to Speak April 19
Cartoonist Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead, will give a free slide talk at The Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 19.
The lecture, "Up from the Underground with Zippy: 38 Years and Still Climbing," will take place in Room 101 of the F. Ross Jones Building in the Mattin Center, 3400 N. Charles St. in Baltimore. His appearance marks the sixth annual Spring Visiting Artist's Lecture at the Mattin Center, sponsored by the Homewood Art Workshops and Homewood Arts Programs. Admission is free and open to the public.
Griffith will also be signing books at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 20, at Atomic Books, 1100 W. 36th St., in Hampden.
Along with cartoonists such as Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Kim Deitch, and Gilbert Shelton, Griffith was part of the underground comics movement of the late 1960s. His first Zippy strip appeared in Real Pulp #1 in 1970, the same year Griffith moved to San Francisco. The strip went weekly in 1976 and was syndicated nationally by Rip Off Press until 1980, when Griffith took over syndication duties himself.
Five years later, the San Francisco Examiner asked him to do "Zippy" six days a week and in 1986 he was approached by King Features Syndicate to take the daily strip to a national audience. Sunday color strips began running in 1990. Today, "Zippy" appears in over 200 newspapers worldwide, including the Baltimore Sun.
Zippy himself is a microcephalic clown in a polka-dotted muu-muu, based in part on the "pinheads" who appeared in Tod Browning's classic 1932 horror film, Freaks. In addition to the uncommon shape of their heads, people with microcephaly are known for their childlike personalities and rapid-fire speech. "Their scrambled attention spans struck me as a metaphor for the way we get our doses of reality these days," Griffith has said.
"The kind of fractured, short-term information overload that we're all exposed to every day."
Griffith's work has been translated into a dozen foreign languages, collected in two dozen anthologies, and has been featured in publications ranging from National Lampoon to The New Yorker. Zippy has been the subject of several doctoral dissertations and has also been cited as the inspiration for Saturday Night Live's late-'70s recurring characters, the Coneheads.
And although numerous people have claimed to create it, the phrase "Are we having fun yet?" was, in fact, first uttered by Zippy in the mid-1970s and has been immortalized in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. "It is an expression of the American existential dilemma, of anxiousness," Griffith has explained. "The phrase is supposed to be satirical, but lots of people don't see the subtext."
Since 1998, Griffith has lived and worked in East Haddam, Conn., with his wife, cartoonist Diane Noomin. More information about Griffith and "Zippy" can be found on his Web site, www.zippythepinhead.com/.
To download images of Griffith's work, visit: www.jhu.edu/artwork/griffith.html.
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