Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monstress Ten: The Thing From Another World II

By Una Crow

Okay, so I totally failed in getting more scary or monstrous zines up for Halloween. I guess I am either an awful person or don't have enough zines with monsters in them.

Wait! Not having enough monster zines makes me a terrible person! I am horrible! I love monsters and I love dressing up and I love Halloween and I've just gotten home from a pretty epic weekend and I'm exhausted and I still have eyemakeup on. Look, this is your reviewer. Is this a face you can trust?

Well, when it comes to zines about monsters you totally should.

I first picked up an issue of Monstress years ago, and I fell in love with the format. One monster per issue, with articles, artwork, excerpts from fake pieces of fiction, movie reviews, and more all revolving around that monster.

This issue's all about Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian monsters. Of course Lovecraft himself was pretty racist, but as the works that he's inspired are probably better then the originals you can just ignore them.

This issue's got more references to brains in jars, deep ones, crab people, and unspeakable horrors than you will know what to do with. There are also activity pages that are sure to drive you insane if you complete them all (doing the maze is probably okay though), reviews of loads of Lovecrat inspired movies (Crow does ignore the terrible ones), a comic, accounts of going to Buffalo and the Toronto Film Festival (which aren't about Cthulhu, but are still worth reading), and other stuff I've already listed.

Also my copy came with a rad linocut of everyone's (least?) favourite tentacled-faced being, and at the bottom of the envelope I discovered an awesome minizines that actually was supposed to go with the last issue of Monstress I reviewed: Robot haikus written in binary!

It's not my favourite issue of Monstress (I really don't get why the crab people all talk like spam bots), but it's still pretty fun. Oooh, and apparently I've missed an issue. I'll have to try to track that down.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


(That'll teach me to scan black and white images in colour.)

By James Penzer

Image zines can be total mix bags. Until you actually open them up and look at them you never know if the contents will be good or if the whole thing will have been put together in an hour or two when the creator was bored.

That is a rather negative introduction for a zine I generally liked. So much of art is in the eye of the beholder, but in this case I enjoyed a short amusing cut and paste story about tigers leaving messages in the jungle, a collage featuring a crossword, some weird picture/collages featuring triangles, and full-page high-contrast close-up (t-t-t-triple hyphenation, even if I'm not sure if they're all supposed to have them) photos of a cat and a badger (I do love high contrast photocopied images).

So yeah, if you see a copy take a look inside, and if you're into high contrast images of badgers you should definitely pick up a copy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Society for the Promotion of Vestibules and Vestibule Awareness

By The Society

Vestibules are those weird little corridor/hall bits some people have just inside their front door. Usually there are piles of shoes and umbrellas lying there. Or at least that’s what I thought vestibules were until I read this zine.

Vestibules may be those specific hallways, but they can also be those weird little bits connecting train carriages, the part of the mouth inside the lips and before the teeth (!), the space between dimensions (!!!), and airlocks for spaceships! I never thought I would be reading about astronaut related things when I picked up this zine, how exciting!

Unfortunately there are no pictures of astronauts included here, but there is a super awesome pop-up book style page that shows you what the vestibule of a house might look like, and the doors on the cover actually open. Totally awesome.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peach Melba Issue 11

By Pearl
PO Box 74

Someday I will manage to catch up on all the issues of Peach Melba Pearl has put out and actually finish reviewing all of them. But not today. Not that reading these zines is a bad thing, as Peach Melba is my favourite intricately folded zine created by an incredibly prolific 13-year-old girl. Actually, as that’s a category of one (or is it?), I should just say that it’s just one of my favourite zines in general.

This is one of the smaller issues, and to be honest I really prefer it when Pearl uses both sides of the paper instead of stapling it so only one side is visible. But that’s not to say there isn’t rad stuff in here; there are lists of different types of cat, things Pearl has never said (“George Bush is my hero”), clichés Pearl hates, and things that she’s learnt from watching Scooby Doo (which was reprinted in another issue I read, but is still funny the second time around).

To be honest, at the end of the day this zine is literally a 1000% rollercoaster ride of awesomeness. And that's all the clichés I can fit into one sentence.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Art Bureau No 17

This is unfortunately the final issue of Art Bureau as a zine. Apparently after almost ten years the creators decided to put their effort into creating other publications, like actual books. I’d say that it was too bad that this happened, since Art Bureau is a really awesome art zine, but I guess it’s cool to see someone growing out of zines and into something else.

Printed using blue ink Art Bureau is a beautifully put together thing. The main attraction is clearly the art it contains, but it's nice to see thought put into the design as well. There are some text pieces by the artists, but the majority of the space is given over to reproducing the artists' work. There’s some really nice stuff in here by Hannah Stouffer, who also drew the cover, Christian Vargas who draws some awesome monsters (see below), and others.

There’s also a seemingly useful piece on how to make illustration your job. It’s kind of depressing in the mercenary way it suggests you act, but I guess that’s just how real life works.

I suppose there are bigger (and glossier) arts magazine out there where I could look at people's illustration and design work, but I liked the sort of DIY feel to this. Okay, it was probably printed by an actual printer, but the format makes it seem as though the people putting it together really love the subject matter and the project. I look forward to seeing more of their projcts in the world.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The History of Irish Comics Part 1: Before the 20th Century

By Patrick Brown

You know what? I love learning about things that happened in the past. Seriously, I have a history degree, read stuff (wikipedia...) all the time, and enjoy discovering about people and events from the past. I also love comics (and wrote my final history paper on the evolution of Canadian comics), so I was excited to pick up this volume that claims to cover 19th century Irish comics.

Of course, my first disappointment was finding out that there really weren't any Irish comics in the 18th and 19th centuries. This shouldn't have surprised me as there weren't really any comics anywhere until the early 20th century. Instead what's we're presented with is a fairly well researched (there's a reference section with actual books listed!) piece on Irish political cartooning.

While what's here is interesting, I think it definitely benefits from already having some knowledge of Irish (and British) politics during the time covered (which I guess everyone in those countries got in school?). Without context as to why the cartoons were created and who they were about it can be a challenge to figure out why some of them are funny.

Despite this, the several pages of reprinted political cartoons are pretty rad. It's interesting to see the different styles that were used to create these pieces, and I would have enjoyed more discussion of the actual art styles used by the artists. I'm guessing that information might be a bit hard to come by unless you're willing to read piles of old political magazines and figure out who inspired who.

Overallit's a pretty neat little zine, and my only real complaint is that the work coverd isn't what I would define as "comics". Brown does delve into defining the concept in his introduction, but while he has decided that political cartoons count, I'm pretty much of the opinion that there have to be at least two images in a sequence in order to constitute as a comic. However, as an intro to 19th century Irish political cartoons? It does its job fine, and I'll have to check out part 2 for when Brown (presumably) gets around to some actual comics.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Misinterpreted Complications Book Four

By Nick Souček

In one or two panels per page Souček tells brief stories that are described as “autobiography of imagination”. Did these events happen? Some of them did, presumably, but maybe not in the way they are portrayed here (ie. I don’t think Souček sat in a tree singing songs while wearing a bird beak, though I kind of hope he did).

The stories are rather bleak and existential. They deal with angst, rejection, loneliness, and loss. My two favourites were probably the one about falling out of love (brutal!), and the one about being a robot and shutting down your systems until someone compatible came alone.

Souček’s artwork isn’t the most detailed. Yet the blank backgrounds, and emotion- and feature-less characters only help to create a sense of isolation and sadness in the stories and the reader.

Overall the stories made me feel kind of crappy because they’re expressing a lot of feelings that I deal with (I’m going to be alone forever *sob*), but this should be seen as a good point of Souček’s work, as he manages to tap into these feelings that presumably (hopefully) many people feel.

Souček also contributes to the rather rad Boneshaker Magazine, which is really nicely put together and definitely worth checking out if you're into bicycles.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Superman Stories 2

By Mark Russell
Half size, 60 pages, $5.

Do you know that meme about how Superman is a total jackass? All those out of context panels and covers from ‘60s comics where Superman is feeding Lois Lane to wolves and saying “Haha Lois, I bet you wish you’d never found out my secret identity was Clark Kent.”* and similar? They're pretty hilarious, and the stories Russell has written seem to owe a lot to them, because the Superman that appears in his stories is frequently a total dick.

*I may have just made this up.

This isn’t to say that Russell doesn’t have a firm grasp of Superman’s character. If anything he’s thought through the idea of Superman more than a lot of the people that have written him in recent years. (Though that may say more about current Superman comics than anything else.) His portrayal of Superman as a kind of world-weary guy who’s just doing his job (saving the world) every day until he can retire (never) is pretty effective overall.

And Russell’s Superman does seem to spend most of his time flying around and rescuing people. He doesn’t fight many super villains, instead trying to stop them before they start. The only appearance by one of Superman's comic book enemies is when Lex Luthor goes to his high school graduation.

This book really drives home how many (fictional) people Superman does save. When Superman (he seems to have given up on Clark Kent) marries Lois Lane they go on their honeymoon, but only for three days because Superman has calculated that he saves twenty lives a day, and that by taking three days off he’s let sixty people die. Brutal.

Of course it’s not all Superman rescuing people, as one of the other main characters is Jesus (yes, that Jesus), and he spends time rescuing people too. God also shows up, and there are some angels and scenes that occur in Heaven, none of which I really cared for. I mean, the Jesus who appears is a pretty nice guy (he doesn’t judge people or anything, he just helps them) and the other scenes are written well enough (unlike this review), it’s just that I don’t care. I’ve experienced enough Judeo-Christian-Islamic centred stories for one lifetime and it doesn’t bother me if I never read another one.

Russell explains his inclusion of God and Jesus in his introduction, where he says that as a child he watched Superman cartoons on Saturday morning, and went to church on Sunday morning. Thus he viewed God as a superhero, and felt Superman had theological implications. Yeah, he’s probably right, but I’d rather have more stories about Superman fighting intelligent gorillas.

In addition to God and Jesus, Russell also makes up a bunch of new characters for no apparent reason. If you’re already writing the people that already exist incredibly far out of character what is the point of creating Superman’s grandmother and her obsession with finding a sack of gold (which Russell clearly found far more hilarious than I did)? Just make it his mom, she's already old. And all the other stories about old people! These clearly don’t belong in a book about Superman (insert smiley emoticon).

Despite these complaints this book is still pretty funny and worth reading. The brief portrayal of Aquaman as a guy who thinks democracy is stupid (royalty is awesome!), the introductory piece about how screwed up and boring Krypton was before it exploded (soup is awesome!), and the suggestions people give Superman on how to improve the world are some of my favourite bits. All it’s missing are what every Superman story needs, monsters and robots.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Are You?

By Timothy Winchester

Sometimes comics are so short (featuring just a few pages or images) that they’re hard to review. This book by Winchester definitely fits into that category. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of subtext, it’s just a funny joke and a creature that looks like a combination of several of Winchester’s other characters.

Wait, that’s no creature, that’s a monster! A cute monster! What is it? I don’t know! It’s not a dragon or a unicorn, and it’s kind of surly. Hurray!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Regular Issue number Somethingorother

By Leo Rogers & John Mandrake

I really love zines created by kids. They’re usually completely bizarre and filled with whatever they were thinking about when they make them.

This one has a pretty rad picture of a pet beast (wings and body armour!), drawings of other weird monsters, an amusing cartoon about stick figure prejudice that I laughed out loud at, insults at the expense of David Cameron, and a story that features a robocrow.

I wish more zines had stories that featured robocrows. Beep beep caw caw!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hondle Special Edition

By Matthew Craig

Growing up I had a cat named Biscuit. She was white and orange, not that big, and once left a live pigeon under my bed. I mostly remember her as a middle aged cat who slept a lot, and who, after I moved out, would seem really happy when I came back to visit my parents.

I was sad when I moved to Korea, but figured I’d see her again at some point. But my parents moved back to the UK, and my cat was given to friends of the family. Shortly after that she disappeared (and my parents didn’t tell me for a year). Since then I’ve (foolishly?) thought that she went to find me, and my imagination conjures up images of her shivering in the cold. I try to block these out with ideas of her happily sleeping in front of a fire in the house of whatever people she ended up living with, but sometimes it’s hard.

So what does this have to do with zines? Not very much to be honest. But after reading Craig’s comic about his childhood dog, which he loved despite it doing many incredibly disgusting things that are some of the reasons I’m not particularly fond of dogs, I missed my cat.

Craig grew up with his dog Hondle, and it was when he moved away for university that it died of old age. He still loves Hondle though, and he recounts a series of stories about some of the weird/funny/horrible things that it did. If you’ve ever had (and enjoyed) pets I’m sure this comic will remind you of the good times you had with them, and maybe the sadness you felt when you lost them.

(Speaking of comics about pets that create sadness and a sense of loss, you should all go and read We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It’s super good stuff, and that’s not a tear in my eye, it’s just raining on my face.)

The art’s not the best, and the lettering kind of annoys me (constantly changing font sizes, arrgh!), but the comic still does what it set out to do, so it’s a success on that point. I still miss you Biscuit, even if your fur did always show up on my black clothes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ich My Fish is Sick

By Dawn Wing

Woaaaaah. Just look at that image above! An origami fish thing! I can’t imagine making one of those to hold your zines. Well, I guess I can. I’ve made origami things before, but making one for each copy of your zine? That is awesome dedication that I clearly do not have. I mean, I find doing more than two folds for a zine to be intensely annoying.

I’m a little afraid the tail might fall off, and it would be extra amazing if the zine was square and fit inside the fish completely, but really, who cares? Look at this thing!

Inside there’s a short comic about ich, which is some sort of horrible fish disease parasite thing. Ewwww, I hate reading about parasites, even ones that say “hey”. There follows Wing researching how to fight ich, and then doing so. *Bang!* *Pow!* There’s a bit of text that confused me a bit (a winner who’s going to lose?), but the fish seems to get better and everyone is happy. Hurray!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Skill Shot #14
PO Box 20204
Seattle, WA
98192, USA
$5 for a five issue subscription

Reading this zine is like looking through a window into a subculture I know nothing about: pinball. I honestly couldn’t even tell you the last time I played a pinball machine, but reading the “news and gossip” about Seattle pinball, finding out the different weird tournaments that are held (blindfolded?!), and discovering that not only is there a Vancouver Regional Pinball Association, but they have rules for their tournaments is all weirdly fascinating.

The zine is full of people talking about new machines, high scores to beat, old machines that people are trying to get better scores on, a massive list of every (?) pinball machine in Seattle, and descriptions of loads of different types of tournaments (one handed!).

I just realized something. The way that pinball is talked about here kind of makes me think about classic car aficionados or something. What techniques do you use to get more out of that machine (best score/top speed)? How can we fix this broken machine? It’s kind of bizarre when you look at it like that. But at the same time kind of sweet. I wish more subcultures made zines like this.

Monday, October 18, 2010


By John Allison

I wasn't going to review this originally. "It's all glossy!" I proclaimed (to myself). "This wasn't made on a photocopier at all!"

But then John Allison was one of the exhibitor's at the Birmingham Zine Festival, which clearly means that he makes zines. Plus, he has had characters in his comic Scary Go Round create zines, and in the back of the most recent collection of that there were links to two you could download and print off yourself. I'll review those too, so this is really three reviews in one!

I've been reading (and enjoying) Scary Go Round (and Allison's new comic Bad Machinery) online for years, so I was excited when I managed to pick up Ghosts, a comic that is only available in print. It features many of the same characters as Scary Go Round did, but now in exciting black and white! (Or is it a very deep blue?)

However, I was kind if disappointed by the story included here. Allison's art is just as good as it usually is, though the lack of colour does detract to some extent, and I enjoyed the design of the ghost. However the story didn't really manage to grab me for some reason. I laughed at some bits, I found other bits amusing, the characters seemed to be themselves, yet it didn't click, and I cannot explain why.

The back of this comic also features two pages of (fake) letters concerning ghosts, (how to get rid of them, and how to get better ones to show up the neighbours), which are pretty funny, and a one page story by Maury Dennis which is basically just one big long slog until the last sentence punchline which is pretty amusing.

Still, Scary Go Round is really good and you should read it. A new story starts today!

One of the final storylines in Scary Go Round was about a fight between two high school students, one scrawny and pathetic with strangely shaped hair, the other bigger and stupider (as is usually the case in fights like this). Two of the other characters made a zine as a sort of event programme to sell at the fight, and Allison created it and offered it as a PDF download.

It's interesting to read a zine that is written so as to seem to be made by fictional characters. Allison has their voices down pretty well, and the low-tech feel here (typewriters and hand written corrections) looks pretty good. I do wonder where he got the photos he used to represent his characters. They look pretty much like how you'd expect them to. It's kind of creepy.

There are also some fight techniques listed, which include greasing yourself up and fighting naked ("Imagine a big old nudey raining blows down on you, isnt it a horrible thought?"), or getting a chimpanzee drunk, dressing it in your clothes and sending it off to fight for you.

Rounding out the zine there are some pretty awesome music reviews written in the style of another character. They describe Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" as "a Nazi scientist's idea of what the future of girl pop was going to sound like", and a Pink track as "written by a computer or someone who hates music." I kind of wish all music was reviewed like this.

Okay, so what's harder than creating a fake zine made by pretend teenagers? How about one made by pretend little kids? This one is supposed to be made by some characters in Allison's comic who are like eight or nine years old.

It is filled with spelling mistakes, stuff about British celebrity things I barely understand, and poorly drawn comics. I often wonder how comic artists intentionally draw badly, is it incredibly difficult for them to get things to look "just right"? Anyway, this is kind of amusing, possibly even if you haven't read the comics it's based on.

The only bad thing about these zines is that the PDFs they're available from are formatted so that each page is a full page! Terrible! I resized them down so that I could print them off in proper zine format, but it totally screwed up the quality as I was using jpgs and stuff. Oh well.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Alice at R’lyeh

By Murray Ewing

I’m a big fan of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (though sometimes I wonder if one of the reasons I’m a fan is because nerds are supposed to be fans). I’ve seen stage adaptations, gone to museum exhibits, and even dressed up as a character on a couple of occasions.

I’m also a fan of things inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. I’ve never actually read any of his stuff, but I’ve enjoyed lots of things created by who have. Like this song by The Mountain Goats or this awesome silent film

I’m sure I’ll get around to reading some of his stuff someday, though I’ve heard it’s kind of racist.

I was excited when I discovered this zine that combined these two worlds. I thought it might be like that Jeeves and Wooster meet the gods of the abyss story that Alan Moore wrote for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: the Black Dossier.
However, I was a bit disappointed when I opened this up and discovered that it was just a poem (in fact this is really more of a self-published poetry chapbook than a zine). This does actually fit with the source material. The nonsense poems Lewis Carroll wrote for the Alice books are one of the defining features, and Jaberwocky is the only poem I can recite from memory. (Well, I can do Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat too, but it’s only four lines long.)

Lovecraft was also a fairly prolific writer of poetry, and the work here does seem to combine aspects of his poetry (or at least I assume so, not having read any) and Carroll’s. The poem uses a fairly simple rhyming couplet scheme, and while sometimes the rhymes seem a little forced they generally work alright. However, the metre doesn’t work as well and I found myself stumbling over reading some of the lines as they vary in syllable length and create awkward rhythms. (Repeating the word “rudimentary” twice in one line seems kind of inexcusable.)

It’s not as good as Alan Moore’s Lovecraft inspired fanfiction, but it was never going to be, and at the least it makes an amusing little curiosity to have next to your Alice or Lovecraft works.

Also holy shit, how much have I just written about poetry? Clearly the way to get me to do that is to write narrative poems about monsters. No surprise really.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bat-Maloy & Robin Jr. In What’s Left of Bob Kane Issue #1

By Rv. Xen

I spend a lot of time thinking about the design and physical aspects of my zines. What size do I want them to be? How do I want them to open? Do I want to give them ridiculous fold outs (some of my map zines require way too much folding)?
So with this stuff running through my mind all the time one of the things I think about when I read other people’s work is their design choices, and when I come across books like this I’m just confused. I’m actually willing to give a lot of leeway on these things (“Hahaha,” you say. “Pull the other one you egotistical, judgemental person.”), and in this case the way the book is stapled and the fact that none of the pages are the same size would usually turn me off. But the art is full of ink blotches and is purposefully scratchy and weird looking, so the fact that the book is kind of haphazard actually fits quite well.

The thing I don’t get, however, is that all the pages are single sided. I don’t get it. The stapling? Yeah, sure, Xen just didn’t have access to 11 x 17 paper to cut into the size needed for this book. But printing things on both sides of the page isn’t that hard. (Do you need help? Ask me!)

Onto the contents! Bat-Maloy is just Batman. He dresses like Batman, he drives a Batmobile, he has a sidekick named Robin (though in this case they appear to also be lovers). There’s not really anything in the way he acts in this comic to differentiate him from the regular Batman. Sure the art does, but there are a million different artistic impressions of Batman, and when Bob Kane’s disembodied head shows up it even mistakes Bat-Maloy for Batman.

(Bob Kane, for those that don’t know, is credited as the sole creator of Batman. He’s really not, here’s an insanely long piece I haven’t read all of on the other people involved in Batman’s creation.)

The art style here sort of reminds me of Ralph Steadman (though maybe it’s just the ink splotches), while the huge, pointy cowl ears and massive cape really point towards Kelly Jones as the inspiration for the Batman-like character’s costume. (I’m a little depressed that it is only when a comic is a Batman parody can I talk about the art influences. Oh well.)

By the end of the issue the story hasn’t really gone anywhere and I’m left wondering what the plot is even about.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Other Wo/Man Zine

Edited by Sarah Noonan and Emily Ostapovitch
Half sized. $5 (postage included)

I wasn’t really sure what this zine was going to be about. I mean, I have a piece in it (admission: I’m friends with the editors) and I still had no idea what other people would contribute. Interestingly, it seems that many of the other contributors had similar feelings and the contents of this zine cross many spectrums from poetry to recipes (always the zine staple) to erotic (no frontal nudity) photos.
Yet they all manage to orbit around the idea of “the other wo/man”. Okay, maybe if you saw a piece independently of anything else that’s not what you would have immediately though about, but when presented together in a zine like this they manage to create the outline of a shape/idea.

The best pieces in here are by the two editors (perhaps because they knew what their contributions would be before the zine was put together?). Ostapovitch contributes an excerpt from a journal entry she wrote while in Russia. In between pictures of Russian soldiers (and after a kick ass title page/logo) Ostapovitch writes about coming to terms with the end of a relationship, dealing with being a foreigner in Russia, and other personal crises. Her word choice creates images in the mind of the reader, and though I have the benefit of having been to Russia I feel as though anyone will be able to read this piece and understand the experiences she was going through. Well, maybe not the parts written in Cyrillic, but those aren’t really important.

The final paragraph of her piece says
“Pelevin wrote that this country is drowning in its own melting iceberg. The thaw is glorious and dangerous. I take risks but so far I’ve always made it up for air. The day’s themes are of little importance, fire or water, shifting from moment to moment.”

Sure she’s paraphrasing someone else for the idea, but I wish my journal entries were ever that interesting.

Emily’s next piece is actually written by her grandfather, and is about how he met his wife in the Netherlands during the Second World War. It’s not what I expected to find in a zine, but it’s crazy to read about experiences like that, and a rather sweet story to boot.

Noonan’s final piece is also about an experience in Eastern Europe. This time she and some other people in Ukraine go on the most terrible hiking trip I have ever heard of. They head out without the proper gear, it pours down with rain, they get lost, they run out of food, and they end up sleeping in an old couple’s house somewhere up in the mountain. It sounds like one of the worst possible trips you could ever go on. I’m glad I didn’t go.

There are also interesting pieces on the decolonization of sex (“Every orgasm should be an act of decolonization”), a bizarre play about installing Ubuntu, a neat foldout, and more. Like I said above this zine encompasses a lot of different types of content.

Of course, not all the content is good. There are a number of pieces I didn’t really care for, and there’s also the piece I wrote. Which, as a bizarre piece of fiction, is completely out of place with the rest of the content of the zine, and isn’t that well written (I can’t write fiction!). Still there are a couple of moments in it I enjoyed upon rereading. And overall the zine is huge, and packed full of stuff well worth checking out.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Constipated Rhythms Issue Six

By a bunch of people

I dunno, I don’t really get zines that are just collections of doodles. I mean, the cover of this one is nice enough, there’s an awesome drawing of some monsters, and some of the contents took some effort, but at the same time there’s just loads of stuff in here that looks like it was done in 12 seconds.

A lot of the content also just seems like weird in-jokes that that the creators would get, but just leave me confused. Or maybe some of the jokes and comics in here are just incomprehensible to everyone. There’s a thing in the middle about a foot giving fashion advice that (when I can read the lettering) is just utterly beyond my understanding.

I’m not opposed to doodles and poorly drawn comics. They can be awesome! And indeed there’s stuff in here I like, but I’m always a little confused by things like this. Why not spend an extra hour on your picture if you’re going to publish it? Different priorities I suppose.

Still, this is a pretty awesome monster picture.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

R*E*P*E*A*T #32
PO Box 438

This zine was sent to me by Zinemonger Distro, a distro that distributes free zines. Awesome! Go check out the site to find out how you can get some!

I have no idea what the Manic Street Preachers sound like. I’m sure I’ve heard some of their music at some point, but don’t ask me to pick it out of a crowd (of sound?). Do they play guitars? I believe so, but I couldn’t guarantee that (perhaps they just play multiple bass or something).

This zine, inspired by the Manics, is printed on a big (UK equivalent of 11 x 17, someday I will learn the proper terminology) piece of paper, and then folded down to quarter size. Inside there are drawings and collages presumably somehow related to the Manics. One of them has David Bowie in it I think.

There’s also a memorial piece about Steven Wells which made me curious about his writing and whether anyone still reads NME. Unfortunately this, and the brief piece below it, are rendered partially unreadable by the giant “Manic Street Preachers” printed over top of it. I can only assume that it looked good on the computer.

There are also the album and show reviews you no doubt expected from a fanzine about a band. However there are reviews of more than just the Manics, and I even looked up one of the bands reviewed! (I didn’t really care for them, but nonetheless amazing!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

There Are Stars

(Hurray! She left her contact info in a comment.)
By Annee Atkinson

I feel I need to apologise to the girl I got this off of at the Birmingham Zine Festival, because I don’t remember her name. I wish I remembered it because she made one of the strangest (and coolest) looking zine things I’ve ever seen. Look at it (caution! Scary, low-quality webcam video of me ahead):

I have no idea how this works. It is magic to me. Also, my hands look huge!

My only complaint, and in reality it isn’t a complaint at all but an idea as to how this could be even more awesome, is that there isn’t a narrative in the art. “There are stars” comes the closest, in that it says that and shows people looking at stars. I’m imagining a story told on one side, and then when it’s flipped to the other, and the pieces of art are in slightly different orders and orientations, you could do some Alan Moore level storytelling and have it tell something different.

Still, that’s an incredibly minor thing, and the three sides of this are enough to astound me. Now if only I knew who made and could tell you how to get hold of one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Peach Melba #15

By Pearl
PO Box 74

Pearl is the most prolific zinester I know, releasing a new issue of Peach Melba every month. Sure they’re not that long, and only consist of one page, but she’s still releasing these things faster than I can review them. Not bad for a 13-year old.

This is the newest issue (unless Pearl already has the October issue finished), and as usual it is filled with the lists common to all issues of Peach Melba. My favourite, which made me laugh out loud when reading it, is “Punchlines in jokes: mostly unfunny”. Completely genius, I don’t even need to know the lead up to figure out what a jellyphant is.

This was the issue Pearl had ready for the Birmingham Zine Festival, coming up from Brighton because the Festival happened to be the same time as the Green Party Conference and she was able to go to both. Pearl threw herself into finding out where things were in Birmingham and how she could get between them. There’s a quiz about what streets things are on, and what buses she had to take to get between them that leaves my knowledge of Birmingham in the dust. Though is Birmingham really “up north”? England is weird.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Your Parents Are Most Likely Disappointed


This collection of one panel comics features a lot of strange humour. People with gramophones for heads, banker fish (I really don’t get this one), and strangely sexualized chickens fill these pages, combined with dialogue that is less “funny” and more “horrible (it a sort of amusing way)” if I’m being honest.

The art is similarly weird, using bizarre proportions for the characters, differently sized eyes, and sort of unsettling nudity. The artist uses a lot of grey (charcoal?), smudging it to create shadows and a general sense of filthiness throughout the art.

I'm honestly wondering where I even got this from.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Capsule #5

By lots of people

Capsule is a strange little music zine that seems to be more about promoting their website and certain concerts and bands than actually being a zine. Not that there’s anything wrong with just being a promotional guide to upcoming shows, but it’s not that useful to me since I don’t live in Birmingham.

We open with a piece promoting a show about krautrock band Neu, and it made me wonder why the term krautrock is even acceptable. I can’t imagine any other ethnic slur would be allowed to be used to describe a type of music, yet this one seems to be embraced and even the BBC has used the term as the name for a show in the last year.

This is followed by a piece about being on a game show. The piece is written in a strangely aggressive style, referring to the host as a hag, making reference to being kneecapped by the IRA, and other things. Still, it is interesting and it is unfortunate the piece is unfinished and you are directed to the website to read the full piece. Except you’re not pointed to a specific URL, but to a blog which is updated frequently enough that it has pushed this piece into the oblivion of the archives.

There’s a piece promoting a metal show that gives a decent introduction to Napalm Death and Godflesh (or at least I assume so, not knowing much about either band), some shorter pieces promoting other shows, brief (one of them is only a sentence!) reviews of shows, a rad picture of a creature from the black lagoon style monster, and a cake recipe who’s first page is devoted entirely to talking about how the author’s oven doesn’t work right any more. I love recipes like that.

Not that useful to me, but worth picking up if you live in Birmingham and are interested in shows.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thank Goodness for Herald Owlett Volume 1

By Nikki Stu

I suppose it’s possible you could read one of Nikki Stu’s comics and not pick up on the video game references. The experience points awarding for defeating bad guys, the super moves, and the fact that it’s basically just one fight scene all make it seem kind of obvious to me (though I suppose Stu might just have watched a lot of Dragon Ball Z). But I like video games, and I like comic books inspired by video games (not necessarily ones based on video games, though I was excited to find a couple of issues of the old Super Mario Brothers comics a while ago) so none of those points count as negatives for me.

Here Stu introduces Herald Owlett, a weird antlered creature who has entirely too many eyes for me to believe he is actually an owl. Herald is a bushwatcher, though exactly what that is isn’t really explained. As he is fighting monsters that are damaging trees I assume he is some sort of nature guardian/ranger thing. But that is beside the point, because these are awesome monsters! Gigantic black beasts (summoned by some weird little goblin creature Herald has apparently dealt with before) that seem to change and flow as the battle progresses, gaining tentacles, eyes, and other body parts as needed. Herald clearly has no chance.

And just because the comic is basically all a fight scene really doesn’t bother me. I like Stu’s designs, the dialogue can be pretty funny (“I don’t want to be eaten, not today!”), and I’m given enough hints about a bigger plot that I’m curious about what happens next. The cliffhanger ending doesn’t hurt either.

My only complaints are that a lot of the computer lettering is kind of awful looking (letter it all by hand, the bits that already are look better!) and that some of the backgrounds (or rather the lack of backgrounds) make it kind of confusing to figure out what’s going on and where the characters are (he’s inside the tree?). I know that more recent comics Stu has done (such as her contribution to the Songbird/Birdsong anthology) have much better lettering, so I’m looking forward to reading future volumes of Herald Owlett and hoping they’ll have the same improvements.

And apparently Failboat press are in the process of putting out a second Songbird/Birdsong anthology, but need to sell more of the first volume to get the funds to pay for the printing of the second one. It is an awesome anthology (I think I’ve given positive reviews to pretty much everyone who contributed) and the physical object is really nice. You should go and buy it right now.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Atta Girl #4

By lots of people

I owe ATTA girl a good review. You see, this zine is actually the companion piece to a monthly club night in Birmingham. The night is all about playing music with female vocalists, mostly indie rock and pop, but they’ll play pretty much anything as long as it’s got a girl singing (and yes, it existed before the one in Phonogram). They were the official after party of the Birmingham Zine Festival last month, and I had a good time dancing and drinking and listening to music and talking to other people.

And then came the song I requested be played. The song I asked about in advance. The song I had to bring my own copy of. The song that utterly cleared the dance floor and made me owe ATTA girl something. This song:

That’s Tatu, the Russian faux-lesbians, singing about how they are in love with a robot. None of you appreciate their musical genius.

But you didn't come to this blog to listen to Russian pop music, so how about the actual zine? What’s in it? Well it’s actually filled with lots of neat stuff, so I would have given it a good review anyway! There are pieces on feminism (and how it can be defined personally), the Guerrilla Girls art movement, roller derby, being mixed raced and non- heteronormative, abusing authority, a cake recipe, a DIY bit, a crossword, and lots of stuff about bands and shows, including a comic about the Indietracks festival (it is a zine promoting a music event after all!). That overly long sentence should tell you that there’s a lot of stuff in here, and it’s pretty much all worth reading!

The next ATTA girl is this Saturday night! How exciting! You should go! (If only because of the awesome poster.) It is Halloween/fancy dress themed too and that makes me kind of sad that I won’t be there as I’ve had fun both times I’ve gone. If you get the opportunity you should check it out. They’ll have zines and vegan cake, and if you request Tatu they probably won’t glare at you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Zine Reviews

A friend of mine just sent me two things, one is from an email sent out by Sticky Institute, a zine work space and shop in Melbourne (which I've been to!).

You can find it on their website here, but as it's a little hard to find, I'll just reprint it.

"At the institute" we believe that all zines are awesome no matter what, AND we believe in healthy discussion and critical thinking in zine culture. And that these are not mutually exclusive standpoints.

Consider these reviews in the spirit in which they are written - just one person's point of view put out there as starting points for larger conversations and exchanges of ideas about zines.

But first, here's some more thoughts on the role of reviews...

The Bubble – zines and constructive criticism

I’ve been trying to think of a good way to talk about feedback and the current climate in the zine community – or at least the Australian zine community. It’s been bothering me for a while, mostly because like a lot of us, I enjoy a good discussion about what makes zines great. But it pains me that many people I come across only seem to want to discuss the good stuff. Whenever the feedback touches on something they don’t like, it seems to bring up a wall. I’m not going to name names, but friends have told me that there are people upset by newsletter reviews, people who believe zines shouldn’t be reviewed at all. People who have told me that I shouldn’t say anything if I want to highlight something I don’t think works in a zine, or something I find problematic. It’s the ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ argument, and it feels ironically conservative for the kind of people that seem to make zines. It’s a conversation I’ve had a number of times over the last several months. When I try to articulate why this bothers me, I always think of this particular episode of the US sitcom 30 Rock. Liz, the main character, is dating a very handsome man played by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. She soon realises he is living in what’s known as ‘The Bubble’, a situation faced by very good-looking people in which nobody ever tells them anything negative and are overly helpful towards them in all instances.

Because of this, he mistakenly believes that he is a tennis pro, can speak French, is good in bed and that Gatorade tastes good in salmon dishes. When Liz attempts to rescue him from The Bubble he lashes out at her, telling her he likes it in there.

What am I getting at with this overly-long analogy? Well, sometimes it feels as if zinesters wish to live in a similar bubble, where they never have to confront anything they don’t want to hear about their own work.

I know not all constructive criticism is given with tact, but a lot of it is pretty innocuous. And a lot of it is intended with the idea of having a dialogue and maybe growing as artists/zinesters/what have you. I can understand how it might be better if sometimes the criticism is sent privately, rather than aired publicly. But zines, when published and sent out, are something very public. So I also disagree with the idea that zine reviews shouldn’t exist because, what? We don’t want to say anything bad about zines, not even about something small and technical because that might kill zines? Are zines like Sumatran Tigers and Giant Pandas? Are they that fragile? Understand that I am not talking about writing cruel, discouraging things to crush the souls of new zinesters who might be terrified away by reviews. I’m talking about reasonable feedback, aimed at seasoned zinesters. [editor - how do you know who's a seasoned zinester and who's a newbie? Should that even be an issue?] I think zines are pretty durable and strong, personally. I don’t see them wilting away into nothingness over a bit of feedback.

Let me be very clear – do I want someone writing cruel, nasty things about my own zine just for the hell of it? No. Of course I don’t. But I am also a grown up, and surely it won’t be the death of me if I encounter someone being an arsehole. Mostly, I’d like it if people responded to something in any of my zines they didn’t like, that offended them or that they thought I could improve on. I think it’d be wonderful to talk to someone like that, and I can’t see an argument for a zinester or artist not wanting to have a conversation about their work, which clearly matters to them.

I’m interested in any reactions to this. And you know what, you don’t have to agree withany of the above, in fact please feel free to disagree with everything. God, write a zine about how wrong I am if you like. Write a rebuttal for this very newsletter even. That’s actually what this is all about.

Candace –

Interesting stuff right? Then there's a link to another blog post about how reviews create elitism. It's on Clementine Cannibal's blog and can be found here. Go read it. I mean, if you're reading my blog you clearly have time to kill.

These two pieces led me to spend several hours writing a 1300 word response to my friend. I won't be reprinting that here. Instead I will link to a post by Chantal Lefebvre (who left a comment on the above blog entry) about criticism. Go read it too. Her stuff probably explains my positions better than I could (even if I don't agree with her on every point).

People have said my reviews are often too critical of the work they discuss. I think there is a difference between criticising the way something is done and criticising the actual content. Just as there is a difference between criticising a piece and attacking a creator.

What are you opinions on reviews in the zine world? How about elitism in the zine world? I'd love to have an actual discussion with people, but expect nobody to even reply to this : )

(Not Quite) an Hourly Comic

By Rob Cureton

For an hourly comic you’re supposed to stop every hour for a day and draw something you did in the previous sixty minutes. Some people are able to make the most mundane experiences from their lives into exciting comics. Other people wait until they’ve got a day when they’ll do something exciting and do a comic based on that. This is clearly wrong and immoral because Hourly Comics Day is February 1st, as all thoughtful humanoids know.

Cureton has chosen the second, blasphemous, type, and in fact he has made it even more deviant by not even drawing the comics as the day progressed, but instead doing them retrospectively. Though on the up side he at least admits that he is a fraud (insert smiley emoticon).

Cureton picked a fairly good day for this account, as it’s filled with cute girls, drinking, and various people dancing (on a roof in one case). Though I do wonder if the day of the roof-dancing guy was more exciting.

Cureton’s art isn’t super detailed, but that’s not really the point of hourly comics. Despite this there are some places where I quite like Cureton’s art: the way he shows himself dancing, the expressions the characters have, and the way their giant mouths make it look like they’re yelling at each other all the time.

The major problem with doing these comics retroactively is that you don’t remember what you were doing. Quick, what where you doing at 3 o’clock on Sunday? I have no idea (actually, I was probably just using the internet...). And thus here we’re presented with what appears to be Cureton riding the bus for two consecutive hours. It’s possible that he actually did this as one of the bus pages features police and a diversion, but it seems unlikely.

Perhaps one thing projects like this do is make us think about our lives; are we stuck in a routine that we do every day? (Specifically a routine we don't enjoy.) I hope Hourly Comic Day has caused people to go and have adventures so that their comics are more exciting. More adventures for more people!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Things Found in Library Books

By Crypststine Maria
PO Box 893
Salem, MA

I love libraries. A friend once said that the existence of a well used library indicated the sort of society he wanted to live in (a sense of community, wanting to experience new things, not needing to own things, and other stuff I don’t remember). Plus they usually have lots of comics I can read.

Maria works in a library and sometimes finds weird things in books. You know how it is; you’re reading a book and suddenly you need a bookmark, what do you use? The first thing at hand of course! Thus this collection of notes, tickets, flyers, playing cards shaped like fish, and other things that people have used as bookmarks.

There’s nothing really strange (like bacon) used as a bookmark, but Maria does include some examples of things put through the book drop or left in the library that are rather strange.

If you’re looking for weird things in libraries one place that is worth checking are the recycling bins next to the photocopiers. Both a friend and I used to work in libraries and we used to haul out the weirdest things from those bins: diagrams, pictures, and random pieces of text that didn’t make a lot of sense.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Matter #12

By Philip Barrett

I think out of all of Barrett's comics that I've read the ones I've liked best are those about music. This holds true even in this (semi-) recent collection of short pieces reprinted from other publications.

Haircut is about the haircut that somehow transports a band into superstardom. It's ridiculous, the haircut is hideous, but it's also funny and perhaps says something about the music industry in that it could be anything makes bands successful.

Many of Barrett's pet themes (obsession, fear, a vague sense of unease that your life is utterly worthless) show up in these comics. But in collecting a number of different pieces created for various projects we see a greater variety of styles and material. Barrett is equally at home creating pieces with bizarre (and sometimes malicious) humour as those that make us think about our own lives and those around us.

Barrett's linework and inking are confident, enabling us to see the emotions and thoughts a character has just from their expressions or posture, while at the same time creating atmosphere and feeling.

His artwork generally sticks to the six panel grid for most of the stories in here, and his consistant style of drawing, combined with the fact that there's frequently a theme of depression and subdued horribleness throughout, makes me want to create something like five card Nancy, creating surreal three panel strips from random images.

I haven't done that though, so here's two panels from No. 1 Best pal, which is about beards and hats.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Skate or Cry

By Charlotte

When I see that a zine is going to be about girl skating stuff I now automatically assume that it will be about roller derby. I guess this just reflects what my female friends are interested in.

Skate or Cry is actually about girl skateboarding. Inside there are interviews with a couple of girl skaters, including one who is the editor of Hate on This (an American female skateboarder zine), personal sktateboarding stories, and info on a number of (mostly terribly awesome) skateboard movies.

I guess when it comes down to it you can just say this is a zine about sexism, fear, and bravery. Lets hope there's more bravery (and less of the other two) in the future.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


You should all follow me on twitter. @tomorrowboy01 (This is a scientific experiment!)

Another month done! I'm back on track for updating every day, though I seem to have screwed up my alternating zine/minicomic schedule. We shall see if I can get that going again this month.

The Birmingham Zine Festival happened a few weeks ago, and I do not think I have had such a rollercoaster of emotions in quite some time (a date! alcohol! being attacked and mugged in a park! the festival is awesome! girl from date invites me for a drink and introduces me to her boyfriend! dancing!).

Oh my goodness! I just realized it's October! That means I should try and find all my spooky, horror, monster zines to review because it is almost Halloween! One of the most exciting days of the year (and for which I have no plans or costume *sob*). What are you favourite "scary" zines?

Holy Moly

By Kathleen De Vere

De Vere is best known for being in the sketch comedy group Loading Ready Run and the humourous video game newscast The Escapist News Network, but before that she also did comics for her university newspaper and online. Here's one I was in! (Bottom right hand corner.) Though this one is funnier.

De Vere hasn't drawn comics in a while, but earlier this year she started making mini comics. How exciting! To be honest you won't get all the jokes here if you haven't been watching the Loading Ready Run videos as it features people (including Kathleen) who star in them. But as I have been watching the videos for years it doesn't really matter to me. (Plus they're pretty funny, you should go watch them.)

The art style is rougher than De Vere's earlier stuff, but it manages to capture the appearances of the real people that show up much better than when I showed up in her comic. The style kind of reminds me of some of Kate Beaton's sketch comics, though the Goth King totally owes a lot to Jhonen Vasquez (what is he even doing at the moment?)

In this issue De Vere visits the Goth King, goes on a spirit journey into her own soul, and makes lots of butt jokes. I found it amusing, but I have no idea how you'd even get a copy. Go watch some of the videos I linked to above instead.

Here's (a kinda old) one! It doesn't have Kathleen in it though (or as good production values as their newer videos, but I still like this one).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Loserdom #19

By lots of people!

I always think it's fun to read travel stories about places you've been or lived. You get to critque what the author did: "Why didn't they go there? Of course that's awesome! Hah, you fool, you should have known better." and wonder if you ever walked passed them when you were in approximately the same place.

So it was with some joy that I opened up this issue of a (quite thick) Irish punk zine to discover an account of a trip to Vancouver that one of the authors went on a few years ago. I was a little disappointed that it didn't mention more places I had been to (or even exciting new places I hadn't heard of), but I was at least vindicated in my belief that the thrift stores there are a billion times better than the ones over here. If only the creators had a copy of my zine guide to Vancouver though!

Also included here is an article on urban foxes, a good interview with someone who works for the Irish Refugee Council (a group that helps refugees arriving in Ireland, as opposed to helping Irish people become refugees), a comic about how awesome cycling is, and the standard band interviews and zine reviews.

Still, there's a lot of good content here, and it's presented in an attractive package featuring a lino-printed cover!