News & Politics

Jail Time for Selling R. Crumb Comics!


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
November 5, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 45

Bookshop Bust: Convicted for Selling Zap
By Jack Newfield

Last year an undercover policeman from the Morals Squad walked into the New Yorker Bookshop on West 89th Street and asked for a copy of R. Crumb’s Zap comics, number four.

Charles Kirkpatrick, the 23-year-old bookshop manager, sold it to him and was promptly arrested for “promoting obscenity.” Also arrested was the owner of the bookshop, Pete Martin, who in 1958 founded the City Lights bookshop (named for the Chaplin movie) with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Last week Kirkpatrick’s trial was completed. He was found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in jail for a $500 fine. The charges against Martin had been dropped. The judge was Joel Tyler, former Commissioner of Licenses.

Martin is incensed and promises to help his employe appeal the conviction. Says Martin: “The city is being hypocritical. They don’t want to look like censors, so they try to make us censor ourselves. They never informed us that Crumb is obscene. They should have arrested me as the owner of the store. Charles is a Vietnam veteran with no record. Now he has one. He’s been mugged and fingerprinted, and if he ever applies for a fellowship or something this will be held against him, just because he sold a comic book. And the city never busts big chains like Bookmasters. They sell Crumb too. Only small, independent stores like us and the East Side Bookstore on St. Mark’s Place get busted.”

Martin also pointed out that Crumb has been praised in Art Forum and Art News magazines, in Charles Reich’s new book, “The Greening of America,” and that Crumb’s work has been shown in the Whitney Museum.

Kirkpatrick said he had never read Zap comics before he sold a copy to the plainclothesman.

Martin also believes the bust was part of a national crackdown on Crumb’s work, reporting there have been similar obscenity busts in other cities recently.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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