Remembering Aline Kominsky-Crumb

Aline Kominsky-Crumb, 1948-2022. Photo by Chris Anthony Diaz. Used with Permission.

When cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb died of pancreatic cancer on November 29th at the home in France she shared with her husband, Robert Crumb, social media—or at least my version of social media—exploded with images of her work, photos of her, and sad, shocked reactions to her passing by fans and friends. In the following days, the news of her death was covered by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, the New Yorker, the Nation, Artforum, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Forbes, and many other national media outlets. A tribute from Drawn & Quarterly publisher Peggy Burns, who in 2018 reissued—in an expanded hardcover format—Kominsky-Crumb's collection Love That Bunch, can be found here. I also wrote an obituary for her, which was published at here at TCJ.

As those stories attest, her impact was vast and far-reaching. Along with being a founding member of the Wimmen's Comix collective and launching Twisted Sisters Comics with Diane Noomin—who, sadly, died just months ago—she was one of the very first artists to present truly autobiographical work in the comics field. As the last continuing editor of Weirdo, the comics anthology started by her husband, Kominsky-Crumb introduced new voices—including many women—to readers.

The underground comics community has been hit particularly hard in 2022, with the deaths of a number of its members, including Kominsky-Crumb, Justin Green, Simon Deitch, Tom Veitch and Noomin. Here's to hoping for a kinder year in 2023.

In the space below, friends and fans of her work share some memories about Kominsky-Crumb's life and legacy.

-John Kelly

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Self portrait from Morse's Funnies (Albert Morse, 1974).

Lynda Barry

Her work was the first I'd ever seen that looked just like I felt as a young teen: gnarly, intensely female but not pretty, boy-crazy and hilarious but serious and deep.  Her work went straight into my soul and has been there ever since.

Aline (left) with Twisted Sisters co-editor Diane Noomin. Photo courtesy Bill Griffith and used with permission.

Bill Griffith
(cartoonist, husband of "Twisted Sister" Diane Noomin)

Diane and I were kind of "best friends" of Aline and Robert in the early days of the Undergrounds. Aline was the glue that held us together. We visited them often in their places in Dixon, Madison and Winters. We stayed in their tiny Airstream trailer, the kind we always thought we should own some day...

Aline was that rare kind of artist; she pulled her work from her gut, but she had the smarts of an intellectual. I remember having one analytic conversation after another with her about comics or relationships or the world in general.

No one probed deeper into the dark corners of their soul—not even Justin Green, who was a master of the form—than Aline.

And she did it with self-deprecating humor of the first order. She was the ideal partner for Robert, in life and in art. Both their ids and their egos were in perfect synchronicity. They showed us all the "Dirty Laundry" lurking in our own closets.

She was one of a kind as a cartoonist, a master of her own technique, unrelated to any comics tradition, much like Diane. They were artistic soulmates. And now, impossible to bear, both of our Twisted Sisters are gone.

Everyone, now go out and buy Diane's Glitz-2-Go and Aline's Need More Love - and laugh.

Kominsky-Crumb talks about her career, and how she met her husband Robert Crumb, at a recent exhibit of Crumb family art (including daughter Sophie), at the David Zwirner Gallery Paris.

* * *

Carol Tyler

Tell me.

Imagine the teal and mauve big hair '80s and I'm on the phone with the friendly, generous, concerned Aline Crumb. This was back in the day when you'd hold the bakelite telephone receiver between your neck and shoulder and yak for 2 hours while making supper. Envision our animated words popping along the high-tension wires that stretched across the Central Valley, between my cramped duplex in Sacramento and her adorable Winters cottage. We're having yet another conversation about all things life, including comics, husbands, and our daughters. Or we might have been going over the plans for our next trip to SF to deliver the artwork to Ron Turner. On any given day, we'd cover a wide range of topics like the good friends we were, although I always considered myself her lesser, as she was comix royalty and I was awestruck, because I came onto the scene later, and I couldn't believe how genuinely she welcomed me into the pen-dippers fold, always so complementary and encouraging of my work, which sometimes left me fumbling for words.

Her voice, a soothing mid-wale corduroy, lilting, confident, and consistent, would roll through the receiver as she insisted I spill the details of the latest drama unfolding in my realm. Then, just the right moment, her latest tale would begin about Blabette, her mother, which she detailed in such a way that...well, it was no surprise later when I'd read it drawn out in Weirdo exactly like she told it to me. That was a great lesson I learned from Aline: tell your story just like you would tell it to a friend.

This tied in with what I said earlier. That she encouraged me when I was at my lowest and crippled with self-doubt. I'd be blubbering into the phone, saying something like "nobody wants to read about my life," and without missing a beat, she respond that it was not so much what I was saying that made it worthwhile, but the way I was saying it. To quit worrying and keep working. Just "tell me" she'd say. I never forgot her sage advice.

This past summer, we had one of those 2-hour conversations after a decades-long gap. Over the years, relocations and dramatic life upheavals had delivered us elsewhere. But wait—now I'm remembering—there was that one good catching up session at a comics conference in Chicago 10 years ago, where we were hanging out, looking pretty fabulous in trendy sunglasses, 2 gals in their 60s doing downward dogs in the Green Room and all that. So the decades earlier would have been before Chicago, I guess, that we last spoke. Back in our roots days, in the Valley. Before the Crumb family left for France. That's where we left off.

I think it was an accidental speed dial this July 2022 when big letters ALINE popped onto my screen. Ring Ring. She was trying to get Dan Nadel on the phone to discuss the Paris show and was actually so glad we connected because I was on her list of people she wanted to include and needed to talk to. We spoke joyously, effortlessly, like I said, for over 2 hours into our untethered iPhones, covering the stories that would have become— that undoubtedly would have become her next comic. Especially when she described how she and Robert experienced the spirit of the recently deceased mother Blabette moving through their room in Miami. What an incredible story! And then, of course, despite her busy, fabulous, inspired life, I couldn't believe she wanted to know everything going on in mine. Even the details of Justin's turbulent passing. Justin, whom she adored. "Tell me" she said, in that same way she had always done with sincere interest. I cried my way through it 'till we both cried a little more.

We did not know on that July day that her health was about to take a hard turn or I surely would have spared the grim details of Justin's death. But she had insisted. She sounded strong, so like herself. Come to think of it now, I remember that I had talked to her about a year earlier after Justin was first diagnosed, during the somber, cautious days of COVID. Someone had told me she had the same kind of cancer and was beating it. That's why I rang her up, for some trusted guidance. Mostly she responded with an 'everyone's cancer journey is different' message, but still, she insisted I tell her what was going on while intently listening like a good old friend does. So when I heard of her rapid decline this October, after that July call and the Paris art show, it seemed particularly cruel, because I got the impression that she was in remission. Seemed like the odds were in her favor for that outcome.

Ok, so this time upon hearing the news, no, I would not call. I would write instead, dispatching my sentiments in cursive. I told her to get plenty of rest in her cozy little bed. She'd posted a picture of it on Instagram a few weeks earlier. It reminded me of their sweet cottage in Winters, where one New Year's Eve, I got to spend the night. I slept in the little back room, warm, tucked in, safe. It's nice to think how memories like that bring comfort just when we need it years later.

I concluded the letter on a 'call if you feel like it, whenever you want,' note, even though I knew a call back was unlikely. But here's the thing: it's impossible to hang up on a lifelong friendship. Truly. And in grieving her, I don't want to step into the land of unanswerable questions about life and death. I've done enough of that. Besides, it's not the right think mode for pondering the passing of Aline Crumb. Not the right fit. Rather, I'm thinking more along the lines of, I bet there are phone lines in comix heaven and I just don't have her number yet.

Drew Friedman's portrait of Kominsky-Crumb from his book, Maverix and Lunatix: Icons of Underground Comix (Fantagraphics, 2022).

Drew Friedman

"And then I married the Pope."

I first met Aline Kominsky-Crumb in Jan., 1991. My wife Kathy and I were invited to attend the Angoulême comics festival in France that year. Robert Crumb was the special guest and designed the festival's poster. Art Spiegelman was also a guest and requested that several RAW contributors who had new books out also be invited, among them Charles Burns, Ben Katchor and me (my book, co-written by my brother Josh and edited by the Spiegelmans, Warts and All had just been published). The first morning of the festival, Kathy and I ran into the Crumbs (who had recently moved to France) in the lobby entrance to the main part of the festival. Robert was surrounded by gushing French media and Aline was patiently standing on the sidelines. We introduced ourselves and she was instantly gregarious. The three of us chatted for a bit, she and I bonding over both being Jewish kids who grew up on Long Island, and then she began to talk about her artwork. Smiling and faux-rolling her eyes, she concluded "…And then I married the Pope". We had dinner with the Crumbs one evening during the festival, along with Art, Charles and Ben. Robert basically drew on his placemat and ate; Aline, already fluent in French, held court.

The next time we saw Aline was at Robert Crumb's 2011 exhibition opening at the Society of Illustrators in New York. Aline was clearly having a grand time, back in New York and seeing old friends. Robert… not so much, he dutifully stood in the main gallery for a bit before hightailing it to the third floor lounge with several confidantes, not to be seen again. By then, my first two Old Jewish Comedians books had come out, the Crumbs owned copies, so Aline was anxious to chew the fat with me about Jewish comics she loved. She told me her grandfather was a raconteur who would take her to see popular standup comedians like Joey Bishop, Henny Youngman and Don Rickles. She also mentioned she had recently run into Jackie Mason standing on the street in Miami: "I approached him and exclaimed: Jackie Mason! I can't believe you’re standing on the street! Jackie replied: What, I should be laying down on the street?"

The last time we saw Aline was late October 2019 for The Book of Weirdo panel at Columbia University, hosted by Columbia's Karen Green, moderated by the book's editor Jon B. Cooke, and featuring the Crumbs, Peter Bagge, and me (I drew the cover to the book and wrote the foreword). Aline was having a great night, this time sharing the spotlight with her husband, relishing every moment and reconnecting with many friends and acquaintances, including her closest pal,Twisted Sister Diane Noomin. We inevitably talked about the Jewish comedians she adored, especially the late Joan Rivers, and she repeated the Jackie Mason story (I pretended I hadn't heard it before). No one who attended that amazing evening could have imagined that a world-wide pandemic was just around the corner, and that this would be the last time most of us would see Aline alive. I'll really miss kibitzing with her about Jewish comics.

Side note: My new book (Maverix and Lunatix: Icons of Underground Comix) paying tribute to the icons of underground comix was published recently by Fantagraphics. Sadly, since I finished the book earlier this year, no less than five of the subjects have died: Simon Deitch, Justin Green, Tom Veitch, Diane Noomin, and now Aline Kominsky. I really hope that’s it for quite some time.

Kominksy-Crumb talks about reluctantly taking over the editor job at Weirdo at a panel discussion commemorating the release of The Book of Weirdo (Last Gasp) at Columbia University in October of 2019. The panel was moderated by The Book of Weirdo author Jon B. Cooke (off camera) and featured (from left) Drew Friedman, Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Peter Bagge. Video by John Kelly.

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Peter Bagge
(cartoonist & former editor, Weirdo)

I had to be brow-beaten by a friend into reading Aline's work back in the late 1970s. My reluctance was entirely due to the fact that I felt like she was trying to scratch my eyeballs out with that "drawing style" of hers, and I was hardly alone in that initial reaction. But I quickly realized that not only was she a very funny writer, but that her art perfectly matched the nature of her stories. Besides being funny, they were also "ugly", in the way she reveled in unvarnished truths about her life and herself.

Like all the best humorists, Aline uses humor to make her work palpable to the reader. Seen through a different lens, what she wrote about could have just as easily been perceived as heartbreaking tragedy. But humor is also a survival technique: it puts negative events in perspective. It makes it easier to move on, while simultaneously being the owner and master of your own past. And charge ahead she did, living a life as happy and full as anyone could ever hope for.

Speaking of "owning" one's past, however, reminds me of something that occurred when I interviewed Aline for the Comics Journal some 30 odd years ago. When asking her about a certain incident, she suddenly took umbrage and declared that it was none of my business. I reminded her that I was referring to something she recounted in one of her comics, and by doing so didn't she make it everyone's business? After a moment of pondering, she answered my question, albeit reluctantly. It occurred to me later that in spite of her well-earned reputation for being brutally honest, she still wanted her stories to be packaged and presented in her own way, and not by someone else. Which, of course, makes perfect sense.

I've only seen Aline twice since our Weirdo days, and we rarely if ever corresponded. That said, all of my memories of her are fond ones. She was kind, smart, adventurous and generous, and always extremely funny. RIP.

* * *

Mary Fleener

Mary Fleener: "I painted this for her and carried it over the ocean when a bunch of us were invited to go to Angoulême in 1991. We've lost a very creative mover."

In 1979, a friend came over with his collection of Arcade and I that's where I discovered Aline's work. I was taken with the down and dirty deconstruction of her memories and observations. I'd longed to do my own underground comics but had no idea where to start. Reading her stuff planted the seed. It was mainly her attitude that raised my eyebrows. Someone who wasn't afraid to spit in the face of her demons, but was having fun with her pain and misery, and as I read more of her work, I "got it". Our paths were different, so socially we were far apart, but within the printed pages of the UG comix world, we lived within the same tribe, and I always looked forward to her new work, and it seemed she would always be with us. The thing is, she always will. Her influence will never die; in fact, her stories are still raising eyebrows. As they should.

Hillary Chute (left) with Aline.

Hillary Chute
(comics historian)

The world feels like a less interesting and vibrant place without Aline Kominsky-Crumb in it. She was a magical person… she was incredibly warm, while also discerning. She was loving and generous and funny and intellectual and she also had so much integrity, as a human (she stood by her beliefs) and also specifically as an artist who produced work over decades when people cared, and also when they didn't.

I met Aline voice to voice in 2009 when I interviewed her for the Believer, and then I traveled to France that year to interview her for a few days and visit her studio for my book Graphic Women, which features a chapter on her work. I think I may have been the first person who showed up in Sauve on the Crumbs' doorstep, so to speak, who was there for Aline. I went on to write about her comics in other books, too, including Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists and Why Comics? But I think Graphic Women is the first academic book to offer a chapter on the significance of Aline's comics. When she told Artforum earlier this year that now her work is taught at Harvard, that was me.

Aline and I became friends. The first and only time I've ever done yoga was during that visit, when she took me to a local class she taught. I was so sore after I literally couldn't lift my shirt over my head without pain. She cooked me dinner, took me to coffees, pored through photo albums with me. Observing how she lived (and her house, packed, vibrant and cozy), as well as her work—I remember her showing me original pages for "My Very Own Dream House", a then-unpublished comics story she developed over years—was to encounter a role model, someone who pursued her values energetically, and transformed spaces and communities with the force of that energy - and her disarming charm. Aline was straightforward, hilarious, and pulled no punches. On her postwar Long Island childhood, for instance (this has been quoted in some recent obits): "My family was really barbaric." In Drawn Together, a collaborative work with Robert Crumb, she details, years after escaping the United States, a dinner with friends, sophisticated Europeans, and her brother, in which "All hope of having left Long Island instantly evaporated for me as the crassness of my family was exposed."

Aline was one of the most significant cartoonists and comics editors of her generation. She was a master of holding tones in tension: the grim, the playful, the mocking, the comedic (her influences included Borscht Belt Jewish comedians), the profound. Her work is intimate and urgent—it appealed to me instantly with the expressivity of her line and the personal and cultural dynamics it excavates without shame (even when shame was a topic). She was brave in life as she was in her comics, inspiring so many of us. Knowing her changed my life.

* * *

Krystine Kryttre

Upon first seeing Aline's comics it was obvious that she was a force to be reckoned with! I had never seen comics so brutally honest and funny both in writing and drawing style. Her work was just… wow. I very much wanted to meet her but had no idea what to expect. In person, I found she wasn't afraid to say or draw what was on her mind. She seemed invincible, a bit badass and she dressed really cute. Bob n' Aline's house was also really cute - such a lovable couple.

In the months following Dori [Seda]'s death, Aline could tell I was having trouble with grief. So she would drive out from Winters to San Francisco and we’d have "play dates". She was gregarious, mischievous and funny. Sometimes Diane would join us. I got to know both of them a little better. Their friendship was so beautiful. These visits were such good medicine.

Aline had a terrific instinct for talent, and encouraged new artists. A true and dedicated visionary in her own work and in all the projects and people she nurtured. My heart goes out to the Crumb family and friends.

Aline, Diane, Dori - The Three Graces of Underground Comics. They're together now. Can you see them? Dancing to "The Peppermint Twist", laughing, and stirring it all up.

The Bunch's Power Pak Comics, published by Kitchen Sink Press, 1979.

Denis Kitchen
(cartoonist, publisher via Kitchen Sink Press)

In the summer of 1979, Aline and Robert visited me in Princeton, a small central Wisconsin town I had moved to from Milwaukee in 1973. I rented office and warehouse space for Kitchen Sink Press in the former Muk Luks factory in the town center, and lived on a 10-acre farm not far from town. Aline and Robert, who shared my appreciation for country life, were living in a small town too, in California, but they were feeling hemmed in by encroaching real estate growth, and looking at options.

I mentioned that the mother of a friend a town away had put a wonderful property up for sale and they asked to see it. Aline and Robert immediately fell in love with the cabin nestled by a bucolic stream deep in the woods. No neighbors were within view. They impulsively made an offer. For a day we excitedly talked about living just a few miles apart. An 8mm sound movie I filmed that day shows Robert and Aline talking about the move as if it were already a fact.

But, the following day, my "friend" convinced his mother that he should have the property, so she withdrew it from the market. Aline and Robert, disappointed, returned west, and the brief prospect of us being virtual neighbors and presumably even closer friends evaporated. Eventually, as we know, Aline convinced Robert that they should relocate to France.

I always found Aline's work exceptionally funny, so I readily agreed that same year to publish her solo Power Pak Comics: "Brought to you by the 'Aluminum Siding Saleswoman' of Comics." By that period the underground comix phenomenon was in its final throes; the only comix still selling well were titles created by Robert, or Gilbert Shelton's Freak Brothers. But my publishing decisions were seldom driven by sale prospects alone, a good reason the Kitchen Sink empire never made DC and Marvel nervous.

Aline's painfully autobiographic stories about her parents and her personal life reminded me of Justin Green, so it was not surprising that she later cited his Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary as her most profound influence. But the big difference to me was that I laughed—sometimes out loud—at Aline's wince-worthy stories. In person Aline was also a delightful story teller; I told her a number of times that she could be a successful stand-up comedian. But, for better or worse, she stuck with comics.

Despite lackluster sales on Aline's debut solo effort, I remained a fan, and in 1981 agreed to publish Power Pak Comics #2. Our minimum underground print run of 10,000, for so long a routine number, seemed imprudent in the current market, so I more cautiously had 7,500 printed. Aline’s distinctive but still-crude drawing style and the issue’s jarring abstract expressionist cover were evidently deterrents for many comix browsers at the time. Too many potential buyers didn't get past the disturbing imagery to read the darkly hilarious dialogue that—for me—worked so effectively with her style. Sales on the sequel were even worse than the first.

I had moved Kitchen Sink in 1980 from its downtown Princeton location to the large barn on my rural property. Carpenters carved out space room-by-room as needed and as the budget permitted. Eventually the entire barn was a three-floor beehive of offices, studios, and storage, but early in the remodeling stages my office was on the middle floor and the space above it was empty and unheated. So, to help keep out the frigid temperatures during a couple of long Wisconsin winters, cartons of unsold comics—including thousands of copies of Power Pak #1 and #2—were lined up above my thin ceiling.

During this transition period Aline and Robert visited again. As we sat in my relatively new office, the weak sales of Power Pak inevitably came up. Aline was apologetic about not delivering best-sellers to my company. "Don't apologize," I said. Then, unable to suppress a cheap joke, I pointed upward and blurted, "Your comics really are valuable to me. They're providing insulation for this office."

All copies of Power Pak eventually sold, but Aline never forgot my ill-advised remark. Almost any time I saw Aline afterward in the company of others, I would hear her, in her Long Island accent, proclaim: "Did you know that Denis Kitchen uses my comic books for insulation!?" The cheap laugh came back to haunt me, but it was self-deprecatingly funny for both of us and therefore worthy of repetition.

During their years in France, Robert's royalties continued steadily and his original art sales skyrocketed. With their relatively simple lifestyle at its desired comfort level, Aline—unquestionably the dominant partner in their open but successful marriage—decided to invest surplus revenue in real estate in their enchanting medieval village. She seemed quite astute in scoping out prospective acquisitions, not all of which could join her limited portfolio. The last time I saw her in their village she tried matchmaking me and a questionable unit several hundred years old. "It's a steal," she insisted, but I demurred.

Aline would acquire a chalet, then another unit - sometimes, she said, at bargain prices, but never with interest in being a conventional landlord. Instead, the apartments or stand-alone buildings were rented by Aline at well below market prices or without profit. One of my oldest friends, an expatriate, lives next door to the Crumbs with his fiancé. Their rent is exactly the pro-rated amount Aline and Robert pay in property taxes: zero markup. Aline also regularly bought paintings by local artists. The genuinely good-hearted gestures of low rent and art patronage made life much easier for a number of local artists, musicians, and friends in their small community who had generally erratic earnings. Recognizing a life of quiet generosity to others, in the end, is the best thing you can say about anyone.

Photo by Lora Fountain. Used with permission.

Leonard Rifas

On the inside front cover of Aline and Bob’s Dirty Laundry Comics (July, 1974), their jam ended with Aline’s request for “some good mail,” and a small boxed note said “Send all fanmail to box 1035, Winters, California, 95694.” Of course I sent fanmail! I told her that I had been a fan of hers since seeing her work in Wimmen’s Comix #1 (1972) and that I had been an R. Crumb fan longer than that. To see them working together was very surprising, interesting, exciting, original and enjoyable. (I may not have said “original.” I’m reconstructing this from memory. Still, they made sure to call to the reader’s attention, correctly, that “nobody’s ever done a comic like this before!”)

My fan letter led to some correspondence. I attach one of her postcards from 1975. She reported, among other things, that she was going through a “fanatic phase” of trying to “tone my muscles up even more & also want my legs to get even bigger & stronger!”

Denis Kitchen remembers the time when they were thinking of moving to Princeton, Wisconsin in “the summer of 1979.” I was working for Denis that year, and I remember that they came through in April (my birth month). I told Aline that all the social activities in Princeton happened in churches and bars, and I remember she said that things would not work out then. I remember more clearly that I said to her, “My mother thinks your work is engrossing.” She asked “You mean gross?” I said “No, engrossing.” I still think that’s the best word for it: engrossing, i.e. completely absorbing. (Also, as many of us have said, her work was hilarious.)

I just pulled out my old copy of Dirty Laundry #1 and reread it. I think anyone who has ever jammed out improvisatory comics will recognize how extraordinarily well the two of them worked together from the very beginning. Dirty Laundry has it all: unconcealed mishegaas, uncensored carnality, episodes of everyday life interspersed with social-satirical cosmic adventure-fantasy, shocking incorrectness, explicitly-acknowledged ethnicity, emotional intensity, environmental disaster, freewheeling spontaneity at the service of entertainment, entertainment at the service of lived truth. And then, after all that, it just kept getting better.

A postcard from Aline to Leonard. Used with permission.

Lora Fountain
(literary agent/wife of cartoonist Gilbert Shelton)

I met Aline right after I moved up to San Francisco. At the same party where she met Robert, actually. We got to know each other better through Wimmen's Comix, but then she moved to the country with Robert, and Gilbert and I went to live in Europe, so we didn't see each other as often. But we had started our life-long tradition of shopping trips in San Francisco in the 1970s–with Diane Noomin–and they continued over the years and across the continents in Paris, London, New York, Buenos Aires, Prague, Belgrade... We had very different tastes, but it was always a lot of fun.

After we moved to Paris in 1985, Aline came to visit and helped us move into our first apartment - a true act of friendship, as the move was from one seventh-floor walk-up to a sixth floor one. After that, she came for regular visits, house- and cat-sitting for us almost every summer while we went to the States until she managed to convince Robert to move to the south of France.

We had planned to go to Barcelona together last month for her to participate in a show of work by women cartoonists, and I was looking forward to showing her the city where Gilbert and I had lived before moving to Paris, and to showing her my favorite neighborhoods. Aline has been a dear friend for most of my adult life, and her loss leaves a big hole. I will always miss her.

Aline (left) with Mary Boettcher from the 1970s. Photo by Robert Armstrong. Used with permission.

Robert Armstrong

Do you know somebody or have a friend that gets you laughing… or the group you're with instantly cracking up? Aline was in fact that type of person and she had the ability to bring people together into her humorous orbit. Of course a lot of her humor was directed at herself and she was usually the butt of the joke. This extended to her self-deprecating autobiographical comic stories. Anything could be grist for her comic mill and her unique drawing style helped convey her angst and brutally funny self-examination. When she first learned that some of the fans of her husband, Robert Crumb, despised her work, she laughingly started referring to herself as the Yoko Ono of Underground Comix. Her drawing style indeed looked crude and even tortured next to her famous husband's confident and unmistakable style, but that was the beauty of Aline's drawing approach because it enhanced her own style of self-effacing humor. But Aline was not only hilarious to be around or to read, but she was also warm and generous. To be in the company of "The Bunch" was almost a guarantee to feel included since you might feel that you were in on the joke. She was also a dynamo of energy and you wanted to be on her side once you knew her.

Another shot from the '70s with Mary Boettcher (right). Photo by Robert Armstrong. Used with permission.

I've known Aline for 50 years, so there've been dozens of fond and funny memories flooding my brain since her recent passing. One that stands out is from the early 1970s: Aline and Robert were living in the small farming community of Dixon, California, and so was I with my girlfriend Mary. We were all young and struggling financially because drawing underground comic stories was not a lucrative endeavor at that time. So, in order to bring in some much-needed income, Aline and Mary decided to take a job working on a tomato harvesting machine towards the end of summer. The tomato harvester is a huge bus-sized vehicle that can hold up to a dozen people that stand before a giant conveyor belt separating the tomatoes from the rest of the plant as the machine works its way through the row crop fields. All of the other workers were Hispanic migrant workers used to hard farm labor, and most were women. Aline and Mary joined in the labor, pulling tomatoes from the uprooted vines as they came sliding by on the conveyor. At one point a huge, surprised rat jumped out of the vegetation and Aline and Mary screamed in terror while the Mexican ladies just laughed it off. It didn't take long for the girls to find out how difficult and tedious the work was. The other ladies on the harvester sung to themselves as Aline and Mary struggled to keep up the pace on a very hot day. When they both got home that night all they could do was lie down and cry, too tired to even get out of their filthy work clothes. However it didn't take Aline long to come up with one of her comic monologues about how the day went and, of course, she made her suffering sound hilarious. She decided to give up on farm labor soon after that, but the rest of us got some good laughs from the tales of her tortuous ordeal. I'm sure she could've turned the entire experience into a funny story for a comic book.

From left, Aline, Mary Boettcher and Robert Crumb. Photo by Robert Armstrong. Used with permission.

Roberta Gregory

I never knew Aline personally, and only met her once to my knowledge, at the "Misfit Lit" art show, in Seattle in 1991, where she briefly berated me for my "Crazy Bitches" story in the first issue of Naughty Bits. (Anyone familiar with my story might agree that she may have had a good reason.) But I was acquainted with her comics since the first issue of Wimmen's Comix in 1972.

I'd grown up reading various mainstream comics, writing and drawing several crude attempts of my own all through childhood, but since it seemed a fact back in the 1960s that women were a rarity when it came to actually producing comics, I never imagined any of my creations would ever see print. That is, until I stumbled across Wimmen's Comix! In its pages, women told all manner of stories, illustrated in a dazzling variety of ways, at all levels of professionalism, and Aline's especially stood out for their raw, exuberantly crude artwork and devastatingly self-critical content.

Unflinching honesty, drawn with confrontational, sometimes deliberately ugly images, was every bit as revolutionary as the sex and drugs in so many men's underground comics, making Wimmen's Comix a truly groundbreaking title. Over her lengthy career, readers and future creators beyond count would be similarly inspired by Aline’s honesty, insight and humor.


Self-portrait from the back cover of Mineshaft #17.

Ariel Bordeaux

I don't remember when I first encountered Aline Kominsky-Crumb's comics because it feels like she (or I should probably say her work) has always been a part of my life. I didn't know her, but losing Aline feels pretty intensely personal–like the loss of a mentor or a big sister–which is the magic gift her work has given so many of us.

The deep connection I now have with her work is something that has grown steadily over time. Back when I was first starting to make comics in the early 1990s, so many people who were writing and talking about comics at the time described Kominsky-Crumb's work as "ugly". I loved how Aline would hilariously toy with her husband's fanboys in Dirty Laundry and her editorials in Weirdo. My comics were also considered "ugly art", and the work of women cartoonists was poo-pooed and disparaged so often, that as much as I would try to laugh it off, I was also pretty self-consciously embarrassed by that.

But things were changing in the comics world. As more women started entering the field, and as comics also started becoming more broadly inclusive and diverse, the word "ugly" has largely been replaced by words like "powerful" and "expressive", and of course the brilliance of Aline Kominsky-Crumb is now widely celebrated.

I met Aline only once. I went with Rick [Altergott] to see Aline and Robert give a talk together at the New York Public Library on a cold and slushy Valentine's Day in 2007 for the release of Aline's stunning career retrospective memoir, Need More Love. Diane Noomin was also in the audience that evening. It's devastating to have lost them both. The Crumbs were great on stage together, and afterward I got to fangirl out and tell Aline how much I loved her - or at least I hope I told her that. The biggest thrill was when both Aline and Robert told me they liked my comics! It's a bit cliché now to say I felt seen, but truly. I felt seen.

Of what use is a Bunch? That brave, messy, real, sexy, hilarious, powerful goddess who blazed the trail for all of us who have followed and found a way to put down and process our lives on ink and paper - turns out to have been very useful indeed. Thank you, Aline Kominsky-Crumb. Long live the Twisted Sisterhood.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb by Stephen Kroninger, created for this tribute.

Stephen Kroninger

In 2004, our family was invited by the Spiegelman family to join them in France for a couple of weeks. That's where I first met Aline. It was clear from the start that I was in the presence of someone significantly larger than life.

I was already a fan of Aline’s work, having first seen it in Wimmen's Comix while I was a lad living in rural Orefield, Pennsylvania. I had a friend in junior high school who was more worldly, and he lent me his collection of underground comics. Many of her images are still imbedded in my brain, particularly one of "Grammaw Blabette" that to my mind is one of the most terrifying images in the history of comics. I love it.

It was an unbelievable trip. Aline was the Pied Piper of France, known and adored by all up and down the towns. My wife, Aviva, and Aline hit it off with their Jewish mother instincts.  A year or so later in New York, when Sophie Crumb was living in the East Village, Aline and Aviva conspired to convince Sophie to babysit our twin daughters once a week. (Sophie was a terrific piano-playing, paper-doll making, pretend-tattoo-parlor kind of a babysitter, worthy of its own story.)

Aline also told Aviva that when the girls would become unbearable teens that we should just ship them to her in France. I found it particularly touching when she once told me that the girls were getting a classical education like Sophie did, filled as it was with the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and Fleischer Brothers cartoons.

And that's how I will remember Aline. As awe-inspiring, exuberant and wise in life as she was on paper.

* * *

Ron Turner, with Colin Turner
(publisher via Last Gasp)

Collecting my thoughts about Aline's passing. These are some of the publications Last Gasp had the pleasure of publishing. It is 10 years to the day Spain Rodriguez passed and but a month or so since her close friend and cartoonist Diane Noomin left us.

Some of the happiest times I can recall are when Bill Griffith and Robert Crumb with Aline and Diane would take off for "the baths" at Calistoga, possibly triggering the nostalgia of an East Coast getaway.  I remember in the early '70s being at a party at Print Mint's Bob and Peggy Rita's home in Berkeley and Aline climbed in my panel van and was tearing up and we went in search of Robert, who she was desperately in love with. Sometime later she got her man and eventually, her daughter Sophie. She kept very fit. She kept drawing the very personal and revealing stories of her home life and of herself, Robert and Sophie, always fresh and sometimes painfully private revelations.

A while back Last Gasp and Columbia University brought all the Weirdo editors (Peter Bagge, Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb), author Jon B. Cooke and panel moderator Drew Friedman to discuss the legacy of Weirdo, the magazine that went for 28 issues. One last reunion for the old bunch. Our hearts go out to Sophie and Robert.

Karen Green (left) with Aline. Photo by Karen Green and used with permission.

Karen Green
(Curator for Comics and Cartoons, Columbia University)

When I first met Aline, May 2012 in Chicago, I told her how much the work in Love That Bunch had meant to me. She thanked me with an interesting look on her face; the following month, when I interviewed her at her MoCCA exhibition, I observed that it had a kind of 'Oh, honey, if that work is meaningful to you, you must be so damaged.' She wasn't wrong. Aline's utterly honest and unashamed comics had a lot to say to those of us with dysfunctional families, bullying classmates, unfortunate romantic entanglements, and more. It was as if her work, drawn with a pen dipped directly into her vein, spoke soul to soul. Every summer, I have my students read some of her work, to see what total honesty and insight looks like. As I got to know her over the next several years, I saw that she was more than just a tremendous talent. She was warm, kind, funny, generous. She was utterly committed to taking care of the people around her, like an extremely stylish Earth Mother. And she was so damn smart.

Art just poured out of her, as the walls in her home can attest. Quirky shrines, paintings, amazing colors everywhere. Reading the tributes to her on social media–from cartoonists, from fans, from cartoonist fans–one can see how her work resonated in so many lives; inspired so many who came after her pioneering days. It seems almost inconceivable that that unique and beautiful voice has been stilled. It's not fair. She deserved more. So did we.

A page from "The Aline Workout," published in Mineshaft #28.

Everett Rand
(publisher via Mineshaft)

It's hard to believe that the Queen of the "World's Number One Cartooning Family" is no longer with us. Several months ago, I'd heard that Aline was very ill from R. Crumb.  She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nonetheless, news of her death this week hit hard. Aline's work is so personal and funny, that you feel like a friend, on intimate terms, just by reading her stories.

Another page from "The Aline Workout".

We first published Aline's artwork in Mineshaft #17, back in 2006. Her self-portrait was on the back cover and she did the centerfold.  Later we published "The Aline Workout" in Mineshaft #28. Peter Poplaski told me that this was actually "the missing ending for the R. Crumb Handbook/Director's Cut!" It was a very funny dialogue between Robert and Aline with alternating illustrations by both of them. Here's a brief excerpt, some advice that Aline gives Crumb… "Now, you are sitting on that butt and that thing is really taking a beating, because you're just sitting there on it all the time with all your weight. Just think, it's getting flatter and flatter by the minute, flatter and flabbier as we sit here, so you gotta really squeeze that butt together. Tighten those muscles as hard as you can and hold it… hold it for ten seconds and then relax it. Squeeze that butt together again, tighten it, and then relax. You gotta do it at least twenty times in a row. Doing this exercise can also affect your sexual excitement.  It can for some people." Crumb"s response was, "Tee Hee Hee…" and the conversation continues…

There’s a comics story by Aline and her daughter, Sophie Crumb, in the new issue of Mineshaft, #43, which is at the printer right now, called "4 Shades of Abortion," in which Aline and Sophie discuss their personal abortion experiences in detail. In her comics Aline has really never tried to make herself look good. She captures the horrors and fleeting joys of life, sex, parenting, self-disgust, over-indulging, shopping, dealing with a dysfunctional childhood, or simply sitting on the toilet with your underwear around your ankles compulsively worrying, like many of us do, about life's trivialities.

The first story I read by Aline was "A Day in the Life of Aline Kominsky-Crumb", from Self-Loathing #1, which she did with Robert, and after that I was hooked. I love artists and writers who can articulate the truth and humor of life, even if it's dark at times, and Aline did that. I felt that Aline was telling my story too, and there are many people who feel this way, because Aline's work transcended her personal history and tapped into eternal truths.

Aline represented the true outsider artist. Her paintings are very beautiful and full of life. The first time I connected personally with her by email, aside from comments that occasionally came through R. Crumb, was through her gallery, Galerie Vidourle Prix, in the south of France, which she started with Julie Katan in 2005. Although I've never visited the gallery in person, I'd follow the Galerie VP exhibits on social media, and this turned me on to some amazing artists who we eventually published in Mineshaft. I've also bought a few priceless works of art from Galerie VP over the years. In fact, there's a still life painting by Aline on my office wall, next to where I'm typing right now.

A still life by Kominsky-Crumb.

Aside from her artistic genius, one of Aline's lasting legacies is that she promoted the work of other fabulous artists, through Twisted Sisters (with Diane Noomin), Weirdo, and then later Galerie VP.

Aline was at the forefront of creating a strong community of kindred spirits where she lived in France, but also long-distance around the world.  Anyone can be a part of this wonderful community, because it’s ultimately a state of mind.

A self portrait from 2006.

Eric Sack

I spent over 40 years acquiring, and, ultimately sharing the art of the Underground Comix Art Movement. As my understanding heightened, so did my appreciation for a more diverse group of artists within this community.

Admittedly, initially it was my visual eye that attracted me to many of the artists. The sheer power of the draftsmanship. Soon after, I was drawn into the message. Oftentimes the political and social message and, by the early '70s, a platform for autobiographical expression. Oh, and the acerbic humor!! This was the art of Aline Crumb. Her talent was in making a connection with the reader that was both revealing and entertaining. When looking at her work, I would feel as though I was having a silly, intimate late night conversation with a close friend. With no defensive ego to protect the reveal. THIS was her talent! THIS was her art. THIS was the special part of herself that she shared with many within the 'family'.

My 'mission' to expose the world to this movement brought me to many prominent international museums. A number of which in the company of Robert and Aline. One memorable moment has stayed with me. I believe it was at the Museum Ludwig in Köln, Germany. It was an important European exhibition of Robert's art. Prior to the opening, the media was invited for an interview and private tour of the show. TV cameras, microphones... an intimidating event, at least in my opinion. Journalists began to fire questions. Why, what, when, how? And, as though they were sitting in their living room, Robert would present the answer and/or question directly to Aline, who was sitting at the end of the third row. Without pause, Aline would deliver a 'straight line', a quick-witted anecdote, a clever, relevant segue. I mean, it was as though they had rehearsed their banter a thousand times. And Aline sat very comfortably at her position at the end of the third row.

Natural, revealing, honest, intimate, supportive. THIS, THIS, to me, was the art of Aline Crumb. THIS is the fondness that I maintain for this special lady.

Photo by Lora Fountain. Used with permission.

Angela Bocage

I haven't talked with Aline since both of us left California for France and New York, but we were forever linked in a review of an early-'90s art show in the SF Chronicle: the critic said our work had "political anger" and "sheer graphic brilliance seldom found elsewhere in contemporary art."

 That was quite a moment, for two toddler moms who were still angsty art students inside who didn’t ever really think we could draw! Aline was scathingly funny on the page, but brilliantly wise and kind in person, easy to talk to about everything, convinced of the worthwhileness of our crazy lives.

We were also kind of gym-addicted and I know I will never meet anyone else with whom to trade mutual punches in the butt with the sisterly camaraderie of cartoonist moms!

* * *

Jon B. Cooke
(writer/editor, The Book of Weirdo)

I reckon my opinion on the matter just might count. After all, I wrote the book on the subject. The Book of Weirdo, that is, and however brilliant the respective reigns of freshman editor R. Crumb and sophomore Peter Bagge at the helm of that outstanding humor comics anthology of the 1980s—and both those gents had notable runs, each for their own reason—the editorial roster saved the best for last, as the late Aline Kominsky-Crumb proved to be the finest of all three.

To this day, I remain in awe of her extraordinary tenure. First, the cartoonist breathed life into the magazine's editorial voice (though, come to think of it, Aline instilled a life-force into EVERYTHING she did). She energized the opening pages with her persona as a boozy, provocative sexpot housewife, one who had a hilarious running feud with a couple of letter hacks, spread gossip about a "born again" cartoonist ashamed of past Weirdo work, and even persuaded no less than the great Harvey Pekar into contributing a regular column. But it was in the guts of the publication where she made her greatest impact and proved herself to be a natural-born editor.

Importantly, editor Kominsky-Crumb nurtured her contributors to produce often their best work. As Jim Woodring pointed out, not only did she entice fine material from the old underground vanguard—Justin Green, Kim Deitch, Bill Griffith, S. Clay Wilson, etc.—she cultivated an entirely new wave of cartoonists. Overall, Woodring declared, "She encouraged the discouraged, rousted the lethargic, inspired the dispirited, emboldened the timid, and otherwise coaxed from a number of artists works that otherwise might have not seen the light of day."

Most significantly, not only did Aline create much of her own greatest work for her run of Weirdo, she also welcomed a contingency of fellow sister cartoonists into the fold. Her effort to proportionally increase female participation—doubling Bagge's percentage of women contributors and trebling husband Robert's—was an achievement she remained most proud of when talking about those days guiding the mag. Her championing excellent comics from fellow Twisted Sister Diane Noomin, Dori Seda, Carol Tyler, Phoebe Gloeckner, Krystine Kryttre, Mary Fleener, Penny Moran, and others, as well as introducing the incredible Julie Doucet to U.S. readers, should be considered an important aspect of her vivacious and rich creative life, one never to be forgotten.

In her sublime autobiographical comics, Aline Ricky Goldsmith Kominsky-Crumb often portrayed herself as an unserious, self-absorbed, wine-swilling narcissist, perpetually desperate for attention—Need More Love was the title of her memoir—but, contrary to that hilarious and effective caricature, she was not only an extraordinarily gifted confessional comic book storyteller (however crude the rendering), but also one of the art form's finest editors. Naturally blessed with traits that make for such a vital role, Aline was involved, caring and cultivating, gently prodding when she needed to be, and at a safe distance to foster independence at other times, and always—ALWAYS—encouraging… All elements, come to think of it, that makes for a simply lovely human being.

Off you go, Bunch…

A final clip from The Book of Weirdo event at Columbia University in 2019. Video by John Kelly.

* * *

As this article was going to press, tributes were still coming in. Additional memories will be added as they are submitted.