Rip Off Press

Last updated
Rip Off Press
Founded 1969
FoundersFred Todd, Dave Moriaty, Gilbert Shelton, Jack Jackson
Headquarters location San Francisco (1969–1987)
Auburn, California (1987–present)
Key peopleKathe Todd
Publication types Comics
Nonfiction topics Politics, Recreational drugs
Fiction genres Underground comix
Imprints Iguana Comics [1]
Official website

Rip Off Press, Inc. is a mail order retailer and distributor, better known as the former publisher of "adult-themed" series like The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Rip Off Comix , as well as many other seminal publications from the underground comix era. Founded in 1969 in San Francisco by four friends from Austin, Texas — cartoonists Gilbert Shelton and Jack Jackson, and Fred Todd and Dave Moriaty — Rip Off Press is now run out of Auburn, California, by Todd and his wife.

Corporation separate legal entity that has been incorporated through a legislative or registration process established through legislation

A corporation is an organization, usually a group of people or a company, authorized to act as a single entity and recognized as such in law. Early incorporated entities were established by charter. Most jurisdictions now allow the creation of new corporations through registration.

Mail order buying of goods or services by mail delivery

Mail order is the buying of goods or services by mail delivery. The buyer places an order for the desired products with the merchant through some remote method such as through a telephone call or web site. Then, the products are delivered to the customer. The products are typically delivered directly to an address supplied by the customer, such as a home address, but occasionally the orders are delivered to a nearby retail location for the customer to pick up. Some merchants also allow the goods to be shipped directly to a third party consumer, which is an effective way to send a gift to an out-of-town recipient.

<i>The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers</i>

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is an underground comic about a fictional trio of stoner characters, created by the American artist Gilbert Shelton. The Freak Brothers first appeared in The Rag, an underground newspaper published in Austin, Texas, beginning in May 1968, and were regularly reprinted in underground papers around the United States and in other parts of the world. Later their adventures were published in a series of comic books.


Rip Off Press is also notable for being the original company to publish the fourth edition of the Principia Discordia , a Discordian religious text written by Gregory Hill and Kerry Thornley. It was also an early publisher of the infamous booklet on drug manufacturing, Psychedelic Chemistry.

<i>Principia Discordia</i> Discordian religious text

The Principia Discordia is a Discordian religious text written by Greg Hill with Kerry Wendell Thornley. The first edition was printed using Jim Garrison's Xerox printer in 1963. The second edition was published under the title Principia Discordia or How The West Was Lost in a limited edition of five copies in 1965. The phrase Principia Discordia, reminiscent of Newton's Principia Mathematica, is presumably intended to mean Discordant Principles, or Principles of Discordance.

Malaclypse the Younger American writer and founder of Discordianism

Gregory Hill, better known by the pen name Malaclypse the Younger, was one of the two writers of the Principia Discordia, along with Kerry Wendell Thornley. He was also adapted as a character in The Illuminatus! Trilogy. During the early years of circulation of the Principia Discordia, rumors claimed that the author of the book was Richard Nixon, Timothy Leary, or Robert Anton Wilson; or that the book and Malaclypse the Younger were both fictional inventions of Robert Anton Wilson, as with Abdul Alhazred's Necronomicon.

Kerry Wendell Thornley co-founder of Discordianism

Kerry Wendell Thornley is known as the co-founder of Discordianism, in which context he is usually known as Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst or simply Lord Omar. He and Hill authored the religion's text Principia Discordia, Or, How I Found Goddess, And What I Did To Her When I Found Her. Thornley was also known for his 1962 manuscript, The Idle Warriors, which was based on the activities of his acquaintance, Lee Harvey Oswald, prior to the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy.



The company was founded January 17, 1969, in San Francisco by four "expatriate" Texans: Fred Todd, Dave Moriaty, and cartoonists Gilbert Shelton and Jack Jackson. The initial plan was to print rock band promotional posters on an old press and do comix on the side — in some ways the company was formed as a sort of cartoonists' cooperative, as an alternative publishing venue to burgeoning Bay Area publishers like Apex Novelties, Print Mint, and Company & Sons. [2] The four men purchased a used Davidson 233 offset printing press and set up shop in the same space as Don Donahue's Apex Novelties, located on the third-floor ballroom of the former Mowry's Opera House, at 633 Laguna Street in Hayes Valley. [3] The first comix Rip Off Press published, in 1969, included R. Crumb's Big Ass Comics (June '69), a reprint of Jaxon's God Nose (originally published in 1964), Jaxon's Happy Endings Comics (August '69), and the first issue of Fred Schrier and Dave Sheridan's Mother's Oats Comix (October '69).

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, United States

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th-most populous city in the United States, and the fourth-most populous in California, with 884,363 residents as of 2017. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second-most densely populated large US city, and the fifth-most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is also part of the fifth-most populous primary statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

Cartoon Form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art

A cartoon is a type of illustration, possibly animated, typically in a non-realistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to either: an image or series of images intended for satire, caricature, or humor; or a motion picture that relies on a sequence of illustrations for its animation. Someone who creates cartoons in the first sense is called a cartoonist, and in the second sense they are usually called an animator.

Gilbert Shelton cartoonist

Gilbert Shelton is an American cartoonist and a key member of the underground comix movement. He is the creator of the iconic underground characters The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy's Cat, and Wonder Wart-Hog.

After a fire almost destroyed the former opera house in late 1969, Rip Off moved to the decaying former headquarters of the Family Dog psychedelic rock music promotion collective [3] (which Jaxon had been a member of starting in 1966). Rip Off Press was located at 1250 17th Street in San Francisco from 1970 until 1985. Other early works they published included comix by Frank Stack, Sheridan (all co-published with Gary Arlington's San Francisco Comic Book Company), The Rip Off Review of Western Culture omnibus, and Shelton's The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers .

Psychedelic rock Style of rock music

Psychedelic rock is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred around perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. Many psychedelic groups differ in style, and the label is often applied spuriously.

Frank Huntington Stack is an American underground cartoonist and fine artist. Working under the name Foolbert Sturgeon to avoid persecution for his work while living in the Bible Belt, Stack published what is considered by many to be the first underground comic, The Adventures of Jesus, in 1962.

Gary Edson Arlington was an American retailer, artist, editor, and publisher, who became a key figure in the underground comix movement of the 1960s and 1970s. As owner of America's first comic book store, the San Francisco Comic Book Company, located in San Francisco's Mission District, Arlington's establishment became a focal point for the Bay Area's underground artists. He published comics under the name San Francisco Comic Book Company, as well as publishing and distributing comics under the name Eric Fromm. Cartoonist Robert Crumb has noted, "Gary made a cultural contribution in San Francisco in the late '60s, through the '70s, '80s & '90s that was more significant than he realizes."

By 1972 the poster printing business had faded away and the company had become a publishing house.

Publishing process of production and dissemination of literature, music, or information

Publishing is the dissemination of literature, music, or information. It is the activity of making information available to the general public. In some cases, authors may be their own publishers, meaning originators and developers of content also provide media to deliver and display the content for the same. Also, the word "publisher" can refer to the individual who leads a publishing company or an imprint or to a person who owns/heads a magazine.

Changing times

As the underground comix market petered out in the mid-to-late 1970s, Rip Off Press shifted focus to other cartoonists and other comics (including in their long-running anthology Rip Off Comix ). (By this point co-founders Moriaty and Jackson had long since gone back to Texas.) Larry Gonick published his Cartoon History of the Universe with Rip Off Press from 1978–1992. Cartoonist Jay Kinney joined the company as an editor in 1981, [4] but left after a few months on the job. [5] Cartoonist Guy Colwell began freelancing for Rip Off Press in the production department beginning in 1980; he worked on-and-off for the company through c. 1990. [6]

<i>Rip Off Comix</i>

Rip Off Comix was a underground comix anthology published between 1977 and 1991 by Rip Off Press. For much of its run, the series served as a vehicle for Gilbert Shelton's work, particularly Wonder Wart-Hog. For a period the title billed itself "the International Journal of Humor and Cartoon Art" and showcased the work of European cartoonists from a variety of countries. As time passed, the sensibility of the anthology changed from underground to alternative comics. For many years, the series was edited by Rip Off Press co-publisher Kathe Todd.

Larry Gonick cartoonist

Larry Gonick is a cartoonist best known for The Cartoon History of the Universe, a history of the world in comic book form, which he published in installments from 1977 to 2009. He has also written The Cartoon History of the United States, and he has adapted the format for a series of co-written guidebooks on other subjects, beginning with The Cartoon Guide to Genetics in 1983. The diversity of his interests, and the success with which his books have met, have together earned Gonick the distinction of being "the most well-known and respected of cartoonists who have applied their craft to unravelling the mysteries of science".

Jay Kinney is an American author, editor, and former underground cartoonist. A member, along with Skip Williamson, Jay Lynch and R. Crumb, of the original Bijou Funnies crew, Kinney also edited Young Lust, a satire of romance comics, in the early 1970s with Bill Griffith. He later founded the political comic Anarchy Comics, which was published sporadically by Last Gasp between 1978 and 1987.

After bouncing back-and-forth between Europe and the Bay Area in the late 1970s/early 1980s, co-founded Shelton and his wife relocated to France in 1984. [7] In mid-1985, the company moved from its long-time home on 17th Street to a smaller space on San Jose Avenue near the city's southern border, with warehouse space across town at the Bayview Industrial Park. This three-story, block-square building, which housed over a hundred other businesses, burned to the ground on April 6, 1986, following an explosion in an illegal fireworks factory in the basement. [8]

Relocation to Auburn

Thus freed of a 17-year accumulation of comix and other paraphernalia, Fred Todd (who at this point was the only original partner still working in the business) decided to relocate Rip Off Press to Auburn, California, where he and his wife Kathe could continue to run the company while raising their two small children in more pleasant surroundings. The move was made in June 1987.

Although Rip Off Press continued to publish Shelton's The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers plus the Rip Off Comix anthology, the popularity of erotic comics in the late 1980s/early 1990s led to such titles as Strips by Chuck Austen, The Girl by Kevin J. Taylor, Doll by classic underground creator Guy Colwell, and SS Crompton's Demi the Demoness . They published two music-related indy comics titles by Matt Howarth, Savage Henry and Those Annoying Post Bros., from 1989–1994.

Shift from publishing to retailing

After the collapse of the direct market in the early 1990s [9] (fueled by Marvel Comics' withdrawal of its 40% market share from the distribution system), [10] [11] Rip Off Press began taking steps to cut costs and gradually retreated from publishing. By 1997, they had shifted their business to selling backlist comics in its store and to mail-order customers, plus to the many fans finding them online. [12] The Todds moved the business to much smaller quarters adjoining their home in 1999, where they continue to sell comix, mostly through the company website. The website was disabled for a time in 2011-2012, during which time it was completely redesigned and a large number of collectors' items (including historic ad pieces, rare press sheets, publisher's overlay proofs from the company's publishing history, and more) were added to its offerings.

Selected titles and artists

Related Research Articles

Underground comix comics genre

Underground comix are small press or self-published comic books which are often socially relevant or satirical in nature. They differ from mainstream comics in depicting content forbidden to mainstream publications by the Comics Code Authority, including explicit drug use, sexuality, and violence. They were most popular in the United States between 1968 and 1975, and in the United Kingdom between 1973 and 1974.

Fat Freddys Cat

Fat Freddy's Cat is a fictional orange tomcat nominally belonging to Fat Freddy Freekowtski, one of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, a trio featured in Gilbert Shelton's underground comix.

Paul Mavrides is an American artist, best known for his critique-laden comics, cartoons, paintings, graphics, performances and writings that encompass a disturbing yet humorous catalog of the social ills and shortcomings of human civilization. Mavrides worked with underground comix pioneer Gilbert Shelton on The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers from 1978– 1992.

Knockabout Comics is a UK publisher and distributor of underground and alternative books and comics. They have a long-standing relationship with underground comix pioneer Gilbert Shelton.

Jack Edward Jackson, better known by his pen name Jaxon, was an American cartoonist, illustrator, historian, and writer. He co-founded Rip Off Press, and many consider him to be the first underground comix artist, due to his most well known comic strip God Nose.

Wonder Wart-Hog

Wonder Wart-Hog is an underground comic book character, a porcine parody of Superman, created by Gilbert Shelton and first published in 1962. Over the years, Shelton has worked on the strip in collaboration with various writers and artists, including Tony Bell, Bill Killeen and Joe E. Brown Jr.

<i>Not Quite Dead</i>

Not Quite Dead is an underground comic book series by Gilbert Shelton and the French cartoonist Pic, published in France by the magazine Flag, in the U.S. by Rip Off Press, and in the U.K. by Knockabout Comics. The title is the name of a fictional band.

Dave Sheridan (cartoonist) cartoonist

Dave Sheridan was an American cartoonist and underground comix artist. He was the creator of Dealer McDope and Tales from the Leather Nun and collaborated with Gilbert Shelton and Paul Mavrides on The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

Fred Schrier is an artist, writer, and animator, best known as partner to the underground comic book artist Dave Sheridan. Together, using the name "Overland Vegetable Stagecoach," they worked on Mother's Oats Funnies, published by Rip Off Press from 1970–1976.

<i>Bijou Funnies</i>

Bijou Funnies was an American underground comix magazine which published eight issues between 1968 and 1973. Edited by Chicago-based cartoonist Jay Lynch, Bijou Funnies featured strong work by the core group of Lynch, Skip Williamson, Robert Crumb, and Jay Kinney, as well as Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton, Justin Green, and Kim Deitch. Bijou Funnies was heavily influenced by Mad magazine, and, along with Zap Comix, is considered one of the titles to launch the underground comix movement.

Don Donahue publisher

Donald Richard Donahue was a comic book publisher, operating under the name Apex Novelties, one of the instigators of the underground comix movement in the 1960s.

Ted Richards is an American web designer and cartoonist, best known for his underground comix.

<i>Slow Death</i>

Slow Death was an underground comix anthology published by Last Gasp, the first title published by the San Francisco Bay Area-based press. Conceived as an ecologically themed comics magazine, the title's "underlying theme was always about what the human race was doing to damage the native planet." Frequent contributors to Slow Death included Greg Irons, Jaxon, Dave Sheridan, Richard Corben, Jim Osborne, Tom Veitch, and Dennis Ellefson. Released sporadically from 1970–1992, 11 issues were published in all.

<i>Young Lust</i> (comics)

Young Lust was an underground comix anthology published sporadically from 1970 to 1993. The title, which parodied 1950s romance comics such as Young Love, was noted for its explicit depictions of sex. Unlike many other sex-fueled underground comix, Young Lust was generally not perceived as misogynistic. Founding editors Bill Griffith and Jay Kinney gradually morphed the title into a satire of societal mores. According to Kinney, Young Lust "became one of the top three best-selling underground comix, along with Zap Comix and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers."

<i>Yellow Dog</i> (comics)

Yellow Dog was an underground comix newspaper and later comic book published by the Print Mint in Berkeley, California. It published 22 issues from 1968 to 1973, featuring many of the period's most notable underground cartoonists, including Robert Crumb, Joel Beck, Robert Williams, Rick Griffin, Greg Irons, and Trina Robbins. Other frequent contributors included Andy Martin, Franz Cilensek, John Thompson, Buckwheat Florida, Jr., Jim Osborne, Ronald Lipking, and Hak Vogrin. The founding editor was Print Mint co-publisher Don Schencker.

The Texas Ranger was the undergraduate humor publication of the University of Texas at Austin (UT), published from 1923–1972. A number of people who later went on to become key members of the underground comix scene — including Frank Stack, Gilbert Shelton, and Jaxon — were Texas Ranger editors and contributors during the period 1959–1965. Other notable contributors to The Texas Ranger over the years included Robert C. Eckhardt, John Canaday, Rowland B. Wilson, Harvey Schmidt, Bill Yates, Liz Smith, Robert Benton, Bill Helmer, Robert A. Burns and Wick Allison.


  1. "Newswatch: Show Them Your Lizard," The Comics Journal #160 (June 1993), p. 17.
  2. Estren, Mark James (1993) [1974]. A History of Underground Comics (2 ed.). Ronin Publishing, p. 250. ISBN   978-0-914171-64-5.
  3. 1 2 Rosenkranz, Patrick. "Don Donahue @ Mowry’s," The Comics Journal website (November 9th, 2010 ).
  4. "Jay Kinney Becomes Rip-Off Press Editor," The Comics Journal #63 (May 1981), p. 26.
  5. "Jay Kinney Resigns from Rip-Off Editorship," The Comics Journal, #64 (July 1981), p. 18.
  6. Colwell, entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed Dec. 7, 2016.
  7. Elam, Elliot (February 15, 2013). "Gilbert Shelton in Conversation". The Comics Journal (302). Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  8. "Rip Off Press Burns to the Ground," The Comics Journal #108 (May 1986), p. 17.
  9. Miller, John Jackson. "Nov. 17, 1992: A $30 Million Day — and the Days After," "The 1900s: 10 biggest events from 100 years in comics," (Dec. 12, 2005).
  10. Gray, Bob. "Newswatch: Marvel Buys 3rd Largest Distributor: Heroes World Purchase Signals Fundamental Changes in the Direct Market," The Comics Journal #174 (February 1995), p. 15-22.
  11. Gertler, Nat. "Marvel Buys Heroes World," Hogan's Alley, v. 1, no. 2 (1995), p. 17.
  12. "Newswatch: Rip Off Press Offers No-Risk," The Comics Journal #175 (Mar. 1995), pp. 29-30.
  13. Crumb, Robert (April 1993). The Life & Death of Fritz the Cat. Fantagraphics Books. ISBN   1-56097-117-7.
  14. Model by Day at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 16, 2012.