ZIPPY Stories #2
By Bill Griffith
Publisher: Rip Off Press 1978 First Printing
"All life is a blur of Republicans and meat!"
VERY GOOD+/-FINE CONDITION, with the usual softness, some cover dinge, surface wear & slight rubbing to covers from age & book being handled, read and stored.
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Zippy the Pinhead is the protagonist of Zippy, an American comic strip created by Bill Griffith. The character of Zippy the Pinhead initially appeared in underground publications during the 1970s. The Zippy comic is distributed by King Features Syndicate to more than 100 newspapers, and Griffith self-syndicates strips to college newspapers and alternative weeklies.
Zippy made his first appearance in Real Pulp Comix #1 in March 1971. The strip began in The Berkeley Barb in 1976 and was syndicated nationally soon after, originally as a weekly strip. In a 2008 interview with Alex Dueben, Griffith recalled how it all began:
I first saw the 1932 Tod Browning film Freaks in 1963 at a screening at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where I was attending art school. I was fascinated by the pinheads in the introductory scene and asked the projectionist (who I knew) if he could slow down the film so I could hear what they were saying better. He did and I loved the poetic, random dialog. Little did I know that Zippy was being planted in my fevered brain. Later, in San Francisco in 1970, I was asked to contribute a few pages to Real Pulp Comics #1, edited by cartoonist Roger Brand. His only guideline was to say "Maybe do some kind of love story, but with really weird people." I never imagined I'd still be putting words into Zippy's fast-moving mouth some 38 years later.
Zippy has a cult following, but some other readers remain confused, prompting the official Zippy website to feature a tutorial on understanding the strip. When William Randolph Hearst III took over the San Francisco Examiner in 1985, he offered Griffith an opportunity to do Zippy as a daily strip. Several months later it was picked up for worldwide daily distribution by King Features Syndicate in 1986. The Sunday Zippy debuted in 1990. When the San Francisco Chronicle canceled Zippy briefly in 2002, the newspaper received thousands of letters of protest, including one from Robert Crumb, who called Zippy "by far the very best daily comic strip that exists in America." The Chronicle quickly restored the strip but dropped it again in 2004, leading to more protests as well as grateful letters from non-fans. The strip continues to be syndicated in many newspapers but often ranks at or near the bottom of reader polls.
The strip is unique among syndicated multi-panel dailies for its characteristics of literary nonsense, including a near-absence of either straightforward gags or continuous narrative, and for its unusually intricate artwork, which is reminiscent of the style of Griffith's 1970s underground comics.
Zippy's original appearance was partly inspired by the microcephalic Schlitzie, from the film Freaks, which was enjoying something of a cult revival at the time, and P. T. Barnum's sideshow performer Zip the Pinhead, who may not have been a microcephalic but was nevertheless billed as one. (Coincidentally, the real name of the latter was William Henry Johnson, or Jackson according to some sources, and Griffith's full name is William Henry Jackson Griffith, after his great-grandfather, the noted photographer.) However, Zippy is distinctive not so much for his skull shape, or for any identifiable form of brain damage, but for his enthusiasm for philosophical non sequiturs ("All life is a blur of Republicans and meat!"), verbal free association, and the pursuit of popular culture ephemera. His wholehearted devotion to random artifacts satirizes the excesses of consumerism. Zippy's unpredictable behavior sometimes causes severe difficulty for others, but never for himself. (For example, drug dealers tried to use him as a drug mule, but lost their stash or were jailed.)
Zippy almost always wears a yellow muumuu/clown suit with large red polka dots, and puffy, white clown shoes. Other forms of attire may be seen when appropriate to the context, e.g. a toga.
He is married to a nearly identical pinhead named Zerbina, has two children, Fuelrod (a boy) and Meltdown (a girl), both apparently in their early teens, and owns a cat named Dingy. His parents, Ebb and Flo, live in Florida. He has four close friends: Claude Funston, a hapless working man; Griffy, a stand-in for Bill Griffith, who often appears in the strip to complain about various aspects of modern life; Shelf-Life, a fast-talking schemer always looking for "the next big thing"; and Vizeen Nurney, a 20-something lounge singer who, despite her rebellious image, has an optimistic and sympathetic nature. A humanoid toad, Mr. Toad (less commonly Mr. the Toad) who embodies blind greed and selfishness, appears occasionally (along with his wife, Mrs. Toad, and their children, Mustang and Blazer), as do The Toadettes, a group of mindless and interchangeable amphibians, who pop up here and there, and the Stupidity Patrol, described by Bill Griffith as "cruising the streets of L.A., correcting the behavior of insensitive louts".
Griffith has never committed himself to a set origin story; no fewer than five have appeared: a strange visitor from another planet, a pinhead who wandered away from the circus, an android whose inventor didn't live to see its imperfections, the secret identity of a jaded heir to a fortune who decided to apply Zen to everyday life, and a college student who inexplicably turned into a pinhead. Griffith also never committed himself to any set time period or home location for Zippy.
Zippy's angst-ridden twin brother Lippy also frequently appears. He is portrayed as Zippy's total opposite, often dressed in a conservative suit, thinking sequentially and avoiding his brother's penchant for non-sequiturs. In a daily strip dated 8 March 2005, he is depicted as being deeply moved by the poetry of Leonard Cohen, the landscape paintings of Maxfield Parrish and the music of John Tesh.
Zippy's favorite foods are taco sauce and Ding Dongs.
In his daily-strip incarnation, Zippy spends much of his time traveling and commenting on interesting places; recent strips focus on his fascination with roadside icons featuring giant beings; Zippy also frequently participates in his long-running conversation with the giant fiberglass doggie mascot of San Francisco's Doggie Diner chain (later, the Carousel diner near the San Francisco Zoo). The website encourages people to send photos of interesting places for Zippy to visit in the strip.
In 2007, Griffith began to focus his daily strip on the fictional city of Dingburg, Maryland, Zippy's "birthplace" which, according to the cartoonist, is located "17 miles west of Baltimore." Griffith said, "Over the years, I began to expand Zippy's circle of friends beyond my usual cast of characters to a wider world of people like Zippy--other pinheads. I kept this up for a few months, happily adding more and more muu-muu-clad men and women until one day the whole thing just reached critical mass. The thought then occurred, 'Where do all these friends of Zippy live? Do they live in the real world which Zippy has been seen escaping for years—or do they live apart, in a pinhead world of their own?' Thus Dingburg, 'The City Inhabited Entirely by Pinheads' was born. It even had a motto: 'Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere'. The logical next step was to imagine Dingburg streets and neighborhoods—to create a place where Zippy's wacky rules would be the norm and everyone would play 24-hour Skeeball and worship at the feet of the giant Muffler Man. Zippy had, at last, found his home town."
His most famous quotation, "Are we having fun yet?", appears in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and became a catchphrase. At the 2003 University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, Griffith recalled the phone call from Bartlett's:
When Bartlett's approached me in—I forget what year, five or six years ago—I got a call from the editor. And he was going to give me credit for the "Are we having fun yet" saying, but he wanted to know exactly where Zippy had first said it. I did some research (I had no idea), and I eventually found... the strip "Back to Pinhead, the Punks and the Monks" from Yow #2 in 1979... That's the first time he said, "Are we having fun yet?" Certainly not intended by me to be anything more than another non sequitur coming out of Zippy's mind.
Zippy's signature expression of surprise is "Yow!" [wiki]
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