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Zippy the Pinhead, 7/25/04

Zippy the Pinhead is living proof that middle-of-the-road treacle isn’t the only thing that syndication inertia maintains past its sell-by date. With lots and lots of words, a cast of annoying and largely indistinguishable characters, and an unrelentingly negative attitude, Zippy is the Cathy of the surrealist/postmodern set. Occasionally I find the strip interesting and funny — I’ve particularly liked the daily strips for the past couple weeks, with various modern artists’ works on display in a high-falutin’ freak show. But more often the strips just feature Zippy having inane conversations with various enormous fiberglass roadside statues, or, even worse, Griffy simultaneously railing against the commercialization of art and whining about his inability to land an animation deal. If you’ve ever seen Wonderland, a fascinating documentary about Levittown, you know that Bill Griffith, who grew up there, is a bitter, bitter, bastard, and more and more that’s been coming through in Zippy the Pinhead. Usually, he’s just bitter about the world around him, but lately he seems to be increasingly bitter that his readership hasn’t taken his strip as a manifesto to, like, fix it or something. Today he seems to have reached a breaking point, declaring that running a bag factory would be better than continuing with the strip.

I’ve always why Zippy doesn’t take up more space in the Sunday paper than it does. Maybe it’s so darn anti-establishment that it can’t be held back by your rules that say that the Sunday comic is supposed to be bigger than the daily strip, maaaan. I should also mention in this context that, when I was a kid, a friend of my mom’s spotted a graffito under a bridge in Buffalo that read “ZIPPY THE PINHEAD — CITY IN FEAR,” and seemed to think it was a harbinger of a gang-ridden urban apocalypse, a la The Warriors. I didn’t have the heart to tell him.