Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Pioneering Comics Memoirist, Dies at 74

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Her autobiographical, raunchy and darkly absurd comics in the 1970s made her a feminist heroine to a generation of women

By Michael S. Rosenwald

December 1, 2022

Aline Kominsky-Crumb at the Society of Illustrators in New York on March 24, 2011. (Richard Drew/AP)

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Aline Kominsky-Crumb, the underground cartoonist whose autobiographical, raunchy and darkly absurd comics in the 1970s made her a feminist heroine to a generation of women who saw their own frustrations and sexual longings in her drawings, died Nov. 30 at her home in a remote village near Nimes, France. She was 74.

Her husband, the underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

Mrs. Kominsky-Crumb’s crudely drawn black-and-white drawings depicted the sexualized counterculture through stories of women with hairy armpits, big noses, large rear-ends. The women were self-depictions of Ms. Kominsky-Crumb, who once said, “I’m not capable of making anything up.”

Though her work in later years appeared in the New Yorker and galleries around the world, Mrs. Kominsky-Crumb said that was never her intention.

“I was drawn to underground comics,” she said in 2020 interview with a German art journal, “because I wanted to do something that people would throw away. Basically, they’d read it on the toilet and throw away. That’s what I like.” If it was unimportant, she added, “there would be the most freedom in that art.”

In 1972, Mrs. Kominsky-Crumb published “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman”— believed to be the first autobiographical comic published by a woman — in Wimmen’s Comix, an underground, all-female anthology with contributors such as Lee Mars and Diane Noomin, who died earlier this year.

The drawings and language in the comic show a plump young woman reminiscing about listening to her parents have sex as she desperately tries to find a suitable sexual mate. In one panel, Goldie is shown sitting at a desk, with her legs wide open and thinking something that cannot be printed in a family newspaper.

“She specialized in outgrossing anyone who was going to call her gross,” Noomin told the New York Times in 2018.

One of her most famous works is a drawing of herself on a toilet, published on the cover of “Twisted Sisters,” an anthology she co-founded with Noomin. Her underwear is pulled down around her high, thick-red socks. She’s looking in a mirror and thinks, “I LOOK LIKE a 50 YR. OLD BUSINESSMAN.” She also wonders, “HOW MANY CALORIES IN A CHEESE ENCHILADA?”

Mrs. Kominsky-Crumb’s characters were “made up of exaggerated parts of me that I blow up and push to the maximum,” she told the Huffington Post in 2017. “I drew the most sordid, unacceptable parts of myself. I’m not as ugly as I draw myself. But when I was younger, that’s how I felt, so that’s what I drew.”

Self Portrait by cartoonist and artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb. (Aline Kominsky-Crumb/Fantagraphics Books, Inc)

Aline Goldsmith was born on Aug. 1, 1948, in Five Towns, N.Y., and grew up in a dysfunctional middle class Jewish household. Her mother came from a wealthy family and her father was a businessman who dabbled in organized crime.

~~~ CONTINUE READING IN THE WASHINGTON POST ~~~

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