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Up Next:The Copper Age (1980-1994) - overlapping the end of the Bronze Age
Underground Comix emerged in the 1960s as part of the counterculture of free love, drug use, and rock music (sex & drugs & rock'n'roll). They used comix instead of comics to differentiate from the mainstream and also to indicate the presence of more adult content. These comix began in the early 1960s but didn't gain a strong popularity until 1967. 1968 marked an early milestone with the publication of Robert Crumb's Zap Comix, which featured the debut of Underground Comix icon "Mr. Natural", as well as Crumb's iconic Keep on Truckin' image. These comix were regularly sold in 'Head Shops', stores that specialized in selling drug paraphernalia.
Characters like Mr. Natural, Wonder Warthog, and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers captured the imagination of a generation of free-spirited young people, along with stories featuring non-specific characters who used drugs, spent time in conflict with or evading police, and mocking the establishment and political figures of the time. The irreverence and humor hit a chord with fans and over time these comix started to attract more and more creators who had something to say that didn't fit in the confines of corporate-owned comic books featuring super-heroes. As the 1970s progressed, the lines between "Underground" and "Independent" (or 'Indie') comics began to blur, as the subject matter moved away from primarily illegal drug use and sex to include topics like feminism, environmentalism, gay liberation, politics, and autobiography (like Harvey Pekar's self-published American Splendor). Once direct sale comic book shops began to appear in greater numbers in the late 1970s, there was less reason for these comics (which could not be sold on comics spinner racks targeted at children) to only be sold in Head Shops, and they moved into the comics shops along with the other comics presented as an alternative to the mainstream super-heroes.