Ding Dong Daddy From Dingburg
Written & Illustrated by Bill Griffith
Published by Fantagraphics
The latest collection of Bill Griffith’s newspaper strip Zippy the Pinhead, Ding Dong Daddy From Dingburg is also my first exposure to the long-running once-underground icon. Griffith created Zippy in 1971. After a long life in independent comics and magazines, Zippy became a newspaper strip, syndicated by King Features, in 1986. Ding Dong Daddy collects the daily and Sunday strips from September 2008 through June 2010.
Zippy is unlike any comic strip, or comic book for that matter, I’ve thus encountered. Griffith largely eschews traditional narratives, long-running or often even within a single strip, and traditional punchlines are highly scarce in Zippy’s world. Instead, Griffith unleashes disconnected tangents and bizarre non-sequitors on his readership. Mixed into a steady stream of seemingly random silliness, however, readers also uncover a singular worldview, a commentary on politics, religion, the stumbling newspaper industry and its technological replacements, and seemingly Griffith’s favorite windmill, pop culture.
I suspect that most readers simply won’t have the patience or commitment required to get the most value out of Ding Dong Daddy From Dingburg. Truthfully, I often grew frustrated reading it and probably won’t make Zippy the Pinhead a regular read; however, if you’re willing to put in the time, you’ll find a Griffith sublimely witty observer. Though he rarely opts for a straight joke, he regularly offers food for thought about social issues or deflates pompous pop culture hype. Wading through the bits of dada makes the journey a little more difficult, true, but the highlights shine far brighter than what you’ll find in most strips.
So it’s a tough nut to crack, and whether or not it’s worth the effort is really up to you. Perhaps the random absurdity will appeal to you; perhaps you’ll appreciate mining the diamonds of social and cultural sniping among the rocky ore; or perhaps you’ll simply shake your head and close the book after four pages. Ding Dong Daddy From Dingburg’s a little different. Well drawn, and smart when it wants to be, but it’s just plain peculiar and maybe too offputting for most casual reading. I liked it, for the most part. I’d be curious to hear what others get from reading it.