Cartoonist Bill Griffith, the cartoonist most famous for his character Zippy the Pinhead, has authored The Buildings are Barking, a comic book in memory of his wife of 42 years, cartoonist Diane Noomin, who died in September 2022 at 75.
It's a beautiful tribute to Noomin and to their relationship, but also a harrowing meditation on Griffith's deep sorrow. His grief is so palpable — he drew panel after panel of himself ruminating, his hands on his head, surrounded by utter blackness — it's almost claustrophobic.
Noomin was a pioneer of feminist underground comics, and co-creator of Twisted Sisters Comics. In Griffith's book, not only does he hear her speak to him as he reels in mourning, he also hears her most iconic character, Didi Glitz, a loud, obnoxious suburbanite housewife.
It's clear that they had such a close relationship, for so long, it's difficult for Griffith to fathom going on without her. It's about as raw an expression of grief as I've ever seen in comics form.
But Griffith is such a fascinating cartoonist, he brings dimension not only to his current and future life without Noomin, but the rich life with he had with Noomin: discussing their comics, watching old movies, sharing breakfast, sharing inside jokes from Mad Magazine, lying next to her while she slept.
I just want to add a personal note: Bill Griffith was enormously influential to my career as a cartoonist. As I was casting about trying to figure out how to make my way as a cartoonist, I had countless general cartooning inspirations throughout my life, like Peanuts, Spider-Man, and, Mad. But Griffith inspired me in a very specific way at a very specific time.
I found Griffith's 1985 Zippy book Are We Having Fun Yet? at precisely the right time I needed to. I'd been trying to emulate Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), but Griffith's book was like a highway sign showing me the way. As much as I loved Doonesbury, my own natural sense of humor was much better suited for Griffith's freewheeling, absurdist satire. Every page of the book was so packed with ideas, it opened me up to the endless possibilities in cartooning.
After reading Are We Having Fun Yet?, I came across an ad in the school newspaper for a cartoonist, and I sat down and drew the first Tom the Dancing Bug. And I was on my way to finding my own voice.
I thank Bill Griffith, wish him well in forging a new life, and congratulate him on his remarkable new work on grieving.
The Buildings are Barking: Diane Noomin in Memoriam is published by Fantagraphics Books, to be released July 18, 2023. 24 pages.
Images posted with the permission of Fantagraphics Books