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Zap Comix #9 2nd
brilliant writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 10
Zap Comix #10
Zap Comix 10 Wraparound CoverWraparound Cover
(click for larger image)

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1st Printing / late 1982 / 52 pages / Last Gasp
In Zap Comix #10, Victor Moscoso gets his first Zap cover art since the infamous Zap #4, and for the first time in the series the cover art actually represents one of the stories in the book. The story, "The Oasis" by Moscoso, is about a desert nomad named Robin (riding in a caravan of gigantic lizards who look like small Tyrannosaurus Rex) who encounters a fairy princess named Fatima being chased by an evil priestess. Robin saves Fatima from the priestess but then they risk a dangerous fate as they return to her village to rescue her imprisoned Prince.

The story ends with a "to be continued..." but Moscoso never got around to continuing "The Oasis" in any Zap Comix, nor anywhere else, as far as I can tell. Which is a shame, since the plot was getting really interesting when it stopped. Moscoso told Gary Groth in a long, terrific interview in Comics Journal in 2011 that "The Oasis" was a rough storyboard for a movie. Though Moscoso's line work for "The Oasis" is as loose and unpolished as anything he's ever published, he made the effort to sculpt balsa-wood models based on the story's characters and had stacks of pencil drawings prepared for the film (which was obviously never made).

S. Clay Wilson contributes the two-page "Bums and the Bird-Spirit," a significant departure from his usual mode of work. It depicts street people struggling to get through another hopeless day as winter takes hold of the city. Narrated but without dialogue, it's scarcely even a story. There's drinking, vomiting and a blow job, but nothing really happens and nobody punches, slices or shoots anybody. It's just bleakness and despondence, somehow made all the more melancholy when "the bird-spirit passed by" the window of a soup kitchen. I don't even know what the fuck the bird-spirit means, but the fact that it passed by made me mourn the fate of these people even more. "Bums and the Bird-Spirit" is one of Wilson's most eloquent stories, and while there isn't a drop of blood you can feel a dark menace envelop the atmosphere.

In another interview in Comics Journal in 2008 (just months before Wilson suffered a terrible brain trauma when he got mugged), Wilson explained his inspiration for "Bums and the Bird-Spirit" to Bob Levin: "The mind has pictures, and if you're an artist, you draw them. I had a dream, and I saw like four or five panels, real vivid, in this two-page story. So I did 'Bums and the Bird Spirit' as I saw it in my dream and filled in a couple panels to complete it stylistically.... The last panel, with a big bird eye, I think I added."

Robert Williams follows with a satisfying six-page Coochy Cooty story, "Hoo-doo Storm," a typically surreal adventure with Williams' usual raucous wit (but lacking his lyrical violence). Gilbert Shelton allows Oat Willie out onto the streets for a two-page excursion that ends with Willie careening off a cliff into a body of water...but he's okay folks! Spain Rodriguez gives us "Hard-Ass Friday Nite," another biker tale of greasers looking for trouble, and everyone but Spain seems to be able to find it. He keeps trying to find a good brawl but keeps missing out (or wussing out) until the end, when Spain finally finds someone who deserves a good ass-kicking. The story ain't bad, but Rodriguez's body of work in recent Zaps is getting just a little to repetitive for me.

Robert Crumb finally happens by and offers "My Troubles with Women," a ten-page production that (not for the first time) reveals the origins of his alienation from girls and "popular" boys that evolved into anger and even hatred for much of society. The story begins with Crumb as a little boy and follows him through years of schooling and family life that pummeled him into the twisted eccentric that emerged after high school. His sudden and meteoric rise to fame in the underground comix revolution only helped to intensify his noncomformist lifestyle and sexual deviancies.

But rather than allow his good fortune to normalize his self-perception, Crumb had the common sense to recognize his deeply ingrained deviancy and, after a long period of adjustment, find a happy medium with a lifelong love interest. Crumb is brutally honest about what turns him on and only partially rationalizes his self-contempt. He is what he is, and he lets everyone know exactly who that is.

Two decades after this story was published, "My Troubles with Women" would become the title of one of Crumb's most controversial books and renew him as the arch enemy of both old and neo-feminists around the world. His legacy is firmly established, for better or worse, and the passing of years will only lead to minor tweaks of the public's perception of Robert Crumb. What can't be denied is the enormous influence he had on the arts, culture and communications (for both men and women) in the half-century that followed his emergence.

Robert Williams follows Crumb's opus with "I Mock Verbatim," a fairly silly story about a parrot whose paintings are so realistic they become real objects and a selfish king who takes advantage of the parrot's powers (at least for a while). S. Clay Wilson closes the book with the four-page "Captain Pissgums and His Pervert Pirates Sail Again!" It's an archetypal Wilson adventure, with plenty of cock, booze, blood and the most curious fetish of having a man with a giant schlong pee in your mouth. Can't say it's my cup of tea, but there's not much in Wilson's lurid worlds that are and that doesn't stop me from consuming every brush stroke with relish.

Zap Comix #10 is just your average Zap; damn near perfect but always containing its share of minor flaws. Wilson's grim "Bums and the Bird-Spirit" and Crumb's disturbing "My Troubles with Women" elevate it just enough to capture the series another cherished total score of 10.

There are four known printing variations of this comic book, all by Last Gasp. The first two printings had 10,000 copies of each printing and the third and fourth printings had 5,000 copies each. The following describes the identified print variations:
1st printing - $2.50 cover price
2nd printing - $2.50 cover price, states 2nd printing on inside front cover
3rd printing - $2.95 cover price
4th printing - $4.95 cover price
The 32nd page of this issue is unattributed by signature and, to my knowledge, its origins remain a mystery. It's a peculiar single-panel one-pager called "The Miser and the Kidnapped Water-head Baby" and features the titular characters in a dank room lit by candle light. It's graphically striking but doesn't have much meaning besides the non-sequitor inherent in the title.
Some have attributed the work to S. Clay Wilson, but while it's composition is replete with strokes of ink that Wilson was fond of employing, the dominant backround and caricature of the Miser make it impossible for me to believe that Wilson was the source of the work. It seems much more likely to belong to Gilbert Shelton, whom I have attributed it to in the Comic Creators section below. If anyone has a definitive answer, I will update this page with the correction.

Victor Moscoso - 1, 2 (collaboration), 3-11, 52
S. Clay Wilson - 2 (collaboration), 12-13, 47-50
Robert Williams - 2 (collaboration), 14-19, 43-46
Gilbert Shelton - 20-21, 32(?)
Spain Rodriguez - 2 (collaboration), 22-31, 51
Robert Crumb - 2 (collaboration), 33-42
Zap Comix 10 3rd
3rd Printing
$2.95 cover.