Keep on Truckin' (comics)
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"Keep on Truckin'" is a one-page comic by Robert Crumb. It was published in the first issue of Zap Comix in 1968. A visual riff on the lyrics of the Blind Boy Fuller song "Truckin' My Blues Away", it consists of an assortment of men, drawn in Crumb's distinctive style, strutting confidently across various landscapes. The strip's drawings became iconic images of optimism during the hippie era.
Crumb was offered $100,000 by Toyota to reproduce the image for a Keep On Truckin' ad campaign, but turned it down.
The copyright on this image has been repeatedly violated and images of it have been widely reproduced on T-shirts, posters, belt buckles, and other items. In the early 1970s, Crumb's lawyer started threatening lawsuits against anyone using the image without permission. Crumb and A.A. Sales, a producer of unlicensed Keep On Truckin merchandise, reached a settlement of $750 for the past usage. But A.A. continued to sell unlicensed products after the settlement without paying additional license fees. In 1973, Crumb went to the US Federal Court, and wound up in the courtroom of Justice Albert Charles Wollenberg, who had previously ruled against the Air Pirates. A.A. claimed the work was in the public domain because Crumb had not included the copyright symbol on the work, although he had in Zap #1 as a whole. The work was covered under the 1909 Copyright Act, and any omission of notice caused the work to be public domain. The drawing had appeared on the business card of Crumb's publisher without the copyright symbol. Based on that, Wollenberg granted A.A. Sales' request for summary judgment and Keep On Truckin' became public domain. In 1977, the Ninth Circuit Court reversed that decision, and it returned to copyrighted status.
The Internal Revenue Service pursued Crumb for thousands of dollars of taxes owed, as if he had been collecting royalties all along. Recently, Crumb has sued various entities to defend the copyright including Amazon.com in 2005.
Crumb uses the cartoon as a prime example of the discomfort he felt with his sudden fame in the late 1960s, saying:
I became acutely self-conscious about what I was doing. Was I now a "spokesman" for the hippies or what? I had no idea how to handle my new position in society! ... Take Keep on Truckin'... for example. Keep on Truckin'... is the curse of my life. This stupid little cartoon caught on hugely. There was a D.J. on the radio in the seventies who would yell out every ten minutes: "And don't forget to KEEP ON TR-R-RUCKIN'!" Boy, was that obnoxious! Big feet equals collective optimism. You're a walkin' boy! You're movin' on down the line! It's proletarian. It's populist. I was thrown off track! I didn't want to turn into a greeting card artist for the counter-culture! I didn't want to do 'shtick'—the thing Lenny Bruce warned against. That's when I started to let out all of my perverse sex fantasies. It was the only way out of being "America's Best Loved Hippy Cartoonist."
- Holm, D.K. (2004). R. Crumb conversations. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-57806-637-7. "...only Crumb would turn down $100,000 from Toyota to do an ad"
- Bray, Ilona; Stim, Richard, Nolo, the editors of (2010). "How Robert Crumb almost lost Keep On Truckin". The judge who hated red nail polish : & other crazy but true stories of law & lawyers (1st ed. ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-4133-1191-4.
- "Sony Pictures Crumb movie website". Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- Guevin, Jennifer (28 December 2005). "Comic artist Crumb sues Amazon". CNet. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski (2005), p. 164.