Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo Has Renamed the Crumb Room

Since its founding in 2010, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) has featured exhibitor spaces with the names Bechdel Room, Crumb Room, Doucet Hall, and Eisner Level. These names were a way to pay tribute in a fun and fitting way to some of the most influential comic creators in the history of independent comics and graphic novels.

The convention has announced that as of this year, they will be retiring the name of the Crumb Room.

In the announcement they said:

This was a decision that we did not come to easily. It reflects a difficult and complicated set of issues facing the world of independent comics and the arts in general.

We are very sensitive to, and opposed to, any form of censorship. We do not want this re-naming of the Crumb Room to be seen as an attempt to erase Robert Crumb from the history or current reality of independent comics. We recognize Crumb’s singular importance to the development of independent and alternative comics, the influence that he has had on many of our most respected cartoonists, and the quality and brilliance of much of his work.

However we also recognize the negative impact carried by some of the imagery and narratives that Crumb has produced, impact felt most acutely by those whose voices have not been historically respected or accommodated during the period in which Crumb has so effectively challenged and shattered many cultural taboos. The great value of Crumb’s radical and inventive freedom of expression is, we acknowledge, seriously problematic because of the pain and harm caused by perpetuating images of racial stereotypes and sexual violence. The simple appellation, “Crumb Room,” without context or opportunity for dialogue, can function more as an insult to those we want to feel welcome and respected, than as a fitting homage to an artist.

MICE was founded in 2010 to create a showcase space for artists and writers working in the field of comics in the greater-Boston area. The event is produced by the Boston Comic Arts Foundation and hosted by Lesley University College of Art and Design. The convention has a focus on the art of making comics and connects local creators with the local audience including workshops for adults and children, panel discussions on the craft and relevance of comics, and special guests.

This year’s convention is being held October 20-21 in Cambridge, MA and free to the public.

7 comments

  • This story almost made me cry. I’m probably being too sensitive about this, but I fear for the state of art. The criticism of Crumb in the above quote is disheartening. I am devastated. For anyone reading this please try to understand the difference between using art to acknowledge the existence of the horrors of existence, and the advertising of it.

    • The changing of the name is just removing an honor for someone whose work is problematic, not denying it exists. Crumb will still be discussed in an academic sense. His work is important but that doesn’t mean it can’t be criticized at the same time and doesn’t mean he should be honored for it.

  • Problematic? Crumb exposed racial stereotypes, and used them to shine a light on the ugliness of a world that perpetuates them. Will Eisner actually used racist stereotypes in his work without comment or irony. An academic would know that. This expo isn’t about art, its a clique with a product to sell.

  • Well I know what Robert Crumb claims the intent of his work was, and I dont see how Eisner regretting creating racist stereotypes (and shockingly grotesque ones at that), is someone more forgivable because he claimed to regret it in later life. I’m not for denying the talent or importance of Will Eisner, but he admits to being racist in his work, while Crumb (regardless of what a critic might say) claims satire.

  • What is sad about this is that we are living in a time period when there is a kind of temporal bigotry at work. There seems to be a total inability to look at anything in the context of the time period in which it was created instead of strictly from the perspective of the present moment of time and the present generation’s contextual references. The fact that Crumb’s mockery of racist and sexist stereotypes was not didactic and obvious is what made them so great in the context of the time period in which he did them. It is left to the audience, the audience is given a high degree of trust to understand the presentation of those stereotypes and to know that they are ridiculous. We live in stupid times when even the supposed comic book fans and “scholars” can’t discern satire from literalism.

  • Thanks Pete! You are a gentleman and a scholar!