Melinda Gebbie in 1982

Long before Melinda Gebbie devoted sixteen years to illustrating Lost Girls, she produced Fresca Zizis, a comic so controversial it was banned in Britain and imported copies were ordered to be destroyed. Fresca Zizis (‘fresh cocks’ in Italian) includes autobiographical comics that Melinda explained ‘deal with the cruelty of lovers, the excesses of youth, and the states of depression and dreams – a warning and a comfort to those who venture out too deep.’

Fresca Zizis was one of several comic books imported by Knockabout Comics that were seized in 1985 by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise for containing ‘pornographic’ material. This led to Melinda testifying in the subsequent trial, eloquently defending her work. ‘These things happened to me,’ she said, ‘and I wrote about them because they happened to me, so if you’re going to find them obscene, you have to find the people I’m writing about obscene. I’m just writing about my life, I’m not trying to titillate anybody.’ The judge thanked her for her ‘well-considered testimony’, but then ruled that all the comics should be confiscated and destroyed. All four hundred imported copies of Fresca Zizis were incinerated, and the comic was declared illegal to possess in Britain.

Featuring stories like ‘In Debasement’ and ‘Daddy! Save Me’, Fresca Zizis provided an outlet for Melinda Gebbie’s pain and rage about childhood and teen sexual abuse. The artwork includes a range of styles, often surreal and sometimes based in mythology or history, reflecting Melinda’s fascination at the time with the French Revolution, Joan of Arc, and Charenton, a lunatic asylum in France that housed the Marquis de Sade for fourteen years.

The comic strip plots are sometimes obscure and often unconventionally structured, but as Melinda explained, ‘a lot of my early stuff is kind of incomprehensible, but I think the art is good. And I think, for its time, it had value as a kind of dreamscape of incoming static from strange places.’

Illustrated here are the wraparound colour cover and one of the spreads from Fresca Zizis.