Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You're the Best.....Around!!! #1


Honestly, when someone emailed me asking if I wanted to review their "kids in sports films" zine I was a bit wary. I mean, what the hell type of topic is that? But ultimately that's one of the things I love about zines: they can be about anything. And by having people send or trade me their zines I end up reading some weird stuff that I would never seek out.

So this zine pleasantly surprised me. It begins with a discussion of the ideas behind "kids in sports films" and how they generally follow identical plot maps, feature the same type of characters, have the same messages, and are pretty damn predictable. Now after reading this you might wonder why someone would even bother watching them, but I think if you know anything about any type of genre fiction you know that they have the same tropes that they follow pretty frequently. I mean, I watch terrible science fiction action films and read a lot of super hero comics, and you can describe those in such a way that they sound incredibly awful (and to many people they are!). Yet I enjoy them anyway, even if they are bad a lot of the time.

Next there's a description of all the different character types that appear in these films (from "The Coach" to "The Ethnic Minority"), which was informative but probably could have used a few more examples from films. Then we have an indepth discussion of the Will Ferrell film "Kicking and Screaming". In fact, I think this might be the most ever written about this film as it doesn't sound very good, even by the conventions of the genre.

The plot is discussed, the actors are discussed, the director is discussed, hell, even the uniforms are discussed! It's kind of insane really. But it's all written in a fairly informative and entertaining style, by someone who seems to love this genre, but hates this film in particular. It sort of reminded me of something like the Zero Punctuation video game reviews, which find every flaw and problem in a game and scream "why why why was this decision made?". (Well, it's not as good as Zero Punctuation, but this is only the first issue.)

There's also an interview with the band My Dad Is Dead (about "kids in sports films" of course), and a recipe for a baked chocolate banana thing. So all in all this zine was a pleasant surprise, and now I'm actually kind of looking forward to reading the next issue.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crazed Mazes Issue #1

By Myron Smith
PO Box 354
Ridgeway, VA

When I made my last zine (Potato Maze) I was super stoked with the maze I made for the cover. I thought it was incredibly cool and I was really proud of it. After reading the first issue of Crazed Mazes I'm incredibly glad that I waited so long until I read it, because now all sense of pride has disappeared.

The mazes in here really are crazed! No basic rectangles here, rather the mazes form faces, symbols, trees, and pictures that I didn't even understand were mazes until I looked at them. The difficulty of the mazes differs from ones that looked too hard for me to even try to ones that are pretty simple (because all of the borders are cats or fish, adorable!), so there should be some for everyone to try.

If mazes aren't your thing there are also find the object drawings set at a circus and on the street, and a crossword! The answers to everything are also in the back, so if you're really not sure how to finish one of the activities you can always cheat (or "check your answers").

The only problems with this zine are some less than stellar reproduction on the cover, and that it's just on 8.5 x 11 paper and stapled in the upper left hand corner. Still, this was a preview issue and I hope that in the future Smith will be able to use 11 x 17 paper and make some awesome activity books.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Meanest Greenest Frog

By Eric Baker

While I've categorized this as a comic (and it is one), I think it can be better described as an illustrated "children's book". Baker has taken certain aspects of comics (speech balloons) and added them to a single large picture on each page.

The story concerns a young boy's quest to find the titular frog somewhere in a forest. Baker has chosen to present the narrative text and the characters' speech in rhyme. Combined with the somewhat repetitive nature of the text this means that the story seems as though it should be read out to someone else (while of course showing them the pictures at the same time).

The art is all pretty good, and I enjoyed Baker's depiction of various frogs and other animals. He's also put a lot of work into the general appearance of this book, with end papers, page numbers, and a "This book belongs to" page. It's all very professional and nice to look at, though I did think that the colouring could have been a bit brighter.

It's pretty clear that I'm not the target audience for this, but I can see kids enjoying either reading it or having it read to them. Let's hope that this is what's happened with other copies of this story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Robots and Electronic Brains number 14

Edited by jimmy possession

This music zine is packed full of reviews, interviews, and articles about music and bands. Unlike most zines of this type it doesn't focus on one particular genre and the content can go from discussing Welsh language hip hop to the bands influenced by '60s French pop music.

Writing about music can be a pretty difficult thing to do, and I think even the best writers are writing it for people that read music writing. Thus, as someone who doesn't know that much about music I often felt a bit lost when reading some of the content here, which perhaps can be said to be aimed at the sort of people who spend their weekends searching through crates of records at garage sales in the hopes of finding that one amazing seven-inch.

However, some of the interviews were pretty good, and it came with a compilation CD with loads of different music on it (everything from hip hop to indie to weird cut up spoken word bits featuring Vincent Price), and it's worth it just to get hold of that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Echo Echo 8

By Kagey

Reviewing perzines is hard sometimes because they are so personal. When someone is spilling out their mind and their soul onto the page it's difficult to criticize their layout or their writing style. It's even harder when the person writing the zine is a friend of yours. You can find out more about what they think and how they feel by reading a zine they made for dozens of strangers than you ever did by talking to them.

Saying all that I did enjoy this zine. I felt a connection to Kagey and her fears and anxieties. The physical and metal actions she describes rang true with me, and I thought about putting on masks and pretending to be someone you're not, drinking in art galleries, and awkward conversations. "One thing you hate about being drunk is that, while you forget your shyness, you're still as awkward as ever, so you cringe harder in retrospect." (And even if you're not actually that awkward, your mind still concentrates on the small details and ignores the larger picture.)

I didn't dig everything in here (the poetry didn't register, as usual), and I wish that Kagey included more of her drawings as I like those, but I enjoyed the writing style that Kagey used; it was filled with loss and loneliness and little truths.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out of the City and Into the Trees Issue #2: The Battle of Dalkeith Country Park

I think the environment is awesome! I think that (sub)urban sprawl is terrible! I think that there are many things our society does that could be done better and without hurting the earth and the people that live there. We could focus less on cars and more on bicycles and alternative forms of transportation, focus on using what we have instead of buying new things, and focus more on people instead of profit.

I think that these things are important and that we have to fight for these things if and when it comes to that. And so I have some amount of respect for people that go and lock themselves into trees and and other places to prevent nature being destroyed.

However I am frequently left very confused by some of the people who are incredibly moved by the beauty and importance of nature, are involved in movements like this, and express dislike of modern society and a desire to go back to something more "primitive".

(Now please note, this isn't all necessarily aimed at this zine and its creators specifically, some of these complaints are more general.)

So how is flying a large group of protesters/activists to Iceland good for the environment? Perhaps if you spent the time, effort, and money trying to educate people wherever you are and creating a community that cares about where they live you will have more effect than going to another country and chanting.

And how can you justify owning cars and iPads and things like that when you express your rejection of modern society and technology? I love society and civilization and technology and would be incredibly sad if I had to live a hunter gatherer/farming existence due to the lack of opportunities to learn and the lack of art to see. And yet I don't have a car, I don't have an iPad, and somehow manage to get by fine on a technology I've found or been given. I guess I choose a "consume less" lifestyle, but find certain eco-primitivists to be pretty hypocritical. (Of course other people probably find me hypocritical too.)

This zine has some interesting stuff, but at the same time I find the writer's viewpoint to be somewhat naive. If you're really into this sort of stuff and are interested in reading more about it, I'll recommend that you check out the highly enjoyable Holidarity, a minicomic about environmental protest camps in the UK.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Panel 13

Behind the neat cover (both sides open like doors) lies a a comics anthology put together by a group of creators in Ohio. They function like a writing group, getting together every few weeks to show each other what they're working on and to give constructive criticism. Twice a year they put out an anthology, and this is the 13th. Impressive!

This anthology is based around the theme of superstition and bad luck, and, like all anthologies, the contents are up and down with some comics just leaving me confused as to why they were even created. (Though I suppose that could just because because I don't really see the appeal of baseball.)

The two comics I liked the most were one by Craig Bogart that told of the unfortunate ends of the various contributors to this "unlucky" book. Each person is given a panel and their fates are revealed as everything from being forced to see the world like Thomas Kinkade to being burnt alive. No fun!

The other piece I liked was by Molly Durst and Brent Bowman and was a sort of pre-World War II adventure piece that recalled stories like The Shadow. It features a mansion, fencing, chemistry labs burning down, and the Spider King! How can you not love a giant centaur like spider goblin? I wish this comic was longer so that we could have seen more of him.

And so, once again, Matthew's love of monsters triumphed over all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Every Reason #4

Edited by Keith

You know, the only way to get better at writing (or anything) is to do it every day. Do it all the time and you will improve. I've really been slacking on that front, but I feel like I've turned a corner and am doing zine stuff again (I've already posted more reviews than last month!).

Thus the importance of zines like this, which provide amateur writers with somewhere that they can submit their work to. I'm pretty much stealing this idea from the introduction where the editor says that he sees the zine as social work and wants it to promote writing and give more people the opportunity to read work (and to have writers have their work read). And yeah, what's the point of making a zine if nobody's going to read it?

Mostly though, the content of this zine didn't really leave much of an impact on me. There's a bunch of poems, which generally go in one ear and out the other when I read them. I did like the first one, though mostly because after a mention of Bukowski in the introduction I heard it like this piece in my mind.

Other than that I didn't really dig anything in this anthology. I feel as though I can't even critique the writing quality as the styles and story content aren't things that really interest me. The characters in the fiction pieces act in ways that I don't really understand, and clearly have different goals and thoughts than I do. So yeah, this is pretty much a non-review as I think all I can say is "not my thing".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chloe Noonan Monster Hunter #2

By Marc Ellerby

Sometimes the comics industry makes me sad. Not because it's mostly based around superheros. Not because it's not the most sexually or racially enlightened of places. Not because they are ignored by so many people.* But because there is really good work put out by amazing artists that seems to be almost completely unknown.

Case in point being Chloe Noonan by Marc Ellerby. This is an incredibly well drawn, well written, and funny comic with characters I like reading about, yet Ellerby is self publishing it with no major distribution. Now sure, maybe he wants to self publish it, but after reading about some of the problems he had getting issue 3 printed I wish that all of that was being taken care of by someone else and he could just draw more comics.

Still, apparently he is currently pitching it to various people. So hopefully we'll have a full book before too long. I certainly can't wait to read more comics about this not very good monster hunter, and her adventures with bands and clothes stealing friends. Until then I'm just going to have to go and read all of his webcomics.

* Okay, yes, all of those things make me sad too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Peach Melba #21

By Pearl
PO Box 74

Peach Melba is a zine made by a 14 year old girl, and she's been doing it monthly for almost two years! I can't even seem to update this site that much sometimes.

Each ingeniously folded issue is filled with lists of whatever has caught Pearl's fancy recently. Thus this issue has lists about pirates, spies, clothes (though I think that skirts and dresses aren't always impractical, and sometimes they are made for men!), food, and Doctor Who (everyone loves Doctor Who right?).

This final item made me think about my own memories of Doctor Who. When I lived in the "old country" (a long time ago), I used to watch Doctor Who on TV, and I was terrified of the Daleks. I remember a girl running around with a baseball bat, and hiding behind the couch. Ah, memories. Now all I want to do is watch the old episodes of Doctor Who with the Liquorice Allsorts robot.

Um, anyway: Peach Melba is super rad, and this issue features a reprint of instructions on what to do if arrested at a protest in the UK. Super useful! (Especially of late.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hope for the Future 7

By Simon Perrins and Andrew Livesey

Reading this comic now is a little bit frustrating, as I saw the guys at various events in the UK, but never picked up their comics. I even read the first issue online, but didn't read any more. Why is this a problem? Because I really enjoyed this issue and want to read more, but am in the wrong country. I will just have to read all their comics online (well, at least it saves me some money).

One thing that's pretty neat is that about this comic is, despite the fact that it's issue seven and features a full page of small text recap, it's enjoyable without any prior knowledge of the characters other than "they're university students who keep getting into supernatural trouble". In this case they're traveling back in time to the far off and distant lands of the mid-90s. How horrible!

They're on the trail of a painting with some mysterious connection to something. We don't really know what it is, but the story's well written enough that it seems as though there will be a decent pay off at some point (though not necessarily in this issue).

The art by Andrew Livesey plays a large part in my enjoyment of the story. It reminds me of Andi Watson and maybe a bit of Steve Rolston. The characters are angular, pointy, and a bit blocky, but they're generally attractive, individualized, and the overall art features some nice toning. It really looks nothing like the cover at all! (Which is a good thing, as the cover didn't really grab me, partially because I didn't really like the movie it's based on...)

Also: there are monsters!

But ignoring my obsession with monsters (and ghosts), this is a supernatural adventure comedy that's well written and fun. I wish I'd started reading it sooner.

(Maybe not really representative of the general art, but a pretty rad page nonetheless. click to see it bigger.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Secret Spots Halifax anti tourism tour

I was super pumped when I found this zine in the Anchor Archive Zine Library. Things to do in Halifax! I've just moved here and don't know where there is anything to do. Plus: maps! I love maps! Sadly, this zine is something of a disappointment.

While it's totally cool that all the information in here is bilingual, it does mean that there's less space for locations to be included, but that's not a big deal. The actual list is a bit disappointing too, though it's not really aimed at me. There's a number of islands and lakes and stuff included, which aren't really things I have any interest in going to see, though I can understand other people finding them interesting, and there _is_ some stuff I thought sounded cool.

However, the real problem with this zine is the map. It's just photocopied from another source with numbers placed on top. It is not designed for the page, and is so dark I can't find where anything noted actually is located. Since the text refrained from including any addresses this becomes an "anti tourism" guide in that it tells you about places you cannot visit, you can only imagine them in your mind. Which, in some cases, might actually be an improvement. I mean, how cool can that lost overpass be?