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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 8
Rip Off Comix 1 _ Rip Off Comix 2 _ Rip Off Comix 3 _ Rip Off Comix 4 _ Rip Off Comix 5
Rip Off Comix #1
Rip Off Comix #2
Rip Off Comix #3
Rip Off Comix #4
Rip Off Comix #5
SCORE: 9
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 9
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 9
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Rip Off Comix 6 _ Rip Off Comix 7 _ Rip Off Comix 8 _ Rip Off Comix 9 _ Rip Off Comix 10
Rip Off Comix #6
Rip Off Comix #7
Rip Off Comix #8
Rip Off Comix #9
Rip Off Comix #10
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 9
SCORE: 9
SCORE: 8
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keyline
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Rip Off Comix
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1977-1991 / Rip Off Press
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Rip Off Comix was the second-longest-running comic book title in the history of Rip Off Press, trailing only The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and features the greatest volume of content of any Rip Off title. It lasted for 30 issues over 15 years, converting from a comic book to a magazine five years into its run, and featured some of the best American and European cartooning talent of its time. The story behind Rip Off Comix is inextricably linked to the entire adventure of Rip Off Press.

Rip Off Press was founded in San Francisco in early 1969 by Fred Todd, Gilbert Shelton, Dave Moriaty and Jack Jackson. The company began as a commercial publisher that also published underground comics, a dual business that sustained the company through its up-and-down history. Rip Off began operations on the top floor of Mowry's Opera House with Don Donahue's Apex Novelties, but just a few months later Mowry's went up in flames and displaced both companies. Rip Off had to relocate a couple of times and before long Moriaty and Jackson stopped working full time and eventually moved back to their home state of Texas, leaving Todd and Shelton to run the company for most of the '70s.

Despite their inexperience and setbacks, Rip Off Press had no need to worry as long as they had the gifted and prolific Gilbert Shelton. He had created the most profitable underground comic in the world with The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, which had been the best-selling underground comic since it debuted in 1971. The Freak Brothers' popularity also helped Rip Off begin its own cartoon syndicate for alternative and college newspapers in the early '70s. Led by Shelton, who hired and directed the other contributors, Rip Off's cartoon syndicate was quite successful and the content, led by the Freak Brothers, inspired the company to launch Rip Off Comix in 1977.

By 1979, the cartoon syndicate ran low on paying customers and became a major management headache, so it ceased operations. But that same year, Shelton and Rip Off Press completed a long-negotiated movie deal with Universal Studios, which paid $250,000 (about $800,000 today) for the rights to make a live-action Freak Brothers movie. I think Shelton got the bulk of the money, but the company also banked a considerable sum as the exclusive print publisher and the rights holder (for business reasons, certain rights to the Freak Brothers were transferred to Rip Off Press). The rights fee helped Rip Off buy a state-of-the-art typesetter and a computer system, which set them up to launch their mail order business.

The movie was never made, but the boatload of cash allowed Shelton (and his wife Lora Fountain) to visit Europe for extended vacations. Unlike the USA, Europe's culture offered tremendous praise and respect for cartoonists and revered the brilliant Shelton, which led Shelton and Fountain to relocate to Spain in 1979. This left Fred Todd as the only one of the original founders still working at the company. While based in Spain (then later back in San Francisco and then later again while living in Paris), Shelton continued producing comics for Rip Off Press and recruited an impressive array of European cartoonists who appeared in Rip Off Comix.

After the 12th issue in 1983, which featured the second installment of the Freak Brothers' epic worldwide adventure Idiots Abroad, Rip Off Comix was more or less forced into a four-year hiatus. The magazine format they had converted to with the 11th issue was not as profitable as they'd hoped. Instead of flogging a dead horse with a mag version of Rip Off, they went back to a sure thing: Freak Brothers comic books. Todd and Shelton, who temporarily moved back to San Francisco to work on Idiots Abroad with Paul Mavrides, converted the epic adventure into a trilogy of highly profitable Freak Brothers comic books (nos. 8, 9 and 10; 1984-87) that enjoyed several printings each.

But disaster could not seem to leave Rip Off Press alone. In 1986, after Shelton had moved back to Europe to settle down forevermore with Lora in Paris, the company's base of operations was subjected to another catastrophic fire. This one originated from a secret and illegal fireworks company operating in their building (the huge building housed over 100 businesses, including Rip Off Press). The fire destroyed all of Rip Off's backstock, a ton of equipment and a treasure trove of other underground collectibles. Instead of wallowing in self pity and throwing in the towel, Fred Todd and his wife Kathe began anew once more, this time relocating (with their two children) to Auburn, 120 miles northeast of San Francisco.

After the Idiots Abroad trilogy was completed in 1987, Rip Off Comix was subsequently revived in Rip Off's smaller operation and ran for 18 more magazine-size issues on a quarterly basis until 1991. The final incarnation of the publication delivered some high-quality comics during its four-year run, including both American and international comic creators. Rip Off also continued to publish and reprint the Freak Brothers, Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe and several other titles. The Rip Off Comix title was finally laid to rest in the summer of 1991, the year before Shelton and Paul Mavrides produced the final comic book of original Freak Brothers strips.

In the mid '90s, Rip Off Press gradually retreated from publishing and focused on selling backlist comics to retail stores and mail order customers. They also developed a robust website that eventually became their primary source of sales, which still keeps Fred and Kathe Todd trucking after 40 years. Rip Off certainly has a legendary history for which all involved can be proud, and Rip Off Comix, still one of the finest alternative comic anthologies in history, remains a shining jewel in that heritage.
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keyline
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Rip Off Comix 11 _ Rip Off Comix 12 _ Rip Off Comix 14 _ Rip Off Comix 15 _ Rip Off Comix 16
Rip Off Comix #11
Rip Off Comix #12
Rip Off Comix #14
Rip Off Comix #15
Rip Off Comix #16
SCORE: 9
SCORE: 9
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 7
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Rip Off Comix 17 _ Rip Off Comix 18 _ Rip Off Comix 19 _ Rip Off Comix 20 _ Rip Off Comix 21
Rip Off Comix #17
Rip Off Comix #18
Rip Off Comix #19
Rip Off Comix #20
Rip Off Comix #21
SCORE: 7
SCORE: 7
SCORE: 7
SCORE: 6
SCORE: 10
 
Rip Off Comix 22 _ Rip Off Comix 23 _ Rip Off Comix 24 _ Rip Off Comix 25 _ Rip Off Comix 26
Rip Off Comix #22
Rip Off Comix #23
Rip Off Comix #24
Rip Off Comix #25
Rip Off Comix #26
SCORE: 6
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 6
SCORE: 9
 
Rip Off Comix 27 _ Rip Off Comix 28 _ Rip Off Comix 29 _ Rip Off Comix 30 _ Rip Off Comix 31
Rip Off Comix #27
Rip Off Comix #28
Rip Off Comix #29
Rip Off Comix #30
Rip Off Comix #31
SCORE: 7
SCORE: 10
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 8
SCORE: 8