The Comics Revue, Manhunt, Pictopia, Raw, Real Stuff, Weirdo, Wimmen's Comix, Zap Comix and The New Yorker. Among her comic book compilations are 'The Bunch' (Print Mint, 1975-1976), 'Power Pak' (Kitchen Sink, 1979, 1981) and 'Love That Bunch' (Fantagraphics, 1990, an expanded edition in 2018 by Drawn & Quarterly). The most comprehensive overview of her body of work is 'Need More Love: A Graphic Memoir' (MQ Publications, 2007).

Dirty Laundry by Robert and Aline Crumb
'Dirty Laundry' by Robert and Aline Crumb.

Aline & Bob (crossover comics with Robert Crumb)
In hindsight, it only seems natural that two partners who each draw comics would eventually work on a series together. One day, one of Robert Crumb's girlfriends, Frankie Politi, moved in with him. It made Kominsky jealous, since she was deliberately kept out. In a rage, Kominsky accidentally tripped and broke her foot in six places. After a while, Crumb realized that Frankie was too controlling and went back to Kominsky. The downside was that the injured woman had to spend all winter inside, with her foot in a cast. To take her mind off things, Crumb suggested they draw comics together, like he and his brother Charles Crumb had done in their youth. Robert and Aline had a lot of fun creating stories about their private lives. Originally, they had no intention of making them public. But when Justin Green's brother Kevin saw them, he wanted to publish them. The first of their many crossover comics ran in Artistic Comics (March 1973). When they showed their friend Terry Zwigoff the material, he felt it was "embarrassing, like hanging out one's dirty laundry." Under this title, the 'Dirty Laundry Comics' were published in two volumes, respectively published in July 1974 and January 1978. Over the years, many more crossover comics by Crumb and Kominsky followed, including in Best Buy Comics (1979), Weirdo #16 (Spring 1986) and Self-Loathing Comics (February 1995-1997). While they have no official title, 'Dirty Laundry Comix', 'Aline & Bob' or 'Aline & Robert' are the three most frequent ways they are named.

Couples who created comics together had existed long before Crumb and Kominsky collaborated. In some cases only one partner drew, while the other wrote scripts. Some took their domestic life as an inspiration. But they limited themselves to small anecdotes and used fictional characters rather than directly portray themselves. Crumb and Kominsky's comics, however, differ in the sense that they deliberately let their personal drawing styles clash rather than meld together. Crumb made very detailed and sophisticated drawings, while Kominsky used her broad and more linear approach, leading to a funny contrast. Usually they drew themselves, but in some panels Robert suddenly draws Aline and vice versa. In many comics, Crumb filled in most of the backgrounds, but Aline depicted her own family and people she meets. As soon as their daughter Sophie could draw recognizable figures, she occasionally contributed to these stories too. Through small captions, Crumb and Kominsky also mocked and commented on each other's styles.

'Global Villagism' by Robert and Aline Crumb (The New Yorker, 22 March 2004).

Another major aspect of their crossover comics was that Crumb and Kominsky revealed things most couples would prefer to keep a secret. They portrayed their arguments and uncertainties, their worries about money, politics, aging and death. Crumb often comes across as a misanthropic, non-conformist pervert and Aline as an imposing bully, with strong issues about her looks, family and Jewish roots. They infamously portrayed their sex life in lurid detail. Readers and colleagues have often been surprised by their audacity. In fact, Crumb and Kominsky sometimes encouraged other comic creator couples to make similar "warts and all" comics. Even the few who initially agreed eventually backed out again, so Crumb and Kominsky's crossover comics remain a highly unique and barely imitated project. Following their relationship over nearly half a century, it says a lot about their honesty, mutual understanding and gift for self-mockery that they never ended in divorce.

Though readers should take most scenes with a grain of salt. While some events and conversations have actually happened, Crumb and Kominsky also tended to exaggerate things for comedic effect. Most plotlines are basically fun jams, where the partners improvised plot developments as they went along. The authors referred to their crossover comics as a double comedy act, comparable to George Burns and his wife Gracie Allen. Kominsky often portrays herself as somebody with physically impossible strength. In 'Dirty Laundry Comix 1', for instance, a flood takes place which motivates her to jump in the river and pull their floating trailer to the shore, with a rope between her teeth. Crumb and Kominsky also abuse each other in ways that nobody would survive in real life. The authors have often sighed at general audiences who think they "know" them, purely based on how they portray each other on paper. Kominsky once revealed that there's still some self-censorship involved. They only put in their resolved issues, not every painful argument.

Self-censorship was also necessary whenever their comics were printed in mainstream publications. Crumb and Kominsky actually considered these projects a challenge, since they couldn't rely on their familiar "dirty" trademarks. In 1985, the couple tried to make a daily gag comic, 'Aline and Bob' (also titled 'The Crumb Family'), intended for The San Francisco Examiner. It starred themselves, doing what they described as a "stand-up comedy routine about their private life". Although 12 episodes were made, the paper rejected them. The samples can be read in 'The R. Crumb Handbook' (MQ Publications, 2005) by Peter Poplaski. Crumb and Kominsky's graphic reports for The New Yorker also had to refrain from vulgar language and sex scenes. The magazine asked them to attend the New York Fashion Week, the Cannes Film Festival and other media events and express their opinion in three-page comic strips. These exclusive graphic reports were all accepted for publication by The New Yorker. One Valentine's Day-themed episode reflected on their relationship. An overview of Crumb and Kominsky's crossover comics appears in 'Drawn Together: The Collected Works of R. and Aline Crumb' (Boni & Liveright, 2012).

'A Love Story - 35 Years in the Harness Together!' by Robert and Aline Crumb (2007).

When Kominsky became Robert Crumb's partner, he was already a famous established artist. The creator of 'Fritz the Cat', 'Mr. Natural' and “Keep on Truckin'' had a devoted fan base, and many cartoonists were influenced by him. Although being Crumb's wife increased Kominsky's own notability, she was often overshadowed. Daughter Sophie Crumb once stated that her father received too much media attention and recognition and her mother far too little. Even in their crossover comics, Kominsky's creative input was often dismissed or overlooked. Some readers unfairly compared her cruder graphic style with Crumb's more sophisticated drawings. Others couldn't cope with a woman drawing repulsive imagery, especially if she was the subject. Harvey Pekar once pigeonholed her comics as "loaded with ugliness". The harshest critics dismissed her as a non-talent, just riding along on Crumb's success. When the first 'Dirty Laundry Comics' were published, the couple received a lot of hate mail. Kominsky especially remembered two particularly insulting lines: "Maybe she's a great lay, but keep her off the fucking page", while the other "advice" said: "Keep her in the kitchen. You do the cartooning."

Despite the criticism, Crumb and Kominsky continued to portray their partnership in their comics. To tease critics, she kicked her portrayal up a notch. In several crossover stories, the outrageous woman imposes herself in many scenes, effectively bossing Crumb around. Crumb loved this tongue-in-cheek portrayal and went along with it. She jokingly compared herself with Yoko Ono, who, according to some hardcore Beatles fans, also tagged along with John Lennon's popularity and meddled too much with his recordings. Crumb has also come to his wife's defense. In his foreword to a compilation of Dirty Laundry Comics, he defended her drawing style as follows: "Fine rendering can be a trap, a web of clichés and techniques. Your work is entirely free of such comic book banalities... You remain amazingly impervious to the pernicious influence of all cartoon stylistic tricks, which is mainly why so many devotees of the comic medium are put off by your stuff."

comic art by Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Limited edition print of 'The Bunch's Power Pak Comics' (2001).

Graphic and written contributions
In 1973, Kominsky edited 'El Perfecto' (Print Mint, 1973), a comic book intended to raise funds for the trial of Timothy Leary, the famous drug guru who was facing 25 years in prison for drug possession. The book featured short story comics about drugs, written and drawn by herself, Robert Crumb, Robert Armstrong, Michael J. Becker, Berkeley, Michele Brand, Dot Bucher, Charles Carrot, Kim Deitch, Lora Fountain, Justin Green, Bill Griffith, Gary Hallgren, Rory Hayes, Gary King, Jay Kinney, Bobby London, Tim Mancusi, Lee Marrs, Victor Moscoso, Willy Murphy, Ted Richards, Teresa Richards, AKA Teresa Balawejder, Trina Robbins, Spain Rodriguez, Sharon Rudahl, Shelby Sampson and Gilbert Shelton. In later interviews, Kominsky confessed that she was more or less pushed into the project by her roommate. The book turned out to be an useless endeavor, since Leary simply gave the police the names of his dealers to avoid a trial. Her roommate then used the money to buy herself a record player, much to Kominsky's irritation. Kominsky also made a contribution to Diane Noomin's 'Lemme Outa Here! Growing Up Inside the American Dream' (Print Mint, October 1978), about growing up in U.S. suburbs, and Noomin's anthology 'Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival' (Harry N. Abrams, 2019), featuring short story comics about real-life experiences with sexual harrassment and rape. When Diane Noomin passed away in September 2022, Kominsky was one of several comic artists to write an 'in memoriam', published in the comics news magazine The Comics Journal.

Kominsky wrote the liner notes for the album 'Wild Family Orchestra from Zamora, California' (1979), a record promoting a local traditional country folk band from Yolo County, California. Robert Crumb designed the sleeve and lettered her liner notes. She and her husband also created the cover of 'Rambleway' (2013) by the French folk band Ménage à Trois, based on a design by Simon Kearns. Kominsky took some of the photographs featured in the sleeve of 'Résumé des Episodes Précédents' (2019) by the French traditional band Les Primitifs du Futur, with whom Crumb regularly performed.

Over the years, Kominsky's work has been exhibited at the DCKT Contemporary, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (June-July 2012) and Adam Baumgold Gallery (15 February – 17 March 2007) in New York. It was also on display in the Art and Culture Center in Hollywood, Florida. Between 14 March and 9 May 2020, her work was the subject of a solo exhibition at Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery in Los Angeles. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition had to be presented digitally through an online viewing room. Between 12 January and 18 February 2017, Robert Crumb and Kominsky were subjects of a collective exhibition, titled 'Drawn Together', organized by David Zwirner at 525 West 19th Street in New York City.

The entire Crumb family - Aline, Robert and Sophie - have been the subject of a collective exhibition twice, namely 'La Famille Crumb' (2 May - 17 June 2007) at the Musée de Sérignan (nowadays Musée Régional d'Art Contemporain Occitanie) and 'Sauve Qui Peut!' (10 February- 26 March 2022) in the David Zwirner Gallery in Paris.

Final years and death
Since her move to France, Kominsky found new passions, like yoga, gardening and painting. Her multimedia artwork, shrines and sculptures were inspired by a long trip to India, where she saw people making beautiful objects using ordinary trash. In 2005, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and her friend Julie Katan created the art gallery Galerie Vidourle Prix, located in her hometown Sauve, to promote art and new creative expressions. In 2012, Aline Kominsky and her friend Dominique Sapel made a video and art show, 'Miami Makeover: Almost Anything for Beauty' (2012). The same year, she and Robert Crumb were interviewed in the documentary 'Sex in the Comics' (2012). In 2015, Kominsky voiced an animated fairy godmother character in Marielle Heller's film 'The Diary of a Teenage Girl' (2015), an adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner's graphic novel of the same name. In 2017, Aline Kominsky was diagnosed with colon cancer, but overcame her illness. In 2022, Aline, Robert and Sophie Crumb also drew a crossover comic about their views on the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 30 November 2022, the Galerie Vidourle Prix announced that Aline Kominsky-Crumb had died in the evening, the day before, at the age of 74. She had passed away from pancreatic cancer, only two months after her long-time collaborator Diane Noomin had died from uterine cancer.

Photo-comic with Robert and Aline Crumb from Weirdo #4 (February 1982).

Legacy and influence
Aline Kominsky was a pioneer and influential artist within the underground comix movement, and was inspirational to many female cartoonists. Her confessional work broke barriers and still found a way to see humor in controversial topics. Among the female comic artists she influenced were Gabrielle Bell, Roz Chast, Vanessa Davis, Julie Doucet, Ellen Forney, Phoebe Gloeckner, Raquelle Jac and Lauren R. Weinstein. Male cartoonists who cited Kominsky as an inspiration were Peter Bagge, Bill Griffith, Matt Groening, the Hernandez Brothers (Gilbert, Jaime and Mario) and Art Spiegelman. Inspired by Kominsky's infamous 1976 Twisted Sisters cover, the comedian Lena Dunham featured a scene with herself naked on the toilet in her comedy TV show 'Girls'. When Kominsky happened to see this scene on television, she was absolutely thrilled. In typical Kominsky-esque fashion, she once summarized her influence on other alternative comic artists as: "I'm the grandmother of whiny tell-all comics."

Books about Aline Kominsky
For people interested in Aline Kominsky's life and career, 'Love That Bunch' (Fantagraphics, 1990, expanded in 2018 by Drawn & Quarterly) offers the best overview of her work. The foreword was written by Hillary Chute. Her autobiography 'Need More Love: A Graphic Memoir' (MQ Publications, 2007) is also highly recommended.

Self-portrait for the cover of the 'Love That Bunch' book (Drawn & Quarterly, 2018).

Series and books by Aline Kominsky-Crumb you can order today:


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