Monday, January 31, 2011

Sam Beckett in Back to the Matrix

I'm a big nerd. I read super hero comics, I read sci fi novels, my taste in movies is downright terrible (is it about cyber "something" and features people being kicked? Sign me up!), I play video games, and yet there is so much stuff out there that it is impossible for me to experience all of it. Thus on my first read through of this I got some, though not all, of the references to various movies and TV shows. I got some of the jokes, but not all of them and then I realized that "Sam Beckett" was someone I should know. Oh, he's the guy from Quantum Leap (which I don't think I've ever seen a full episode of).

There are some funny bits, but overall it's kind of strange. The story is really just references to other scifi stories, meaning that it will make absolutely no sense to you if you are not familiar with (at the least) The Matrix and Back to the Future. Parts of it definitely made more sense when I reread it after realizing the main character was the Quantum Leap guy (while I haven't seen any of the show, I do at least know the premise, thank you Wikipedia).

The art is all done with stick figures, though there is furniture and other objects and stuff. So it's a bit like XKCD. It works fine for what it is, though maybe just because XKCD has trained me to associate stick figure comics with nerdy stuff. Hmm...

Oh yeah, and all profits go to a charity. That's pretty awesome.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Untranslated #3

By Lando

Usually one of the neat things about Untranslated is how alien the world and characters created by Lando are. You get the feeling that the there are entire cultures and societies in the worlds represented, and that we get only the slimmest possible view of them.

However I found this issue to go too far in this direction, as I had almost no idea what was going on. As an art show case it is fine, as I enjoy Lando's art and the weird creatures he creates. It's just that their actions make no sense to me. Why are those creatures attacking that other creature? Are they burying it? Planting it? I don't get it.

I suppose I could just treat it as a nature documentary about some animal I know little about (so most of them really). Why is that animal attacking that other animal? What is it doing to it? I don't understand!

Taken as a look at a wierd world, with strange creatures (and cultures), it's neat. But if you're looking for a narrative this might not be the best place to look. (Try the other issues instead! They are great.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Onion Soup

By Dan Berry

One of the things I really love about technology is how it ends up being used in ways the people that created it would never have guessed. In this case Twitter is used as the basis for a cooking comic. How? Well Berry decided to make the titular onion soup, and tweet about it.

Each panel features Berry in the act of making soup, while his Twitter comments narrate. Other people tweet questions and comments at him which are represented by mysterious floating text (this is what the future will look like, floating text everywhere).

This all seems incredibly boring, but the combination of Berry not really taking it seriously, slight injuries, increasing amounts of wine, and various other tweeters who claim to summon a homonculous and make ketchup and crisp soup (amongst other things) cause the whole thing to be funny.

The comic panels generally follow the talking head/TV cooking show format with most panels showing torso up shots of Berry doing cookery related things. I enjoy Berry's thick lined drawings, which admirably feature his skills at drawing expressions and body language.

Berry's Twitter account can be found here. Hopefully he makes another twitter comic soon, maybe even one I can participate in!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photography in Botany and in Horticulture Volume 1

By Emily Davies

This zine really reminds me of student presentations I sat through in university. It starts with an introduction as to what the zine is about ("the link between photography and the natural sciences"), has a bibliography, features quotes and source material from history to show how the photography of plants is seen and has evolved, discusses the pros and cons of various tools you can use in photography, and generally makes me feel as though Davies should be speaking to me and giving me more information about every page/slide that comes up. The pages seem more like starting points for Davies to discuss than complete pieces of information.

This isn't to say that the zine isn't informative, I learnt more about pressing and photographing plants than I ever knew before. It's just that it seems stuck between being a totally ground entry introduction to this topic, and being something more in depth. Sadly, I think it kind of fails on both accounts, though I'm not sure how interested I would be in reading a full length piece about the history and methods of plant photography.

I did like the pictures of the plants (both pressed and otherwise). I'm not generally someone who stops to smell (look at) the roses, so being "forced" to look at them is actually kind of fun.

It also has a fantastic back cover ("This is the back cover."), though the whole zine is stapled awkwardly. You know, that stapled through the whole thing near the spine, but not actually into the spine. If you don't have a long arm stapler it takes a bit longer to staple zines "properly", but I generally think it creates a better experience for the reader and is thus worth it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lusty Tales Number One

By B. Elston

From the cover of this I really had no idea what to expect. A sort of Black Pete looking character spitting up...something under the title "Lusty Tales"? Was this going to be furry porn?

Thankfully no! (Though I have caught the Wikipedia disease, and just had to drag myself away from reading about Goof Troop and other Disney cartoons after I went looking for the name of Black Pete.) Instead, this is a comic featuring anthropomorphic animals living in an "old west" style world. There are miners, people wearing cowboy hats, claim jumpers, and other stuff that would fit fine into a Mickey Mouse comic. Well, apart from some of the characters getting shot, the nudity, and so forth.

The characters and style are very reminescent of old funny animals comics and cartoons: hearts appear above the head to indicate a character is in love, the steam from a kettle acts as a thought bubble for a character, and there's a fair amount of slapstick style violence. This just causes the deaths that occur to seem more out of place. When you've seen talking skeletons, and characters being hit on the head with rocks and pouring scalding hot coffee on themselves to no apparent harm, it's hard to take the guns they're firing seriously. Especially when they're firing them from handstands.

Yet, this could all work, the art is nice to look at, and I have no problem with creating a dissonence between the expected and the actual. However the story itself is a bit of a disappointment. It starts strongly (down on their luck guys wondering what to do with their lives), but ends up meandering after the apparent climax, only to end on a cliffhanger of a sort. It could pull itself together when (if?) there are further chapters, but I did go in expecting this to be a complete story (I only discovered this was issue one of the comic when I looked at the back page), and so can't help to be a bit disappointed by the lack of conclusion.

Rounding out the issue is a short comic by Bernie Kosar about Hiawatha, which I guess retells part of that poem. It's alright, but didn't impress me too much.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Fall A Part

By JP Coovert

The inside front and back covers of this zine are filled with not quite spirals. This almost terrified me enough to throw the zine across the room, run away, and find somewhere to hide. Why? Because spirals are terrifying. Don't believe me? You should read Uzumaki by Junji Ito, one of my favourite comics of all time. Look at this page. (Don't look at that page if you are squeamish.)

(Inside front cover.)

Coovert's actual comic isn't anything like Uzumaki, though it is still somewhat scary. It's about when his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It's a scary thing to experience I'm sure, and as her hair falls out, her body fails her, and her marriage starts falling apart it's not exactly happy reading.

I don't really want to ruin anything about what happens to the various characters, but not everything that happens in here is doom and gloom at least. This isn't the usual thing I'm into, but it's a well put together, attractive little comic.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Zine Contest Winners!

It's over! Over 150 people looked directly at the contest page. More probably saw it just browsing on the website. I got a grand total of 15 entries. You guys are such slackers : )

Also, I've started updating my artist trading card blog again. Not every day, but semi-frequently at least. Let me know if you want to trade.

The results:

1st place: Recieving 36.5 zines is Ryan Sands of Same Hat, Electric Ant, and Prison for Bitches! His favourite zines are Chill Zine and Shotgun Seamstress.

2nd place: Recieving 18.25 zines is Persephone Pomegranate. Her favourite zine is "i knew a motherfucker like you and she said...", available here.

I hate you both for living in the USA and costing me more in shipping.

Everyone else that sent me their address (please note) will get some zines too. Woo, hurray!

Here is a photo of some (over three hundred) of my zines:

Also, I made this a while ago for a zine. it amuses me:

Peach Melba #16

By Pearl
PO Box 74

I'm back! With a zine by one of the (or just the?) most prolific zinesters I know.

Pearl's a prety rad 13 year old girl who's really into making and reading zines. And you should be too! It's pretty inspiring to see that she makes one of these every month, and the format she uses shows that you don't need to make something super long or complicated. I should really learn from that...

This issue is from October, which is obvious because it includes a list of possible Halloween costumes. Halloween is totally my favourite holiday (you get to dress up!!!), and I love everything to do with it. Though, I would be pretty terrified if someone did dress up like Nick Griffin as Pearl suggests here.

There are also lists of apples (so many!), Pearl's favourite things ("wombats", a list of musical genres that I really enjoyed because it's formatted in such a way that "Irish Big Brass Band" seems to be a type of music, and more!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Final day of the contest!

It's the final day of my amazing contest where you can win lots and lots (36.5) zines! I've only gotten tweleve entries, so if you enter your chances of winning are pretty high!

You've got until midnight (any time zone) tonight (monday) to enter! Do it!

Full rules here:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Contest Time!

You may have noticed that I didn't update the site over the weekend. I'm just feeling a bit burnt out at the moment, I've been sick, and I'm going on holiday tomorrow. The site will return soon though, and in the meantime you can enter the amazing contest I'm holding.

A contest! How exciting! To celebrate the aniversary of my blog, the fact that someone just sent me zines that I am specifically not allowed to review, and the (approximately) 365 reviews I've written in the last year I am giving away lots of zines!

How many zines? 36.5 zines!* At least! Maybe more!

All you have to do is email me ( the answer to the following questions and I will pick one out to be the grand prize winner, and several who will receive runner up prizes.

1. What's your favourite zine? (Include contact info if you know it.)

2. Have you ever gotten/read a zine because you read a review of it on this site? (Let me know which one!)

That's it! Seriously! Send me the answer to those two questions and your address and you've entered the contest.

Final date for submissions: January 24th (two weeks from now!)

Grand Prize: 36.5 zines from the huge pile of zines I've reviewed over the last year. Some good, some bad. You'll get a mixture of zines specially selected just for you.

Runner up prize(s): I have no idea yet, you'll get something good.

Please tweet, blog, and otherwise promote this contest!

Small print: This contest is open to everyone in the world (except maybe my brother) because I'm sick and tired of contests that won't ship to me because I don't live in some specific country. I reserve the right to ship by slow boat though. One entry per person, don't try to game the system! The grand prize winner will be chosen at random, not sure about runner ups, so if you want to send me awesome drawings, or poems about why zines are great please go ahead.

*Yes, I have worked out how I've giving out 0.5 of a zine, trust me.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mild Peril #11

By Dean and Pete

As we head down the path to BIG CHANGE (not with a bang, but a whimper) I come across another old punk zine. Several years old, other issues already reviewed on this site, almost unreviewable because you either are interested in it or aren't. Let's go!

This thick zine is filled with what you would expect from a punk music zine. Rants (the politics! That is the part of punk I really enjoy), band interviews (I only read the parts on touring and life in other countries at this point), tour diaries (the short distances here still blow me away), show reviews (generally ignored!), vegetarian recipes (possibly good!), random jokes, pictures, and drawings (confusing!), and CD and record reviews (completely ignored!).

You probably already know whether or not you're into this sort of thing, and my review can be summed up as "generally positive". There're some spelling, grammar, and layout issues, but those have never really been a strong point of the punk scene, and really don't detract from the overall product. Am I burnt out? I think I might be despite only writing one review in the last week.

I guess the only reason I reviewed this at all is a misplaced sense that I should review _everything_ I've been given, and wondering where I should send the punk records a friend gave me before returning to Canada. I want them to be reviewed, who (in the UK) should I send them to?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bostin Heroes

By Matthew Craig, Jack Davies, and Donato Esposito

I'm sick, tired, don't really want to update this right now, and people are complaining about me on another website. After a year I'm thinking about changing how this site will be done. But that'll have to wait until next week, and so we charge headlong into another ill-thought out review.

I'm not as a big a fan of superhero comics as I once was, but I still enjoy reading some of them. They're such a large part of the market it's kind of hard to pay attention to "mainstream" comics and not have any idea about them. However, this leads to a couple of points.

If I'm going to read about superheroes I'm probably going to read about ones in the Marvel/DC universes. I've known those characters for most of my life, and, sometimes surprisingly, I still "care" about some of them.

Actually, the above isn't necessarily true. I end up reading a lot of mainstream superhero comics cause that's what's around. Four comics for a pound including the first issue of that recent Image series that's supposed to be pretty good? I guess I'll end up reading Daredevil spinoffs and issues of Supergirl when they are, more or less, free. Mainstream superhero comics are everywhere, and if I don't desperately need to read the newest issue right now you can pick most of them up pretty cheaply.

I'd _actually_ rather read well produced, creator owned superhero comics. I mean, I do have a soft spot for Spider-Man 2099, or whoever, but given the choice between buying an issue of that or Invincible, I'd go with Invincible hands down. However, I'm also like four volumes behind on Invincible, and there are countless other superhero comics out there that are well written and well drawn, meaning that yours has to be really good, or have a clever hook, in order to attract my attention.

The hook in this one is that its set in the Midlands, and it's cute enough seeing monsters smash up Birmingham (I've been there!), but no more or less than seeing Kuala Lumpur be destroyed (actually, I've spent more time in KL...). Rather, the setting of Birmingham really just drives home the sort of weirdness of the UK comics retail industry. Birmingham has over a million people and two comic book shops. The town I grew up in (St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada), has a population of 100,000 people, and yet had (last I was there) something like 2 and a half comic shops. Do more people in North America just read comics? Do people in the UK get their comics from somewhere else? (There is a long tradition of newstand comics here, many of which reprint North American comics.) I just don't know.

Another problem I have with superhero comics is that after reading Tom Strong, and having him talk to his enemeies instead of just punching them, sometimes I wonder why people are fighting giant monsters? Isn't there a better way? Of course, I like monsters punching things as much as the anxiety ridden person who wishes he could punch his way through all of his problems, but I know that in real life it's not like that.

This is long and rambly, and doesn't really tell you much about the comic (it's a labour of love for the genre!). I'm gonna blame the sickness.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

dilettantes & heartless manipulators issue 49
PO Box 41
Flinders Lane
Victoria 8009

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!

Much like how I made it my goal to review something for this site every day (or rather, have a review posted every day, which is somewhat different as it means I can write more than one at once then set them up to post while I’m off doing something fun, not that writing reviews every day and never getting feedback isn't fun), some people have gone and decided to do something really insane: make a zine every week.

Well, I say it’s insane, but really, if you’re just doing one page a week, it’s not that much work. I write more than that for this blog. Actually, let’s check. It seems that in the past week (or at least the week before I wrote this in December) I’ve posted 2,500 words on this blog, which is more than enough for a zine a week. Huh.

This zine is like a diary entry, or perhaps a letter to someone. No, it’s more than that; it’s a running account of the thoughts going through the writer’s head as they try to get a presentation ready for a conference. It’s a look inside their neurosis and fears, with stupid jokes, encouragements, asides, and everything you think about when you should be trying to get something done. I could probably write one about trying to write this review, but really, nobody wants to read about that (what is running through my head right now: volunteering, being crap and unproductive, girls, what to do on NYE, X-Men comics).

But really, what it comes down to is this: have you never made a zine before (or even if you have)? Why not make one in 2011. I challenge you to do it. Make one and I'll trade you one of mine. Go on, do it! Let's go!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chicken with Penis: Fresh Meat
PO Box 20204
Seattle, WA
98102, USA

I reviewed one of these before and thought it was terrible. It’s just gross, poorly drawn, comics (strips or single panels) about penises, shit, dead babies, and other crap. Uh, whatever. Why did I even bother reviewing this one if I thought the first was so terrible? I guess I forgot how bad it was.

In fact, do I have any more issues? I should go find them and review them now too, just so I don’t have do so in the future. Aha, here’s another issue.

Chicken with Penis: Super Retarded

Same as above really, except with extra references to AIDS, bestiality, and a bizarre appearance by Marvel superhero The Mighty Thor and some of his supporting characters.

I’m willing to allow that I might have found a couple of the jokes in here funny in another context, but combined with all the stuff I thought was terrible I just don’t care.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Footnotes Issue 3

In some ways this is really more of an ad for the Footprint printing co-operative than a zine. But they print zines, and there’s enough content here for me to review it. Partially cause I don’t really want to review something more in depth right now. Lazy!

There are accounts of some of what’s been happening at Footprint, zine events that they’ve been to, brief “reviews” of some zines they’ve printed recently and enjoyed (three of which I’ve reviewed and enjoyed), info on the services they offer, information on what co-ops are, and some layout/design tips.

There’s also a pretty interesting page on risographic printing which I’m sure sounds more interesting than it actually is.

I dunno, I guess if you have a zine you want a lot of copies made of and you live in the UK they’re worth checking out. I usually just go to Staples (bad Matthew), but I also generally only make like 20 copies at a time. (Nobody wants my zines!) Footnotes' got an awesome wrap-a-round cover image at least.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Show & Tell

By Andrew Waugh and Gary Bainbridge

A split minicomic! How exciting! I really love the idea of these things where each person gets half the zine/minicomic and does there own stuff. It means your stuff gets shown to twice as many people! You should make one with me.

The one problem with these things is that there can be a dissonance between both sides, which is what happens here. Bainbridge's side has a story featuring some people sitting around in a pub talking about rape alarms, then a comic that makes no real sense to me at all. In comparison Waugh's side features a woman offering tea to a ghost that is in her house accidentally and some awesome drawings of monsters and things. I guess that is always the problem with anthologies, even if they are themed.

The first comic in Bainbridge's side is apparently a sequel to an earlier piece. It starts well, with a couple of pages featuring a nice arrangement of panels and a guy jumping around on top of buildings. Yay! Is he a superhero or something? I don't know, but I think it all works pretty well. However, it falls apart when it just becomes people hanging out in a bar and talking. I don't really think these work that well in short pieces. I mean, there's a bit of a flashback, but it's mostly just four pages of people's heads telling anecdotes to each other. I don't know who these characters are or why I should care about them. Ultimately I think this would have worked better as prose.

Bainbridge's second piece is just incomprehensible to me. Three pages of random close ups of liquor bottles and other things, while narration and speech bubbles say things like "Yes, fly, I chess came knife at for her sake." I have no idea what any of that means. At all.

Waugh's side of this comic is far more my sort of thing. The first story is a cute little one with a medium attempting to summon a spirit. She's successful, except that it ends up in the old lady's house next door. The ghost is unresponsive, and the old lady is more annoyed than anything else. I guess it's happened to her before. It is basically just several pages of the old lady talking to herself, but it manages to be funny and a bit sad at the end.

Waugh's second piece is the super awesome "Big things hiding behind small things" and makes this whole comic worth picking up. It's just pictures of big things (ogres, dinosaurs) "hiding" behind small things (lamps, shrubbery), but I love drawings of monsters, and the expressions of fear and awkwardness Waugh somehow manages to show in robots and man-eating plants is pretty impressive. There's also a wooly mammoth, which I somehow managed to not scan. You'll have to get the zine to see that.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Peep Show 2011

By lots of people
More info

If there is one question that I have asked more than any other this year it is “is this a zine?”. After a year I have decided that the answer is “Yes, if I bother to review it on my blog”.

And thus, this calendar! It was created by twelve different female cartoonists associated with the Centre for Cartoon Studies. Each of them has drawn another cartoonist in a pin-up style. Some of the artist have chosen to represent specific things related to the month, while others have gone the route of representing certain aspects of their models’ personalities. And some even feature references to specific pin-up artists!

The art is generally of a fairly high quality, and it’s interesting to see how the artists represent each other. I was a little disappointed by the calendar part though, while it does include (incredibly important) dates such as Canada Day (shame on you for not knowing when it is), I thought it would have been more amusing to include more random holidays. Or alternatively they could have gone the comic book route and listed creators’ birthdays and the dates when certain comics came out. Oh well, you can’t have it all.

In response to this calendar a group of boys at the CCS made their own beef-steak calendar. You can find more information about it here and here.

(Colleen Frakes as drawn by Lena H. Chandhok.)