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Arlington Gets Zippy

A strange comic strip character has been making appearances in the diners of our fine county.

Arlingtonians beware! A strange man is on the loose in your community.

The man was described as tall, with a pear shaped head and was last seen wearing a yellow and red polka dot muumuu. He has light stubble on his face and the few strands of hair on his head are tied together in a red bow.

The man answers to the name Zippy The Pinhead.

The titular character of Bill Griffith’s hyper-quirky comic strip has been featured at local Arlington diners recently.

In one strip, Zippy and his sidekick Griffy are drinking coffee at Bob and Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike and having a witty discussion about the future of newspapers. In another, Zippy is depicted contemplating the nature of God outside the Weenie Beenie, the legendary hot dog emporium on Shirlington Road.

But why? What does Zippy’s tour of Arlington diners signify? The always enigmatic Griffith has an answer (sort of):

"To explain a joke is to kill a joke."

ZIPPY is a comic strip that can leave its readers grasping for explanation.

It frequently depicts strange and almost Dada-esque images, comes chock full of bizarre non-sequiturs and rarely if ever features a typical narrative.

While the comic strip has been around in one publication or another since the late 1970s, only recently has Zippy been featured in places that actually exist. Griffith said after Zippy began appearing in local places around his home town of San Francisco, his regular readers began sending him photographs of unusual Americana which Griffith would draw into his strips.

"Zippy and I are not interested in visiting McDonalds or Disneyland," Griffith said. "We want to visit the imitation McDonalds or [the imitation] Disneyland." He added that, "It appears as though Zippy has escaped into the real world."

Several months ago, Vienna resident and amateur photographer Jennifer Mai sent Griffith several photos of assorted Arlington oddities. "I know Zippy loves diners just from reading the strip for years," Mai said.

So she sent in her pictures of Bob & Edith’s as well as the Weenie Beenie and Griffith chose to feature them in his comic. "I’ve always loved taking photos," Mai said, "[And] it’s nice that they can inspire a creative, famous cartoonist."

Having her photos turned into newspaper art has only deepened Mai’s ardor for the inscrutable protagonist of Griffith’s comic strip.

"He’s a bit of an oddball so I can relate to that," she said. "He definitely has a different perspective on life."

ZIPPY has also been featured in other locales in Northern Virginia.

He’s been to the Piccadilly Grill in Winchester, the Skyline Diner in Front Royal, the Mighty Midget Kitchen in Leesburg and many others. Zippy comics now also are featured on t-shirts, which can be purchased on Griffith’s website.

Griffith explains his love for American diners by pointing out that "There’s a poignancy to a lot of roadside iconography and architecture."

"It's a historical location," said Greg Bolton, the owner of Bob and Edith's Diner. "It's been here for 39 years… We have a good following."

The owners of the Weenie Beenie could not be reached for this story.