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“All happy families are alike…”
While at this year’s Small Press Expo, Derek had the opportunity to talk with the great Bill Griffith, whose new book from Fantagraphics, Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist, debuted at the event and will soon be available in stores everywhere. As the subtitle suggests, this is a different kind of book for Griffith, a radical departure from his syndicated Zippy strip. Not only is it a deeply personal and moving memoir, but it’s his first long-form work in comics. It is a narrative of his mother’s sixteen-year love affair with a prolific and recognizable cartoonist of the of the 1950s and 1960s. But even more than that, it’s Bill’s own story about the discover of his mother’s hidden secret — he learned about the affair in 1972, right after the death of his father — and his ongoing attempts to undercover the details and understand the dynamics of a family life now long behind him. Indeed, Invisible Ink can be read as a detective narrative, with its autobiographic protagonist visiting aged relatives, investigating long-forgotten documents, and putting together the pieces of his parents’ lives that may never render a complete picture. Perhaps most notable, Invisible Ink is a book about family and memory. Time itself stands as a central focus of the text, with Griffith juxtaposing past and present events in a very fluid and psychologically
revealing manner. Dreams and fantasies become tangible. Reminiscences define current reality. In all, it is a narrative that is Faulknerian in scope. In his interview with Derek, Griffith discusses the circumstances surrounding Invisible Ink and the history of its gestation. But the conversation doesn’t end with the new book. The two also discuss Bill’s time in underground comix, his world-famous Zippy the Pinhead, the unlikely backstory of Zippy‘s syndication with King Features, and the eventual winding down of the strip’s current Dingburg run (which began in 2007). Equal parts history, insights, and laughter, Derek’s interview with Bill Griffith was perhaps the highlight of his time at SPX 2015. Yow!
Be sure to visit Bill Griffith’s official website for up-to-date information on Invisible Ink, Zippy merchandise, and tons o’ other fun stuff. You can even find there the outro music of this podcast episode, “Pinheads Are Everywhere,” written by Griffith and performed by Dan Hiatt and No Sisters (with backup vocals by The Zippettes).