Life is a circus, Zippy! It can be a circus of pain or a circus of delight!
As the Bil Keane RIP notices started flooding across the net yesterday, my friend Julien reminded me of the bizarre phenomenon of Zippy the Pinhead making a crossover appearance in Family Circus back in 1994 (go look at it, it’s weird!). It wasn’t a single-panel affair: that out-of-context Family Circus strip was a followup to a week in which Bil Keane literally drew his characters into the surreal world of Zippy as a sort of exchange project. From a speech by Zippy artist Bill Griffith:
Here’s an example of something that kind of blew my mind, and a number of readers. I did a number of comic strips in 1994 in which the idea was that Zippy and Griffy were going to, at least Zippy, enter, literally, the world of The Family Circus, a single panel comic. Into the strip a few days I thought, “What the hell, I’ll call Bill Keene. I’ll get his phone number, and I’ll see if he wants to literally jam this strip with me.” I figured the chances were zero, but why not? I called him up; he was incredibly friendly. He lives in Phoenix, where Zippy is published in the local paper. Loves the strip; reads it every day. Y’know, at the end of the phone call I thought, “He’s my blood brother. We’re like the two surreal comic strip artists.”
Behind the sticky-sweet facade of everyone’s favorite round newspaper comic, it’s good to know there was an artist of subversive humor and warmth for his fellow cartoonists, appreciative of both parody and collaboration.