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The cover of Yarrowstalks #3 (August 1967). Cover art by Robert Crumb.
EditorBrian Zahn
CategoriesUnderground press
Formattabloid newspaper (issues 1-7)
magazine (issues 8–12)
Circulation10,000 (1967)
PublisherBrian Zahn
FounderDavid Auten and Brian Zahn[1]
Year founded1967
First issueMay 5, 1967; 52 years ago (1967-05-05)
Final issue
May 1975; 44 years ago (1975-05)
CountryUnited States (1967, 1968, 1973–1975)
United Kingdom (1967)
Denmark (1970)
Based inPhiladelphia (1967, 1968, 1973–1975)
London (1967)
Copenhagen (1970)

Yarrowstalks was an underground newspaper (and later a magazine), primarily based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that published 12 issues from 1967 to 1975. It is notable for being the first publication to publish the comix of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb.[2]

Unlike many underground papers of its era, Yarrowstalks was not explicitly political. Like the San Francisco Oracle, Yarrowstalks combined poetry, spirituality, and multicultural interests with psychedelic design, reflecting and shaping the countercultural community as it developed in Philadelphia. Yarrowstalks was noted for its innovative use of color, graphic design, and cold type offset printing. (The name of the publication is derived from Achillea millefolium ["yarrow"];[3] the stalks are dried and used as a randomizing agent in I Ching divination.)[4]

In addition to Crumb, other notable contributors to Yarrowstalks included Timothy Leary and the editor/publisher Zahn.[1]

Publication history[edit]

Yarrowstalks was the brainchild of Brian Zahn. The first issue, released on May 5, 1967, was co-published with David Auten;[1] as was issue #2.[3]

Crumb's work came to the attention of Zahn from the cartoonist's upbeat LSD-inspired contributions to other underground newspapers[5] (via the Underground Press Syndicate).[6] Crumb's origins were in Philadelphia, and he agreed to publish his first comix work in Yarrowstalks, culminating in all-comix, all-Crumb issue in Yarrowstalks #3.[5][6][7][8][9]

Yarrowstalks released five issues, essentially monthly, during 1967. By the fourth issue, in late 1967, Zahn had relocated to London. Yarrowstalks #5 was co-published out of London by Zahn, David Vaughan, Paul Noble, and Chris Hill.[3] From London, Zahn put the publication on hiatus as he traveled in India, presumably — like many others of the era — seeking spiritual enlightenment.[citation needed]

The success of Yarrowstalks #3 indirectly led Crumb to publish the groundbreaking underground title Zap Comix: Zahn intended to publish Zap #1 but left the country with Crumb's artwork.[10][6] Rather than repeat himself, Crumb drew a new assortment of strips (published in February 1968 by Don Donahue) which replaced the missing issue. In late 1968, shortly before Zap #3 was to be published, Crumb found Xerox copies of the missing pages from the original Zap #1, which successfully captured the line-work but not the solid blacks. After being re-inked by Crumb, those strips subsequently appeared as Zap #0.[10][11] Despite this SNAFU, Crumb remained a Yarrowstalks contributor throughout the bulk of the publication's existence.

Yarrowstalks #6 appeared in December 1968, a full year after the fifth issue (with Zahn having returned to Philadelphia); however, due to printing problems, only 50 or so "bad issues" were published.[3] Issue #7 wasn't published until 1970, out of Copenhagen.

With issue #8 (again following a two-year hiatus), the publication converted to a magazine format,[3] with the publisher returning to Philadelphia for good this time. Issue #9 was published in June 1973, and #10 appeared a year later. The two final issues of Yarrowstalks appeared in 1975, coming to a close in May of that year.

A thirteenth issue of Yarrowstalks was planned but never published.[3] The publication's circulation reached a high of 10,000; its largest paid subscription at any time was 300.[3]

All of Crumb's comics contributions to Yarrowstalks were eventually collected in The Complete Crumb Comics #4: Mr. Sixties!.[12]


# Date Publishing location Copies printed Robert Crumb contributions Notes
1 May 5, 1967 Philadelphia 10,000 “Stoned” illustration, caricature of hippie couple, "The Trip, Starring Novice Kosher" (20-panel strip), "Mr. Natural, the Zen Master" (6-panel strip); first published appearance of Mr. Natural Co-edited by Zahn and Auten
2 July 1967 Philadelphia 4,000 "Head Comix" (full-page, 36-panel strip); first published appearance of Angelfood McSpade and the Snoid[1] Co-edited by Zahn and Auten
3 Aug. 1967 Philadelphia 5,000 All-comix issue featuring Crumb, including the cover: "Head Comix," "Eggs Ackley that Number One Son of a Gun!", "Mr. Natural Encounters Flakey Foont," "Itzy and Bitzy in 'Cause and Effect'," "Big Freakout on Detroit Ave.," "Life Among the Constipated," and two Mr. Natural strips 8 pp., cover price 25 cents
4 Nov. 1967 London 10,000
5 Dec. 1967 London 10,000 Co-published by Zahn, David Vaughan, Paul Noble, and Chris Hill
6 Dec. 1968 Philadelphia 50 Cover has six-panel Crumb drawing at the bottom; "City of the Future" (3-page strip)
7 Dec. 1970 Copenhagen 1,000
8 Dec. 1972/Jan. 1973 Philadelphia 1,000 "Mr. Natural, the Zen Master" (full-page, 6-panel strip), two full-page portrait drawings Converts to magazine format
9 June 1973 Philadelphia 1,000 Full-page illustration
10 June 1974 Philadelphia 1,000 Two full-page illustrations, one of them titled "Ow! That’s the Bazoozis!"
11 Feb./Mar. 1975 Philadelphia 1,000 Reproduction of the cover of issue #3 Inside lower cover features advertisement offering free copies of issue #3 (the all-Crumb issue) to new subscribers.
12 May 1975 Philadelphia 4,500 Edited by Jacquelyn deB. Deichler


  1. ^ a b c d "R. Crumb's Head Comix," Grand Comics Database. Accessed May 25, 2018: "from Yarrowstalks (David Auten and Brian Zahn, 1967 series) #2"
  2. ^ Yarrowstalks archives, Temple University library website. Accessed October 14, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Yarrowstalks (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records," Temple University Libraries. Accessed October 25, 2018.
  4. ^ "Introduction to the I Ching - By Richard Wilhelm". Iging.com. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Holm, D. K. (2005). Robert Crumb. Pocket Essentials. ISBN 978-1-904048-51-0, pp. 47–48.
  6. ^ a b c Rosenkranz, Patrick (2008). Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975. Fantagraphics Books. p. 71. ISBN 9781560974642.
  7. ^ Duncan, Randy; Smith, Matthew J. (2013). Icons of the American Comic Book: From Captain America to Wonder Woman. ABC-CLIO. p. 554. ISBN 9780313399244.
  8. ^ Harvey, Robert C. (1996). The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 193. ISBN 9780878057580.
  9. ^ Skinn, Dez (2004). Comix: The Underground Revolution. Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 978-1-56025-572-7., pp. 20–21.
  10. ^ a b Fox, M. Steven. "Zap Comix," Comix Joint (2013). Accessed October 25, 2018.
  11. ^ Ivy Press; Gary Dowell, G.H. (2006). HCA Comics Dallas Signature Auction Catalog #823. Ivy Press. p. 106. ISBN 9781599671048. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  12. ^ The Complete Crumb Comics #4: Mr. Sixties! (Fantagraphics Books, Sept. 1989).