ZIPPY THE PINHEADOriginal Medium: Comic books
Published by: The Print Mint
First Appeared: 1971
Creator: Bill Griffith
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corporate-owned icons of our commerce-saturated world. Or it may simply be that his unique brand of personally-detached non-sequiturs (Zippy was the first to use the expression "Are we having fun yet?") struck a responsive chord with the public.
Whatever the reason, Zippy has enjoyed a steady rise to fame ever since his first five-page appearance in Real Pulp Comix #1, published by The Print Mint in March, 1971. Other luminaries with work in that issue include Art Spiegelman, who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his graphic novel Maus, and Leslie Cabarga, who later wrote the definitive history of the Max Fleischer animation studio, where Betty Boop was born.
Zippy appeared from time to time in comix published by Print Mint, Last Gasp, Rip Off Press, and other alternative outfits, until 1976, when he entered regular publication. This was in the form of a weekly comic strip in The Berkeley Barb, an underground newspaper. Before long, the strip was being syndicated to weekly papers all over the country. Zippy's stories began to be collected in 1978, in Zippy Stories and Yow Comics. ("Yow" is one of Zippy's favorite expressions — possibly influenced by the fact that it's also one of Little Lulu's favorite expressions.)
Zippy's invasion of the "aboveground" media began in 1977, when his adventures started appearing in High Times magazine and National Lampoon. It accelerated when, in 1985, the strip started appearing in that bastion of Establishment liberalism, The San Francisco Examiner. At that point, Griffith began producing it six days a week. A year later, the strip was picked up by King Features Syndicate, and in 1990, a Sunday strip was added. Zippy now appears in over 200 newspapers. Has the invasion succeeded yet?
The syndicated Zippy is replete with such characters as (among others) Mr. Toad, a survivor from Griffith's earliest comix, who embodies all the sociopathic tendencies of corporate conservatism; Zerbina, Zippy's wife when the situation calls for him to have one (otherwise, he appears unattached); Fuelrod and Meltdown, his children when Zerbina is on the scene; and Griffy, apparently the artist's own self-parody. But its mainstay, of course, is Zippy himself, who has been called "the court jester of the 20th century" (Harvard Independent), "the Marx Brothers reborn as TV pitchmen" (Booklist) and "a Nile delta of weirdly fertile pop connections" (San Diego Union-Tribune).
Collections of the strip appear regularly from Fantagraphics Books.
What next? Movies? TV? Zippy himself would wallow gleefully in such a milieu, but thus far, Griffith resists. He prefers to remain in control of his brightest brainchild. But if the right offer should come along — who knows?