Monday, February 25, 2013

The Swaying Dog Issue #1

There is that point where I look at the letter I received with a zine for the nth time, reading that it's the person's first zine, and that they'd love to know what I think about it, and I wonder what I should say.

The inside front page says that the zine is about "nothing", and that pretty much describes it. There're random cut and paste writing and images, a top five moustaches, and other stuff. The whole thing is printed in colour (which looks quite nice on some pages, but has issues on others), and is put together in a competent and attractive cut and paste style. But (and you knew there was going to be a but) the writing style just doesn't appeal to me. I mean, it's hard to tell from the brief pieces included, but they didn't do very much for me at all.

And I feel bad saying this because this is somebody's first zine, but everyone who reads this site should remember that I am not the be-all and end-all of reviewers. There are zines that I didn't like that pretty much everyone else does, and zines that I love that lots of other people hate. I remember I used to read one comic review site years ago because the reviewer had such diametrically opposed opinions from me that if they didn't like something I thought I should check it out, and if they were really into something I'd avoid it.

Reviewing is based on opinions, not facts (I mean just look at this terrible review of My Neighbour Totoro, it's like this person saw a completely different film!), and, unless they're about comics by Chuck Austen and their terribleness can be proved by graphs, it's always a good idea to take reviews with a grain of salt.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Piltdownlad #4 - The Nasty Oh-Dear

By Kelly Dessaint and Walt Hall
PO Box 86714
Los Angeles, CA

I remember when I read the second issue of Piltdownlad  I wondered if the story it told was true or fictional. In this issue Dessaint says that they "understand how distracting it can be for the reader to not know whether a work is fiction or if it's autobiographical", and how they combine the two because they "like a good yarn, regardless of how factual the details are".

Despite this, the intro goes on to say that the stories in this issue are, apparently, all true, admittedly with dialogue created after the fact. However, in this case I kind of wish for the inability to determine whether a story is true or not, because some of the subject matter included in this zine is pretty distressing, if told in a way that made me want to know what happened next.

The tale in question concerns foster homes, child abuse, mental hospitals, and other stuff of that ilk. Dessaint pulls the trick of starting at the end of the story (or at least the middle) with him and his brother arriving at a foster home. You know that something has to happen for them to have ended up there, but you don't know what it is. Dessaint moves back and forth through time, effectively teasing the reader until the truth is revealed. It is, as I said, upsetting in regards to what happens to the people in the story, but at the same time it ends with such a teaser that I want to find out what happens next.

Also included are a writeup about the 2012 LA Zinefest, an account of being a punk fan in the 1980s and tracking down records, and a bunch of zine reviews (including a review of one of mine). It's all well written and well put together, and I would read more issues if I had them.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Portland Zine Symposium, August 10th and 11th

The poster for this year's Portland Zine Symposium has been released. It looks pretty rad! I'm hoping to be there for it this year, who else is going? There's more information on their website.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WWTD? (What Would Tintin Do?)

By Ianto Ware

I'm a big Tintin fan. I've been reading (and rereading) the comics since I was a kid, I've read books about Tintin, I've read the novel (it's weird), I went to Belgium just to go to the Hergé Museum, for the better part of a decade my default haircut was Tintin's (I finally have a new one), and in general I've spent probably too much time semi-basing my life goals on him. I aimed to be a globe trotting reporter who had adventures all the time, and to some extent I succeeded in doing that.

When I saw that the Vancouver Public Library's guide to zines recommended one about Tintin I had to read it! Screw all those zines and minicomics that are in a pile in my bedroom just waiting to be reviewed, this was what I needed to read next!

So I tore into it, and it rekindled my love of Tintin. He's super rad! But it also made me look at some aspects of the work, and our society in general, in a different way.

Ware says that he was inspired to create this zine after breaking up with his partner. He felt pressured by his friends, and society, to enter into another relationship. Ware brings up the prevalent idea that to be happy you must be in a (hetero-normative, monogamous) relationship. Ware didn't really like this idea (it kinds of makes me uncomfortable too), and decided to seek out positive bachelor role models. Men who weren't in relationships and who didn't care because they filled their lives with other things.

The person Ware settled on was Tintin, the "boy" reporter who (at least as the beginning of the series) lives independently without any apparent friends or family (apart from Snowy). In fact the entire series barely features any female characters at all, and instead populated by a seemingly infinite number of bachelor scientists and adventurers (kind of strange when you consider Hergé's two marriages).

Ware tracks the adventures of Tintin through all the books, discussing problematic aspects of the stories and breaking the characters down into what makes them so appealing. He discusses how they embody different ways of dealing with life, and how they evolve along with the life of their creator, reflecting various aspects of his life.

It made me look at some parts of the books in a different way, and while I don't agree with all of Ware's conclusions, I did finish the zine reminded of the fact that Tintin is awesome, and that maybe having a fictional character (who manages to concentrate on the important aspects of life and have awesome adventures with his friends) as a role model isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Event: Bookish Beats, April 14th, San Francisco

 An email from the The Center for Sex &Culture:

Bookish Beasts is a one day zine fest for the creators of art, books and comics featuring sex, sexuality, gender and erotica. We want to give you the opportunity to exhibit your works, and connect with local readers who love and collect adult material.

This is a not for profit event that is free to the public, Although as we live to support local artist we will need some help from you t make this happen. We are asking for $20 to split an 8' table with chairs. You will be responsible for cashiering your own sales and all profits are your own. The CSC has enough chars but will need to rent tables and promote the event. If this sounds like a great event that you want to get involved with please confirm right away.

The event is one day. April 14th from noon to 6PM. There will some presentations and workshops following. Please let us know if you are interested in participating or would like to propose a workshop or presentation.

If interested in participating or for more information contact

Regular Jen Comix

 By Mark Oakley

So it's kind of weird to be reading a side story to some ongoing webcomic/graphic novel series. I mean, I've read some of Oakley's comics before (or at least one of them: Thieves and Kings volume 1, of which I remember absolutely nothing), but I've never read any of his current series Stardrop. (And I'm unlikely to any time soon. I mean, it looks like it could be pretty good, but that website! Hideous...)

Regular Jen is spinoff of Stardrop (how exactly I'm not sure, but the intro page assures me that this is true) in which the titular Jen meets up with Jenny (confusing...) who then sends her back in time to join a band or something? I'm not really sure. I can't complain about starting stories in the middle, because that's how I started reading comics. If you started reading superhero comics at pretty much any time ever you weren't starting at the beginning, you were thrown in with characters you didn't know doing things you didn't understand. Hell, every story starts in the middle to some degree. My complaint is more that this comic isn't long enough to tell a story, and I almost feel as though we're reading a deleted scene that didn't make it into the main plotline.

Oakley's art works well for the type of story he's telling. His characters aren't particularly detailed in the facial area, but he still manages to get emotion out of them through details he does use combined with a good use of body language. There's also quite a lot of detail put into the backgrounds, though one panel transition seemed a bit jarring because it went from the less than detailed characters to a scene that seemed like it could have been from a different artist.

Despite the underlying craft of this comic I'm left a bit let down at the end. Putting the word "Fin" at the end of this brief comic kind of implies to me that the story is over. But it's not! It can't be! More things could/should/must happen, and in fact the most exciting parts seem like they haven't happened yet. It should be a good sign that Oakley's story grabbed me enough to want to know what happened next, but for whatever reason it hasn't grabbed me enough to start reading a different comic from the beginning to try to figure everything out.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Travel and Going Stories

By Claro

So after months and months it's hard to get back into the swing of writing reviews. I'd much rather procrastinate doing my homework in some other way!

But I keep getting more zines, and if I'm ever going to read them all I need to get reviewing, so here we go!

Travel and Going Stories is a travel zine, but whereas most travel zines are about an entire trip, Claro has made the choice of creating a zine that only covers the journey of getting somewhere. Claro takes a taxi across Newfoundland, hitchhikes in Ontario,  gets lost in a field full of stinging nettles somewhere, and has other adventures, but I generally have no idea why they were going to these places.

This doesn't bother me, as I liked these short travel stories of things that could have gone horribly wrong somehow, but ended up working out alright in the end. Some of them reminded me of some of the trips I've gone on: sleeping under a table in a hallway in Montreal, or hoping that we could get in touch with my friend's friend after we got stuck in the middle of nowhere hitchhiking.

The layout and design is kind of strange, switching between text that was created on a typewriter, handwritten, and even cut out and pasted. This can happen in the middle of a sentence! But while that seems like it might really mess with the reading experience I didn't actually find it that problematic, and found this zine to be an enjoyable read.