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Pathbreaking underground comix artist and editor Aline Kominsky-Crumb, whose work inspired a generation of women cartoonists, died from pancreatic cancer at her home in Sauve, France on November 30. She was 74. Kominsky-Crumb was the wife and collaborator of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb.
Born Aline Goldsmith in 1948, she grew up on Long Island in a family that she later skewered in her cartoons, portraying her father as bigoted and loutish and her mother as self-centered and obsessed with her appearance, an obsession she imposed on her daughter as well. Kominsky-Crumb showed early promise as an artist and studied at the Cooper Union in New York. In 1968 she married Carl Kominsky and the pair moved to Arizona, where she enrolled in the University of Arizona, graduating in 1971 with a BFA.
It was during this period that Kominsky-Crumb discovered underground comix, a 1960s movement of comics artists who turned away from the mainstream comic book industry to create a new wave of comics on such topics as sex, drugs, autobiography, and political satire. One of the most influential works of that period was Justin Green’s semi-autobiographical Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. In Green’s straightforward art and unflinching portrayal of his own psychological struggles, Kominsky-Crumb saw a template for her own comics. Encouraged by fellow underground cartoonists Spain Rodriguez and Kim Dietch, she moved to San Francisco in 1971 and quickly became a part of the underground comix scene.
Shortly after arriving in San Francisco, Kominsky-Crumb joined the Wimmen’s Comics collective, a group of women cartoonists who were working on their own all-female comic book. Her first comic, “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman,” appeared in Wimmen’s Comix #1, alongside work by Trina Robbins, Lee Marrs, and Diane Noomin, among others. “Goldie,” which comics scholar Hilary Chute has called the first autobiographical comic by a woman, foreshadows much of Kominsky’s future work, touching on her unhappy childhood, her insecurity about her appearance, and her experiences with men.
It was around this time that Kaminsky-Crumb met her future husband, Robert Crumb, who suggested they start drawing comics together. The first set of these jam comics was published in 1974 under the title Dirty Laundry, with a second coming out in 1978, the year the couple got married. In 2012, Liveright published a collection of their joint comics titled Drawn Together.
In the meantime, Kominsky-Crumb and her friend Diane Noomin (who died earlier this year) had parted ways with the Wimmen’s Comics group over stylistic and political differences and decided to strike out on their own. Their comic Twisted Sisters was published in 1976. The cover, drawn by Kominsky-Crumb, is a self-portrait of the artist on the toilet, staring at her face in the mirror and obsessing over aspects and implications of her image. In 1991 Penguin published Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art, edited by Noomin and containing work by Kominsky-Crumb and other women artists, including Gloeckner, Mary Fleener, Carol Tyler, and Julie Doucet.
Kominsky-Crumb continued to produce her own comics, often referring to her comics persona as “Bunch,” a nod to Crumb’s character Honey Bunch Kaminski (whom he created before he met Kominsky-Crumb). Her work was marked by self-deprecating humor, a willingness to portray intimate personal moments, and a deliberately rough style, influenced in part by the German Expressionists. Her autobiographical comics were collected as Love That Bunch, published by Fantagraphics in 1990 and in a new edition by Drawn and Quarterly in 2018, and her graphic memoir Need More Love was published by M Q Publications in 2007. She also edited the alt-comics magazine Weirdo, which Robert Crumb founded in 1981, serving as editor in chief from 1986 to 1993.
In 1990, the Crumbs moved to Sauve, in the south of France. In addition to continuing to work on her comics, Kominsky-Crumb painted, and in 2005, she and a friend opened an art gallery in the town. Between 2007 and 2020 she had several gallery shows, both solo and with her family. Kominsky-Crumb is survived by her husband, her daughter Sophie, who is also a cartoonist, and three grandchildren.
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