"I'm anxious to see the Sketchbooks come out," sez R. Crumb. And all comics fans should be, too, for the R. Crumb Sketchbook series reprints Crumb's personal sketchbooks, the immediate products of Mr. Obsessive Sketcher's genius. Personally selected by the artist, the drawings in these volumes include much material never seen before, not even in the German "2001" editions of the sketchbooks (which are long out of print anyhow). Volume 5 covers 1967 and 1968 — the time when Crumb was crowned King of the Undergrounds — and includes drawings of "flower children" and strips with the famous characters such as Mr. Natural, Shuman the Human, and Eggs Ackley. (And not-so-famous characters such as Bob Dill, the Folk-Singing Pickle.) Unexpected gems and early versions of famous pieces leap out at you as you glance through the book. A case in point this time: remember the famous EVO "Mr. Natural as a vacuum-cleaner salesman" cover, which showed the sage/huckster alarming Mrs. Suburban Housewife? (Fantagraphics used the image on a t-shirt.) This characteristically Crumb-esque piece, symbol of mainstream America's confusion face-to-face with the explosion of the late '60s, appears in an early version here in Volume 5. Just rousted from the artist's imagination, Mrs. Housewife still sports curlers and a housedress, and looks like she hasn't had her first cup of coffee yet. See a world-famous artist at work, developing ideas. Cameo by Mickey Mouse.
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