Zippy is the “wise fool.” He knows nothing at all and everything at once. Media-soaked, he has the attention span of a channel surfer. He’s giddy from information overload. His mind works in a distinctly non-linear fashion, leap-frogging from one thought to the next, creating a speech pattern that closely resembles the swing of improvisational jazz. Though his behavior may appear “surreal,” he’s really making his own kind of sense of the world. His seeming “non sequitur” style is really more of a rearranging of subjects, objects and emotions, flowing like poetry. Zippy thrives on an additive-rich, high MSG diet and a hefty dose of celebrity-spotting. He’s fueled by Ding Dongs and taco sauce. Of course, there’s an intentionally satiric edge to Zippy, but this never takes a back seat to his strong attachment and loyalty to those around him. When he’s not “escaping into the real world,” he's exploring his hometown, “Dingburg,” where everybody is a pinhead and the donut shops and bowling alleys are open 24 hours.
Zippy has been described by Robin Williams as “a word processor with dyslexia,”and by Time magazine as “instantly obsessed with whatever trend or object passes in front of him. Griffith has actually made room for essays and meditations on the ‘funnies’ page. No other strip challenges the reader in such a smart way.”
Griffy is Zippy’s partner in “surreal” social criticism. He never met a phenomenon about which he didn’t have an instant opinion. All-too-rooted in the real world, he’s the “bad cop” to Zippy’s “good cop” as they affect and react to the “real world.” Underneath Griffy’s judgmental nature, though, is a lot of insecurity and self-doubt. Try as he may to keep his emotions in check, they find a way out. He often uses his analytical powers as a weapon (or a shield) in his battle with modern civilization. Griffy is also a part-time astronomer who’d rather turn his high-powered telescope down at the city than up at the stars.
Zerbina is Zippy’s full-figured, occasional wife. Though she’s a pinhead too, she’s a little more “rooted” than Zippy. Not that she doesn’t forget as often as he does that they’re married — and have two kids. She’s strongly self-confident and not at all eager to please, and she clearly marches to the beat of a different drummer. A modern woman, she doesn’t define herself solely as a wife and mother, though constantly embracing and rejecting those roles. Of course, she says and does everything through the pinhead filter (not "1,2,3" but more like "2,3,17"). She enjoys shopping, waiting for hours to connect to her Internet server and deconstructing the post-modern nuclear family.
Dingburg (Zippy's hometown)
A few years ago, Zippy’s circle of friends began to expand beyond the usual “cast of characters” to a wider world of other people like Zippy — other pinheads. More and more muu muu-clad men and women started to arrive until one day the whole thing just reached “critical mass.”
Griffith then thought, “Where do all these friends of Zippy live? Do they live in the ‘real world,’ which Zippy has been seen escaping into for years—or do they live apart, in a pinhead world of their own?”
Thus, Dingburg was born—“The City Inhabited Entirely by Pinheads.” It even has a motto: “Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere.” Dingburg is a place where Zippy’s wacky “rules” are the norm and everyone plays 24-hour Skeeball and worships at the feet of giant Muffler Men. Zippy has, at last, found a place where he fits in, polka dots, topknot and all.
Claude is a perennially lovesick urban hillbilly with a cowlick on steroids whose real life closely parallels the guests on tabloid TV talk fests. He’s originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he worked in a bowling ball factory. A searcher for life’s hidden blueprint, he’s always on the lookout for the "ideal" woman he can never quite find. He’s a barroom philosopher who dispenses trailer park wisdom to anyone who’ll listen mostly, it’s Zippy. He’s soulful, emotionally needy and full of comedic self-pity. Claude believes everything he reads in the National Enquirer. His dreams die hard and, as a result, he harbors a “dark side,” full of suspicion and paranoia. Fortunately, his darker urges don’t dominate him, and he comes off a little like a "Don Quixote of love.”
Mr. Toad is, essentially, a malevolent force. He enjoys seeing other people squirm as a result of his words and deeds. His motto is, “Screw them before they can screw you.” He’s a big, green sociopath with a permanent chip on his shoulder, full of bully vengeance. But he's also something of a philosopher, dispensing dark aphorisms to Zippy and Griffy from his barstool. He hates show biz and celebrities — but he loves to hate them. He wears his alienation proudly, aware that it’s the source of not just his anger, but his power. He’s cynical, abusive and very large. “Don’t goad the Toad.”
Shelf-Life ("S.L.") is always looking for the “next big thing,” especially if the merchandising rights are available. He never stops scheming and dreaming. He’s the poor man’s Donald Trump, only a little less artful about his deals. Though he’s not consciously out to hurt people, he can rationalize any pain he causes ("Hey, pal, it’s a dirty business"). He’s young and “entitled.” He feels he deserves to succeed and is oblivious to everyone else’s needs. The only person who likes him (aside from his loan shark) is Zippy. When he speaks of “grief” or “personal loss,” it’s most likely because he had to switch accountants. S.L. is a streetwise hustler and a loner, and since no one ever helped him, why should he help anyone else? He wears a tight, black sweater emblazoned with ever-changing sayings (“Reach Out and Touch Someone Else,” “Can We Network?,” “Make My Deal,” etc.), which can also reflect his inner thoughts.
Fuelrod and Meltdown are Zippy and Zerbina’s twin offspring. Though they have “regular kid” qualities, they often act less childlike than their parents. They try valiantly to negotiate the shoals of adolescence and decode their progenitors’ puzzling behavior and bizarre advice. They’re
They’re caught somewhere between “pinhead” and “normal,” kind of like the children of immigrants, juggling “old country” and American values. Typical interaction: Zerbina: “Turn that Metallica CD up, Fuelrod! I can still hear myself think!” Fuelrod: (peeved) “Yes, Mother."
Zippy’s twin, yet diametrically opposite, brother. Lippy dresses in black and thrives on misery — his own, as well as others. He only enters Zippy’s life for one purpose: to try and make him unhappy. Good luck, Lippy.
An enormous dachshund head mounted on a pole, the Doggie is the last remaining vestige of a defunct fast-food chain named “Doggie Diner.” It stands on a corner of town Zippy walks by almost every day. Zippy and the Doggie have long talks about human emotions and stuff.