The latest issue of The New Yorker includes an 11-page comic strip by R. Crumb that depicts the accounts of the Creation and the Fall from the first three chapters of Genesis. (The feature is an excerpt from the forthcoming The Book of Genesis: Illustrated by R. Crumb.) The online version requires a subscription, and that’s too bad.
Crumb stays faithful to the text and a few of his panels are inspired. An image of God resting in the Garden of Eden on the seventh day, with Adam and Eve nearby, is lovely. Another image, which illustrates Adam and Eve as naked and without shame, is playful rather than voyeuristic. Crumb’s depiction of the pre-Fall serpent is witty, and the image of the serpent scowling as God judges him is a comic touch.
A brief introductory text by Françoise Mouly provides insights into Crumb’s childhood and current beliefs:
Crumb was brought up Catholic and was familiar with the basic Bible stories. But when he started to read the Bible closely he found it dense. He labored over every sentence and consulted many translations. …
By the time he came to the story of Noah, though, he was annoyed. He had begun to realize, he says, that “the whole thing is a piece of patriarchal propaganda, engineered to consciously and deliberately suppress matriarchy.” He decided not to fight the words but, instead, to try to reveal in his drawings as much of domestic life as he could. …
Crumb, who says he suspects that God exists, is broadly curious about the spiritual forces in the universe. He occasionally turns to Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of Thomas for spiritual guidance, but he thinks it would be crazy to try to find any spiritual meaning in Genesis: “It’s much too primitive.”
The mind reels at hearing complaints of patriarchy from the subject of Robert Crumb’s Sex Obsessions, and Mouly’s too-brief introduction does not explain how the Gospel of Thomas is any less primitive than Genesis.
Consider Saying 114:
Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.”
Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
Still, it’s refreshing to see Crumb turning his creativity toward the epic themes of Genesis. I wish The New Yorker had done more with this opportunity online.