By Owen Gleiberman
Updated May 05, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

An extraordinary documentary about the legendary underground cartoonist R. Crumb. In his comic strips, Crumb creates an acidhead dreamscape where delectable big-butted superwomen rub up against down-home archetypes like Mr. Natural and Flakey Foont. Director Terry Zwigoff examines the development of Crumb’s art and also its emotional sources — and it’s here Crumb enters a territory as spooky as it is fascinating. The most haunting character in the film is Robert’s brother Charles, a suicidal recluse living with his mother in dimly lit squalor. He embodies the Crumb mania in its purest form: a self-hatred that verges on self-annihilation. Robert, by contrast, was able to find freedom. In a ghostly way, though, the family madness lives on in him; it’s there in the pulsating extremity of his cartoons. Crumb is a portrait of the artist as misanthrope, as bad-boy visionary, as joker and sex maniac and, finally, as hero. A