Lot 456 of 500:
R. CRUMB Handwritten Letter to Marty Pahls, 1962: Shades of "Joe Blow"  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$1,800
$400 - $600

R. Crumb Handwritten Letter to Marty Pahls, 1965, Two Sheets

Crumb, Robert





Two-sheet letter measuring 8¼"x11½", hand-written by Robert Crumb in pencil in a neat and tiny script on two sheets of thin typing paper, dated "Early 1965" with a dateline of "Minus 10, Switzerland." Signed "Crumb." Fair to good condition, some chips, tears, wrinkling and soiling, generally not affecting text; tape repairs. Provenance: From the Collection of R. Crumb, who explains: "I got these letters back after [Pahls] died in 1989, found among his possessions." Note: This letter is not collected in Fantagraphics' "Your Vigor For Life Appalls Me: Robert Crumb Letters, 1958-1977."

"Sometimes I see Charles as an inevitable suicide..."

Reading between the lines of this letter, one gets strong hints of dark goings-on in the dysfunctional Crumb family household that Robert left Philadelphia to escape. It starts off innocently enough, with a grateful Crumb thanking Marty Pahls for trying to get Crumb's sister Sandra to leave the family home: "If you can get Sandra away from Philadelphia it will be the best thing anybody has ever done for her, and M. Pahls will have saved another Crumb from a disastrous life of sadness." 

Crumb elaborates, and a picture begins to form of an unhealthy level of attachment between Sandra and the oldest Crumb brother, the brilliant but unstable Charles. "Charles won't hate you," Crumb writes, "If he's as intelligent as I think he is and has any sanity left, he will realize that for Sandra to get away is the best thing for her." Crumb then adds a disturbing coda: "I think Charles is quite attached to Sandra, but it could become a really sick thing unless they are separated... I can see it all now... the scandal, the feeble-minded children... No, Charles will see that this is the best thing." Crumb's suggestion of inappropriate relations between Sandra and Charles must certainly be facetious. That said, two words: "Joe Blow." Serious Crumb students will recall that Crumb, in a 1998 interview, referred to some quasi-sexual "horsing around" between himself and Sandra when they were teens (source: Entertainment Weekly, June 2, 1995). Fodder, perhaps, for future biographers?

Crumb then writes with eerie foresight about the outcome he fears for his brothers: "Sometimes I see Charles as an inevitable suicide... every day he stays there, he gets closer to it," and "Maxon will get away only to go mad in later life." Charles, who never left home, killed himself in 1992. Maxon moved to San Francisco, where he continues to live a life of extreme asceticism (he has described himself as "a socially misfitted, God-mad, brooding ascetic and celibate, starving and street-begging, eating a cloth for meat and sitting on a bed of nails.")

The rest of the letter is dense with further revelations about Crumb's family and state of mind. His descriptions of his relationship with first wife Dana are noteworthy for their emotional content ("I buried my face in Danie's hair and cried for all humanity.... when it was over I felt a mystic relief... cleansed, as though a terrible handicap had been healed.") The tears, chips, creases and tape all suggest frequent handling. Marty Pahls went on to marry Robert's younger sister, Sandra Crumb. With that in mind, one can understand why Pahls may have read and re-read this letter until strong signs of use accrued. Towards the end of the note, Crumb gives his chum the green light to bang his sis: "And I hope you do make love to Sandra... It will be quite a change for her after all the boobs she's made out with in the past."

Included with the lot is a contemporary hand-written letter from Dana Crumb to Marty Pahls. The letter is dated 12/11/65, but Robert Crumb has amended it in black ink: "Date is wrong: It was late Dec. '64 or early Jan., '65." In her letter, Dana echoes Roberts sentiments: "I agree with Robert that you should get Sandra out of Philadelphia and away from the whole family." She also asks if Marty has seen "the January issue of HELP! with Robert's work in it?"

A limited edition of 100 softcover and 15 hardcover catalogues are available. Over 200 pages, fully illustrated. Fun reference, great keepsake. Softcovers $40, dust-jacketed hardcover with limitation plate $200. To order, contact [email protected] or visit: https://www.pbagalleries.com/content/comics/.

R. Crumb says, "I found [PBA's catalogue] so interesting that I am saving it for the texts that accompany the comics which were put up for auction. This is some of the best commentary I’ve yet seen on the quality of the content of comic books. I especially enjoyed the reviews of the post-war horror comics. Great. Priceless."

Consignments welcome for PBA's Spring 2021 Comic Book sale. Pre-Code Horror, Golden Age and Silver Age comics, original art and ephemera sought. Send inquiries to [email protected].

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