Mr. Unnatural is back. That's right, R. Crumb, the legendary underground comics artist, will publish The R. Crumb Handbook, a fat 430-page memoir that will offer a fresh look at his life, work and endless peculiarities, both in prose and through a selection of comics spanning his entire career.
The $25, compact (7"x 5") hardcover will be released in May with a 100,000-copy first printing. And the book will also be supported by a rare public appearance by the reclusive author (Crumb has lived in the South of France for many years), who will sit in conversation with Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes at the New York Public Library on April 14.
The book is being published by MQ Publications, a U.K. house (dist. by Mercedes Distribution in Brooklyn, N.Y.), whose publisher, Zaro Weil, discovered that Crumb and his wife, Aline, were her neighbors after she bought a home in a French village. Weil and the Crumbs bonded after being involved in a local protest movement, and the resulting friendship, Weil told PW, led to the publication of the book.
Weil said that Peter Poplaski, a longtime Crumb buddy and collaborator "followed him around with a recorder for three months" to produce the book's narration. The book will also include a CD featuring Crumb—he plays banjo and sings—performing classic jazz and folk music.
"We've gone into his archive," said Weil, "to include published and unpublished material and used it to investigate just where his characters came from." Weil noted that while Crumb himself will not do a book tour, his wife, Aline, an acclaimed cartoonist in her own right, will tour several cities along with Poplaski.