Why the world is finally catching up with Aline Kominsky-Crumb, 'grandmother of whiny tell-all comics'

The legendary comics artist dropped by the q studio to talk about pioneering the field of autobiographical comics and stepping out of her famous husband's shadow.
Aline Kominsky-Crumb with guest host Jael Richardson in the q studio in Toronto, Ont. (Vivian Rashotte/CBC)

Artists are sometimes described as being "ahead of their time" or said to have a talent or creative vision the world wasn't ready for. In the case of Aline Kominsky-Crumb, all of the above is true. Kominsky-Crumb is a veteran of San Francisco's famous underground comics scene, the same free-wheeling, anything-goes movement where Art Spiegelman, the artist behind Maus, got started.

Underground comics were a reaction against censorship, and they often embraced everything that mainstream comics couldn't: hard drugs, explicit sex and graphic violence. By the time Kominsky-Crumb moved to California in the early 1970s, most of those comics were dominated by men and their fantasies.

Suddenly, Kominsky-Crumb showed up with a character no one had ever never seen before. She drew explicit comics about herself being anxious, lusty and flawed. Cursing during Jazzercise. Fantasizing about sex while driving her daughter to school. She was one of the first female comic artists to draw her own life story. 

"I just wrote my own stories and I really wanted to be bad and live out all my fantasies," Kominsky-Crumb tells q guest host Jael Richardson. "You know, because I grew up in this sort of upward striving suburban community in the 1950s, a suburb of New York, and I just want to do everything that wasn't about that. I wanted to go against my family, against my religion, against my school. I wanted to rebel against everything and I just didn't want anyone to tell me what to do. Including feminists. I really wanted to create my own reality and live out what I thought was, you know, the most extreme, fun and crazy wild time that I could possibly have, and that's what I did."

Love That Bunch is Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s reissued a collection of comics, first published in 1990. (Drawn & Quarterly)
From Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s Love That Bunch. (Drawn & Quarterly)

While Kominsky-Crumb was a pioneer in the field of autobiographical comics, her legacy was often overshadowed by her very famous husband, the artist Robert Crumb, but it seems the world is now catching up with her. Kominsky-Crumb recently reissued a collection of comics, called Love That Bunch. She joins us in the q studio to discuss her life and work.

Produced by Vanessa Greco


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