Big news from the world of comix and art is that Fantagraphics will publish THE COMPLETE ZAP COMIX, a beautiful two volume set reprint of all 16 issues of ZAP COMIX, that very influential underground comix series that ran from 1968-2005. It was mostly a vehicle for the terrific art of R. Crumb as well as Gilbert Sheldon and others. But, it was the ground-breaking social satire art of R. Crumb that really set up ZAP COMIX as a true legend. The one page image of his KEEP ON TRUCKIN’ from issue #1 became such a legend that Toyota once offered the artist $100,000 to use the image for part of an advertising campaign.
Interestingly, that KEEP ON TRUCKIN’ one page cartoon became so popular that it was ripped off by for numerous unlicensed products such as t-shirts, posters, bumper stickers and other items. R. Crumb never received royalties for hardly any of these images, and was even pursued by the IRS who thought that he was making huge royalties from the images, and once asked the artist for thousands in back taxes for the image. The overwhelming popularity of ZAP COMIX made R. Crumb into a widely respected artist, although he wasn’t very skillful at learning how to profit from his works such as licensing the images. Crumb did officially license his FRITZ THE CAT character for a 1972, but then had some huge disagreements about how the film was made and demanded that his name be removed from the film. The film was made for $850,00 and grossed $190 million, becoming a huge success for the very first animated film ever with an X-rating. R. Crumb wrote a comic in which he killed of FRITZ, hoping to end that character, yet a 1974 sequel to the film, THE NINE LIVES OF FRITZ THE CAT was made. It was R-rated and was only a moderate success compared to the 1972 film.
R. Crumb was also known as a musician as well, recording several albums with his 1920’s sounding string band, The Cheap Suit Serenaders. Some of these recordings were on the defunct 78rpm format. R.Crumb provided the album art for the recordings.
If anything, R. Crumb was forever temperamental and odd, but those personality quirks have helped to make the artist a legend where the upcoming collection of his ZAP COMIX works by Fantagraphics should really be something great to behold. The original artwork will be produced on high quality paper slightly larger than the original artwork, making the two book set a beautiful library volume to own and love.
ZAP COMIX contained some of the most influential artwork that characterized the underground hippie artwork era of the late 60’s. The sheer popularity of those images have made those images of Mr. Natural, the KEEP ON TRUCKIN’ panel and other images from those comix a great part of Americana. The new two book set by Fantagrahics is a great tribute to a great artist, R. Crumb.
In the past, Fantagraphics has published wonderful tribute hard bound, slipcover editions of great classic comix such as LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE and PRINCE VALIANT. The Fantagraphics editions may not come too cheap. But, compared to an original copy of ZAP #1 in perfect condition, valued at over $10,000, the Fantagraphics edition looks dirt cheap by comparison.
Strangely, although ZAP only lasted for just 16 issues, one issue was numbered #0. It was based on some drawings before the 1967 art of issue #1. So #0 was published as the third issue of ZAP, although the material actually predates the first issue. It is only another strange little quirk about this incredible collection of cartoons. And by spelling comics as comix, ZAP probably also helped to reshape the language of comics as well. What a wonderful collection of great art.