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FUNNYWORLD REVISITED

The Filming of Fritz the Cat: Feedback from R. Crumb

From Funnyworld No. 15, Fall 1973

In June 1972, not long before Funnyworld No. 14 was published, Robert Crumb read a copy of the manuscript for the first part of "The Filming of Fritz the Cat," and he made these comments in a letter:

"I just finished reading your manuscript… incredible!!! An epic documentary work!!! Truly amazing!…

"You sure did a massive amount of research, and also, from my point of view, it seems incredibly accurate. I like the way you portrayed me in the article… I come off as the most lovable, I think… I'm kinda cute, huh? Tee hee…

"…since you wrote such an extensive history of the whole affair, there are a couple of significant points I should tell you, just so you'll know the truth…

"First, I never signed anything…I've been reluctant to let the truth be known, because I didn't want anybody thinking bad things about my dear wife, whom I love and cherish…but, see, that time when Bakshi came out to get me to sign the contract (I can't remember if it was the same time as the screening or not), I ran off and left him with my wife. Now, I'd hashed it over with her and she knew I didn't want to do it, but she was somewhat hot for the money, as we were trying to get this farm going and all, and I didn't really expect her to understand my objections from my 'artistic' attitude and all, so there I went and left her holding the bag, and, while she sympathized with my reluctance, she gave in to Ralph's incessant badgering, but only after two days of it, and signed the contract herself, using my power of attorney which I had given her…

"[Michael] Stepanian [a San Francisco lawyer] says the contract ain't valid anyway, since I didn't want my name on it or something, but, lackadaisical as I was, stoned-out hippie optimist, I just said, 'Oh, well, what the hell' when I found out. After Ralphy got his contract with my name on it, we immediately received a check for 7,000 (seven thousand) dollars, exactly… no more no less…and have not received a penny since… not that I want any more of Krantz's stinking money, but just to get the facts straight."

Crumb also corrected one statement in the article. I said the Fritz story in Head Comix and "Special Agent for the CIA" in Fritz the Cat were drawn in a large, blank book, a bookbinder's sample. Crumb said, "The Fritz story in the Head Comix book I did in New York in '65 for a comic book I was going to try to put out called Fug, but which I gave up on …the story 'Fritz Bugs Out' and the CIA episode I did earlier in the big book, while we were in Europe."

There have been reports since Fritz the Cat was released that Crumb filed suit to have his name removed from the screen credits. According to Albert L. Morse—a San Francisco copyright attorney who now represents Crumb in such matters—no suit was filed, but an agreement was reached to remove Crumb's name from the credits. Under the agreement, Morse says, Crumb also received some money for the unauthorized use in the movie of several Crumb characters—Honey Bunch Kaminski, Angelfood McSpade, the two characters "trucking" past the park at the opening of the film.

In the fall of 1972, a new Fritz story was published: it was Crumb's first in almost four years. The story was published in The People's Comics (Golden Gate Publishing Company), an all-Crumb comic book in which Crumb mocks himself and his cat. In a fifteen-page story, "Fritz the Cat, 'Superstar,' " Fritz is pictured as a degenerate movie star who meets his end when a spurned female ostrich pierces his skull with an icepick. Before that, though, Fritz interrupts his wenching and boozing long enough for a script conference with some Hollywood hotshots, including two named "Ralphy" and "Stevie." Crumb thus not only gigs Bakshi and Krantz, but lays to rest a character he feels he has outgrown.

Crumb was the subject of a lengthy article in The New York Times Magazine for October 1, 1972. The article, by Thomas Maremaa, a San Francisco writer, is the most extensive treatment of Crumb yet in any large-circulation magazine or newspaper, and Maremaa benefited from what was apparently a long interview with Crumb. For the record, there are a couple of points on which "The Filming of Fritz the Cat" and Maremaa's article differ. My article says that Crumb took LSD for the first time in the fall of 1965, and that it was also at that time that he invented many of his characters, during a visit to Chicago; Maremaa quotes Crumb as saying that he began taking LSD in the summer of 1965, and that he didn't make that visit to Chicago until the spring of 1966.

However, Marty Pahls—whom Crumb visited in Chicago—remembers distinctly that Crumb visited the city in the fall of 1965, and that it was then that Crumb began drawing his free-association fantasies, with their strange human characters; these fantasies largely displaced the tightly constructed stories with animal characters that had dominated Crumb's work until that time. Pahls adds that Crumb had taken LSD for the first time in Cleveland sometime before coming to Chicago, so Maremaa's placing of that event in the summer of 1965 is probably accurate. Pahls recalls further that Crumb had taken some LSD—or something that was passed off as LSD—that "fuzzed his brain up" before he came to Chicago, and that it was while he was in this state that the new characters and stories began coming forth. (Crumb is quoted in Maremaa's article as saying that he remained "real fuzzy" for three months, "and all this crazy stuff came out of my brain.")

[Original article © 1973 Michael Barrier]

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