Thursday, March 31, 2011

Zine Interview Part One

Shortly after the last interview, another girl asked to interview me about my site and my zines for her honours project at Liverpool John Moores University / St. Helens College.

I'm going to split this interview into two parts, with the second one going online tomorrow.

1. When did you first become aware of zines and where did the initial interest come from?

I don't remember exactly, but I'm guessing it would have been around late 1998/early 1999 during my first year of high school. I would have been fifteen at the time and remember going to parties at a punk house in which my friend was renting a room. I recall a couple of zines from that time period, though exactly when I picked them up I do not remember. I think the first ones I read were actually by people I vaguely knew (ie. friends of friends), but it was a long time ago. I didn't make my first zine until about four years later when I was in university.

2. You're clearly passionate about the zine industry, what attracts you to it so much?

I'm a big fan of DIY, and the idea that you can just make your own magazine and sell/give it away is something that really appeals to me. I enjoy the way it sidesteps the mainstream, and find it interesting how literally anything can be the subject of a zine. The only thing that really unites them is that they're printed on paper.

Going back to the DIY aspect I like to encourage people to make stuff and do things. I really enjoy making and trading artist trading cards, and it bothers me sometimes when people say things like "Oh, I'm not an artist" and don't want to create something. I can't draw anything, but everyone has skills doing something. I really wonder what the education system is doing to kids that stops them being creative and wanting to learn.

The same applies to zines. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something they're passionate about. I want to encourage everyone to create more, though I don't know how good a job I do of that.

3. You feature a wide range of zines on your blog, where do you source them from?

I get a lot of zines from zine events. I was recently at the Brighton Zinefest and got a bunch from that. I also go to a lot of comic book events (this one was the most recent). I usually try to trade/swap with other people at the events (I am bad at capitalism), but I also buy them sometimes.

People also send them to me in the mail. I usually get one or two emails a week from people asking if I could review their zines or comics. I always agree! I pretty much always send them a zine back too.

4. How do you differentiate between a 'good' zine and a 'bad' one?

Woah, how philosophical! How do we differentiate between good and bad anything? Or even the very concepts of good and bad?

Reviews are very personal things, and I know there are zines that I don't particularly like that other people really enjoy. I've also learnt that putting a robot or a monster into your zine is probably going to make me like it to some degree.

But I think the most important thing is care and effort. Some people equate "do it yourself" with "do it quickly and badly", and while there is certainly a place for 24 hour zines and similar projects I find myself incredibly frustrated when I come across zines filled with spelling, grammar, and layout mistakes. Just because you want to hand write your zine and use a "cut and paste" style doesn't mean the content has to be a first draft.

5. From your time reviewing zines, do you have any favourite or stand out issues that you could highlight?

I've reviewed over four hundred zines and minicomics by this point, and going back and making a short list would be incredibly difficult...

But! I really enjoy Peach Melba, a monthly list zine made by a 13 year old girl. She's already up to issue 19! I've read/reviewed more issues of PM than any other zine, so it kind of sticks in my mind.

I just read a zine (Loserdom #21) with a massive (over twenty pages!) series of interviews with four or five different punks who lived in a small town outside of Dublin in Ireland in the early '80s. It's a fascinating look into a subculture, a time, an the people who lived during them.

There's a lot of comics I've really enjoyed, and some artists I've enjoyed are Philip Barrett, Will Kirkby, Nich Angell, Nikki Stu, Isy Morgenmuffel, Steve Rumlad, and I could go on listing all day really.

Come back tomorrow for part two!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Last Ten Videos I Watched on YouTube Interview

It turns out that moving continents can be more stressful, anxiety causing, and crazy than I had anticipated. You'd think I'd know better by now. Reviews should return next week, but until then I'll be running some interviews I recently completed.

The first is an interview about my zine The Last Ten Videos I Watched on YouTube that I completed for a girl who attends the London College of Communication (apparently my zine is in their library!). Her project was about how video sites effect how people interact with art, and apparently my zine was interesting to her. Amazing! I still have copies of this zine available, so if you'd like one just let me know.

What made you choose the videos you did for inclusion in the zine?

It was literally the ten videos I watched in full on YouTube in chronological order after I decided to make the zine. It was just after the Lady Gaga Telephone video came out, and the internet was filled with people talking about that, so I choose that as the starting point, and over the next few days I screendshotted (what an awkward word) and wrote about every video I watched. I didn't include videos I didn't watch all of (and there was at least one I stopped so I didn't include it in the zine, I can't remember what it was or why I didn't want it though), or videos I had open in the background so that I could listen to the music.

I thought it was an interesting look at what I actually watched on Youtube, and kind of showed how random some of the stuff up there is.

What made you choose YouTube as a zine subject?

I think it was a combination of several factors, primarily being people not understanding what a zine was and when you told them wondering why you didn't just do it as a blog or a website. I'd recently made a zine in the same format (sideways quartersized?) and realized that an image of a YouTube video would fit on the page pretty well. So I thought "Why not make a zine that _would_ make considerably more sense as a website?". YouTube comments (and many comments on websites in general) are generally thought of as stupid and things that you should ignore, so I found it amusing to write some and print them in a zine, "forcing" people to read them.

You might not be able to tell now (or from the quality of the zine you read), but I really attempted to make the zine look as much like YouTube as possible. It has the same fonts, style, and images as the website did at the time. Funnily about a week after I finished making the zine YouTube revamped the design of their website so that my zine now also functions as an archive of what YouTube looked like in March

Why make this zine in the first place?

Why make any zine at all? Why make anything at all? Because I thought it was a funny thing to do, and because other zine projects I was working on where getting bogged down as I got fed up with them. I like to have a new zine ready for each zine event I go to (even if I don't always manage!), and I made this one in less than two weeks before a Midlands Zinester meetup I helped organize. I can spend ages on zines that I care about a lot, but I seem to get more response from the silly, funny ones that take less time to make (my guide to last year's Eurovision song contest, a zine that reviewed various flavours of crisps). One of the best responses to this one have been people telling me that after reading the zine they've gone out and searched for some of the videos I "reviewed". I don't think this zine could be more successful than that.

I started making a second issue of YouTube videos, but I stopped about halfway through grabbing images. I've got about five videos screenshotted (and some of them are pretty good!), and another one bookmarked, but somehow it would seem weird to specifically go out and watch videos that are wierd on purpose. I liked the mundanity of some of them. I am currently working on another zine about the internet, which is a story/history inspired by a Wikipedia page. We'll see how that one goes.

And just because I can, here are a couple of quotes about the zine from some people.

Jimi Gherkin (one of the organizers of the London Alternative Press Fairs, and who I reviewed last month) said "I really enjoyed [the] zine [...] [I] wish I'd thought of it!!".

Lights Go Out (a UK punk fanzine) said "Genius! [...] Seriously such a fun and unique zine!".

Monday, March 28, 2011

Like vs Shit

By Bernard Boulevard and Gordon Gordon
Chow Chow Productions
PO Box 20204
Seattle, WA

My slang usage is pretty ridiculous sometimes. I totally say "like" and "rad" and "totally" and "killer" like all the time. On at least one incidence I impressed someone with my knowledge of literature, philosophy, and history despite saying something along the lines of "I love going to art galleries and shit like that". I've been told I speak Russian like a Russian valley girl (whatever that means). My accent is vague to the point that other Canadians don't know what part of Canada I'm from.

What I'm really saying is that just because you may say the word like from time to time (or constantly) it doesn't mean that you're an idiot. Yeah, I fall into that trap too when people say things so filled with slang, but you shouldn't really judge people on that sort of shit.

And speaking of shit! I was hoping that this zine would go through all the different definitions of the word "shit", but it only mentions a couple of them. I was having a conversation with my brother a while ago about how hard it is to learn English, and we thought of all the different ways you can use the word, so let's list some:

1. Excrement. "That dog shit on the floor."
2. Something terrible. "That book was shit."
3. Something good ("the" is always required for this one). "That zine is the shit."
4. A bad situation. "You are in deep shit because of what you did."
5. Pot. "Oh yeah, this is some good shit."
6. Things in general. "Just need to clear all this shit off my desk."

There's loads more! Maybe we need to get Joe Decie to do another minicomic.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Little Garden Volume 1 Part 1

By Ayo

Whereas yesterday's comic suffered from a lack of monsters, this one is nothing but monsters! Monsters with wings! Monsters with hoofs! Monsters with three eyes! Monsters with horns!

Okay, so I guess they're pretty much just mostly human women with some weirdness, but that's close enough for me. The images contained in here aren't really a comic, rather they just show random snapshots from the lives of these women letting us know how their community functions. They farm, they deliver mail, they hang out, they go swimming. There's no plot, but rather we see these characters just living their lives. It's a fun little book even if I'm not really down with the portrayal of males (either a target of derision or tied up).

The art is pretty clearly not for everyone. There's an ugliness to a lot of it that appeals to me somehow. I find it kind of hard to describe, though funnily it's the way the lips and eyelids are drawn that make these characters look the most monstrous rather than their extra appendages.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Sweeper

By Amy Peltn

I'm in Canada! I haven't even looked at a zine (other than to pack it) in over a week. There might be some radio silence for a bit next week, but if there are any gaps I should be back in action by April.

Sometimes I come across comics that just leave me utterly mystified. This is definitely such a case. I don't know why this comic exists. Twelve entirely silent pages of full page images like those below. A guy hangs up something on the fence (what it is I have no idea), his broom falls over, he picks up it, the thing blows away. What? Why did I read this?

Am I just missing something? Maybe if the main character had been a robot I'd like it more.

Friday, March 25, 2011

7String Volume Zero

By Nich Angell

This big, glossy, full colour comic is filled with impressive art and some pretty cool action, but it is more definitively a zero issue. This means that it gives some background info about the characters, has some (really nice) pin ups, and features a couple of short comics. They all help to set the up the world that Angell is creating, but the major story he's working on clearly hasn't happened yet.

That story is explained in the opening text page, which is probably the weakest part of the comic. Not the ideas, which feature a maniacal villain trying to destroy the "eternal cosmic melody" by stealing a magic flute and an "elite group of cosmic musicians" creating a seven stringed sword instrument to save the universe. But rather parts of the text are a bit awkward and could have used one more rewrite. Generally the short comics don't fall into this problem, but I guess Angell's skills lie more in drawing some pretty awesome pictures instead of paragraph after paragraph of text.

The first comic is a three pager with the main character, Zachary Briarpatch, facing off against a cowboy type character, and the thing it reminded me of the most is the pre-credits action bit at the beginning of certain cartoons and TV shows. We're introduced to the main character, see that he can do awesome things that are beyond the abilities of normal people ("But, that's impossible... No-one can harmonize that fast"), and defeats the bad guy. The end! It's a compliment to Angell's art style and use of colour that I can easily see it as the intro to a cartoon. The sound effects make noises in my head and I'm kind of upset when the opening credits don't come up and then we head into the longer incredible adventure.

Looking at Angell's art it's clear to see that his inspirations are manga, video games, and cartoons, but his combination of all these aspects is original and looks really amazing. Part of this is down to his fantastic use of colour, which at times reminded me of the teaser trailer of Molly Star Racer (did anyone actually watch the show that eventually came out? Was it any good?).

Design-wise Angell's characters are more human than those in MSR (noses!), though they are still fairly stylized, featuring incredibly pointy knees, and haircuts that can only exist in a comic book.

The only major failing of Angell's art is that at times I find his faces aren't up to the standard of the rest of the art, being less detailed and looking a bit strange at times. Upon realizing this I then wonder if Angell has designed his main character's hair so that he doesn't have to bother drawing his eyes. Hmm...

The action sequences sing, the colours pop, the story seems like it's going to rock, and to be honest I'm having a hard time thinking up any more music related analogies. I can't wait until Angell finishes this and I can read the whole thing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Loserdom #21

One of my favourite things about reviewing things for this blog is that I read so many random things, and sometimes I am completely and utterly blown away by content I did not expect.

That is the case with Loserdom #21. I'd read some issues before, but nothing prepared me for the massive (over twenty pages!) history of the Dalkey punks that appeared in this issue.

Dalkey is a village suburb of Dublin in Ireland, and it doesn't seem like that exciting a place to live. Anto grew up there, and remembers being a little kid in the early '80s and being both scared and fascinated by the punks he saw hanging around town. Almost thirty years later he's tracked five of them down and interviewed them about what being a punk in that time was like, how they got involved with the scene, what music they listened to, how they dressed, where they hung out, how the group came to an end, and what they're up to now.

It is an incredibly epic piece of journalism, and feels more like the basis of someone's thesis in folklore, anthropology, sociology, or history than an article in a zine. It's a fascinating piece made all the more interesting because of the real emotions that the interviews conjure up in people. You can feel the joy and fun that these people had back when they were kids, and then, in the most brutal and unexpected part, there is a tragedy. I don't really want to spoil what happened, but it was a big enough thing that it was mentioned in newspapers at the time (which have been dug up, photocopied, and included here).

Even if that was the only thing in Loserdom #21 it would be worth picking up, but this is a massive zine and there's loads of other stuff too! Comics about riding bicycles, an interview with a woman who's been busking in Dublin since 1985, and more. Not all of it appealed to me, but that's always the case with anthologies, and I think this is definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Skillshot 13

By Chow Chow Productions
PO Box 20204
Seattle, WA

(Moving countries caused me to miss a review the other day, be prepared for more missing days coming soon!)

I've read a couple of issues of this pinball zine, but it still blows me away every time I read it just because I have a hard time imagining a pinball scene. It's not something I've ever really played, yet these people organize monthly tournaments that have dozens of people showing up! It all seems kind of strange, but also makes me want to start playing pinball more (last time I played was at a new year's eve party, where I was completely terrible at it).

This zine includes news and rumours about the Seattle pinball scene, telling what happened at recent tournaments, who's setting records on the machines, where the new machines are, a complete (?) list of every pinball machine in Seattle, tips and strategies for specific machines, high score contests, rule variations, and more. It reminded me of the video game magazines I read when I was a kid, and while I barely understand a lot of the strategy in here I'm sure you could write the same sort of thing about Street Fighter or poker and I also wouldn't understand it (I might like it more if it was Street fighter because hurray punching people!).

If you're into pinball and live in the Seattle area you have probably already read this, but if you're into pinball anywhere else in the world it's worth giving a read because it's pretty interesting and fun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Food Magic!

By Erin

This zine marks an incredibly important day for this blog, as this is the final zine I got at the 2009 Portland Zine Symposium. When I started this blog last January I had a stack of around sixty zines, most of them from that event, but (as you can tell from the fact that there are more than sixty reviews on this blog) I kept getting more, and certain zines ended up getting pushed to the back of my review box.

This isn't to say that this zine is bad, in fact I enjoyed the recipe I (finally!) made, and both of my parents complimented it saying that it was very good. The only reason I didn't use it sooner was that whenever I opened it I didn't feel like cooking any of the recipes, and you know how that happens. That recipe for tempeh bourgignon might be really good, but tonight all you want to eat is cookies. Also, I don't currently have access to any tempeh.

I'd also love to someday try the cocktail recipes that are included (the white sangria sounds delicious), but at least for the moment I can say that the peanut stir fry sauce recipe is a good.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Beloved Ones

By Cathy Khampoor and Timothy Batiuk

It's kind of crazy when four hundred something reviews into this site I still discover things I've never seen before. In this case it's a zine that reads right to left, and instead of the Japanese influence you might expect from such a thing (I've read a lot or manga that reads that way) it's actually a collection of terrible puns based on some Arabic words.

Well, it starts off reasonably enough explaining what "habiibatii" and "habiibii" mean using illustrations. Though, oddly, they don't really explain the gendered versions very well. Which one does a gay man or woman call their beloved?

After that it becomes a series of jokes, some of which are pretty ridiculous. However the first time I was reading this I didn't catch on that these weren't real words until about the half way mark (around "habobbl'hedtii"). I mean, they have things written in Arabic right there! Clearly it was a completely true illustrated dictionary.

Most of the jokes are amusing (and there's a ghost!), though a few of them took me a while to sound out exactly what they were referencing. Though that was more a problem with my comprehension skills than anything else.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To Share is to Divide

By Nick Souček

Reading Souček's comics I can't help but feel kind of bad for him. They're filled with near constant existential doubt, anxiety, loneliness, depression, and other bad stuff. I mean, breaking up with someone sucks, being lonely sucks, but neither of those things are the end of the world.

Of course it seems that Souček is exaggerating his feelings for comedic effect. Even ignoring the fact that I don't think I can take the phrase "forever alone" serious in any way, he follows a scene where he is blown out of a tree by loneliness by saying that he has a tendancy to be melodramatic.

Helping to create this sense of melodrama in Souček's comics are the words that he uses to describe the scenes. There's not much dialogue here, instead we have the poetic monologue of Souček himself. I really feel that much of the text here could be reprinted without the pictures as fairly effective blank verse poetry. Of course, if that was done I would read it and then forget it again almost instantly, so clearly Souček has the better idea by pairing his thoughts with images.

Souček's art is at its best when it's drawing inanimate objects (there are some pretty rad boats in here), while the inhabitants of his stories kind of remind me of Lego people. Large heads, no real expressions, grasping claw like hands, they're totally minifigs! Actually, that's pretty awesome. I really like the idea that these are Lego people and that potentially Souček storyboards all of his comics using actual toys.

Okay, that idea is completely ridiculous, but if Souček is allowed to draw himself being eaten by a whale, I'm allowed to imagine what I want. And if I had any minifigs around I would totally make one and either give it to Souček, or make a photo comic in the same style.

Souček also does comics for Boneshaker, an awesome little bicycle magazine. I really liked his comic in the last issue of that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

TBA issue 4

This music and art zine actually uses a really cool format. The whole thing is screenprinted onto a huge piece of paper, and once unfolded it features a pretty rad poster with art by one of the artists interviewed inside.

I think screenprinting in general is pretty neat, though I have pretty limited experience with it. I keep meaning to learn how to do it well, but up to this point that day has not arrived. Instead I can just read things like this, be impressed by the general readability of the screen printed text, and dream.

Content wise there are two interviews with artists, two with musicians, and some info on bands and other art/design publications, all of which are pretty good. I would have liked a few more pictures, but the poster really does make up for that.

Unfortunately, the website address included doesn't lead to anything anymore, so I guess they stopped putting this out. It's too bad as it's a pretty awesome idea.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Sea Part Three

By Will Kirkby

Dang, it's been like six months since I last read one of these, and almost a year since I read part one. Maybe I have too many things to read. And maybe (probably) I should dig up the first two issues of this series and reread them since upon starting this one I'm a little lost (but I'm not even sure if I still have those issues anymore).

My confusion as to what was going on in this issues makes me think that anyone picking this up without reading the previous two issues might not enjoy it much (though I suppose I could be completely wrong). We're dropped into the middle of a plot, there's a time jump I didn't really get, characters aren't introduced very well, and one of them only speaks Japanese. Okay, so the main character (who's thoughts we are able to read) can't understand him either, and by not translating the speech Kirkby is putting us more into the mindset of the main character, but it's kind of annoying because he's clearlying saying _something_, I just have no idea what.

The story itself invovles captivity, monsters, escapes, amateur surgery, ominous predictions, and similar things. Kirkby uses first person narration to tell most of the story, and unfortunately it doesn't work as well here as it did in issue one. There the character was trapped on a boat and had only himself to talk to for most of the comic, whereas here we have other characters but have no real knowledge of what they're up to.

While the story disappointed me somewhat I continue to enjoy Kirkby's art. He uses a lot of close-up images of the characters heads in his art, each almost filling the panels. These are good at creating a sense of claustrophobia, and I remember them working really well in the earlier comics. However once the characters escape from captivity I'm left longing for bigger images that show more of what's going on. Kirkby at times does leave the four panel grid behind and draw images across an entire page, but all these really do is make me wish that all of the art was bigger and that this had been released in a different format.

If you haven't read any of Kirkby's comics this isn't the best place to start. Instead you should go and pick up issue one of The Sea or the Birdsong anthology he's involved with. He's an excellent artist, and I look forward to seeing what he'll work on next.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Metal Between Two Faces No. 1

By Michael Lomon

In serialized fiction you've got to figure out how to break your story into satisfying pieces. Each part could potentially be someone's first, but the most important part is the first. You have to get the key players on the page, explain the plot, and hook the reader to make them come back for more. This can be hard to do when you're working with limited pages, and is the major stumbling block of this comic.

The thirteen pages presented here did manage to convey that the story is set in some sort of horrible dystopian city filled with robots, radition contamination zones, and killer mutants (exciting!), but failed to really tell me what the story is going to be about. Is it a romance set against the backdrop of this strange city? Is it a crime mystery with certain characters (but which ones?) trying to track down a murderer? Will there be a rebellion against the dictitatorial rule that seems to exist? Some combination of the above? Something completely different?

There are definitely things I liked about this comic (who doesn't enjoy a good mutant-robot muder mystery?), but I can't help but think that if this first chapter had twice as many pages to set the scene it would have worked far better (and perhaps I would have understood what happened on that last page).

Artwise Metal Between Two Faces differs rather radically from the background-lacking comic I reviewed yesterday, as almost every piece of the page is covered with drawings. Scenes set outside feature massive buildings in the backgrounds, while those inside feature densely crosshatched walls and crossword style floors. The gutters between panels are solid black and rarely straight, while speech bubbles are jammed into corners and sometimes cover up artwork. This makes everything flow together, and at times it can be a bit hard to concentrate on one specific area of the drawing. Still, the larger images manage to convey the busy, chaotic city that the story takes place in and are quite nice to look at.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Somewhere City 1

Written by Adam Clegg
Drawn by Michael Scott

Noir crime stories are filled with cliches: the missing girl, the tough-as-nails hardboiled detective who smokes all the time, the feeling that even if the hero wins the battle they've lost the war, and even more that I cannot remember. While lots of people are really into this genre they never really click with me unless the creators add something extra: a science fiction or fantasty element that makes it more interesting to me because I love monsters and robots.

Somewhere City takes an idea reminiscent of Dark City. There doesn't seem to be any way out, and nobody can remember who they are or why they're there. The inhabitants seem to have been there for several years, and try to live their lives as best they can in a town surrounded by forbidden zones and filled with sketchy areas. Of coruse all of that is background info that we learn while the main missing person plot is going on, and it works well. The hints suggest that that Clegg and Scott have a whole world and society built up and they'll reveal it as the story progresses.

This first issue features the detective talking tracking down informants and trying to find some clues. I generally liked the art and Scott manages to pull off all the talking heads used throughout the issue (though how much of that is down to the female lead having a Betty Boo haircut I'm not sure).

The major problem with the art is that many of the panels are lacking in backgrounds. This lack of detail leaves the characters floating in white space, and is especially noticable because some of the pages and panels do feature backgrounds, and they're quite nice ones that help to set the scene and show you more things about this mysterious city (a stall selling "books in lost languages" for example). I guess the artist either ran out of time before they wanted to print this or just decided it wasn't worth it. I hope future issues have more backgrounds as I'm looking forward to reading them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

City of Roses

This is another excerpt from a larger work, and it too is printed on only one piece of paper, but it's quarter sized and stapled! There are eight pages! Clearly this makes it an actual zine instead of whatever it was I was reviewing yesterday. Yes my standards don't make any sense. (Also, I just got rid of a couple of things from my zine box that I decided weren't actual zines, one less thing to review! Parts of one of them might end up on my 365 Artist Trading Cards site though.)

Portland is known as the City of Roses, and that's where this story fragment is set. Whether it's part of a longer series or not I don't know, but this small piece of urban fantasy did manage to hold my attention and make me wish that I'd gotten one of the complete issues.

Instead, I'm left to wonder what the characters who appear are (they don't seem to be fully human), what the monster mentioned was doing, and what the hell was going on in the train at the end of the story.

I generally enjoyed the prose that was used, though I did find the use of present tense a bit weird for some reason. Another thing I thought was strange was the way the characters spoke. The characters frequently speak in sentence fragments, which reflects how people speak in real life but often feels awkward in prose. At times I wasn't sure if there was a word missing or if the author had meant for the sentence to end that way.

This was in contrast with one place where a character told a mythological story of some kind and spoke in a strange manner, both archaic and fanciful. Of course, the character says that "everyone knows" this story, so it could be that they are repeating words that have been told by others for a long time.

I'd like to read more of this, though I feel that not knowning Portland that well (I've never even been on the train system, I rode my bicycle everywhere) I'd miss out on a lot of the little references that residents of the city would enjoy. Of course, those could just make my next trip more exciting when I visit places where fictional monster battles happened.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is a zine?

Well? How do you define it? (Please comment and let me know!) I barely have any idea except that sometimes I think something is "zine-y" and sometimes I don't.

Today I'm reviewing three short photocopied things that I've somehow managed to attain. Where did they come from? How did I get them? Are they any good? Are they even zines? Can you tell that these are some of the things from my almost empty box of zines that I mentioned?

Each of these is a single photocopied piece of paper folded in half, and that's my first major stumbling block. It seems too small, too inconsequential, to count as anything. Yet, I've seen things (like Peach Melba) made from one piece of paper which I definitely think of as zines. It seems that "thickness" is a major factor in how I define what is and isn't a zine. Fold a single piece of paper in half once and it doesn't count, fold it twice (or more!) and it does. Why is this? I think it must be because I generally assume you could just shrink these pages down and have them fill half the space. But surely you could do that with any zine?

Well, enough pointless thinking, it's time to actualy look at these individually and decide whether or not they count as zines.

Goodbye Midlothian Hello Greater Edinburgh

This provides information regarding a proposed expansion of roads in some area of the UK that I'm guessing is Scotland, but other than the title I have never heard of a single place name included here. The writer wants there to be less cars and more public transit (yay!) instead of whatever the government has planned. If you're from the area that it's about it could provide you with some useful information about the proposal.

I'm going to say that this isn't a zine; it's a flyer, a leaflet, an informational publication, or something else that is about important stuff, but really needed to be edited (it misspelled "council" on the first line) and reformated (type written and hand written text?). This leads to two further questions: why do I care so much about format and where they hell did I even get this?

Strange Biros

This one is a preview for three different things. Two pages of a comic about a paranormal investigator in the 1940s which features a giant snail, one page of a prose story about the same character, and a single page comic that is clearly part of a longer piece and tells you almost nothing about the comic (a Nazi robot demon is mentioned but not shown, and that's not a good enough pull for me).

Maybe I'd read more of these stories, but the previews haven't attracted me in any real way.

By the Brothers McLeod

Okay, now this one has almost enough content to get its own review, but I'm just going to do it here. It's a collection of drawings that I think can be best described as character possibilities. It seems like the McLeods drew a bunch of different people and doodles and maybe something will happen with them and maybe not. My favourite was Mr Tweed, a stereotypical university looking man who carries around a bag full of lobsters and books he's never read. I wouldn't mind reading some more stuff by these guys, maybe some day.

And that's it! So yeah, I'd really only count one of these as having enough content to be a "proper" zine, but really whether something is a zine or not is up to both the creator and the reader. I'm hardly the expert in this stuff, and something I hate could easily be someone elses favourite.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Word, Peng #1

By James 'Couk' Downing

I remember back when I was in high school and university I would read Exclaim! every month. It was a free, monthly, newsprint magazine about music and other stuff. I'm probably more into music now than I was back then (listening to Radio 6 everyday exposes me to new music, fancy that!) but the two things I remember about it was that my university radio station was too crap to send in lists of what the most popular songs being played were and Marc Bell's bizarre comic strip Shrimy and Paul. It was a strange comic that I can't really describe very well (especially since I haven't read it in like eight years), and while there doesn't seem to be much of it online, you can take a look at a couple of pages here.

Okay, so why spend so much time talking about Canadian music magazines and Marc Bell? Because at times the short comics in Word, Peng really reminded me of Shrimpy and Paul both in the style in which it was drawn and the type of humour it used. (The art also reminds me of someone else, but I can't remember who, so we'll just forget about that.)

Downing has drawn a number of different comics in here, ranging from just a few panels up to several pages. The comic strips frequently suffer from overly sketchy art and while the shorter pieces can be funny (I especially enjoyed all the ads for fake products) my favourites in here are the incredibly surreal, and more nicely drawn, ones that Downing has clearly spent more time on. These feature some sort of weird flying worm, the adventures of Three-Head (see below), a fill-in-the-blanks comic that becomes increasingly nonsensical as more and more is left to the reader's imagination, and one with a giant evil robot yeti that starts off as normal as something like that can be but by the end has become somewhat unsettling.

These longer comics share a surreal sense of humour and stories in which you have no idea what will happen yet. Bizarre things occur, and while you may at first find them funny, when given more thought they somehow seem almost tragic. Now if only all of these comics in here had more of that and less of characters shitting everywhere.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Matter Second Issue Preview

If you look at the cover of this zine you can figure out why it was made. The Portland Zine Symposium was about to happen and apparently they didn't have all the content ready for their second issue. But the problem with previews is that they're often kind of lacking in content.

This one features excerpts from a number of comics and prose pieces, but half of them are actually the second part of stories that began in the first issue, this means that the first issue is a more effective gauge of what will be in the second issue, and, since it includes complete chapters instead of excerpts, will give you a better idea of what the second issue will contain. (Though to be honest I'm not even sure if the second issue came out, as the website address listed in here no longer leads to anything.)

Still, I like the cover (I love that typographic style), and there's an introduction to this piece about what zines are that is kind of interesting. It's interesting to think that zines are _everything_. They can be comics or prose or poetry or art or photography or recipes or music or travel or personal or educational or anything. The only thing that really unites the people that make them is that they don't just want to make something, they have to, and they'll go to all extents to create and distribute what they've made.

Speaking of which, have you seen my zines? Want one? Email me and we can work something out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lone Pilgrim and Orochi Pilgrim

By David Blandy and Daniel Locke

Saturday: I photocopy some zines, I walk around town, I go into an art gallery. Oh that's cool, this artist has made action figures of himself, and created a fighting game staring himself, and made some comic books about himself (or his various alter egos). Neat.

Sunday: Maybe I should read this comic I got like a year ago. Oh wait, that name looks familiar. Ah, I see it was written by the guy who did that art show yesterday. Wait, what? That's a kind of strange coincidence. Especially as I got the comics in different cities, bought one directly from the artist (who is different from the artist of the other two comics), and have never met the writer. Still, it was bound to happen eventually I guess.

The comic is a discussion of philosophy, the meaning of life, and the way of the samurai. It's kind of strange as the characters mostly just walk through a garden and discuss various ideas like the concept of Mu, the idea that reality is an illusion, and similar things. It's probably a bit hard to understand if you don't have some familiarity with East Asian philosophy, though there's an amusing bit of self reference when a character says "Those things that are easily understood are rather shallow."

Locke does a pretty good job of illustrating the many pages of talking heads, though I wouldn't have minded a few more backgrounds. His art style isn't particularly Lone Wolf and Cub-like, but he uses some Japanese styles, and it's all perefectly fine for the type of story being told.

Why'd I just mention Lone Wolf and Cub? Well the comic is designed to look like the Lone Wolf and Cub volmes that Dark Horse put out a few years ago. There's even a neat little glossery in the back like they had! It's a really nice homage to a pretty rad comic series, and it's amusing to see a glossery that switches between discussing aspects of Japanese Buddhism with describing characters from '90s fighting games.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Amazing vs Asshole

By Bernard Boulevard and Gordon Gordon
Chow Chow Productions
PO Box 20204
Seattle, WA

This is one of a series of really weird little zines. They're short, thankfully, as I'm not sure how much of these things I can read. (And yes, I do try to read every single word in every zine I review on this site. If I don't I generally mention it.)

So this is two sort of strangely written rants, one about how people overuse the word "amazing" making it meaningless (ie. towels aren't amazing, major events are), and the other about how some people are assholes, but real assholes can be awesome? Like I said, it's rather strange. And all accompanied by pictures of the aforementioned assholes, both people and the physical part.

I'm not really looking forward to reading the ohter one of this series that I have, but as this is apparently the third printing of this issue I am apparently somewhat alone in that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tales of Diversity

This is a slickly produced (full colour! Glossy paper!) comics anthology created by Eastside Educational Trust and funded by the UK government. Or the last government at least, I doubt the new one would ever give money to something like this.

It features contributions from about twenty teenagers living in London (or at least I assume it's London), and it's neat that they actually are pretty damn diverse. The photo on the inside front cover features more diversity than seemingly the entire town I grew up in Canada (not that that would be that hard really).

The comics that these kids have created are pretty varied in a number of ways, namely quality and content. Some of them are quite accomplished, while others are kind of terrible. Since there are so many different strips in here I'm just going to comment on a few of them.

The opening piece (The Dollhouse by Leke Adekanbi and Shantel Cherebin) is about acceptance of people with different sexual and gender identities to the norm. It's a good message (though an old one for me), but is more notable for the use of colours (each page uses only one colour, giving the comic an interesting look), and the kind of bizarre way some of the characters speak. I guess this second thing is probably more due to the fact that I don't hang out with many East London teenagers.

The second piece is by Charley Hayter and is kind of a strange thing to be created by a teenager as it starts in 1980 and features some school kids discussing what they want to be when they grow up. Cut to the present day and they meet up again, where one has achieved her dreams and the other hasn't. It's, uh, kind of depressing (the person who hasn't works in retail). I do like the art style (sort of amerimanga influenced, and no, I never thought I'd use that word either), and someone's job is a beekeeper. Awesome!

After this strong start many of the other pieces in here aren't so good. Some don't seem to make any real sense, some aren't really comics but are really more just pin ups, some don't seem to have any connection to the theme at all, and one (the longest in the comic!) seems to miss the entire point of the project and features people going on holiday somewhere, complaining about the food served, and then getting sick after eating it.

That's not to say they're all terrible, several of them have some merit (either in theme or art), and one by Nickita Patterson is pretty awesome. Matching high contrast black and white photos with text the piece (it really isn't a comic) talks about the African diamond industry and the brutal rebel groups, child labour, and general exploitation involved in its running. It's nicely laid out, and has a powerful message, even if it might not "properly" match the theme of the book.

One interesting thing I saw through these pieces was how terrible the lettering generally was. Only a few of the pieces used digital lettering, most preferring to do it by hand, but either way it frequently looked bad and was hard to read. So I guess aspiring comics creators should take note, spend time working on your lettering as well as the other parts of your comic. It doesn't matter how amazing your story is if nobody can read it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Peach Melba #19

By Pearl
PO Box 74

When I was 13 I spent most of my time playing Magic: The Gathering and Super Nintendo, and reading X-Men comic books. I was so cool. (Now of course I do...much the same things. I think I play cooler games than Magic at least.)

What I wish I'd been doing instead at that age was making rad zines like Pearl does. Each intricately folded zine is filled with lists of what she's been doing, what's interested her lately, and random other things.

This issue's got lists of things Pearl doesn't like ("evil twins"), ways to eat people (how would you even mash someone to eat them? They don't have the same consistancy as potatoes. I don't think this was throught through to the extent that I am doing so...), and things made of metal ("the angel of the north", "some parts of clocks") amongst others.

There are also instruction for how to make a square envelope, that I haven't tried, but I'm sure work well. This isn't my favourite issue of Peach Melba, but it never fails to put a smile on my face when I read it anyway. Hurray!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Leeds Thought Bubble Festival

By Aaron "Smurf" Murphy

I got this at last year's Thought Bubble comicon (probably the best big comic event in the UK, it's really fun!), and it's really just a comic about going to the event itself. It's kind of weird metatextual in that way, but if you read it outside of that context it's really just a diary comic about, well, about how fun and well organized the event is.

Murphy's art is pretty good, though the oversized format he printed this at really kind of hammers home the lack of backgrounds in many of the panels. Probably the funniest thing about the art is that he is (or at least was when I met him) entirely unrecognizable from version that shows up in this comic, having shaved off all of his hair and beard for charity.

Overall the comic is a decent idea, but it's incredibly general about the event as a whole. Murphy seems to have been at the event before, so I'm kind of curious as to why he didn't include any anecdotes, or even the aftershow dance party in the casino (it is a kind of weird comic event).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Of Martial Traditions & The Art of Rebellion

By Seaweed

Sometimes I find writing this blog really strange. I mean, the concept of zines is so vague that I really can review anything I want as long as its printed on paper. (Or even if it's not!) Since I review everything that I've received this leads to me reviewing comics where Godzilla and other monsters review movies one day, and an anarchist treatise on the importance of learning martial skills the next.

The whole idea of using physical force to achieve your ideals is something I struggle with. I feel that the things happening in the Middle East are pretty important and exciting, but there are many different things you have to consider before you start a revolution in your own country. This zine actually takes a pretty pragmatic take on the whole thing, and there are two quotes I thought were important enough to write down.

The first is "all rebels who want to overthrow the present social order[...]need to ask themselves what success means for them" and the second is "[...]it makes absolutely no sense for a minority of revolutionaries in North America to contemplate attemtemping an outright military contest against the police and army. The states [sic] combat power is simply overwhelming.".

These two pieces of information answer some of the questions I had about the idea behind this zine. The author may want societal collapse and a new system in place, but they know that there is no way for that to happen now (and if the economy hasn't collapsed after everything that happened in the last few years I don't know if it ever will), and so they advise people to take the long view. That is you must stay in one place, gain local support, create communities, and eventually you may be able to create real change in the way that people live. It's kind of depressing, but it also makes a lot of sense.

However, there are lots of other ideas in here, and at times the author seems to be arguing themselves in circles. I mean, how do you create "an anti-authoritarian culture that values martial skills" yet doesn't have warrior aristocracies? The only way to prevent a warrior aristocracy seems to be to train everyone in the community in weapon skills, which leads to the fact that you are taking away the ability for people to _not_ do something if they don't want to.

One thing the author references are tactical works, such as The Art of War, and how it is important to know about these even if you don't plan on using them. Seaweed explains that this is because those you are confronting on issues will be aware of them (think about how many business people read those books).

There are definitely a lot of interesting ideas in here, and there are also a lot of things that I don't really agree with. I'm not really down with using physical violence to achieve my goals, but at which point does violence become justified? The zine asks these questions, though doesn't give me a satisfactory answer.

The zine is well written (unlike this review!) in a somewhat academic style, and if you are capable of dealing with that and are interested in the idea of rebellion and revolutionary change it's probably worth reading this and discussing it with others.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Godzilla the Film Critic

By Ben Clark

Okay, so it's a tiny minicomic, and the joke is pretty much told on the cover, but still, somehow, I was expecting a bit more from this. Mainly I guess because the "plot" (such that it was) mostly involves two monsters arguing about whether Cloverfield is any good or not. Their discussion reaches about the heights of your average Youtube comment (ie. it sucks! It rocks! I'll fight you!).

Meanwhile, several other monsters chime in on what they think of various TV shows and movies. These bits are fairly funny ("It's Britney's kids Gamera feel sorry for."), and I wouldn't have minded an entire comic just filled with their brief "reviews". I guess I set my heights too high, but really, this could have been the Citizen Kane (or insert good movie here) of tiny, humourous Godzilla comics. Or at least Clark could have spent a little bit longer on the art.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Brighton Zine Fest

So almost two weeks ago I went to Brighton for the Brighton Zine Fest. It was lots of fun (if somewhat smaller than last year's) and it was cool to see lots of people I know, talk about comics and zines, explore another town, discover the magic of My Little Pony cartoons, and lots of other fun stuff (the programme had a zine scavenger hunt! How fun!).

Of course I failed to take any photos whatsoever, and I've been procrastinating doing this post cause I wanted to finish the site redesign (look at it! What do you think? What should I add/change?), and because I wanted to get my flight booked back to Canada so I could tell you all when I am moving.

Well, I still haven't done that (procrastination!), but it'll be soon. I'll be at the London Comic and Small Press Expo on the 12th. I think this'll be the last event of this sort I'll be going to in the UK, so if you want to say hi to me (or get one of my zines for some reason) you should let me know if you'll be there. I think we'll be going out for drinks somewhere nearby afterwards. Hurray!

Bear with a Chainsaw Issue 1

Edited by Devin Renshaw

In his introduction Renshaw says that there's no "rhyme or reason to this zine", and that is entirely true, as the content switches between his drawings of monsters and completely random written content from others.

The monster drawings are pretty rad. Monsters! Yeah! That's like ingredient number one to make me like your zine. Renshaw draws tentacled monsters, hairy monsters, insect monsters, and more. None of them is incredibly horrifying or anything, but if you spend too much time looking at them and thinking about what they'd look like in real life they can create a certain sense of squeamishness in you.

The other content is considerably less good. A piece about why hobos are terrible which misrepresents homeless people (even if the author claims not to hate them), a poem I don't remember (surprise, surprise!), a nonsensical story about someone trying to find matches so they can smoke up, and some pretty gross "self help" style pieces (ie. "How To Revive Dead Mac n'Chz", and no, I've never put a half eaten pot of macaroni and cheese "in the frig".)

I liked that Renshaw saw fit to put little hand written editor's notes at the end of all the pieces other people wrote for him, but the pieces in general were not really my thing.

I did like the monster pictures though. Monsters! Raaarrrrrr!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dog Stories / Kalamazoo

By Martin Winch

Remember how yesterday I said I'd be reviewing some stuff I'd had for ages and ages and never gotten around to reading? Well here's exhibit A: two sampler zines that I picked up at the Portland Zine Symposium in 2009. That was almost two years ago!

I think I avoided reviewing these because I didn't think either of them was worth a full review. I still don't, however that is handily cured by reviewing them both in the one post. Progress!

Both zines start the same way, with a strangely defensive page telling you how you can get a hold of the full version sof these zines. Even from just reading that I kind of got a vibe that I wouldn't really enjoy these stories.

And I was right.

Dog Stories features a terrible story about some dude being really sexist and one told from a dog's point of view about how horrible it is that their owner won't let them shit everywhere and have sex with everything. Not my thing.

Kalamazoo (yes, it's a real place) features stories of gorwing up in the late '70s and early '80s in Michigan. Characters drink Bud, smoke cigarettes, drive shitty cars, and listen to shitty music. None of which I have any interest in reading about whatsover. (Well, there was half a paragraph about exploring sewers, but that's not a whole zine.)

It's hard to even judge whether these stories are well written, because the content and the style are so completely "not my thing". If you're into Americana they might be worth checking out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lambiek No. 40 Avontuur Strip

By Chris Ware

So later this month I'm planning on heading back to Canada. While this shouldn't cause any major changes to the way this site is run (other than less UK based comics/zines showing up), I have decided that I want to finish at least one of the boxes of zines that I have lying around before I go back.

And so, over the next couple of weeks we're going to be looking at some stuff that's been in this box for ages. Either because it's so small I didn't see it (like today's) or because I kept putting off reading it for whatever reason.

Don't worry though, there'll still be reviews of newer stuff, and you never know, some of those comics and zines I've ignored for months might turn out to be really awesome.

Today's is a tiny comic that Chris Ware created for Galerie Lambiek, a pretty exciting sounding comic book shop in Amsterdam that I unfortunately never got to visit.

Ware is incredibly well known, and really the only reason I'm reviewing this is because it's really, really small (5x6cm) and as it was a promotional item in Holland probably isn't that well known.

Ware is an incredibly talented artist. I've seen his original pages on display in art galleries and they're impressive things. The only problem is that I generally cannot stand his stories. This story is in the same line as his others: the fat babyman superhero on the cover is sad and depressed. Is liquor the answer? No. Prostitutes? No. Comics? No. In fact they all leave him crying even harder than he'd been before. It's only when he somehow manages to combine them all that he gains some amount of non-depression. It's kind of funny, but my general dislike of Ware makes me not care, even though he drew a headshot of Tintin!

I gave my copy to the Schulz Library at the Center for Cartoon Studies, so you can go there and read it if you want.