Bill Griffith’s Weird Pittsburgh

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Legendary Underground cartoonist Bill Griffith has often set his long-running daily newspaper strip Zippy the Pinhead in the city of Pittsburgh. Griffith has visited Pittsburgh several times, including in 2009 when Pittsburgh’s cartoon museum, The ToonSeum (then still located in the Children’s Museum), put on the show Zippy’s Pittsburgh and More, which included some of the strips seen below.

On April, Griffith will return to Pittsburgh to talk about “45 Years of Zippy” at the ToonSeum on April 1st at 7 pm and to take part in our Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo (PIX) on April 2nd.  As part of PIX, Griffith will sign books during the day, run a cartooning workshop for Comics Workbook at the Carnegie Library at 3:30, and speak about his new book, Invisible Ink at 7:30.

In preparation for all that activity, we thought it was a good time to re-visit a few of those Zippy strips, as well as take a look at some never before seen pages from Griffith’s sketchbook composed during a 1990 trip to Pittsburgh.  But first, here’s a couple where Zippy, Griffy and others note Pittsburgh’s “more enlightened and weirder” culture:

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Here’s a few (and there are many more) Zippy strips that are set in familiar Pittsburgh locations:

Ritter’s Diner in Bloomfield.

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The Big Day Wedding & Event Center, Strip District.

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Charlie’s Diner (now known as Peppi’s, and also once known as Scotty’s, as well as Downtown Diner), Lincoln Highway.

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Glowing Sculpture Thing, PPG Place.

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In early June of 1990, Griffith visited Pittsburgh to take in the Thomas Rowlandson show at the Frick Art Museum.  The images below are taken from sketches he made at the time.

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While in town, Griffith also spent some time at the historic Kennywood Amusement Park in West Mifflin, as seen below.

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Griffith, who arrived for that trip via the rail road, also sketched the train ride and station.

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“For me, Zippy is funniest when his craziness bumps up against the ‘real world’, which is why I put him in diners and have him talking to Bob’s Big Boy,” Griffith said in 2009.  “It doesn’t get much more real than Pittsburgh, PA – it’s Zippy Country!”

Hopefully he’ll find some additional examples of that “more enlightened and weirder” pop culture on his trip back here in April.

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