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Zap Comix #9 2nd
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 10
Zap Comix #13
Zap Comix 13 Wraparound CoverWraparound Cover
(click for larger image)

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1st Printing / 1994 / 52 pages / Last Gasp
Rick Griffin joined Robert Crumb and S. Clay Wilson in the Zap Collective in 1968 for the second issue, and he brought Victor Moscoso along with him. Over the next two decades, he contributed fewer pages than any other member of the Collective, but he was perhaps their most distinctive voice. His conversion to Christianity might have disrupted the entire enterprise, but instead it simply enriched its diversity.

In August of 1991, Robert Beerbohm's art gallery at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco sold one of Griffin's paintings for $1,800. Rick rode his Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail (a monstrous hog) to pick up the cash from Beerbohm. On his way home, Griffin attempted to pass a van on a road in Petaluma. The van suddenly swerved to the left and forced Griffin off the road, throwing him from his bike. He wasn't wearing a helmet and suffered major head injuries, which he died from three days later at the age of 47.

Zap Comix #13 was the first issue of the series published after Griffin's death, and it paid tribute to him with Moscoso's brilliant cover illustration in the style of Griffin, who was originally scheduled to produce the cover art. Moscoso's wraparound cover shows both an angelic and demonic Griffin surfing mirror-image waves, one side spraying sea foam and the other spouting flames.

The first story in the book is a jam by the six remaining members of the Collective called "The Last Lunch," a two-pager that tosses around a "hot potato" that's also ticking like a life clock. This veiled tribute to Griffin remains amusingly off topic until the last panel when the mystery behind (or rather, underneath) the potato is revealed. Ah, leave it to Zap to make a sweet homage to a departed friend from a starchy spud.

Following "The Last Lunch," Moscoso contributes a stylish series of surreal one- and two-pagers, some of which find him returning to his original goal of warping the paradigm of traditional sequential-comics structure with new twists. Ten pages later, you feel like he's succeeded.

Crumb drops by with another autobiographical story, sporting the simple title of "Dumb." In this installment of looking back on the history of R. Crumb, Crumb spends several pages studying the struggles of his early years and then has a (surprise!) cynical outlook on his transformation from childhood geek to counterculture superstar, characterizing his own success as a "set-back" to his maturation. He suffers through "25 years of this foolishness" that he only survives due to his relationship with Aline Kominsky, who "guides me through this bewildering maze."

Most of us would give our left gonad to experience the type of decades of "foolishness" that Robert Crumb has lived, but I won't quibble with his perception. As always, he's brutally honest about his own shortcomings, which are plentiful even if he doesn't recognize all of them. And while some might carp about his constantly returning to the well of self-introspection in his stories, I would be perfectly happy to see R. Crumb produce a new autobiographical epic with his current perspective on life every four years.

Robert Williams offers his tribute to Griffin with his center spread "The St. Kahuna Surfing Mysteries?" which raises one peculiar beach-culture mystery after another that probably have deeper personal meaning for the celestial Griffin (and the mourning Collective) than they do for me. I also sense that Williams wept more than once while he conceived and penned this thoughtful, highly personal memorial.

S. Clay Wilson owns the next eight pages of the book, populated by five more sublime one-panel treasures and a three-page Checkered Demon tale that authenticates the dangers of waiting at a bus stop. Gilbert Shelton gives us two pages that bestow a very different side of his imagination in "Graveyard Ghosts," which let us know that Shelton appreciates Jim Morrison and hasn't lost a bit of his illustration skills.

Spain Rodriguez contributes the nine-page "Fissure's Jacket," which explains why some old dude named Karl keeps trading away new leather jackets for any old jacket with "Road Vultures" stitched on the back (hint: Karl got his ass kicked by a Road Vulture). The story is slow-paced and fairly lacking in action. Rodriguez does tend to delve deep into these old "honor in combat" stories with the Road Vultures and this one kind of drags.

But the book closes with a delightfully bizarre three-page jam, "Bark All You Want, You Can't Bite Me Now," which is based on a crude, elaborate joke from Rodriguez. I won't spoil the telling, but the joke involves mother-son incest and more than one kind of fish. Rodriguez more than makes up for his dull Road Vulture tale with this horrid joke, then caps it off with another one-page gem on the inside back cover.

Zap Comix #13 keeps the dream alive even after a death in the family of Zapster legends. Long live Zap and long live the flying eyeball!

There are three known printing variations of this comic book, all by Last Gasp. The following describes the identified print variations:
1st printing - $2.95 cover price
2nd printing - $3.95 cover price
3rd printing - $2.95 cover price
4th printing - $4.95 cover price
Susie Bright, notorious bisexual and one of the first writers and activists referred to as a sex-positive feminist, posed nude for the comic jam "The Last Lunch" (she appears in top right panel of the second page). It's quite a coup by the Collective, made more notable after she appears in the next two (and last two) issues of Zap.
Victor Moscoso - 1, 3-4 (collaboration), 5-14, 48-50 (collaboration), 52
S. Clay Wilson - 2, 3-4 (collaboration), 25, 28-35, 48-50 (collaboration)
Robert Crumb - 3-4 (collaboration), 15-24, 48-50 (collaboration)
Robert Williams - 3-4 (collaboration), 26-27, 38, 48-50 (collaboration)
Gilbert Shelton - 3-4 (collaboration), 36-37
Spain Rodriguez - 3-4 (collaboration), 39-47, 48-50 (collaboration), 51