Rip Off Press

Rip Off Press
Founded 1969
Founders Fred Todd, Dave Moriaty, Gilbert Shelton, Jack Jackson
Headquarters location San Francisco (1969–1987)
Auburn, California (1987–present)
Key people Kathe Todd
Publication types Comics
Imprints Iguana Comics[1]
Official website

Rip Off Press, Inc. was a seminal publishing company that specialized in adult-themed "underground" comic books and graphic novels. They now operate as a mail-order retailer and distributor.

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.



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).

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.

By 1972 the poster printing business had faded away and the company had become a publishing house. By the mid-1970s Moriaty and Jackson had long since gone back to Texas, and by the time the company moved from 17th Street, Shelton had relocated to France. Cartoonist Jay Kinney joined the company as an editor in 1981,[4] but left after a few months on the job.[5]

The company moved to a smaller space on San Jose Avenue near the city's southern border in mid-1985, 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.[6]

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, and during the next few years Rip Off Press continued to publish Shelton's The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers plus the Rip Off Comix anthology magazine, Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, Matt Howarth's Those Annoying Post Brothers, and many other titles. The popularity of X-rated comics in the late 1980s/early 1990s led to such titles as Strips by Chuck Austen, The Girl by Kevin J. Taylor, and Doll by classic underground comix creator Guy Colwell.

Shift from publishing to retailing

After the collapse of the direct market in the early 1990s[7] (fueled by Marvel Comics' withdrawal of its 40% market share from the distribution system),[8][9] 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.[10] 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


  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. "Rip Off Press Burns to the Ground," The Comics Journal #108 (May 1986), p. 17.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.
  9. Gertler, Nat. "Marvel Buys Heroes World," Hogan's Alley, v. 1, no. 2 (1995), p. 17.
  10. "Newswatch: Rip Off Press Offers No-Risk," The Comics Journal #175 (Mar. 1995), pp. 29-30.
  11. Model by Day at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 16, 2012.

External links

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