Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Zippy on Vacation

Lots of illustrators carry around a sketch pad, even on vacation. Bill Griffith, creator of the comic strip Zippy the Pinhead, has for years, apparently, and by chance I happened to receive a copy of his “Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry.” It’s a collection of his sketches of people caught unawares (often in ill-fitting swim suits), food (“Here today, gone tamale”) and places (such as Pepto-Bismoloya Beach), while in locales from Paris, Dublin, Naples, Amsterdam and Puerto Vallarta to less exotic spots that include Salinas, Dallas and Lake Tahoe.

Knowing the wonderfully cranky Zippy state of mind helps with the inside jokes — a youngster paddling in a Calistoga, California, pool yelling “Yow!!” is deemed “a kid after my own heart.” And polka dots — the primary design on Zippy’s muu-muu — always draw praise.

But really, no insider knowledge is necessary to enjoy the art of this book. The drawings — several sketch-book-sheets-worth to a page and drawn with a customized Pelikan 120 — come captioned with allegedly true-life dialog. “Would you like rice or chips with th’ sizzling shrimp?” in a Chinese restaurant in Cork, Ireland. As Griffith kisses the Blarney Stone, another man urges, “Don’t look down, lad, don’t look down.” And from one of a trio of men lazing poolside: “What are you, 60? 61? Guys our age are perfect for women her age. What is she — 36? They’re lucky to get us.”

And every so often someone — often his wife, Diane — asks, “Are you drawing me?”

Charming, absurdist stuff. As one middle-aged guy in Victoria says, “Ha, ha, ha, ha. How about those East German jails!”

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