By Robert Crumb
(From the graphic novel Tits, Ass, & Real Estate by Eve Gilbert)
The publisher has asked me if I would be so kind and helpful as to write an introduction to this book, and I know it's only because "R. Crumb" is a big name in the comics field, and if they print my name in big enough letters on the cover - maybe bigger than the author's herself - maybe it will help sell the book. At first I protested; I hate writing introductions to other people's work, I know it's not my brilliant insights or eloquent writing style they care about. It's only my name they want. I told the publisher that I don't believe such tactics really succeed in their aim, that my name on the cover is not going to make a hell of a difference in the sales figures. This book is hopelessy uncommercial, let's face it. But he insists that, in fact, it helps to have a famous name on the cover of even such miserable scrawls as these. He's the business man, he ought to know. I guess....
He also knows that I do actually like Eve Gilbert's comics. In spite of the rough, unpolished artwork, she tells some quite remarkable tales, I think. But you see, I, dear reader, am what you would call a connoisseur of comics. I have always been curious to look at obscure, offbeat comics by non-professionals, kids, and crazy psychos, as well as those of the best, most accomplished comics artists. But that’s just me, and a few others, Gary Groth, the publisher in question, among them. When Eve Gilbert’s three issues of Dangerous Pussy were first published in the early 90’s by a small company in San Francisco, Manic D. Press, Groth sent me copies of them because he liked them and wondered what I would think. We have exchanged appreciative comments about her work over the years and I comment him for deciding to publish this compilation.
Fine and dandy, but the reality of this “industry” is that 99.9 percent of the comics reading public is put off by the crude drawing and text that is the slightest bit hard to read. If the presentation is not simple, direct, and immidiately comprehensible, you’re going to lose them. They’re not going to make the effort. They want to be entertained. They’re used to professional show business. Already comics are up against it with movies, TV, and video games. Already, you gotta love comics to read any of them! It’s also true that most of the crude and difficult-to-read comics that are put out by young hopefuls (I maintain it’s a young person’s game) are not worth the struggle it takes to get through them. Most of them are, in fact, bad - tedious, incoherent, a mess, a disgrace to our beloved comics medium.
Eve Gilbert commits many of the sins of unprofessionalism that so irritate comics fans. It takes some efforts to get into her stories, things are not immediately clear. You gotta study the panels, look close to find out what the hell’s going on. Characters are not readily and consistently recognizable. The protagonist of many of the stories, the artist herself, is a vague, floppy punked-out rag doll, mostly seen at a distance, so that you can barely make her out. Often she has no face. This is a curious and unique aspect of Eve Gilbert’s comics. She never - not once - makes a drawing of herself that shows any personal characteristics. We have no clue as to what she really looks like. Is she cute, homely, tall, short, what?? She draws herself as a character in the stories over and over, but there is not a single self-portrait or caricature of herself anywhere. I have remarked about this unusual quality of her work when talking about her on the phone to Jennifer Joseph, one of the partners in Manic D Press, the publishers of her comics in the early ’90’s. She put it succinctly: “She creates a universe. It’s not about her.” It is about her, yet it isn’t... Fascinating... Ms. Joseph and her partner in Manic D Press, the author Jon Longhi, knew Eve Gilbert in the late 1980’s and early ‘90s when she was living in San Francisco. Jennifer was running poetry readings at a night club back then, and Eve would come in with Xerox copies of her comics and read them to the audience, and then try to sell the copies afterwards. They both told me that in fact Eve was very attractive, wide eyed, “sweet,” not at all a hard case, “one of the nicest people you’d ever hope to meet,” Jon said. “a nice kid.”
I guess she got it all out on paper, like paper, like me. I, too, am “nice.” Jennifer Joseph said about Eve, “Basically comics saved her life.” Her comics are nasty, full of lurid, pornographic, disgusting images, but you will discover, if you have the patience and the curiosity, that behind the apparent grossness is a coherent, sharp, and poetic vision of our world, the world that thousands of adventurous young people in America throw themselves into. Eve Gilbert must be an incredibly tough survivor, as well as being sweet and nice. Her life would’ve killed me. I don’t know whether she’s still drawing comics or not, but she has left her testament, and proven that comics are a great up-from-the-bottom art form still.
Robert Crumb, December 2002.