Cartoonist Bill Griffith appears at the Society of Illustrators to open a retrospective art exhibition on Wednesday March 20, 2013 from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
“Are we having fun yet?” This non sequitur utterance by the clown-suited philosopher/media star Zippy the Pinhead has become so oft-quoted that it is now in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Zippy has in fact become an international icon, even appearing on the (former) Berlin Wall. Zippy’s creator, Bill Griffith, began his comics career in New York City in 1969.
His first strips were published in the East Village Other and SCREW magazine and featured an angry amphibian named Mr. The Toad.
He ventured to San Francisco in 1970 to join the burgeoning underground comics movement and made his home there until 1998. His first major comic book titles included Tales of Toad and Young Lust, a best-selling series parodying romance comics of the time. He was co-editor of Arcade, The Comics Revue for its seven issue run in the mid-70s and worked with the important underground publishers throughout the seventies and up to the present: Print Mint, Last Gasp, Rip Off Press, Kitchen Sink and Fantagraphics Books. The first Zippy strip appeared in Real Pulp No. 1 (Print Mint) in 1970. The strip went weekly in 1976, first in the Berkeley Barb and then syndicated nationally through Rip Off Press.
In 1980 weekly syndication was taken over by Zipsynd (later Pinhead Productions), owned and operated by the artist. Zippy also appeared in the pages of the National Lampoon and High Times from 1977 to 1984. In 1985 the San Francisco Examiner asked Griffith to do Zippy six days a week, and in 1986 he was approached by King Features Syndicate to take the daily strip to a national audience. Sunday color strips began running in 1990. Today Zippy appears in over 150 newspapers worldwide. There have been over a dozen paperback collections of Griffith’s work and numerous comic book and magazine appearances, both here and abroad.
He became an irregular contributor to The New Yorker in 1994. Griffith’s inspiration for Zippy came from several sources, among them the sideshow “pinheads” in Tod Browning’s 1932 filmFreaks. The name “Zippy” springs from “Zip the What-Is-It?” a “freak” exhibited by P.T. Barnum from 1864 to 1926. Zip’s real name was William Henry Jackson, born in 1842. Coincidentally, Griffith (as he discovered in 1975, five years after creating Zippy) bears the same name. He was born William Henry Jackson Griffith (in 1944), named after his great-grandfather, well-known photographer of the Old West William H. Jackson (1842–1941).
Griffith is currently teaching comics at the School of Visual Arts in New York and is at work on a graphic memoir. He lives and works in East Haddam, Connecticut with his wife, cartoonist Diane Noomin.
Society of Illustrators
128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY 10065
Bill Griffith signs at Real Art Ways on Saturday March 3, 2012 at 3pm.
Bill Griffiths will share his new book Bill Griffith: Lost & Found, a collection Pre-Zippy underground classics.
Bill Griffith will sign books afer his reading. Lost & Found will be available for purchase in the cafe.
Bill Griffith: Lost & Found collects hundreds of Griffith’s early underground comics, most of them long out of print and unavailable. Much of the work will be unfamiliar and a real revelation to those readers who only know Griffith from his long-running Zippy strip.
“In two decades, Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead has been transformed from a one-shot gag into the idiot savant of our whirling consumer culture… Griffy’s tirades against advertising, truckers’ caps, and Bruce Springsteen are hilarious, but he’d be just another elitist snotball without Zippy’s cut-and-paste giddiness. Together they’re irresistible: the good cop/bad cop of surrealist social criticism… Zippy’s not the biggest fool this country has — we elect those — but he is our best.” – Entertainment Weekly
“Griffith has actually made room for essays and meditations on the ‘funnies’ page. No other strip challenges the reader in such a smart way.” – Time Magazine online
“Zippy the Pinhead… he’s like a word processor with dyslexia!” – Robin Williams
About Bill Griffith
Bill Griffith grew up in Levittown, New York. He attended Pratt Institute and studied painting and graphic arts concurrently with Kim Deitch — they dropped out about the same time. Inspired by Zap, Griffith began making underground comics in 1969, and joined the cartoonists in San Francisco in 1970. Griffith’s famous character Zippy the Pinhead made his initial appearances in early underground comic books, morphing into a syndicated weekly strip in 1976 and then a nationally-syndicated daily strip a decade later. Griffith is married to cartoonist and editor Diane Noomin. They live in Connecticut.
Real Art Ways
56 Arbor Street, Hartford, CT 06106