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book.of.genesis.illustrated.jpgThe widely anticipated “Book of Genesis Illustrated” penned by R. Crumb, the famous comic book artist and graphic novelist released yesterday and the backlash from Christian groups and churches has already begun.
I first heard about R. Crumb’s foray into turning Genesis into a graphic novel last spring at Book Expo America, the largest annual book fair in the US, where Norton (his publisher) was pushing it hard. The visual depictions they had available were stunning and made me pretty excited to see what the rest would be like. Then yesterday, I came across a very balanced, positive review of “Book of Genesis Illustrated” on Religion Dispatches. Gabriel Mckee writes not only about Crumb’s interpretive decisions with the text, but about how he was not playing around with this sacred book by any sense of the term:
“Far from the sharp satire that one might expect from the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural, Genesis is a remarkably straight, even reverent, adaptation. In his introduction, Crumb explains that he avoided adding interpretation or clearing up confusing passages, leaving the Bible as is “rather than monkey around with such a venerable text… I approached this as a straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” He notes the irony that devout, didactic Bible comics creators are more willing to play around with scripture by inserting “completely made up narrative and dialogue,” while he, a non-believer, lets the text speak for itself.”
Mckee goes on to add that, “The design of the book’s jacket belies the seriousness of its contents.”


Crumb’s serious, respectful intentions aside, Genesis is already causing controversy. On Speakeasy, a Wall Street Journal blog, yesterday Michelle Kung posted “R. Crumb’s Bawdy “Book of Genesis” Targeted by Christian Groups,” reporting that while “Book critics may be digging R. Crumb’s illustrated tome “The Book of Genesis,” that “several religious organizations have unsurprisingly taken offense to the comic artist’s titillating take on the Bible” because the book has an R rating of sorts on the cover that states: “adult supervision recommended for minors.”
Interesting, isn’t it? I can’t wait to take a look, and not just because of the warning for explicit content. I love graphic novels and one of my favorites of all time is “Blankets” by Craig Thompson, which is a spiritual memoir of sorts, about Thompson’s journey away from Christianity. And yes, some of his illustrations are rather explicit, too.

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