The American comic strip has enjoyed the attentions of some extraordinary talent — Winsor McCay, Al Kapp, Chester Gould — but in the last 50-odd years, a paltry few have come close to attaining that level of graphic expression and cultural significance. One shining exception to prove that rule, of course, is underground visionary R. Crumb , the old-time blues and big-legged woman-fixated artist who first flipped wigs some four decades back with his graciously intense contributions to psychedelic, eroto-maniacal outlaw periodical Zap Comics. While his best known characters from that period — Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat — have long since entered the pantheon of All American low-life iconography (and even led to arrest on obscenity charges), Crumb has always tried for farther(and invariably succeeded) via a series of increasingly sophisticated cartoon narratives, and this hypermaxi-ultra rare public appearance by the infamously withdrawn (if not downright agoraphobic) Crumb revolves around his most insanely ambitious undertaking to date: an illustrated edition of the Bible's Book of Genesis (an exhibition that, not coincidentally, opens that day at the Hammer Museum). The potential here is mind-bending, and if Crumb is well and truly prepared to finally let his hair down in a public forum, it should result in a fascinating glimpse into the M.O. of one of Western Civilizations most idiosyncratic and gifted observers (assuming, of course, that he doesn't just crawl under a chair and remain there, silently, for the next two hours). Long story short, an opportunity not to be squandered.

Thu., Oct. 29, 8 p.m., 2009

LA Weekly