Comix cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb has passed away.
Word started spreading on social media that Kominsky-Crumb died on Tuesday at her home in France from pancreatic cancer, confirmed by sources close to the family. She was 74.
The underground comix scene, which arose from the counterculture of the 1960s, was not especially supportive of female artists. One of the few to break through and leave a lasting legacy was Aline Kominsky-Crumb, whose frank, self-lacerating, darkly humorous stories helped inspire generations of visual storytellers and the wider culture.
She moved to San Francisco in 1972 to pursue her artistic career, and soon fell in with underground icon Robert Crumb … The couple were married in 1978, and had a daughter, Sophie, in 1981.
Kominsky-Crumb was a founding member of the influential all-female collective that produced the anthology Wimmin’s Comix, a long-running feminist comic published by Last Gasp from 1972-1985. Kominsky-Crumb, along with artist Diane Noomin, broke with the group in the mid-1970s to do their own publication, Twisted Sisters. Both comics were some of the first to deal squarely with the political issues around female empowerment, criticism of the patriarchy, sexual politics, lesbianism and other topics central to feminist ideology.
Aline’s work enrages her many detractors partly because its rough surface is so effective at masking her wit, skill, and intelligence. If you let down your guard, it’s easy to confuse Aline the artist with her often buffoonish and overbearing cartoon alter-ego “The Bunch.” Aline dares people to think the worst of her — and because her execution appears so guileless, they often do. Small wonder even her most avid fans often admit that their initial reaction to her work was one of revulsion. But the fact remains: any cartoonist who has ever sat down and deliberately scrawled out an artfully ugly drawing, who has dared to be stingingly, nakedly candid in an autobiographical story, owes her a tremendous debt.
During her stay in Tucson, Kominsky-Crumb was introduced to the two cartoonists Spain Rodriguez and Kim Deitch, who showed her various underground comics, including some works by Robert Crumb and Justin Green. As stated in her memoir, Kominsky-Crumb perceived the comics as a “new, daring, outrageous art form” (2007, 126) that would change the course of her life. The heyday of the underground movement started in the late 1960s and lasted until the mid-1970s.
Kominsky-Crumb’s first comic, which was based on her personal life, was published in 1972 in the first issue of Wimmen’s Comix, a feminist underground magazine that printed stories exclusively by female artists and that was founded and edited by the Wimmen’s Comix drawing collective around Jewish-American artist Trina Robbins. In her debut work, the five-page short story Goldie: A Neurotic Woman, Kominsky-Crumb portrays the unhappy teenage years of a Jewish girl seeking love, appraisal, and autonomy. With her confessional autobiographic works such as Goldie and the many stories that followed, Kominsky-Crumb was one of the first women in comics to address topics such as masturbation, unquenched female desire, early pregnancy, and placing a child for adoption—themes she had experienced herself (Gehring 2016).
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 to take things not that seriously. In their crossover comics (‘Aline & Bob’, ‘Dirty Laundry’), Aline Kominsky and 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, this uncensored but funny glimpse in their private lives is also the longest comic series made by two partners about themselves.
Aline would develop a lifelong collaboration with Robert Crumb in love and art.
I LOVED GETTING a FaceTime call from Aline, phone propped up so I could see her face and environs. Can you see my cozy bedspread? See my lamp? The wall color is nice! Cute, huh? In her home in Sauve she always seemed perfectly in tune with the colors and tones of the walls and furniture around her.
Aline herself was a force of energy.