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The Complete

Volume One

FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS, INC. SEATTLE, WA


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ZAP COMIX #0 copyright Š 1967, 2014 R. Crumb. All rights reserved. Published by Fantagraphics Books, Inc. ZAP COMIX is a registered trademark of ZAP COMIX.


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ZAP COMIX #5 copyright Š 1970, 2014 Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Gilbert Shelton, and Robert Williams. All rights reserved. Published by Fantagraphics Books, Inc. ZAP COMIX is a registered trademark of ZAP COMIX.


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ZAP COMIX #9 copyright Š 1978, 2014 Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, and Robert Williams. All rights reserved. Published by Fantagraphics Books, Inc. ZAP COMIX is a registered trademark of ZAP COMIX.


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ZAP COMIX #13 copyright Š 1994, 2014 Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, and Robert Williams. All rights reserved. Published by Fantagraphics Books, Inc. ZAP COMIX is a registered trademark of ZAP COMIX.


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InTroduCTIon by r. Crumb

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The story of Zap’s humble origins is the stuff of legend. On February 25, 1968, Crumb, his pregnant wife, Dana, and his publisher Don Donahue all sold copies of Zap Comix #1 from a baby carriage on Haight Street in San Francisco. The price was twenty-five cents. In 1992, Crumb immortalized the scene in this cartoon. next spread The original Zap Seven in front of Shelton’s house, posing in a manner that recalls a famous 1967 photo of the Grateful Dead by Bob Seidemann. Shelton later used this photo in his “(More Than) Thirty Years of Zap Comics” feature in Zap #14 (vol. 4, p. 722). Left– right: Wilson, Moscoso, Shelton, Griffin, Rodriguez, Williams, Crumb. San Francisco, early 1970s. Scan courtesy Glenn Bray. Photo by Suzanne Williams.

n the fall of 1967, I was just twenty-four years old and living in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. I was truly in the right place at the right time. I had these cartooning skills; I was burning up with LSD-inspired visions; it was the high noon of the hippie era; the “underground” press was flourishing; rents were still cheap; there was a swell of optimism in the air — maybe we could stop our deranged elders from blowing up the world … “All you need is love …” “Turn on, tune in, drop out …” Back to the simple life. And although I could never fully throw myself into the hippie lifestyle, I too was carried along on the crest of this wave. I shared this hopeful vision with thousands of other young people. We would do things differently from the old farts. We would not be obsessed with money; we would end war; we would be loose and open; we would be sexually liberated — no longer uptight about our bodies. We would be more spiritual and resist “The Man” with nonviolent political action. We would smoke a hell of a lot of marijuana and hashish, which made everything seem funny and absurd and made all things cloaked in high seriousness look utterly laughable. Our only antecedents were the beatniks and the “gage”-smoking “vipers” of the 1920s–’30s–’40s jazz underworld. Zap Comix was more or less an inevitable outcome of this culture, this brief, shining moment in history. My generation grew up on comic books and television. Some of us aspired from childhood to become comic book artists. By the time I started Zap Comix I’d already put in my ten thousand hours: from Brombo the Panda and Fuzzy the Bunny to Foo, to The Big Yum Yum Book and Fritz the Cat. I’d already done a lot of one-page strips for the East Village Other and a whole issue of Yarrowstalks, a hippie rag out of Philadelphia. It was the editor of Yarrowstalks, Brian Zahn, who suggested I draw a whole comic book — and he would publish it. This was the fulfillment of a dream come true. I would put out an issue of Zap Comix every month or two, just like the big boys in New York. That was my original plan. As it turned out, it was Don Donahue who published the first issues of Zap. I wasn’t the only one who wanted to put out hippie comics at that time. There were many others working in the same vein. Cartooning is a very democratic art form, a grassroots form of media one step up from graffiti. Certainly it takes a level of skill to be really good at cartooning and reach a wide range of people. Not many are that good. Looking back now at the underground comix of the late 1960s to mid-1970s period, most of them are more or less unreadable, incoherent. The artists were mostly stoned out of their minds. Fortunately Zap Comix had some of the best comics artists of the time, as is evident in this collection. But there were other excellent artists whose work should’ve been in Zap Comix, but wasn’t — a bone of contention between me and some of my fellow Zap artists, which caused me finally to lose interest and move on to other comics ventures (such as Weirdo in the 1980s). I do kind of regret that I didn’t stand up for my idea of keeping Zap Comix open to other artists besides the “Magnificent Seven,” but, okay, I admit it: I’m weak. I’d rather go do something else than confront people and argue, especially people with strong egos like those guys. I couldn’t’ve taken them on. But anyway — we did some fine comic books together, including these wacky and highly entertaining jam sessions, which at the time I thought were too chaotic and messy, but now I enjoy looking at very much. They have their own nutty, free-associating gestalt or whatever. And we had some good times hanging out together. As I write this, it’s been exactly one month since the death of my closest friend among the Zap artists, Spain Rodriguez. For Spain, keeping Zap Comix going became an act of defiance in the face of all the forces that work against such an uncompromising, lunatic-fringe venture. Now that he’s gone, that’s it. It’s really over. All good things must come to an end. We had a good run. 871


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For AdulT InTelleCTuAlS only A Zap Oral History by Patrick Rosenkranz

Be warned. These books contain an incendiary collection of

How this revolutionary publication came to be, sur-

radical propositions and unsettling notions. Do not confuse

vived the Death of the Hippie, lasted longer than the Beatles,

them for a quaint relic from the long-gone Age of Aquarius.

sold more than 3 million copies, and remains intact in the

Zap Comix came of age during that propitious time,

new millennium is recounted here, and the artists respon-

but the contents collected here still have the power to incite

sible for its willful persistence clarify their intentions. The

outrage, corrupt youth, and encourage mind-altering activ-

historical confluence of time and place gave birth to under-

ities. As such, they remain a potent threat to polite society:

ground comix, but it was enterprise and daring that ensured

especially to the ruling oligarchy — they don’t like people

its longevity. [Note: underground cartoonists preferred the

entertaining seditious thoughts, nor do they appreciate the

spelling “comix,” to distinguish their work from “main-

rude parody of all they hold dear. Religion, wealth, power,

stream” comic books and comic strips.] The story of Zap

and status symbols — all these sacred cows are chopped

Comix is as compelling as the art itself.

into chuck in these pages. But even more alarming than

The original Zap Seven, the Zapsters, the Zap

that: these comics may provoke ecstasy and horror, whether

Collective — whatever appellation you choose — helped

you’re discovering them for the first time or are reliving

reinvent twentieth-century comic books. Frustrated by a

your youth.

repressive social structure, they came together to create

Zap Comix #1 first saw the light of day February

something never before seen in American popular culture.

1968, in San Francisco, and sparked a flame that reignited

Robert Crumb, Steven “S. Clay” Wilson, Richard

the whole comics medium. Robert Crumb created the first

“Rick” Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Manuel “Spain” Rodriguez,

two issues by himself, but subsequently gathered a cadre of

Gilbert Shelton, Robert Williams, and, later, Paul Mavrides,

like-minded co-conspirators for another issue, and another,

became a cultural force that lifted the lowly funny book to

and another … and now you have all seventeen of them,

an unexpected significance. They didn’t just upset the apple

assembled together in this deluxe slipcased set. This presen-

cart. They blew the doors off the cathedral. And things have

tation is for the ages.

never been the same since.

Crumb: “We were like a goddamn rock band.” Crumb and Jean Clyde Mason, at a party at Griffin’s home in San Clemente, California, 1971. Photo by Spencer Quinn.

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ROBERT CRUMB: The magnificent seven, the

kick-ass seven Zap artists, the baddest gang

of cartoonists ever to wield their crowquills together. That’s how we saw ourselves, silly boys

they flourished, they were always very short-lived,

as is just about anything of this kind, if you go

back through history. The status quo or the establishment usually moves in and neutralizes it all,

that we were. We were the best. We were like a

co-opts it. So then all this incredible raw energy

like our latest album. It was an event when the

GILBERT SHELTON: I felt proud to be part of such

popular and well-known underground comic.

say in those early days it was the most presti-

goddamn rock band. The completed book was

latest Zap came off the presses. Zap was the most

migrates and springs up in some other form.

a group of distinguished cartoonists. I’d have to

STEVEN “S. CLAY” WILSON: I think the Zaps are

gious of all the underground comix. There was a

We’re almost back to the mid-’50s. It’s all repres-

idea in general of breaking all the rules. I think

probably more radical now than they were then. sion, nothing is funny, everything’s forbidden, and the witch hunt is still going on. You gotta be

politically correct and so forth. So there’s a whole

little bit of everything in Zap Comix. It was the

it was Robert Crumb’s idea to go down the list of

the Comics Code Authority rules and break every

one of them. The underground artists like Crumb,

new generation in America ready to have their

Wilson, Moscoso, Griffin, and Williams touched

VICTOR MOSCOSO: This is one of the most

that, much like EC and Mad had done to genera-

minds blown.

important events in comic book history, period —

a real nerve during a time when people wanted tions before. I probably didn’t think that it would

since the beginning of comics, man. To come out

be a national success and bring about a revolu-

MANUEL “SPAIN” RODRIGUEZ: When Crumb

WILLIAMS: I cannot imagine — if you go back to

ground comix world like a hurricane. It was

or whatnot — a set of artists who were so tightly

tiful piece of work. He’s able to convey a feeling

with the general public. I look back on that now,

timey aspect to it.

don’t see it now with young people. We were cut

ent world in 1968 when that comic came out. The

in the ’60s. The general public hadn’t adjusted to

with a new superhero? Big deal.

did the first Zap, it just hit the whole underreally a major thing. It was beautiful: just a beauthat you’ve seen it before. It has some sort of oldROBERT WILLIAMS: It was a completely differ-

drug culture was involved, and an antiwar world.

The psychedelic movement had already gotten a

tion in everything.

the day of the expressionists, or the surrealists,

bonded and so filthy mouthed, and so antisocial

and I sure as hell had never seen it before and I loose on an iceberg of our own culture. This was

really filthy, liberal thinking completely. It was a time in my life in my youth that I look back and

foothold from ’65, ’66, ’67, and the comics shot off

I really appreciate. I’ve known other artists and

to a revolution since 1865. The government was

I’ve never seen anything quite as tight as that.

of that. That’s the closest the United States came

I’ve seen other artists bond and everything, but

trying to stretch 1955 another two decades and it

We just had the wildest fucking times and we

had a lot to do with it. The Ozzie and Harriet

abstract logic, all of us together.

just wasn’t working. The Civil Rights movement Nelson family ethic was getting really shaky. The

functioned in an abstract logic, kind of a poetic

MOSCOSO: I loved it when I saw on the first Zap,

foundation was starting to get shaky. Bell, book,

“approved by the ghost writers in the sky.” Fuck

RICHARD “RICK” GRIFFIN: All these things

always be presented in a favorable light. Good

and candle were starting to affect all of America.

were short-lived. They were like the grass in

you, Comics Code Authority. A policeman should

must always triumph over evil. Fuck you. Now,

spring. As soon as the summer sun gets on it, it

since we were distributing through the head

although they were extremely vital at the time

deal with the normal system of distribution,

scorches it and it all withers away. These things,

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shops and the poster shops, we didn’t have to

1 A Robert Crumb ad for Zap Comix #1, 1968. 2 Detail from a 1950s Comics Code promotional brochure. Shelton: “It was Crumb’s idea to go down the list of the Comics Code Authority rules and break every one of them.” 3 Crumb’s parody of the Comics Code Seal of Approval from the cover of Zap Comix #1. Moscoso: “Fuck you, Comics Code Authority.”


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“ZAp” beFore ZAp

1 Rodriguez drew “Zap Zap Comix” before he started signing his work “Spain” and before he joined the Zap crew. From New York City’s East Village Other, April 5, 1968 (about five weeks after Zap’s debut in San Francisco). 2 Griffin was also “zapping” around in the pre-Zap days. This page appeared in the 1961 book The Surfing Funnies. 3 Before he drew Zap #0, Crumb doodled ideas for the name and logo of both the comic book and its publishing imprint, as these drawings from his sketchbooks reveal. He was playing with “Zap” as a title at least as early as 1965.

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Profile for Fantagraphics

The Complete Zap Comix - preview  

The Complete Zap Comix by R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, Paul Mavrides, Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Williams, and S. C...

The Complete Zap Comix - preview  

The Complete Zap Comix by R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, Paul Mavrides, Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Williams, and S. C...