Robert Crumb will undoubtedly be remembered for his iconic characters such as Mister Natural, “Keep On Truckin’,” Flakey Foont, Devil Woman, and a host of others who populated his early drawings than for his “Heroes of the Blues” card series. Crumb’s early independent work included his days with the Underground Comics movement, which began in the mid-late-1960s, and eventually coalesced around San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury section. Crumb’s personal fetish of big-legged women went from something he didn’t much talk about, to being talked about by everybody who had ever heard his name.
The “Heroes of the Blues” card series, originally done in 1980 by Yazoo Records, was done in both a 36- and a 37-card set. The story about this apparent discrepancy is another story entirely, which I’ll address in a future article. The series is treasured by country blues fans and Crumb fans the world over for the detail and the typical Crumb painstaking care and attention given to anything he decides to put to paper.
The text was written by Stephen Calt, which I had completely forgotten until I looked at the card box today. What’s ironic is that I interviewed Steve Calt less than two weeks ago. How could I have forgotten that detail? How different would the interview have been had I remembered? During the interview we discussed Crumb and his son Jesse, but Calt’s authorship of the text was not part of the interview. Shame on me!
Crumb and his characters were all household words in the under-30 generation of the 1960s. Not everybody knew who Crumb was, but everybody under the age of 30 had at least heard his name and the names of his immortal characters. Then, in the late 1980s, two brothers from Madison, Wisconsin, managed to talk Crumb out of his reclusive lifestyle (just a little) and began offering new and often very different, very limited reproductions of certain works based on Crumb’s characters from his Zap! Comix days. Alex and Jake Wood began their long reign of producing quality, extremely limited Crumb reproductions with a lamp based on Crumb’s Mister Natural. The pattern for the lamp was sculpted by Jesse Crumb, Robert Crumb’s son, and production was overseen by Robert, Jesse and the Wood brothers, insuring perfection in every stage of the production process.
It’s only Alex who’s now doing the Crumb products, and his latest is something that’s been treasured by Crumb fans worldwide since the first “Heroes of the Blues” was produced. As of yesterday, it’s now being offered as a serigraph. Only 150 copies are being produced, a significant reduction in this acclaimed series. Previous editions have all been in very limited numbers, but this is one of the lowest production numbers I’ve seen. Highly recommended!
The edition is printed on Rives BFK archival 100% cotton cream paper. The sheets are 22″ x 30″. The image size is 16.5″ wide x 25″ tall. There are 15 colors (16 screens) used to print this edition. Detailed information about this and other productions by Wildwood Serigraphs can be found at the official R. Crumb site.
An excellent article with reproductions of the original “Heroes of the Blues” series can be found here.