Belly Button Comix, by Sophie Crumb
From the cover of 'Belly Button Comix issue #1'. 

Sophie Crumb is an American musician, tattoo artist and cartoonist. As daughter of comic legends Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky, she was already a notable figure in the industry while still an infant. During the 1980s and 1990s, she was occasionally portrayed by her parents and herself in their crossover comic series 'Dirty Laundry Comics'. Her earliest personal comics appeared in Weirdo and Wimmen's Comix, making Sophie, at age seven, one of the youngest comic artists to publish in a professional magazine. In adulthood, she stepped out of her parents' shadows and created two volumes of 'Belly Button Comix' (2002, 2004), followed by a more lavish career overview, 'Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist' (2010). Other short stories by her hand have been published as webcomics on her personal blog.

Early life
Sophie Violet Crumb was born in 1981 in Woodland, California, as the only child of famous underground comix artists Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky. From a previous marriage, Robert Crumb had a son, Jesse (1968-2018), but at the time the artist couldn't cope with parenthood, so the two were never that close. With his second wife Aline, Crumb felt a more kindred relationship, so Sophie was raised with more care, love and attention. Still, she grew up in an unusual household. Thanks to her father's passion for old-fashioned media, Sophie was exposed to a lot of comics, novels, films and music from the 1920s through the 1950s. She recalled that while other children dwelled with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, she was far more endeared with Max Fleischer's Betty Boop. Her parents also stood out from the crowd by having an open relationship and both being professional cartoonists. They depicted their daily lives, including the kinky details, in their comics. Sophie inherited her parents' creative spirit. She made cut-outs of little paper dolls and also enjoyed drawing.

The Crumbs' bohemian lifestyle didn't endear them with all the local townspeople. Robert and Aline disagreed with many conservative viewpoints, politics and Christian fundamentalism. In 1991, when Sophie was nine, they moved to Southern France, settling in the town Sauve. Sophie enjoyed France more than the United States. The French were more open-minded to eccentric artists. In Sauve, the Crumbs weren't even the oddest villagers around. The young girl quickly adapted to her new environment, becoming fluent in French, while her dad never mastered the language and her mother's French always remained rusty.

From: Belly Button Comix #2 (2004).

Sophie studied at the Lycée-College André Chamson Le Vigan. After graduating from high school, she took lessons in acrobatics and clowning at a circus school in Paris. She lived in a lowdown apartment in a bad suburban neighborhood. Sophie was attracted to the wild side of life. As a youngster, she went through a rebellious phase, experimenting with sex and drugs. Between July 2003 and 2004, she spent several months in the United States, eventually settling down in Berkeley, California. Because of a lack of money, she had no permanent home. Sometimes the young woman crashed in student dorms, but usually she hung out with local junkies. Sophie started a relationship with one of them, which motivated her to stay in Berkeley and get a job. Thanks to father's fame, she was hired as a saleswoman at the Comic Relief comic store. She bought a small trailer, where she and her sweetheart lived together.

Sophie hoped her boyfriend would kick his unhealthy habits. But since she too got high on a regular basis, nothing changed. All their spare time and money went into finding, buying and taking drugs. After many arguments, the couple broke up. Sophie moved to Brooklyn, where she worked as a tattoo artist for a while. Sophie credits tattooing for helping her evolve her drawing technique. Reflecting on her wandering life in the fringes of society, she recalled it was basically "a hell". Sometimes her poverty was so extreme that she and her housemates had to raid dumpsters for food. Some of her experiences have been adapted into comics published in 'Belly Button Comix, Volume 2' (2004).

From: Self-Loathing Comics issue #2, 1995.

Early comics
Sophie always enjoyed drawing. Her parents were naturally her first graphic influences, but interviewed by B.N. Duncan for The Comics Journal (issue 274, Februari 2004), she revealed that she also liked the work of her uncle, Charles Crumb. At one point she even preferred it above her father's, because it's "obsessive (...) but more for kids (...) clean, very beautiful, no shades, very Disney-like (...) perfect." For her own work, she additionally took inspiration from U.S. and Canadian alternative cartoonists, such as Jessica Abel, Peter Bagge, Gabrielle Bell, Daniel Clowes, Dave Cooper, Phoebe Gloeckner, the Hernandez Brothers, Joe Matt, Johnny Ryan, Joe Sacco, Dori Seda, Seth, Art Spiegelman, Adrian Tomine, Jim Woodring and Chris Ware. Thanks to her father's love for classic comics, she also holds John Stanley's 'Little Lulu', Ernie Bushmiller's 'Nancy', E.C. Segar's 'Popeye' and Mad Magazine cartoonist Will Elder in high regard. Sophie also underwent influence from European comic artists, like Julie Doucet, Jason and Anders Nilsen and Japanese mangaka Osamu Tezuka.

In the late 1980s, Sophie was occasionally portrayed in her parents' crossover comic series 'Dirty Laundry Comix', starting off in Weirdo issue #9 (Winter 1983-1984). Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky had often depicted their personal lives in comics in which they each drew themselves. Since Sophie was now part of their household, it was only natural that she too made appearances. One particular scene with Sophie from 'Dirty Laundry Comics: More Clean Fun With The Crumb Family', published in Weirdo issue #16 (Spring 1986), caused controversy among some of their readers. It portrays Sophie lying on the ground, rubbing her crotch because "my twat is broken and I'm trying to fix it", while Robert and Aline aren't particularly bothered by her behavior. Though, it should be pointed out that many scenes in Dirty Laundry Comics aren't necessarily autobiographical, just Crumb and Aline poking fun at themselves. In later 'Dirty Laundry Comics' episodes, Sophie would sometimes draw herself, but usually not more than one or two panels. When Last Gasp issued a compilation book, 'The Complete Dirty Laundry Comics' (June 1993), it included both reprints and brand new material, in which Sophie was also represented. She appears on the cover and in the opening panel of the penultimate story, 'Euro Dirty Laundry "Merci Au Revoir!"'. On the back cover of 'Self-Loathing Comics' (issue #2, 1995), she has a larger role, depicting herself in all panels of this one-page gag comic.

'Little Lily in: School Trouble' (Weirdo #23, 1988).

Sophie's actual full-page comic debut was in Weirdo issue #23 (Summer 1988). On the back page, her gag comic 'Little Lily in: School Trouble' was printed in full color. The story shows influence from John Stanley's 'Little Lulu' and features a girl lying to her parents, but still being believed. At the time, Sophie was seven years old, making her one of the youngest people ever to publish a comic in a professional magazine. The next year, she contributed a comic to Wimmen's Comix issue #15 (1989), titled 'When I Have A Little Girl' and signed with "Sophia Crumb".

At age 16, Sophie filled a sketchbook with her personal drawings. Years later, it was used in the film 'Ghost World' (2001), an adaptation of Daniel Clowes' graphic novel of the same name. Director Terry Zwigoff, who had also directed an award-winning documentary about Robert Crumb, asked Sophie to create some drawings for the sketchbook of the character Enid Coleslaw. Instead of making new drawings, she let the crew use her teenage sketchbook in the film, but was unaware that other, more personal pages would also be shown. This made it a "weird experience" when she watched the film on the big screen. Other comics by Sophie have been published in the anthology magazines Mome and Sturgeon White Moss.

From: Belly Button Comix issue #1 (2003).

Belly Button Comix
Although Sophie enjoyed drawing as a child and teenager, she couldn't bring herself to actually finish most of the comics she worked on. Contrary to her father, she was less of a loner and it took a while before she found the self-discipline to stay behind her drawing board for a couple of hours. Like many children from famous creative artists, Sophie struggled to find her personal voice. In her opinion, her father always received too much press coverage and her mother undeservedly far less. These two ends of the recognition spectrum made her hesitant to publish her own comics. In 2002, she brought out her debut graphic novel 'Belly Button Comix 1' through her friend Mara Joustra, who worked for the Dutch publishing company Oog & Blik. When Fantagraphics publisher Eric Reynolds visited the Crumbs around the same time, he also took interest in publishing her work, and then released the books in the United States. A sequel followed two years later, 'Belly Button Comix 2' (Oog & Blik, 2004). Sophie was well aware that she would inevitably be compared with her famous parents, so she deliberately left her last name off the cover of 'Belly Button Comix 1'. Yet in the second volume, her full name is casually mentioned by a character in one of her autobiographical comics.

The 'Belly Button Comix' volumes are collections of short stories. Some are twisted funny animal comics. 'Zozo and Zaza' feature an insect couple, drawn in a Fleischer-esque style. Most of their gags revolve around their problematic sex life. 'Eddy Bear' is a pantomime comic about a teenage bear who runs away from home. As his story continues, he suffers increasingly sleazier and disturbing mishaps. Sophie sometimes uses the fictional character Sally La Frite as an alter ego. In other tales, she directly portrays herself. Her autobiographical stories visualize some of her personal experiences with relationships and drugs. A large amount of the second volume is devoted to her wandering Berkeley years. Other comics investigate her artistic ambitions, weird dreams and additional anxieties.

Belly Button Comix, by Sophie Crumb
'Zozo & Zaza'. 

A compilation of all her comics-related work was 'Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist' (W.W. Norton, 2010), edited by Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky. Since her parents kept all her drawings, the book offers a chronological development of her graphic style and personal interests. It starts out with the fantasy worlds she put on paper as an infant, followed by her more introspective work as a young adult. The contrast between her life in the U.S. and France is reflected too. Sophie dismissed the idea that the book is a compilation. In her view it's a psychological study of art and age, evolving from childhood to adulthood. Robert Crumb stated that the book was unique in that sense and he couldn't name any comic artist who had done anything similar.

Cover illustration for 'Sweet East River' (2006), an album by The East River String Band. 

Musical career
Sophie Crumb is active as a singer, guitarist and banjo player. She played banjo with The Crumb Family, a band featuring her and her parents and devoted to traditional folk music. Sophie later sang and played guitar in the groups The East River String Band, Les Sauviettes, BirdDog and Millie's Moochers. She designed the covers of the albums 'Sweet East River' (2006) by The East River String Band, 'Newenko' (2013) by Ritmo Compacto, 'Turkey Ride' (2019) by The King Khan Experience and 'Lovesick Blues' (2021) by Millie's Moochers.

Between 4 November and 30 December 2010, a solo exhibition of Sophie's work opened at the contemporary art gallery in New York City. On two occasions, she and her parents have also been subject of a collective exhibition, 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. The latter exposition came with the publication of Sauve-Qui-Peut Comics, a limited edition comic book containing new comic material by the Crumb family.

'4 Shades of Abortion' by Sophie Crumb and Aline Kominsky (2021).

Later years
Between January 2010 and June 2014, Sophie Crumb maintained her own blog. Though she described it more as a "second-rate website to promote my artwork and tattoos and all thus related." Much of her later comics and illustrations have been posted there. In recent years, she has been working on fine art pieces that combine ink and watercolors. New comic work has appeared in the independent international art magazine Mineshaft. In the past, Sophie taught English as a foreign language in French schools, but in 2012 she began working for her mother's art gallery Galerie Vidourle Prix in Sauve. Today she is married, has a son and lives in Monoblet, in the South of France.

Sophie's most recent comics (from 2022) are a crossover with her parents. Together with her mother, Aline Kominsky, she made a comic reflecting on their past pregnancies and touching upon the issue of abortion. Crumb and Kominsky also drew a comic about their views on the COVID-19 pandemic, with a graphic contribution by Sophie in the final pages.

Drawing made by Sophie Crumb on the wall of the "cartoonist loft" above the Amsterdam comic store Lambiek (1999). Above we also see a tribute by Eric Reynolds and underneath by Jeff Smith.

Series and books by Sophie Crumb you can order today:


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