Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Changed My Life

Hot Milk Presents: How Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Changed My Life, Or, 13 Lessons I learned from the Best TV Show Ever
By Tyler Hauck

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K) was a TV show that featured a guy (“not too different from you or me”) and some robots stuck on a satellite and forced to watch really bad movies. To keep his sanity he, and the robots, made fun of the movies. It was basically just B-movies with commentary, and, if you’ve never seen it before and think the concept is insane, it really did exist.

It wasn’t shown on TV where I lived as a kid (in fact, I don’t know if it’s ever been shown on TV anywhere outside of America), so I found out about the show in a kind of ridiculous manner: fan fiction. Not fan fiction about the show, but rather bad X-Men fan fiction that other people made fun of by writing in the MST3K characters making fun of the story. The first time I ever saw a picture of what the robots looked like (in an issue of Mad magazine of all places) I was actually kind of upset, because I thought they looked so crummy.

Eventually I managed to track down some episodes of the show, but even today I’ve only seen maybe half a dozen of them. I still think it’s a pretty awesome idea, and I’m sure someday I’ll actually manage to watch more of them, or of the various spin offs that have been produced.

Hauck’s seen a lot more of the show than me. In fact he may have seen every episode, and if not, he’s seen most of them. The fact that he made this zine ten years after the show stopped being produced shows that MST3K had a major impact on his (and other people’s) lives. At the least MST3K helped create a market for all the terrible retro and genre films of the past. Would Mexican wrestler El Santo be as well known without this show? Would people purposefully seek out watching bad films just to make fun of them without MST3K making you think it was fun to do that? Okay, well probably. But this show totally helped that movement along.

However, Hauck has taken away more than just the pleasure of laughing at old crummy movies from MST3K; he’s learned thirteen lessons that changed his life.

In between lists of the best songs, skits, inventions, and best and worst films, Hauck presents the things he has learned. And what things! The idea of using old films as primary source documents of the past to learn about how people used to live, discovering that lots of people who have made good stuff have also made a lot of crap, that your heroes are imperfect, that poorly dubbed foreign films still show you how people live in other countries, that being amateur isn’t the same as being bad, and more.

Even if you already love MST3K and know these things, you can still learn stuff from this zine. Did you know that in the early seasons a lot of the props and materials they used for the show were dumpstered? (Awesome!) Did you know that the films of Aleksandr Ptushko (The Sword and the Dragon, The Magic Voyage of Sinbad) are actually good? I’ve never even seen any of the episodes that feature his films, but based on the descriptions of them here I’m going to have to go and track them down, along with some more episodes of MST3K.

Let’s hope someone still keeps circulating the tapes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chimpanzee Democracy

Chimpanzee Democracy
By Andrew Livesey

The first strip here tells you that no, this comic won’t be about chimpanzee’s attempting to create the first simian electoral system (damn!). Instead most of the (full colour) comics here are one page gag strips that poke fun at modern society or degenerate into complete absurdity.

The comics are well done for what they are, though I much preferred the silly ones (crashing the moon into the earth, aliens not destroying Earth so they can see the end of Lost, chicken attacks, carrot mines with giant rabbit guards, Satan really liking pina coladas, possessed tattoos, and cats causing cancer) to the ones that talk about more everyday things (iPods, music, being unproductive, getting old, internet trolls).

I did enjoy the strip about how science proves your favourite songs are from your adolescence, so you might as well stop looking for new things. I’m guessing it’s based on some heavily reported science experiment, that doesn’t have nearly enough evidence, but it still amused me.

A few of the strips are a bit dated now, especially the musical review of 2006. So long ago! But there’s also this image, which conjures to mind a combination of Junji Ito’s comics Uzumaki and Gyo. Horrifying sea creatures and spirals combined into one. Nooooooooo!

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Dream of Killers #1

I Dream of Killers #1
By grilled tuna

In short snippets that are cut and paste around a page in a manner such that the lines never line up, the writer reminiscences about watching horror movies as a child.

I’ve never really enjoyed horror movies, so can’t really connect to the writer’s experiences of staying up all late watching them, trying to get parents to buy horror movie posters, or wanting to be scared. Why would you want to be scared?

The writer also says they never paid attention to children’s movies, and while I don’t really remember what I watched as a kid, I do know that a few months ago some friends went to see Tarantino’s movie Inglourious Basterds, while I went to see Ponyo, the new film by Miyazaki, by myself. I was (and still am) perfectly happy with that decision.

However, there is one point on which the writer of this zine and I agree on, and that’s how awesome abandoned hospitals are. The writer thinks they’re the scariest place they can imagine being in, while my love of them is down to an awesome time I had at a fancy (or as fancy as my friends and I got) cocktail party we once had in one. Plus abandoned buildings are just awesome. Now I want to read zines about urban exploration again!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Island of Dr. Moreau #1

The Island of Dr. Moreau Part One
Adapted by Claude T.C.

If I’d actually read the back of this comic I would have realized that it wasn’t a straight up comics adaptation of HG Wells’ novel. Instead it’s a side story, taking place between chapter’s five and six of Claude’s ongoing Reckless Youth (web) comic.

I was a little disappointed to discover this, as I would have enjoyed a comic adaptation of the novel. Or at least I assume I would, as I’ve never read the novel. However, I did still enjoy this comic, which takes quite a few liberties with the original. Ignoring the completely new characters dropped into the plot, the biggest difference is that it’s treated as a comedy rather than the original horrific version.

For example, the Dr.'s assistant was unable to find work as a biology graduate in London, so answered Dr. Moreau’s want ad, and then spends most of her time getting drunk. Actually, that could be the same as the book couldn’t it? Maybe I should read it.

The art is generally attractive, and sort of reminds me of Platinum Grit. In fact the content kind of does too, in that it features a floppy haired, somewhat useless protagonist, who seems to stumble into dangerous and frightening events (as generic as that sounds).

My major complaint is that this is only part one (of five I think), and somewhat on the short side at only 14 pages. Still, I suppose I can read all those webcomics to find out who these characters are.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Out of Control #4.3

Out of Control #4.3 - A Journal of Abiotic Vampirism
By David Drexler
Quarter sized.

The three short pieces in this zine all focus on old technology, retro-futurism, and the idea of the future, all topics I’m interested in.

The second essay raises the idea that our vision of the future is firmly based on what exists in the present, just more so. Drexler says that when we look at images of the future from the past we are “seeing what things would have looked like if 1962 had gone on for 100 years without changing, just getting MORE 1962.”

Drexler mentions that he’s travelled to several capitols of former British colonies, like Cairo and Calcutta, and that the aesthetics seen on signs and packaging there seem to be echoing that which existed fifty years ago, ignoring later developments. I can’t say for sure whether that is true or not, and wish there were some photographic examples to illustrate this point.

The other two pieces go into other ideas about the future, what it means to us, and why we care. All three are written using a style and word choice that seems somewhat unusual. Drexler seems far happier using less common words if at all possible. He doesn’t “go up” stairs, he “ascends” them, he was “puerile” not “childish”, things were “desiccated” not “dried”, and on and on. But rather than taking you out of the writings, they seem to fit in with writing about technology and ideas from the past, creating an almost spooky feel to some of the descriptions.

When Drexler writes:
“The protracted gloamings of aesthetic senility, deep-layered coatings of dust, forlorn, forgotten, forbidden, covered up in dead leaves, coruscated encrustations, slyly hinting dim visions of futures that never were, the last legions of the lost are my real loves, the truest and darkest lusts of my being.”

It’s like he’s about to summon up some horrible Cthuloid-inspired, technological monster. (And that's something else I'd like to see him write about!)

Interspaced with the text pieces are loads of awesome “futuristic” images from the past: Crazy cities, rocket ships, space girls, mummies using lasers, pulp science fiction covers, and more. I love all that stuff, and really want to know where that mummy drawing is from. Now I need to go find my retro-futurism art book, and maybe write some pulp science fiction stories.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Necessary Monsters #2

Necessary Monsters #2
By Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Sean Azzopardi

Straight up, I must say you will be let down if you read this comic expecting the giant dinosaur from the cover to stomp around eating people. What may be a dinosaur shows up in an old photograph in a presentation for a couple of panels, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until the next issue to see the dinosaur in action.

What we do get is a seemingly immortal bad guy, who can turn into a monster, teaming up with a woman, who can grow rapidly aging offspring from egg sacs on her back, to rebel against the Chain, a secret organization made up of paranormals who are dedicated to stopping those beings that what to erase existence.

Super powered secret agents trying to stop Lovecraftian horrors isn’t exactly new ground (what issue is BPRD up to?), but there are enough original elements here to make it worth checking out, and enough questions are raised to make me want to read more.

What’s the deal with Chicken Neck? Will that early twentieth century guy with tentacles for a head show up again? Why is that goth girl so perky? Hopefully the next issue will answer at least one of those questions.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bothy Zine

Bothy Zine
By Mike
A weird square size.

So a bothy (how do I pronounce that?) is apparently a house or hut of some kind that is out in the woods or the countryside or some place and people going on hikes can stay in them. Nobody seems to own them, and they are looked after by the people that visit. That sounds rad! Too bad I had to figure this out by myself, because this zine doesn’t actually tell you and assumes you already have a bunch of knowledge about things that maybe all English people already know. (What’s a beaker person? Is it like this?)

After figuring that out, I still had a bit of a hard time comprehending this zine. There were times when I thought that the pages were out of order, or that some of them were just missing entirely, because there is a narrative here, but it is incredibly jumpy. It goes all over the place, and skips things, and other bits just seem to stop.

This is because the zine is mostly just a straight up reproduction of a journal and sketch book that Mike kept while he was hiking around these places. He flat out states that he was frequently exhausted during this time, after spending entire days hiking through marshes and forests and stuff. So the sketches, notes, and ephemera are at least partially the product of an overtired mind I would think.

The zine would definitely have benefitted from a rewrite. The information contained within is interesting, but the way in which it is presented is just a mess. I know Mike can tell an actual story, because a couple of times he tells about previous trips he had taken, and those make sense.

Some of his sketches are pretty good, and I liked the quotes from the guest books that were left in the bothys (bothies?), I always read those in places to see what people say.

Despite all this, Mike seems like a guy I could get along with, and the zine definitely succeeded on two fronts: it told me these places existed, and it made me want to go visit some! (When it’s warmer.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Matter #1

The Matter #1
The Royal Springs Entertainment Company
Half legal sized.

What differentiates The Matter from a small press magazine? The screen printed cover? The fact that I bought it at the Portland Zine Symposium? The paper quality?

Ultimately it’s the intentions of the creators (and the cover), but the people working on this publication have clearly put a lot of time and effort into its design, which is something I fully support.

The book is a mixture of illustrated fiction and comics, from a number of different creators, interspaced with mostly black pages featuring single quotations from various people that represent what the magazine is about (words, pictures, conversation, science fiction, dragons, art) better than the three page editorial note at the end.

The first comic is about an issue I have yet to see any fiction about: Somalian pirates. The creator, Matt Strackbein, has clearly spent a lot of time researching this, as the only dialogue in the piece is in Somali. Or at least I think it is; my attempts to find an online Somali-English translator on the internet failed. He could just be writing gibberish. Not that that’s a problem, I already own comics in numerous languages I cannot understand, and the storytelling here is clear enough for me to follow.

The comic itself seems interesting enough, though at only seven pages of a longer narrative this part doesn’t really give you a feel for how the work will be. I do wonder about the somewhat cartoony style that is being used for the artwork, I’m not sure how well it goes with the story.

The next comic, the Brink, is billed both as the first chapter and as a sneak peak. The idea of a counsellor working on a space station seems pretty good (admittedly, I haven’t watched that much Star Trek), but the short piece here isn’t really enough to go on.

The final comic thankfully doesn’t have the problem of being an introduction, as it tells a complete story. It’s short, humourous piece about supergenius babies who want cookies. It didn’t do much for me to be honest.

Nor did either of the two prose pieces included here. I definitely feel as though more could be done with the second story, about a girl who is the only person left in a huge empty office after everyone else had been fired. It could definitely be developed more.

One major complaint I had is on the type of paper used. I’m sure people putting this zine together spent a lot of time choosing it, and while the flecked look works fairly well for the text pages, it doesn’t look so hot for the comics. White should be white, not some weird speckled beige. Unfortunately this is made even worse on the first comic because of the grey background that surrounds all images, hopefully they’ll clear up that problem for future issues.

So a not so fantastic start, but the creators put in a lot of work, and hopefully future issues will reach their potential.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia

Russia, Georgia, and South Ossetia: A Geopolitical Picture Book for the Perplexed
By Maria
One dollar, half sized.

This was a pretty awesome zine, as I have a total hard-on for Russia and all those former soviet places (damn useless degree). It attempts to give background information on Georgia, and why on earth Russia went to war with it (a hint, it involves something from underground that is crucial to the world’s economy).

It starts with historical information on the country, the various groups of people that live there, their cultures, and conflicts that exist between them. Then it gets into information on Gazprom, the massive Russian natural gas company that sells gas to large parts of both eastern and western Europe.

There’s politics, dirty dealing, and black mail. Thrilling stuff! And it’s all illustrated by photos, maps, and diagrams. There’s also a section on further reading! Exciting, maybe I will check some out.

I’m always up for reading more about what a horrible and corrupt place Russia is, and this zine totally scratched that itch for me. It’s worth checking out if you have similar interests.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Morgenmuffel no. 16

Morgenmuffel no. 16
By Isy
PO Box 74
80p, half sized.

I really like vegetarian cooking, and I really like comic books, so reading Morganmuffel, which combines these two things, is pretty awesome.

Isy documents parts of her life through her comics, and the parts she documents are mostly about attending huge political protests and cooking insane amounts of food for hundreds or even thousands of people with the Anarchist Teapot Mobile Kitchen. I really love it! It is so inspiring to read about that sort of thing. I’ve been involved with Food Not Bombs for years, but even at its largest I’ve only fed a couple hundred people. Reading about the infrastructure that has to be done, and the amount of food that has to be bought is kind of insane. I can’t even comprehend the bit where someone says “We need to go buy 1000 kg of veg from the market.” And that was because they hadn’t ordered enough!

It’s also cool to read about the protests that Isy is serving at. In this one she goes to a G8 summit in Germany, and to Climate Camp protest at Heathrow Airport. They both seemed like pretty neat events, though apparently the Climate Camp one had “far too many hippies.” I’d like to go to at least one at some point, maybe later this year.

The comics aren’t just about cooking and protests though, there are bits about camp life, travelling, and baking competitions which are all good too.

However, not everything about this zine is super rad. Isy asked people to contribute lists of things they hated, and if she asked me in the future I might say that those lists were one of my things. I didn’t enjoy these, and didn’t even bother reading them all. Some of them are just giant blocks of text with no paragraph marks or anything! So hard to read. The content of the lists wasn’t too good either, with some of it just being really stupid. I did have to agree with the guy that complained about how English houses are crap and let all the heat out. It is so true, everyone here needs to learn about insulation and double glazing. Brrrrr.

The other problem is that sometimes the flow of the panels doesn’t work too well. The layout of some of the pages and the use of arrows makes me think that Isy doesn’t read that many comics. Maybe she does and just doesn’t care that much, she is packing massive amounts of information into the panels she uses, and the comics are still enjoyable.

In the end, neither of those things are deal breakers, but if you buy the collection that was just released by Last Hours I don't think it'll have the hate lists.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anarchy and Alcohol

Anarchy and Alcohol
By CrimethInc
Half sized.

This is some pretty heavy stuff. The two essays* within are, more or less, on the dangers of alcohol, and how it is destroying both the punk scene and society.

Punk and alcohol have a history. The stereotypical punk is probably blitzed out of his (or her) mind on the cheapest alcohol around, and throwing bottles at people. And while some of them are, you could say the same about any sub group of people. Plus there’s the straight edgers (no drugs, no drink), who is a significant part of the punk scene in some cities.**

I think it’s important for zines on topics like this to exist. For many people alcohol is a problem, and creating dialogues within communities where it is frequently abused is important. When the major programs that exist for dealing with addiction are based around religion, the need for alternatives is incredibly important.

Despite all this, the first essay seems kind of crazy until the postscript where it says that it was written from an extreme “no alcohol ever” position to hopefully create acceptance of a “moderate” position somewhere between "no alcohol" and "alcohol alwa"ys. Viewed as such it’s a far more reasonable piece of writing; the writer doesn't expect people to do what they say in the piece, in fact they come right out and say that it’s okay to drink (and be drunk).

Without that disclaimer it’s somewhat hard for anyone who drinks alcohol in moderation (though I suppose even alcoholics generally don’t think they drink too much) to take it seriously. The idea that all anarchists are drunken louts who never get anything done is hard to take serious because, well, I know some who aren’t. And no, they’re not drunken louts who get things done, or sober people who get nothing done either.

The second essay is written from an anarcho-primitivist viewpoint, and while I found the history of brewing and alcohol it contained interesting and worth reading, even if you have absolutely no intention of changing your alcohol consumption (they drank how much beer in the olden days? Woah), I really have to take issue with one point.

The piece claims to be a case for straight edge, yet my understanding of that philosophy is that it is against all forms of recreational drugs, not just those created by capitalism. Claiming that hunter gatherers didn’t drink alcohol, and thus were free from outside affections, is just, um, lies. There are many drugs that occur naturally and require no preparation to be consumed, and can cause an alteration of the mind. To ignore these, and the idea that our ancestors didn’t do them, seems to be ignoring a fairly major fact.

Still, over all this is worth reading, as it contains thought provoking material, interesting history, and it looks pretty nice.

*And essays they are, the only thing really differentiating them from university papers are a lack of footnotes. Though I sort of wish they had footnotes, or at least some references for further reading.

**I think there’s a really interesting documentary to be made about the global straight edge movement. I’ve had straight edge friends who have come from different cultures and it’s interesting to see how in some places it's really tied to religion (in Malaysia some of my friends didn't like straight edgers because they were being "good Muslims"), while in other places it's not.

Another example is how in South Korea there are no illegal drugs available (or at least they are incredibly hard to acquire), so straight edge is just about the alcohol. However that can be a really big deal in a culture were drinking is so important.

Here’s links to an article about and an interview with a Korean straight edge band I wrote for a magazine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Written by Paul Scott, illustrated by various.
Half sized.

This is a selection of Paul Scott’s short comic works, collected from the first five issues of OmniVistaScope. It’s quite professional in its approach, and based on the artist bios in the back Scott seems to have hired professional artists to illustrate his scripts (or he’s just really good at getting people to draw things for him).

The stories collected within seemed very “Future Shock” like, in that they were short science fiction stories with twists. Not that that’s a bad thing, I like those types of stories, and some of these are pretty good and feature things that I like (robots, hitchhiking, aliens).

It’s hard to talk about any of the stories without ruining the twist endings, so I’ll just show a bit of art, and say that I liked most of the stories in here, though a few could have used another draft. But hey, this sampler is free, so worth picking up if you see it at a con.

Art by Paul McCaffrey

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Po Po Mo Summer

Po Po Mo Summer
By Laini S.
Half sized.

Po Po Mo Summer is “mostly a joke” according to the cover, and that might be the best way to describe this “Polemical Propaganda for Literati.”

It’s a collection of found images and text. Or some of it is. Some of the images are original drawings by Laini, and some of the texts are quotes from various (credited) post modern philosophers. Or at least I assume that’s who those people are. Almost five years out of university those bits pretty much made my eyes glaze over, and I didn’t really parse the ones I read. I can’t believe how boring I find academic texts nowadays.

I did like the cover with the use of the Russian word ГИБЕЛЬ. Its meanings include: death, destruction, loss, and ruin. What a great word! They never taught me that when I was studying Russian in university!

There’s also some nice collage work, and I dig all the hand lettering, and use of fonts and forms. This made me think that I could really enjoy a zine created by Laini when she’s reading less post modern social theory.

This is silly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

me & ering #2

Me & Ering #2 Season Meandering
By Steve Fuson

Half sized.

These are short diary comics featuring the author, his wife, and their dogs living in Portland. They’re kind of boring. I mean a comic about how the weather changes frequently in the town you live in? Really? I know I prefer autobiographical comics that are like this, but I do appreciate well done ones about everyday life too. I’ve read years worth of Snake Pit comics, and those are more or less the same every day (“woke up hungover, went to work, got drunk”).

The first story actually starts pretty well. It’s about a babysitter showing up at Fuson’s house on Halloween with the kids she’s babysitting. She’d locked herself out of the house she was babysitting for and had no idea who the people she was sitting for even were (she’d found job online). The story is cute, though there is no resolution (locksmith shows up, but did she get back in or not, is she a ghost?).

The other stories aren’t nearly as exciting.

The comic where it snows and everyone is amazed and everything shuts down reminds me of the current situation in England. A bit of snow falls and everyone freaks out and nobody can drive. Considering I spent years living in a place where the snow was more or less constant for months and months and you had to walk on the road because the sidewalks were just huge piles of snow, I have no pity for any of these people. Suck. It. Up.

(Urgh, I feel bad writing a review this negative.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Carbon + Carbide #2

Carbon + Carbide #2
By Lisa Cassidy
Quarter sized.

“This is interesting” I thought, reading what I thought was the introduction, “but when is the narrative or real content going to kick in?”

Then I realized that the whole zine was going to be random musings on cities and maps, with brief glances into Cassidy's life. There wasn’t going to be any narrative flow, just a thematic one.

Not that this is a bad thing, I love cities and maps. They play a part in several of my zines, and I even made a guide to Vancouver, Canada that was a huge map of things to do and places to go.

Despite this, I’d never realized that while many maps are about showing boundaries and borders, city maps are about showing “passages and routes between”. For whatever reason, that idea kind of blew my mind. Seeing a map as the roads and paths instead of buildings makes a lot of sense considering we’re more likely to walk or drive along one of those then go into any of the buildings that appear. A map reduced solely to the places you go into would be mostly empty.

Carbon + Carbide isn’t a zine about places, it is about the journeys between places. About getting from point a to point b, whether by bus, bicycle, or foot. About how maps affect our view of a place before we have even seen it.

Now I want to make more maps.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Necessary Monsters #1

Necessary Monsters #1
By Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Sean Azzopardi
£2 - Half sized.

I’m not a big horror movie fan, so it wasn’t until my second time through this comic that I realized that the characters being introduced were all horror film archetypes. Okay, not all of them, but you’ve got your spooky, long hair in the face Asian girl, a person that kills people in their dreams, and a huge guy that kills teenagers having sex in a barn. Even I get what films they are from.

These killers have to team up to kill another killer, who is shown using a giant guy with a chicken head wielding a chainsaw to kill a bunch of Japanese gangsters.

There’s a reference to a necronomicon style book, black suited people riding black helicopters, and fish turning into people that disappeared fifty years ago. Goodbrey and Azzopardi have really thrown every genre trope together to make up this story.

It’s a bit too early to tell how it’s going to turn out, as this issue is really just introducing the characters, but the ideas are there, and it’s being published professionally (with updated art) later this year, which has to count for something.

I’m going to keep reading at any rate.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pizza Face

Pizza Face
By Laughter Riot and Gjet
Quarter sized.

The idea behind this zine is really great! Review every place in town (Portland) that sells pizza to discover which one is the best. I wish I lived somewhere that had this much cheap pizza (or other popular foodstuff) so that I could make one too!

The opening pages have the creators setting out what they’re looking for in a pizza: thin crust, fresh mozzarella, sauce that is just crushed tomatoes and spices. These people know what they are looking for in a pizza, whereas I am clearly an amateur in the field of pizza research.

There’re seventeen different pizza places examined in this zine. Each review rates the sauce, cheese, crust, atmosphere, cost, and cuteness of staff (genius!). Plus additional notes letting you know which place has the best vegan pizza, which ones sell beer, and who delivers until 4am (even if their pizza isn’t the best, you probably don’t care if it’s 3:30 in the morning and you’re ordering pizza).

I especially liked the review of the place that served “raw pizza”:
“Raw pizza is not pizza!! Period! Nothing to rate here because there was no sauce cheese or crust to judge in any sense of the word pizza. There were only veggies. And they were raw.” Fantastic.

My only complaint is that they didn’t include phone numbers for the places that deliver. How are you supposed to order one?!

Still, it’s definitely worth picking up if you live in Portland, even if just to find out which place puts alligator on their pizza.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

People I Know: Robot

People I know
By Timothy Winchester
Quarter sized.

This is a comic about a robot who wants some π. He then kills a little girl for some pie. The end. Yes, that’s it. It’s very short. I thought it was funny though. And I like the way Winchester draws both robots and ghosts.

I think this has an issue number, but I’m really not sure what it is, and looking on Winchester's site doesn't help, though there are some good comics there. Oooh, this is a comic from the event where I met Winchester and got this comic free for being another comic artist’s “booth babe.” Someone dress up as one of those characters at the next con he attends!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Secret Space Inhabitants

Secret Space Inhabitants
Quarter sized.

The title of this zine is a complete and utter lie! It’s not about secret space inhabitants at all. It’s about creatures that live here on earth!

Unless it’s supposed to be about inhabitants of secret spaces, instead of secret inhabitants from outer space.

Factual or not, it features a guide to some thoroughly ridiculous creatures. There are descriptions and drawings of raccoon tailed birds, fungus farmers, tiny cyborgs that crystallize sunbeams, and the giant monster that lives under Halifax (why did nobody warn me?).

My two favourites were the skizzards, small rodent things that thrive on punk and metal music and live at the bottom of mosh pits, and the teapot whale, which brought back memories of the house hippo. Here is the video if you have never seen it before.

I was so sad when I discovered that the house hippo was not real. Everybody I knew wanted one. At least I can hold out hope for a teapot whale.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


By Emily Block
Fortune Cookie Comics
Half sized.

Based on this and another comic of hers that I read, Emily Block apparently really likes making everyday people flip out, fight, and kill each other. The first comic in this zine features a character running and jumping over things because she is “super late” (at least according to her watch), before bumping into a woman and her babycarriage. The mother hauls out her samurai sword and a fight quickly begins. I was hoping for a Lone Wolf and Cub reference, but you can’t have it all.

There's a comic about her stealing candy, but most of the rest of this is devoted to one pagers about interesting customers she’s gotten at work. These are fairly funny, though they are the sort of things everyone who works in retail have dealt with. Well, maybe not that rat one.

The layout could have used a bit or work (what are those two blank pages doing there?), but it’s not a deal breaker, as the work contained is fun.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ink Cartridge Funeral #1

Ink Cartridge Funeral #1
PO Box 573
Casper, WY
Half legal sized.

The Ouija board inspired cover to this group zine promises “Olfashioned Necromancy,” which sounds like a pretty good place to start a zine, so it’s unfortunate that the content doesn’t really live up to the promise.

There is no consistent theme to this group zine; we go from a brief photographic tour of “homoerotic Casper” (which I think would have been more interesting as a tour of public art/statuary in the town), correspondence with an internet scammer, a show poster (yay), and some fairly random art including a pretty nice collage featuring skeletons and tarot cards (ooh, there’s the necromancy) which was one of my favourite parts of the zine.

The other two parts I enjoyed were a recipe for easy chai tea, which combined the instructions with art from Little Nemo in Slumberland (which is a pretty awesome comic), and a short comic by Ben Bates about skeletons in Grim Reaper outfits working in an office trying to inconvenience people in a variety of ways. It’s only part one and I hope Bates does more somewhere, though committing yourself to drawing page after page of skeletons seems like hard work. Maybe the number of teeth you have to draw is cancelled out by the black robes.

There’s also a fairly decent prose piece in here by Tom Loepp, with a title I cannot read because it is fake Cyrillic (I keep trying to read it as real Cyrillic and it doesn't make any sense). My first time through I thought it was a fairly surreal first person narrative, the second time it seemed more like a fever dream, which I guess is basically the same thing.

This is a first zine for the person in charge, and I feel it kind of shows. It was printed on a printer/copier they bought from someone on the internet, and the travails of that were more interesting than any of the poetry included here.

They also haven’t really used the format to the full extent that they could. Zines in 8.5 x 7.5 should use the full space, while here the margins often seem too large. I mean, just look at that cover!

I did however get a pair of incredible X-ray vision glasses from these guys. Okay, so they’re actually 3-D glasses of some kind, but they’re pretty rad. I had to take them off before I finished writing this review though, they were hurting my eyes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How I no longer suck at drawing

How I no longer suck at drawing
By Ramsey Everydaypants

Ramsey could draw, she had years of art training and had attended art college and everything. But she could only draw what she saw, not what she thought about, and so she set out to change that. That led to this collection of her work from the last several years.

The artwork from the zines is a little random, and it can be hard to understand what’s going on because they’re out of context. You discover that Ramsey likes bicyles and dumpstering, but you could probably say that about most zine kids.

There’s a comic about a “non-date” drawn for another zine, which was pretty cute, a selection of show posters and flyers for the house she lives at in Baltimore (hey! A friend of mine once played at one of those shows!).

I really like show posters, and these ones are good. I could probably read entire zines filled with nothing but show posters. (Do you have one? Send it to me!)

There’s also a selection of tattoos that she’s designed for friend, and pictures of kids from her work at a private school that are pretty sweet and manage to capture whatever it is that makes that specific kid awesome.

You can see the evolution of her art through the work presented here, leaving the question brought up by the title: how did she stop sucking at drawing? By drawing a lot. There’s no easy way to talent it seems.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Sex Workers of Planet San Taurus

The Sex Workers of Planet San Taurus
By Robot Earl
$3, half sized.

This is a collection of two pieces of “queer sci-fi smut,” which is kind of an awesome idea. I remember several years ago I was dumpstering a bookstore for coverless magazines (collage material!), and found a bunch of romance novels that had been ripped in half. One of the (only) ones I took was a sci-fi romance novel, about a space alien who came down to earth and had sex with a girl. I couldn’t believe that it existed. I don’t know how it ended, as I only had the first half, but it can’t have been any worse than the romance novel I read about a girl starting (or stopping?) a revolution in a small European country for a guy who she hates/loves.

Anyway, while I was surprised at the time, the shelves full of “supernatural romance” (ie. vampires) show that there is a huge market for weirdo romance stuff, so hopefully this too can find its audience!

Both stories are set in the same universe, one where Earth has made contact with another planet and its inhabitants, the San Taurans. They’ve come to earth, given humans technology, and are, of course, fascinated by sex, which they don’t have. So in their cyborg bodies, which imitate human functions, they meet and have sex with Earthlings. The first story features some lesbian sex, and the second one features some guy-on-guy action, plus some group sex. Woohah.

How’s the writing? Well, it mentions space herpes, and the writer keeps using “tho,” “thru,” and other words that might be intended to make it sound more futuristic, but only succeeded in annoying me. But really, you know if you want to read this based on the title alone.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hotshower 10!

Hotshower 10!
By Joshua Isaac
Half sized.

Behind this somewhat odd cover, featuring a thinking snail and a floating head, are some not quite as strange comics.

The comics are mostly one or two pages long, and cover a lot of ranges: a guy with a tiny robot (which I think is from Star Wars) on his shoulder walks through the country side, people crash their car into a lake, other people have conversations that are really confusing.

There's also porn comics! Visible penetration! That’s not something I see that much in comics, though maybe that’s because I’m not buying issues of “hot moms” (or maybe because I’ve mostly lived in countries where you can’t import that stuff).

Some of the other comics seem to be diary entries, or at least slice of life stories that I generally feel might as well be true when presented in comic form. Hell, maybe the porn comics are real. They could be. I don’t know.

The art can be pretty scratchy at times, though not without its charm. Other times the artist prefers to use really thick lines, which combined with the simplicity of the art makes me think the comics have been blown up from a smaller size to fit the page (maybe they have).

The longest comic in here is very different from the others, featuring a style that uses lots of cross hatching to indicate that it happens at night. The story seems to be based on the artist’s life, when he went to a tree sit protest. Unfortunately there isn’t that much about the actual protest itself, and most of it is about getting into the trees in question. This could be because he wasn’t there for long, or because it was really monotonous in the “and then I read a book for 6 hours/days” sense. I’d like to read more comics about that sort of thing, so hopefully some show up somewhere.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Double Entendre #1: plānz

Double Entendre #1: plānz
By Cail S. and Kathy D.
Quarter sized.

This is the first issue of a zine about homonyms, words that sound the same but mean different things. This one’s about plains, plain, and planes.

It’s neat to see how the creators covered the idea from so many different angles. One of the more amusing is an interview with a “real live plane mechanic.” How do you even find one? Whoever interviewed him had no idea what he actually did, and asks some questions he has no idea how to answer. However the interview flows in a way that lets the mechanic say what he really wants to, instead of just answering arbitrary questions. More interviews should be like that.

There’s also a recipe for “plain bread” (Amish style), directions on how to access the astral plane, and more. It’s cute, and I’d like to see more issues as I think the idea has great (or even grate) possibilities.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My First Festival

My First Festival
By Philip Barret
A weird square size.

I met Philip at a comicon in Vancouver a few years ago, I thought his comics were awesome, but never saw him at the other cons I managed to go to or buy any more of them. Apparently he moved to Ireland? Even his friends who I bought this from don’t know where he is currently!

My favourite was comic he did was about a guy who bought a record by some band he didn’t know, and kept listening to it over and over and over again. Then he sold it so that he would stop listening to i, but changed his mind and couldn’t find it again. I’m not describing it that well, but it is in fact really, really good.

This one doesn’t have as awesome a plot, but it is still incredibly well crafted. It is, as you can tell from the title, about his first festival. He goes on a bus with one of his friends, who ditches him for a girl immediately. It takes forever to get to the festival, he can’t find his friends, he misses the bands he really wanted to see, and he gets really drunk. Did he enjoy it? He doesn’t know. But I enjoyed this comic despite it being about your typical festival experience, because Barrett’s skill is evident in his art. It’s not overly detailed, but you can tell from a character’s posture and hand movements how they feel.

I’m sure you’ll see his work in bigger places at some point.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Eldash issue #1 – Are you really ready?

Eldash issue #1 – Are you really ready?
By Max
Quarter sized.

Are you ready for a level one Armageddon? Well, maybe, or at least you can get ready for it pretty quickly if you believe this zine that brings you through four increasingly dangerous types of armageddon.

What you should bring, what you shouldn’t (no electricity means no internet), plus useful skills and tips that will help you get by once society has collapsed to some extent. Should you bring a gun? Money? A dog? Am I going to die because I was never that good at chopping fire wood? (Fuck, I hope not.) Is that can of food that’s been sitting on the shelf for two years okay to eat?

The design of this is pretty rad*, under a beat up brown paper bag cover you have some nice red cardstock inter-title pages. It’s a nice looking package.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Alcohol and Me: A love affair gone bad

Alcohol and Me: A love affair gone bad
By Ben Naylor

While at first glance I wanted to call this a comic, it really isn’t. It’s illustrated prose, like a children’s picture book about alcohol. Not that this is a bad thing, Naylor has chosen this method to tell the story, and it works well. He letters his narration in large block letters, which look good.

On first reading this story of drunken antics is pretty funny. However the more I read it the sadder it seems to me. Naylor has a problem with alcohol, he drinks too much, embarrasses himself in front of his co-workers and friends, and yeah, we’ve all done that, but do we end up with four hour gaps in our memories? Repeatedly? It kind of reminds me of Disappearance Diary in that it cheerfully talks about horrible and depressing things in a very upbeat manner. He lists the things he’s lost, and places he’s woken up (a cave? Wow), but it all seems fairly scary. I’m sure this is because he’s taken the most extreme examples and collected them all in one place. I’m sure if I did that I’d seem like a raving alcoholic too.

Still, at the end Naylor says he’s drinking less, and when I met him a couple of years after he did this book he wasn’t dead, so hurray!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Burning of the Albion Mills

The Burning of the Albion Mills
Quarter sized.

The cover of this book is totally rad. I’m assuming the (wrap around) image is of the Alibion Mills burning, but even if it isn’t, it's still a good cover and I like the contrast with the title printed in red.

Alibion Mills was a massive flour mill started in the late 18th century that was equipped with the latest in steam engine grinding technology. Awesome! Except it didn’t go over so well with the people that worked in the mills. As in past tense, no longer had a job worked. Bread riots over prices, rumours of wheat flour being mixed with other things, general poverty. Not the most fun time to live.

The mills caught on fire somehow, and people rushed out to watch the fire burn. A common enough occurrence nowadays when we know the fire department will show up*, but when people lived in cramped houses and one fire could burn down a whole neighbourhood they generally tried to put fires out. Not so this time.

I enjoyed the many sources that were used to put this zine together. As well as historical information, there is information on songs and poems about the mills and the fire, and a variety of images showing the event. Unfortunately it could have used another read through/edit and a few layout nudges. Also it lacked some background information that would have made it more useful to people with less knowledge of 18th century (ie. what is a Luddite?).

Still, I’ll keep my eye out for other publications created by Past Tense.

*This is not as fun when you get home to discover the building everyone is crowded around is your own and fire fighters are kicking doors in.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Marina: A 24-hour comic

Marina: A 24-hour comic
By Emily Block
Fortune Cookie Comics
Half sized.

24 hour comics are pretty bad ass. I did a 24 hour art marathon once, though I just made artist trading cards, and even after 24 hours you can still probably cut out pictures from magazines and glue them to pieces of cardboard even if you can’t draw any more.

(I was actually supposed to do a second last year, but ended up too sick to do more than a few hours. Drat).

I’ve wanted to do a 24 hour zine for a while, but just haven’t had the opportunity. This year! I commit myself.

But back to the comic. This entirely silent comic (no lettering makes it easier to complete in 24 hours) is about a girl who can fly, for some reason. Or glide. Something like that. She falls off a cliff to imitate seagulls, much to her mother’s despair, but it works out okay, and later she has to go rescue her father.

Block’s art is pretty good, there are some pretty rad facial expressions here, and I like her seagulls. As with most 24 hour comics, the art does suffer a bit towards the end. A note by Block saying that she is “never drawing water again” at the bottom of the third last page is pretty telling of the insanity that sets in around that point. I also got the feeling that the main character changed clothes so that Block wouldn’t have to do any more cross hatching.

It’s cute throughout, and Marina seems like a pretty awesome little girl, sort of reminiscent of Ponyo.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Cometbus #52 – The Spirit of St. Louis or How to Break Your Own Heart, a tragedy in 24 parts

Cometbus #52 – The Spirit of St. Louis or How to Break Your Own Heart, a tragedy in 24 parts
by Aaron Cometbus
$3 - Half Sized.
PO Box 4726
Berkeley, California

My friend who gave this to me was saying how he felt that everyone who was involved in the punk scene came from a kind of fucked up background, probably had some sort of family issues, and ended up embracing punk as a new family. I felt there was some truth to this idea, but that there were at least some people who ended up involved in the punk scene for other reasons (my brother and myself being examples a and b).

Now, I have to admit that this is my first issue of Cometbus, and I suppose that makes me a bad zine reader. I’m not quite sure how I’ve avoided it for so long. I’ve seen both issues and the books around, but have never sat down and read one despite having the opportunity to do so. That left me a little confused with this issue, as it reads so true, but is a work of fiction. Fiction that includes a lot of experiences Aaron has probably had, or heard about from his friends.

It’s about living in a not so great city, which is at least better than where you came from. About communities of friends that become so tight knit because there is nobody and nothing else there for them, and what happens when they inevitably fall apart. About love, and life, and everything else.

It’s pretty thick for a zine, weighing in at over sixty pages, and I can only assume that the massive print runs he must do on this thing are how he keeps the cost down. The production quality is pretty rad. It on good paper stock, and is well laid out, though fans of Aaron’s hand lettered pages will be frustrated that it’s all done by computer for this one.

The story will be pretty familiar to anyone who has lived in a punk house or been involved with punk scenes probably anywhere in North America (and maybe even in other places), but I enjoyed the story, and it was nice to read about these characters, despite the sad bits, after not really being involved in the scene for a while.