PARIS — Subversive US cartoonist Robert Crumb, whose take on the Bible is about to be released worldwide, says people are "totally nuts" for taking the book so seriously for so long.
"I grew to hate the Bible," he told a press conference for the international launch of "Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis", which he called a "gruelling" four year project. The book hits bookshelves in late October in Europe, Brazil and the United States.
"The idea of millions of people taking this so seriously is totally nuts," he added. "The Bible doesn't need to be satirised. It's already so crazy."
Crumb's 220-page epic take on the Book of Genesis painstakingly mirrors every twist and turn, from God's Creation of the world through the meanderings of Noah's Ark and the adventures of Jacob of the "coat of many colours".
The 66-year-old hero of underground comics who wowed the 1960s with "Fritz The Cat" and "Mr Natural", said he took up the challenge 40 years later of creating another white-haired long-bearded figure "to illuminate the text of Genesis by illustrating every single thing that's in there."
"It hasn't been done before I think," he said. "There are hidden stories that are very strong."
The lanky gray-haired Crumb, in grey suit and waistcoat for the two-hour media conference, poked fun at the Almighty hero of the book but said he had reneged his Roman Catholic upbringing to become a gnostic "on a spiritual quest".
The God in his book was "very very serious, as well he should be. It's his universe," he quipped, saying he depicted him as an old-fashioned patriarch "after a powerful dream in 2000 in which I saw God and that's what he looked like."
"I avoided explicit sex because I didn't want to ridicule", he said, "but you can't ever please true believers. If you're messing around with their sacred texts, they won't like it."
"Perhaps someone will want to kill me," he added, referring to recent controversy over Mohammed cartoons in Demark.
Crumb, who moved from the United States to southern France in the 1990s, said his interest in the Bible was tied to his longstanding passion for tales of ancient civilisations.
"The Bible is not the word of God. It's the words of men," he said. "I take it all as myth from start to finish".
He would never have had the patience to carry out the project during his drug-addled youth, he said. It had been an extenuating four years spent bent over a drawing-board, sketching and fixing and refixing.
Hitting out at fine arts and contemporary art, which he described as sometimes being "cockamania way out there in the twilight zone," Crumb said comic-book artists were on the other side of a "grand canyon" between the two.
"For some reason the world of fine arts is trying to embrace me" with offers of museum exhibitions not to mention an offer of three million dollars for the original drawings of his Genesis.
"But comics are not made to be on a wall. They're supposed to be read," he said.