Keywords for Comics Studies
Book, North America, Centre for the Study of the United States


The key to understanding comix is, of course, the x. Robert Crumb is usually given credit for swapping the second c in comics to the x in comix when, in early 1968, so the story goes, he was peddling Zap Comix from a baby carriage (or shopping cart) in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. First and foremost, the new spelling was a rejection of the North American comics industry and its restrictive and prudish Comics Code, a self-imposed system of censorship by mainstream com-ics producers that severely limited what types of stories, words, and images could appear in mass-market comic books (see Nyberg in this volume). A potent signifier, the x invoked a rejection of the code in favor of unbridled, libidinous, and uncensored expression. It foreshadowed the X rating for movies, which was instituted in November 1968, only months after Crumb released Zap Comix#1. Like X-rated movies, comix repudiated the notion that a vernacular art form, comics, had to be “family friendly,” embracing traditional standards of morality.