Comic Strip Collection Review: Zippy, Nation of Pinheads by Bill Griffith


This is from our more obscure section of my comic strip collection.  It is a very unique comic strip that started in the early 70’s in the underground comics movement but is now a mainstream comic carried by King features.  It has kind of a cult following and is not nearly as popular as the mainstream comics in the newspaper, but I grew up with the Washington Post, which for years had one of, if not the best comic section of any newspaper out there, so I grew up with Zippy the Pinhead as a regular in my daily reading.

The humor is kind of hard to describe.  I guess you could say it is non Sequitur style of humor.  It often appears to be nonsense, but under careful examination…  it is nonsense in many cases.  The art of the strip is very detailed and the content of the strip is challenging and unexpected.  Griffith seems to pull its content from some kind of randomizing generator.  It can at times be biting satire and then complete nonsense the next, and I am using nonsense in the sense that it has no defining pattern or continuity within the frame of the strip as a series or within the strip itself.  It is weird.

Bill Griffith describes it like this:

                    “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”

I think the reason I like it, is due to the fact that in order to maintain any kind of understanding in the world, Zippy confronts it with a form of insanity all his own.  It has often been joked than a sane man in an insane world is the one who is viewed as insane, and Zippy is a perfect example of that.

If you are looking for a comic that is completely unique and original, I would highly recommend it.  I can honestly say there is nothing like it out there.  New strips can be found on line easily enough, but the comic collections are a little harder to find.  Not necessarily expensive, but just difficult to come by.

For any true fan of comic strips, this is a must have in your collection.  Bill Griffith has created a genre of comic all his own and I guess that makes me one of his “cult” followers.  So check them out , on e-bay or maybe Amazon’s used book sections, they are well worth the read, because you won’t read anything else like it outside of Finnegan’s Wake.

So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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