Robert Crumb & Gilbert Shelton at the British library

All images and words ©pete kennedy 2014.
Trip on a sweltering day to see Robert Crumb & Gilbert Shelton at the British library talk was riddled with little bad trips. They stumbled out onto the platform not young now either of em. My camera couldn’t focus, couldn’t understand why half the shots were foggy until afterwards when I saw that it was focussing on the glasses and drink vessels, should have gone into manual focus, twerp.

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Got my pencil moving and did 3 sketches, one of both on em standing together, then one of each of em. Always try to do sketches at these events. Seems funny drawing these two master comic artists. My drawings are good I think, seems like taking coals to Newcastle. I could have drawn all night but didn’t. I took notes of some of what they said. They have a good repartee. Both lived in france for years where their work is so appreciated, bande desineray they say thur ( I put the ray in th’werd, they put it into their graphic works for 50-60 years). Letter part of evening went into a tribute to Felix Dennis what died recently. He was scheduled to compere this event cos it hinged around the ‘OZ obscenity Trials’ where he and Jim Anderson and Richard Neville were threatened with a long jail term but gorroff. That part of the ceremonies was very educative, but can be reported elsewhere. My interest was in the two olfartmen. I’ll call them rc & gs:

rc  crumgilb fold arms bkgnd ritin sm kb gs
rc says he had left his first wife in a rush to get to the west coast where all the good stuff was going on, said he had rung her about 3 weeks later to say he was sorry he had left without saying anything
rc it’d be impossible to know how it would have turned out if I’d not taken all that LSD. You may have visions but yor mentally crippled for 25 years.

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gs I was not taking any of those drugs. Pause. We were eating peyote. Really brought the colors out . I saw colour for the first time. Previously red meant stop and green meant go to me. Your drawings had to be better if it was B&W, color made it easier to read.
Asked about influences gs said, In my childhood I liked Scrooge McDuck. And Little Lulu
I was kicked out of art college cos I was doing funny drawings when they were after us doing VERY serious abstract expressionist paintings. (see watti mean young Ben? , in th’old days we were sposed to be seriarse!).
How did you get into doing all those comics about yourself rc?
rc I got tired of doing Mr Natural and my wife wanted to do collaborative works, she could only do autobio stuff so I joined her.
So she’s to blame?
No , not really.
gs I blame woody Guthrie for bob Dylan
you liked the 60’s music didn’t yu Gilbert and you didn’t Robert?
Rc those strobe lights & the noodling guitars sent me to sleep.
Then they discuss the cover of Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills album.
Rc well they, CBS, wanted a cover quick, can u do it and get it to us by tomorrow morning? So I took loads of pills. Got $600 dollars, lotta money then. It sold for $21K. GASPS from crowd. Then it sold at $100,000.
You turned down the Stones cover?
I didn’t like them, (sings) Goodbye Roobie Toosday. So I turned down the album.

Asked about the Fabulous Furry freak Bros, what influenced him gs said
Marx Bros and 3 Stooges. It was a literary trick to have 3 characters. With my relatively poor drawing skills I had to create 3 characters who you could tell apart. Cicero’s cat was my hero as a kid so Fat Freddie’s cat was influenced by that. [he never hed a name did he].

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Heck no, (gs then recites t s eliot’s cat poem, gets applauded) you never name a cat. I became infatuated with humor at uni. What makes people laugh out loud? I’m still looking for funny stuff.
When asked why they had dropped their high moral stance about being edited by working for the Cleveland American Greetings Card Co. rc went on a bit about needing to survive (which is ironic when people like OZ were stealing their stuff and not paying any royalties and they were skint). Then gs said he weren’t good enough drawer to get a job with them. So rc said, you weren’t good enough? Hell they employed anyone, they paid the lowest wages on the planet.
They are asked why they chose to live in France?
I (gs) used to tell girls I was in the publishing business rather than say I drew comics but in France they appreciate graphic artists. I read French comics to improve my French. The graphic Novel is going on now and the artists are taken more seriously. Mention of Hernandez brothers, they are good they agree
Then rc ses, Comic artists are Nerdy. You sit in your room and draw comics. They did a retrospective of my work in France. Found hundreds of my originals. Hell I did a lot. Had my day. A lot of ink has gone under the bridge. I got arthritis. Enough already. I should retire. Wife calls out ‘Look after the grandchildren’. That’s Aline. I’d be dead without her.

Conversation ends and then the stage turns to the Oz trials.

crumgilb 14 chas s-m ed sm kbCharles Shaar Murray Oz Kid

Fascinating stuff but I shall leave that to someone else.They had brought in the late Feliks Topolski as expert witness to help define what is ‘art’ which is a word Bruce McLean so disdains anyway, ‘It’s what Saatchi deals in’ he said in a recent conversation. I was lucky to meet and draw Topolski several times, I love his drawings and he quite liked what I do.

feliks topolski sketch smkb

Except a mention another Felix (Dennis, om mani padme hum). I met him several times. Once when I was at college in the 70’s and wanted Oz to post my Apulhed comix but he said they only ripped off American stuff. Sent me thru to a room where Jim Anderson was sitting cross-legged on a carpet. He said they’d like me to write for them. I said, no, no comics no write. Several years later when I were a grown up I returned to see Felix and he let me take this great photo.

felix dennis sm kb©pete kennedy 2014

By then he had made a fortune bringing Kung Fu comics from the states and publishing them here in UK. He then went on to do Maxim and Poems.
He kindly told me about the search thru history by artists to find ways to print the range of tones from white thru grey to black. Nice one. I went away and drew my 1976 comic Appleheadman Lives. After that I stopped doing comic and started doing more paintings and photos and writings and all. I was bemoaning my demise, or apologising to bryan Talbot for not producing much more and he so kindly pointed out, ‘But you are busy doing other things Pete’ and I was. Hunt Emerson didn’t like the first 4 pages of Appleheadman Lives but after that he said, “Whooosh, takes off”. But that was me, as a burgeoning comic artist telling the story of a group of travellers going west. A spoof on Hermann Hesse’s astounding novel, Journeyers To the East. One day soon am doing an artists book based on that Appleheadman foray in which I shall use the best of my drawings from then and add lots more I dun since. But, like I say, Felix influenced my tinking there. I tried lots of different mark-making techniques. I knew it would lack cohesivemess. But I didn’t care, I was paying for it. Still got lots left.

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Like Robert said, we comic artists are nerds, I sit in my room going thru every one of the 10,000 copies I got left. I don’t got the Midas touch, everytin I touched terned too cold. Boom Boomp. Worth a fortune wenni pop me clogs.
Anyway, after a difficult start to my day in London I just got lucky. Gilbert & Bob had vacated the building pretty fast without the normal books signing session which comic freaks are used to. I stood around looking at characters who might have been drawn by Gilbert or Bob, some of whom themselves being ‘comic’artists. I looked at my watch it was 9.22 (ta Chuck Berry, another comic artist) so I too quit. Then to my delight just outside in the street were the great Gilbert & Bob hailing a taxi. I put on me paper artsi hat and got a couple of nice shots

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which I fully intend to pull together in a new Kennedy comic (car-tune) about two of the best, who stood the test and all the rest. Watch this blArty ting.

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