Zippy the Pinhead

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Zippy is an American comic strip created by Bill Griffith. It initially appeared in underground publications in the 1970s before being syndicated.[1]



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. It has been a daily feature since 1985, distributed by King Features Syndicate.

Zippy has a cult following, but some other readers remain confused, prompting the official Zippy website to feature a tutorial on understanding the strip.[2] The original home of the strip was the San Francisco Examiner, where it was first published daily in 1985. It was picked up for worldwide syndication by King Features in 1986. When the San Francisco Chronicle canceled Zippy briefly in 2002, the Chronicle 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.[3]

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.

Characters and story

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).[4] (Coincidentally, Zip the What-Is-It's real name was William Henry Jackson or Johnson (according to various sources); 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 pop 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.

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