It Arrived. I’ve Been Zapped

Nope, nothing to do with the big C this time. I just received a boxed hardbound collection of the entire run of Zap Comix, from 1968 all the way up to 2014.

I never knew they kept publishing! I stopped with Issue #8, which was published in 1975. Since then they published 8 more issues, up to 2015. Oh boy, lots of catching up!

This set is really lux. It’s printed something like 10% larger than the original comix, so you get all the details. All the reproduction was done from original art whenever possible. It also includes a portfolio of giclée (zhee-KLAY) prints of every cover too, printed on archive quality paper, slightly oversized, again from original art. The comix are in volumes 1-4.

The 5th volume is “The Zap Story” which goes over the history of the phenomenon, told by 7 of the 8 artists (Rick Griffen died in 1991). It starts way back in the dark ages of the comics code which was invoked in the 1950s after all those EC comics freaked out mom & dad. With the code comics suffered so much censorship that they became the pablum that ultimately berthed DC and Marvel comics and that bored me senseless by the time I was 11 years old.

Robert Crumb drew the first Zap as an outlet for his fevered LSD visions, cross pollinated with his and his brother’s obsession with comics. He decided that Zaps would specifically violate each and every rule set by the Comics Code Authority.

Around issue #3 he started bringing in other underground comix artists and by #4 they’d formed a tight band of artists. They all felt the same way about censorship, so they all poured in as much forbidden topics as possible, playing in the stinking mud. Zaps actually boosted all the other underground comix popularity in the late 1960s & early 1970s. Everyone who was hip back then knew what Zaps were.

I started reading Zaps in 1971 when I first went to college. To use a well worn cliche, they blew my mind. Every forbidden subject was there along with a bunch of genuine humor directed at our society and the hippy culture in San Francisco. I was a sympathetic outsider to the hippy stuff, but I think it was Zaps that started me on my own wildly divergent and non-traditional path in life.

I mean really, any social warrior reading them today would totally blow their gaskets, no matter which side they’re playing. Cancelling is too weak a word for how they’d react. Sadly, they’d probably miss out on all the legitimate topics and humor that was splattered all over the place. Hmm, I guess these warriors are something like a contemporary version of the Comics Code Authority, except aimed at at a whole array of topics, not just comics.

Bottom line though is that I figured it out. I didn’t get corrupted. I understood what was legitimately verboten versus what was legit and worth considering. I laughed my ass off too, helped along with the giggles that came along with the munchies. I liked them so much I kept every one I bought. Today I have an entire bin full to the top with underground comix, all carded and bagged for longer life expectancy (I hope).