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Zap Comix #7 2nd
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 9
Zap Comix #7
Zap Comix 7 Back CoverBack Cover
(click for larger image)

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mr naturalMr. Natural
1st Printing / March 1974 / 52 pages / The Print Mint
Zap Comix #7 came out just over a year after the previous issue and featured Spain Rodriguez's first front-cover art for the series. Rodriguez also gets a lengthy story to lead off the issue; the nine-page "Sangrella," a futuristic, science-fiction fantasy about a female assassin who is tasked with retrieving a special disc that enables women to reproduce without the aid of men. The fast-paced story is a lot of fun and allows Rodriguez to showcase his action-adventure skills.

Gilbert Shelton only gets a two-pager here (he was busy resurrecting the Freak Brothers serial with new material), but it's a good one about Fat Freddy's Cat getting caught in the middle of a drug bust and getting chased by a police dog. It's followed by one of four trademark S. Clay Wilson one-pagers that never fail to invite great study.

Rick Griffin follows with an untitled four-pager featuring a marvelous six-panel first page depicting a small adobe home on a tiny desert hill at dawn. The second page features calligraphic lettering that quotes a New Testament chapter; John 3: 16-21 ("For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..."). The third and fourth pages feature only a single human figure (a young woman and a man hidden under a sombrero at the foot of a large cactus). If this is Griffin's idea of proselytizing, he didn't snare me, but the first and third pages are lovely to behold anyway.

Robert Crumb has a six-page story, "Mr. Natural Meets the Kid," in which Mr. Natural encounters Prem Rawat (aka Maharaji), an Indian guru who rose to fame before he became a teenager in the '60s and visited the U.S. with great publicity (and throngs of followers) in the early '70s. Rawat is never named in the story (he's only called "the Kid"), but Crumb's caricature of the 16-year-old is quite unmistakable. Of course, Mr. Natural hates the Kid, but whenever he tries to destroy him (with a stick of dynamite and a boulder hurled at his face), the Kid just bounces back like it was nothing. By the end of the story, the Kid is the star figure in a downtown parade, much to Mr. Natural's chagrin.

Crumb's story reflects his utter disdain for gurus of all types, and I can only imagine his scorn for a highly popular teenage guru from India! The story of "the Kid" is hopelessly dated (though Prem Rawat and his prolific teachings still have a large presence on the internet), but any number of false Gods and cult leaders could easily stand in his place today.

Robert Williams contributes a two-page center spread ("Hookin' & Jabbin' with Zeak the Zuke") featuring a hipster who cleverly manipulates all manner of street punks, muggers, prostitutes and cops.

Wilson follows with "Futuristic Glimpse," a six-page story that evolves from the violent street adventures of two "homosexual thugs" to rampaging vignettes at a scientific research center, leading to the apocalyptic destruction of creative types, lovers and the dregs of society by some sort of decency league. I'm not sure I followed the plot, but it's appropriately foreboding and may be an allegory about the landmark Supreme Court obscenity ruling that came down the previous year, effectively curtailing the distribution network for underground comics.

Williams comes back for "The Mentor in the Mason Jar," a hilarious yarn about a drunk old codger who scrounges in a dump and discovers a nasty-looking mason jar with magical powers. He makes a fortune from the jar's prescient advice, but soon loses the jar and the fortune, but that doesn't stop him from trying to regenerate the magic.

Crumb returns for the four-page "R. Crumb presents R. Crumb," a prime example of Crumb utilizing filler to meet his page quota (it's 47 panels of Crumb talking, singing and making faces with no background), but it turns out to be somewhat groundbreaking as an "ordinary, boring life with nothing important to say" strip. Harvey Pekar would take a similar concept to the next level with American Splendor, which would debut the following year.

Victor Moscoso closes the book by reprising his pope and bug-like character from the previous issue in another surreal narrative with a prostitute. The untitled story is not quite as elegant or surreal as the previous one, but it's damn near as entertaining.

Zap Comix #7 gets the series back on track for semi-regular publication, though the end of the golden age of undergrounds has significantly cut down on its distribution channels. This issue has more of the feel and rhythm of a comic book that was settling into its mature phase, where shock value alone has taken a back seat to storytelling and entertainment.
There are five known printing variations of this comic book, though there are a couple of early ones that cannot be distinguished from one another. Kennedy's Price Guide states there were four Print Mint printings for a total of 85,000 copies, and that was only through 1982 (and only three identified printing variations). The following describes all of the identified print variations:
1st printing - 50-cent cover price
2nd printing - 75-cent cover price
3rd printing - $1.00 cover price
4th printing - $2.50 cover price
5th printing - $2.95 cover price
When Zap #7 came out in 1974, the golden age of underground comix (1968-73) had passed, and the quantity of copies printed reflects this fact. The first six issues of Zap all had 290,000 or more copies in print by 1982, but Zap #6 only had 165,000 and by the 7th issue it was down to 85,000, a mere 1/4 of copies printed compared to its heyday just two years prior.

Of course, any other underground outside of the Freak Brothers would've killed to have 85,000 copies in print in the mid to late '70s. Zap had established a loyal following, and the 8th issue had 70,000 copies printed by 1982. The quantity of subsequent issues is unknown, but after another long break in the series following the 8th issue, the 9th-15th issues probably had 10,000 to 40,000 copies each, making them somewhat harder to find than early issues.


Spain Rodriguez - 1, 3-11
S. Clay Wilson - 2, 14, 25, 28-33, 51
Gilbert Shelton - 12-13
Rick Griffin - 15-18
Robert Crumb - 19-24, 42-44
Robert Williams - 26-27, 34-41
Victor Moscoso - 45-50, 52
Zap Comix 7 2nd
2nd Printing
75-cent cover.