The latest issue of "The Comics Journal" (#302), now a not-quite annual, weighs in at 3.5 pounds, runs 670 pages, and costs $30. For your money, you get interviews with Maurice Sendak and Jacques Tardi, plus ME (with 60 pages on Albert Morse, Robert Crumb, and the true story of "Keep On Truckin...") You also get Seth, Paul karasik, Joe Sacco, Percy Crosb, Lewis Trondheim, Chester Brown, Art Spiegelman, Jeff Smith, and Roy Crane. They can look after themselves, but here is how mine begin:
On December 21, 2005, Robert Crumb filed suit in United States District Court, Western Division of Washington, against Amazon.com,. The suit alleged that Amazon had infringed upon his copyright of his famed “Keep on Truckin’” cartoon by using it to encourage customers who had not found the used book they sought to resume their efforts at a future time. He wanted Amazon permanently enjoined from further infringements. And he wanted its profits from this one, plus compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
The suit startled people in the comic book world. (Presumably, it also startled Amazon, which yanked the cartoon from its web site.) As far as these people knew, Crumb had lost the rights to “Keep on Truckin’” long before 2005. The source of this belief was Crumb himself. He had been strikingly clear about it. He had blamed that loss on his former lawyer, Albert Morse.
In April 1988, The Comics Journal had published a seventy page “definitive” interview of Crumb, conducted by its editor Gary Groth. In that interview, Crumb described a law suit fifteen years earlier, which had ended with another federal judge declaring “Keep on Truckin’” in the public domain. Partly, Crumb had said, the decision had come about because he had defied Morse – whom he described in passing as a “twisted dude” and “asshole” – by refusing to testify against a publisher, who, while not a party to that law suit, had essentially claimed that Crumb had waived all rights to his cartoon by allowing him to use it without notice of its copyright. And partly the decision had been due to Morse being “so tactless and rude” that he had antagonized the judge. Even though Morse had told him a fortune was at stake, Crumb said, he had refused to appeal. “That was kind of the end of my relationship with him,” he told Groth. “Actually, he stopped practicing law after the whole thing was over.”
At dusk, on Tuesday, February 7, 2006, sixteen days after the passing of the man Robert Crumb had disparaged, about one hundred people gathered on a Sausalito houseboat for a memorial service. They talked and reminisced and chanted. His niece, a rabbi, sang a prayer of consolation and recited kaddish. One guest played Peruvian prayer bowls and another an ocarino and a naked woman a didgeridoo. Albert Morse had been a man whose outrageous humor and overflowing enthusiasms lit others’ eyes when they were asked to recall him. He had been someone who could blithely – and falsely – inform strangers that his mother had posed nude for Man Ray or that his other car was a Rolls Royce in which he was customarily chauffeured by a team of midgets. He had been someone who, if a friend’s marriage collapsed, leaving him with two un-refundable airline tickets for a Venezuelan vacation, could step into the breach on a moment’s notice and not only accompany the dispirited husband but leave him recalling not heartbreak but visits to noteworthy Caracas cat houses and the delighted children who flocked to them on the street because Albert could pull scarves from their ears. He was, they said, the friend they would miss the most. “Anytime you saw him,” they said, “it was ‘Oh my God, Albert is here!’”
Causes Bob Levin Supports
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, ACLU, PEN, Berkeley Emergency Food & Housing Project.