NewsCorp Smug About Sending Robert Crumb Packing
It only took one article for the notoriously ornery cult cartoonist Robert Crumb to cancel his Sydney Graphic arts festival headlining appearance. And NewsCorp journalists wonder what the big deal is.
In a July 31 article titled ‘Smutty show a comic outrage’, Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph wheeled out professional pearl-clutcher Hetty Johnston of The Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children Association Bravehearts to comment on counterculture comics legend Robert Crumb.
Crumb was due to appear at Sydney’s Graphic arts festival, taking place at the Opera House on 20 and 21 August. The man behind Fritz The Cat, Mr Natural, and many big-bootied broads was to appear ‘In Conversation‘ with Fantagraphic Books co-founder Gary Groth. The Sunday Tele took one look at the work of this “self-confessed sex pervert” and thought OUTRAGE!
It was scary enough when the article quoted a spokesperson for the federal Attorney-General’s office that Crumb’s work “would almost certainly be refused classification”. Scarier is The Australian’s follow-up story today, essentially gloating that the NewsCorp character assassination scared him off.
They note that the print headline on the Sunday Tele article was “Cult Genius Or Filthy Weirdo” (the online version captions him as a “cult genius” who is “top [sic] appear at the Sydney Opera House”). The Australian’s own headline said he was “miffed” by the article. It’s a dismissive description indeed for a feature that used Johnston to describe him as “sick and deranged”, “depraved”, “crude”, “warped” and “perverted”, and used smutty quotation marks to describe him as a “seminal” figure in the underground comic scene.
Understandably, Crumb told The Australian that the Sunday Tele article “made me look very, very bad”.
He went on say, “All it takes is a few people who overreact to something like that to show up and cause unpleasantness. I have a lot of anxiety about having to confront some angry sexual assault crisis group.”
Anxiety and neurosis are hallmarks of Crumb’s work, but we in Australia know Hetty Johnston is nothing more than a headline grabber and toothless crank, wheeled out when writers want to inch closer to the front page of tabloids by using “shock”, “outrage” or “sick” in a three-word 72-point screamer headline. The OFLC is less forgiving.
Crumb might be overreacting but mature Australians lose out once again to a vocal, philistine minority and puritanical, puerile journalism. Then again, if you don’t gloat about your victories, no one will know you won.