Fritz the Cat

Fritz the Cat

Infobox character
colour = #DEDEE2
colour text = #000
name = Fritz
series = Fritz the Cat

caption =
first = "Fritz Comes on Strong"
"Help!" #22 (January 1965)
last = "Fritz the Cat: "Superstar"
"The People's Comics" (1972)
cause = Killed by creator in response to film adaptation.
creator = Robert Crumb
portrayer = Skip Hinnant
episode =
nickname =
alias =
species = Feline
gender = Male
age =
born =
death =
specialty =
occupation =
title =
callsign =
family =
spouse =
children =
relatives =
residence =
religion =
nationality = American
imdb_id = 0027089

Fritz the Cat is an underground comic book fictional character created by Robert Crumb. The character first appeared in printed form during the height of the underground comix movement of the 1960s and has since appeared in two films inspired by Crumb's comics.


Fritz the Cat was one of the first characters Crumb created, and the first to see print in a professional publication. In the liner notes for the "Fritz the Cat" film soundtrack, Thomas Albright describes Fritz as "a kind of updated Felix with overtones of Charlie Chaplin, Candide and Don Quixote."

Fritz was originally created as part of a series of comic books that R. Crumb and his brother Charles drew when they were children.cite web |url= |title=The Filming of "Fritz the Cat" |accessdate=2007-01-15 |author=Michael Barrier |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=1972/73 |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher="Funnyworld", Nos. 14 and 15 |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] In the earliest stages of the character's form, Fritz was a house cat named Fred.cite web |url= |title="Fritz the Cat" history |accessdate=2007-01-15 |author=Donald D. Markstein |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=Toonopedia |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] Crumb eventually developed Fred into an anthropomorphic character, renaming him Fritz.

In early strips, collected in "The Complete Crumb Comics" series, Fritz has adventures as a James Bond–like secret agent, has an incestuous tryst with one of his sisters and generally behaves in ways somewhat out of character with his persona in his later, published stories. The character's first published story appeared in "Help!" #22 (January 1965). The story was called "Fritz Comes on Strong". In it, Fritz brings a young (cat) girl home, and strips all of her clothes off before getting on top of her to pick fleas off her. While Harvey Kurtzman agreed to publish the comic, he told Crumb that he did not know how he was going to "publish it without getting arrested."The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book; (ISBN 0-316-16306-6, 1997).]

Fritz developed a distinct personality. Fritz was "glib, smooth and self-assured," characteristics Crumb himself felt he lacked. According to Marty Pahls, "I don't think the difference between Robert, back in 1960–1965, and his characterization of Fritz is all that mysterious. To a great extent, Fritz was his wish-fulfillment. Through Fritz, Robert could do great deeds, have wild adventures, and undergo a variety of sex experiences, which he himself felt he couldn't. Fritz was bold, poised, had a way with the ladies—all attributes which Robert coveted, but felt he lacked." Crumb himself denied any personal relationship with the character, stating "I just got into drawing him. [...] He was fun to draw."

As Crumb's personal life changed, so did the character. According to Pahls, "For years, [Crumb] had few friends and no sex life; he was forced to spend many hours at school or on the job, and when he came home he 'escaped' by drawing home-made comics. When he suddenly found a group of friends that would accept him for himself, as he did in Cleveland in 1964, the 'compensation' factor went out of his drawing, and this was pretty much the end of Fritz's impetus." The character increasingly became a parody of would-be poets and other middle-class bohemian types who profess to be seeking cosmic truths when they are actually more interested in chasing girls.

Fritz the Cat's adventures were published in magazines and comic books such as "Cavalier," "Fug," and "The People's Comics" throughout the years. He acquired his own title in 1969. These comics have been reprinted interspersedly in "The Complete Crumb Comics" Vol. 1 through 8, published by Fantagraphics, as well as several "complete collections", currently out of print.


The popularity of the character of Fritz the Cat led up-and-coming animation director Ralph Bakshi to make Fritz the star of his first animated feature film. The animated film is a satire on college life of the 1960s: while Fritz does not attend any classes during the movie, he participates in major social upheavals based around the popular college protest movement of the time. Released to theaters in 1972, Bakshi's film "Fritz the Cat" was rated X, something that had been unheard of in animated American movies up until this film.

The idea for making a film based on Fritz's comics came when film producer Steve Krantz discovered a large paperback book containing three stories starring the character. Later that year, Krantz and Bakshi got in touch with Crumb and paid his way from his home north of San Francisco to New York, in order to talk with him about getting the film rights to the characters.

After several meetings, Krantz received a contract, signed by Crumb, in the mail, and that in return Crumb received twelve thousand five hundred dollars, which was supplemented by a percentage of the film's gross proceeds. Crumb later claimed that he left New York without giving his approval to the film, and never signed a contract.cite web |url= |title=The Filming of "Fritz the Cat": Feedback from R. Crumb |accessdate=2007-03-02 |author=Barrier, Michael |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=Fall 1973 |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=Funnyworld, No. 15 |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] cite book | title = The R. Crumb Handbook | first = Robert | last = Crumb| coauthors = Poplaski, Peter | year = | publisher = M Q Publications | location = | id = ISBN 978-1840727166]

Crumb first saw the film in February 1972, during a visit to Los Angeles in the company of fellow underground cartoonists Spain Rodriguez, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, and Rick Griffin. Crumb disliked it, stating "it's really twisted in some kind of weird, unfunny way."cite web |url= |title=The Filming of "Fritz the Cat", Part Two |accessdate=2007-03-02 |author=Barrier, Michael |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=Fall 1973 |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher="Funnyworld", No. 15 |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] Crumb also took issue with the film's condemnation of the radical left. Reportedly, Crumb filed suit to have his name removed from the film's credits.cite book |last=Umphlett |first=Wiley Lee |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=From Television to the Internet: Postmodern Visions of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century |year=2006 |publisher=Fairleigh Dickinson University Press |location= |pages=page 134 |isbn=9780838640807 ] San Francisco copyright attorney Albert L. Morse claims that no suit was filed, but an agreement was reached to remove Crumb's name from the credits. However, as Crumb's name has remained in the final film since its original theatrical release,cite book |last=Cohen |first=Karl F |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America |year=1997 |pages=pages 81-83 |publisher=McFarland & Company, Inc. |location=North Carolina |isbn=0-7864-0395-0 ] both of these claims are highly unlikely. Crumb later claimed that he "wrote them a letter telling them not to use any more of my characters in their films."

Despite Crumb's objections, "Fritz the Cat" was a box office smash hit, drawing in audiences as much for its shock value as for its appeal to the "love generation" of the 1960s, and was the first independent animated film to gross more than $100 million at the box office.cite web
url= |title=Producer Krantz dies at 83 |accessdate=2007-01-15 |author=Pat Saperstein |date=2007-01-09 |publisher=Variety
] A sequel was released by American International Pictures in 1974, entitled "The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat", directed by Robert Taylor, and written by Taylor, Fred Halliday, and Eric Monte. In both films, Fritz was voiced by Skip Hinnant.


Crumb's displeasure with the film version of his character led him to kill the feline in an attempt to stop the production of any future films. The story, "Fritz the Cat "Superstar", published in 1972, depicted Fritz as a pompous and arrogant famous Hollywood movie star, being exploited by a pair of film producers and his agent who cast him in endless sequels. The producers are caricatures of Ralph Bakshi (portrayed as a parrot) and Steve Krantz (portrayed as a hog with sunglasses). Fritz's agent is portrayed as a wolf.

After recording a television appearance, Fritz is approached by Andrea Ostrich, a neurotic ex-girlfriend of his, who urges him to have sex with her. At her apartment, he ignores her as he watches the television show, despite her repeatedly threatening to commit suicide. When the show is over, Fritz finds Andrea hiding her head under the chair, and gives her a kick in the pants before leaving. As he walks out of the apartment, she stabs him in the back of the head with an icepick. A caption pointing to Fritz's dead body reads "violence in the media." After having killed off Fritz, Crumb never drew another story featuring the character.

Partial list of stories

The character has appeared in a number of stories drawn by Crumb. Listed here are among the most notable of the stories and their original publication information, as reprinted in the compilation "The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat".

* "Fritz Comes on Strong"—first published in "Help!" #22, January, 1965
* "Fred, the Teen-Age Girl Pigeon"—first published in "Help!" #24, May, 1965
* "Fritz Bugs Out"—first serialized in the February to October 1968 issues of "Cavalier"
* "Fritz the Cat"—first published in "R. Crumb's Head Comix," 1968.
* "Fritz the No-Good"—first published in the September/October 1968 issue of "Cavalier."
* "Untitled"—created in 1964; first published in "R. Crumb's Comics & Stories", 1969
* "Fritz the Cat, Special Agent for the C.I.A."—created March/May 1965; first published in "R. Crumb's Fritz the Cat", 1969.
* "Fritz the Cat, Magician"—created summer 1965; first published in "Promethean Enterprises"#3, 1971.
* "Fritz the Cat: "Superstar"—first published in "The People's Comics", 1972.


External links

*imdb character|0027089
* [ Fritz the Cat (unofficial website)]
* [ Toonopedia on Fritz]
* [ The Official R. Crumb Website]

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