THE '70s—Just about everyone who's been in the adult industry for 20 years or so, and even many of its younger members, is familiar with ZAP Comix, the underground "comix" title created by artist Robert ("R.") Crumb in 1968 which went on for a total of 16 issues until its demise in 1991, along the way featuring the graphic stylings of such famous "underground" artists as S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, "Spain" Rodriguez, Gilbert "Wonder Warthog" Shelton, Victor Moscoso and Rick "Zippy the Pinhead" Griffin.
So it's only fitting that Fantagraphics Books, the imprint that's given us The Comics Journal magazine, Dan Clowes' graphic novel Ghost World, a hard-bound slipcover edition of Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, and innumerable collections of old comic strips like Krazy Kat, Little Orphan Annie and Prince Valiant, has announced that it will be releasing a two-volume slipcover collection of the entire ZAP Comix run, including ZAP 0, published as an after-thought soon after ZAP 1 hit newsstands, and ZAM, a one-shot spinoff of ZAP published in 1974.
"ZAP may be the most significant series in the history of American comics," said Fantagraphics President and Co-Publisher Gary Groth. "Its cultural preeminence is the result of artistic merit, not collectibility or economics, and that sets it apart from most comics series that have achieved this level of public awareness or notoriety. The artists that Crumb invited into ZAP each proved to be a stylistic virtuoso with a unique point of view and an uncompromising vision. ZAP was the vanguard of a movement that segued into the alternative comics of the '80s and the graphic novels of the '00s. We couldn't be prouder to collect this landmark series in its entirety in a beautifully packaged two-volume set."
The new release was designed by Victor Moscoso—he did the wrap-around cover for ZAP 4, pictured above—and was shot from the comix's original negatives, though it will be printed slightly larger than the original comix pages.
"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," Gilbert Shelton observed. "But part of the secret of the success of underground comix was that they were cheaply 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."
It's estimated that over its entire run, the series sold millions of copies, though its first issues were sold on the streets of Haight-Ashbury out of a baby stroller pushed by Crumb's ex-wife Dana. But as of the Fall of 2012, anyone who can ante up the likely not-inconsiderable asking price will find him/herself in possession of 800 pages of pure underground nostalgia—and adult retailers would do well to remember that many of their older customers grew up on the sexually explicit drawings of these famous artists.