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Zap Comix #9 2nd
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 10
Zap Comix #14
Zap Comix 14 Wraparound CoverWraparound Cover
(click for larger image)

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Only Printing / 1998 / 52 pages / Last Gasp
Just a couple issues ago, I was saying it had taken two decades for Zap Comix to come out with its thirteenth issue. Well, here we are a decade later and I can only add two more to the list. In this penultimate issue of Zap, S. Clay Wilson and Victor Moscoso dominate the contents (36 of the 52 pages include their works) and we get three perspectives of the brief physical altercation between Moscoso and Robert Crumb, who kept trying to back out of any participation in Zap #14.

The passing of Rick Griffin had left a void in the Zap Collective that could not be filled by any mortal. And with Crumb refusing to contribute his usual quota of pages, the Collective needed another artist to provide some content. They chose Paul Mavrides (Gilbert Shelton's long-time collaborator on the Freak Brothers) to bridge the gap.

Despite all that, or perhaps because of it, Zap had lost little, if any, of its creative power entering its fourth decade of publication. Wilson's wraparound front cover is a tour de force and has the audacity to put the focal point on the back cover, leaving the front with little more than a round ass and a pair of gnarled feet. The inside front cover features the first of Moscoso's many stripped-down-narrative "Blobman Comics," which employ spheres and thin tubes to construct a simple character who often engages in even less momentous action than Harvey Pekar on a rainy Sunday morning.

Wilson kicks off the interior with a 12-page trilogy that begins with "Star Eyed Stella Drops Into Rotting Zombiesville." Wilson produced the story a decade earlier but never published it until this issue of Zap. The first four pages lay the groundwork for the plot, as Star-Eyed Stella crash lands her out-of-fuel space cruiser on planet Earth, currently populated with rotting zombies. Now these aren't your mush-brained Walking Dead zombies, but fully active zombies empowered with speech, careers and rabid sex drives. Stella ends up getting arrested for trying to steal a space cruiser and lands herself in jail. The first chapter is so good I wanted to skip ahead to read the second and third, but I held off when I saw Krazy Kat and Ignatz on the opposing page.

Well, not exactly Krazy Kat and Ignatz. Moscoso's two-page "Like Krazy, Man" is an homage to George Herriman and his classic Krazy Kat comics in the early 20th century, but Krazy is replaced by Blobman. Ignatz is still Ignatz, zipping bricks at Blobman's head, but these are bricks of weed. And Offissa Pup is still Offissa Pup, lurking in the background thinking about a bust. Kris Jackson (Kampus Kapers) used to pay tribute to Herriman in his old UMass college strips, but Moscoso's tribute is even more spot on and delightful.

Spain Rodriguez indulges in his sex fantasy with Linda Blair in the two-page "My Secret Date with Linda Blair." It's a rapturous fantasy, but doomed to be interrupted by a B-movie swamp monster. I could cotton to more stories like these from Rodriguez, who too often gets bogged down in the same old biker vs. biker boilerplate.

Wilson returns with the second chapter of the "Rotting Zombiesville" trilogy, in which Ruby the Dyke uses high-tech detecting devices to track Stella to the zombie jailhouse. Ruby posts Stella's bail just to set her up in a makeshift whorehouse, where zombies line up to pay cash for a crack at the sweetest pussy they've ever had. After counting her profits, Ruby jumps on Stella's mattress to get a taste for herself, but there's a surprise waiting for her inside that tunnel of love. This noxious ambush enrages Ruby just as the Checkered Demon drops by Zombiesville.

Like the first chapter, the second is so good I wanted to skip forward again, but I resisted once so I denied myself again and dove into whatever lay ahead. Of the next nine pages, seven are Moscoso's Blobman comics, and while they're engaging they're also a little lightweight when Moscoso merely conveys a story with scant innovations. To be honest, I would've been thrilled to see seven more pages of Blobman living in Krazy Kat's world.

Wilson both interrupts and follows the Blobman fest with some classic one-pagers. If there was ever a form of comic art that suffered from viewing on a digital screen, it's Wilson's single-panel symphonies of sleaze, booze and gore. I've certainly given it a shot in previous sample pages, but one needs to study the high-resolution printed page to really appreciate the frenzied harmony that Wilson orchestrates in his extravagant compositions.

A few pages later, we get the final chapter of "Rotting Zombiesville," which opens with the Checkered Demon landing his space jalopy to scout out some cold beer. He hears about Stella's undead whoring and sets out to find her, but Stella is already making her escape in the midst of Ruby's mutinous crew and a zombie uprising. As always, Checks and Stella pair up for a happy ending. Wilson's script is as strong and funny as anything he's done and his drawings of the flesh-rotting, maggot-infested zombies would make Greg Irons proud.

Rodriguez returns for the seven-page "The Churl," a fine period piece set in medieval times. It's about a battle between knights and lords and their former serfs and merchants, and evokes a Game of Thrones vibe of brash entitlement and reprisal. Gilbert Shelton follows with a one-pager that commemorates 30 years of Zap Comix. It's packed with prose that provides just a smattering of historic details and anecdotes, but surely there were new readers in 1998 who had no clue of Zap's history, so all well and good.

The two-page jam that follows includes a bit of vitriol for Robert Crumb, who declined to participate in the jam, leaving Mavrides to take his place. The last six pages of the book are comprised of three two-pagers that chronicle the same story about Crumb refusing to take part in the jam: one from Crumb, another from Rodriguez and Moscoso, and the last from Mavrides.

Crumb's two-page "I've Had It!" are the only pages he produced for Zap #14. The story depicts Wilson, Moscoso and Rodriguez interrupting Crumb's kinky liaison at Terry Zwigoff's house to pick him up for the traditional Zap jam session. Crumb thought he "made it clear to those guys I'm finished with Zap Comix," but apparently he didn't. Crumb and Moscoso get in an argument and Moscoso yells, "You too BIG for us now or what, Mr. Fuckin' Movie Star?!!" and smacks Crumb pretty hard on the upper arm. "Jesus, calm down, Victor!" Crumb exclaims, but Moscoso and his buddies are already headed out to do the jam without him.

Rodriguez and Moscoso's version of the event is entitled "Incident at Zwigoff's." It takes place after Crumb has submitted his "I've Had It" story for publication in this issue of Zap. In the first panel of this version, Moscoso, Rodriguez and Wilson ponder Crumb's story, Moscoso stating, "He says if we don't print it in Zap he will print it in another book." Wilson retorts, "Sounds like a challenge to me." And it's game on!

Rodriguez and Moscoso then recount pretty much the same story that Crumb did, with only a few changes in perceptions (such as Crumb never giving them any real indication that we was "finished with Zap"). They make Crumb sound like a sanctimonious prick, which Crumb himself would scarcely deny. Mavrides then chimes in with the third version of "what really went down!" His version is the most fun, since at the end Moscoso kills Crumb with a Rapidograph to the back of the head; a brilliant parody of Crumb having Fritz the Cat murdered in People's Comics.

All of this vitriol is actually pretty entertaining and only adds to the legend of Zap Comix. By now, Crumb has made it perfectly clear he really is "finished" with Zap. But there will be one more issue to come, and Crumb will not only contribute 10 pages to the final issue, but take part in the Collective's last jam session!

It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed (the presumption is 5,000, but it might've been 10,000). It has not been reprinted. This is the first issue of Zap that did not lead to any reprintings. As of this writing, the Last Gasp website still has copies for sale.
Susie Bright's nude figure (with boots!) from Zap #13's "The Last Lunch" is reprised in the Rodriguez/Moscoso jam "Incident at Zwigoff's." Also notable is Wilson's depiction of Moscoso slapping Crumb on the cover art, which can be seen in the wraparound cover linked above.
S. Clay Wilson - 1, 3-6, 11-14, 16-17, 24-25, 29-32, 43-44 (collaboration), 52
Victor Moscoso - 2, 7-8, 15, 18-23, 26-27, 33-34, 43-44 (collaboration), 47-48 (collaboration)
Spain Rodriguez - 9-10, 35-41, 43-44 (collaboration), 47-48 (collaboration), 51
Paul Mavrides - 28, 43-44 (collaboration), 49-50
Gilbert Shelton - 42 (art, script), 43-44 (collaboration)
Suzanne Williams - 42 (photo)
Bob Gruen - 42 (photo)
Robert Williams - 43-44 (collaboration)
Robert Crumb - 45-46
Rick Griffin - 2, 38-39 (collaboration), 51
Robert Williams - 13-20, 28-29, 38-39 (collaboration)