The Complete Zap Comix, coming next year!

First published in 1968, Zap Comix is considered to be the freaky forefather of the underground comix movement that still thrives today. Created by R. Crumb, the Zap #1 solely featured his work with subsequent issues introducing such groundbreaking artists as S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Gilbert Shelton, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Paul Mavrides, and "Spain" Rodriguez. Today, Fantagraphics Books keeps the Zap spirit alive and so I was thrilled to learn that they've just announced the forthcoming publication of The Complete Zap Comix. The 800 page, two-volume, slipcased, hardcover set will hit stores in Fall 2012. From Fantagraphics:
Zap1Cvr “Fantagraphics’ The Complete ZAP Comix, as designed by Victor Moscoso, will be a classy item for the bookshelves of underground comics fans — those who can afford it, that is,” said ZAP artist Gilbert Shelton. “I imagine most of the original readers wish they still had their copy of the first edition of ZAP # 1, which sells for over ten thousand dollars now, if in perfect condition. But part of the secret of the success of underground comix was that they werecheaply produced and turned yellow and fell apart quickly, and also that they were borrowed and never returned by one’s friends, thereby forcing you to buy another copy. This will not happen with the new collected edition, which will be produced under the most rigorous of quality control.”

“Much as the effect EC’s MAD had on the mid-20th Century, ZAP was equally influential and disruptive to cultural mores at the end of the 20th Century, but without the hindrance of the old comic book code that cramped graphic novel expression for 40 years,” said ZAP artist Robert Williams. “I’m very pleased that Fantagraphics will release this long-awaited compendium of ZAP Comix.”

“When Robert Crumb started ZAP in 1968, no one had any idea that it would still be alive 45 years later,” Shelton added. “This exercise in anarchy — there were never any rules, restrictions, or editorial policy — is still the flagship of the underground comics movement. I tried, and failed, to get my fellow ZAPsters to correct their spelling errors, but they would not be subjected to such editorial tyranny.

"Fantagraphics to Publish The Complete ZAP Comix"


  1. OMG! Are you kidding me $10,000 for the first issue? I just checked my copy. It’s not in perfect shape but it is close. As a teenager, I skipped a day in school and, with a friend, took the brand new BART transportation up to San Francisco for the day. In my wanderings around town, we stopped in at the City Lights Book store. I bought the first 3 issues of Zap there. Cool stuff! It definitely had an influence on me. I was rebelling against my suburban upbringing and trying to learn and understand what I had just missed in the previous few years. Was it a cultural/political revolution or what? Interesting times.

  2. Since I was surprised at the $10,000 price for issue #1, I looked things up. That high price is for the 1st printing, of which, there were maybe as few as 1500 printed. I did see an estimate of $26,000. I apparently have the third printing which is not so valuable. The 1st printing has a cover price of 25 cents, which is a distinguishing characteristic.

    @Macbookheir:  I am not an artist but a scientist/computer geek. The influence on me is more cultural/conceptual rather than R. Crumb’s artwork. Probably everyone in my university during the mid 1970’s knew who he was. What kind of legacy does that make? Not sure, probably will die out in less than thirty years along with all my friends from that time.

  3. Back in the late 70s, my dentist in San Francisco was the young junior partner stuck working Saturdays.  The reading material in his waiting room included Zap Comix, and while you were getting work done you could listen to loud rock on headphones as well as using nitrous.

    These days he’s up in Marin, and his waiting room has Architectural Digest and People and the usual women’s magazines, and the background music sounds like dentist’s office music.

  4. Although I don’t claim to be a normal person, R. Crumb definitely had an influence on me during my impressionable teen years. When I became an athlete in college, Mr. Natural, was, already, the adopted team mascot, and we all had Mr. natural patches sewed onto our fencing jackets. Probably true, that his influence was not widespread, but he was more influential than you are suggesting.

  5. “I totally disagree with the assertion that ZAP and many of the ZAP comic artists were heavily influential and disruptive to cultural mores.”

    Perhaps you should re-read the second paragraph of the posted excerpt; Zap’s influence and disruption are being compared to that of MAD mag, not the invention of the steam engine or the Emancipation Proclamation. (An understandable error, given that your attention was p’bly diverted by the effort of subbing the word “heavily” for the original comparison’s “equally” ;-)

    For me the statement rings true. Alfred E. was the modern day Aristophones for middle-class males on the cusp of being able to think for themselves; a guide to the inconsistencies and incongruities of the well-rehearsed fictions our parents read as reality. Zap and its ilk (e.g. The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) sharpened this satirical tension by featuring sexual politics, drug culture, self-hatred, and other “adult” themes as we approached draft age.

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