“Do people still make zines?” That seems to be the stock response when I spoke to friends about attending Brooklyn Zine Fest on April 21. Many of us collected Xeroxed, hand-stapled booklets swapped through self-addressed-stamped-envelopes (SASEs, if you’re nasty) or sold for a dollar or two through black-and-white ads in the back pages of glossier publications. With the advent of blogs as the platform-of-choice for highly-personalized self-publication, one might wonder why there’s still an interest in zines. The fact of the matter is, in a world dominated by digital–and therefore ephemeral–self-publication, a growing community is returning to the tangible thing-ness of creating zines.
The creativity on display at Brooklyn Zine Fest was overwhelming. Authors, photographers, cartoonists and artists of all stripes brought their wares: zines represented a refreshing variety of perspectives, from the earnestly political to the irreverently humorous. Virtually the only thing in common between these vendors was their passion for a niche medium that allowed them to hand a physical artifact to a flesh-and-blood reader. There’s a connection between what drives zine enthusiasts and what inspires the retr0-rock renaissance–the process of working with “outdated” materials is almost (if not equally) as crucial as the final product.
My own zine haul wound up striking a nice variety in terms of subject matter and presentation. Let’s discuss the high points!
Quail Bell is a lovely, perfect-bound publication helmed by Christine Stoddard that features a mixture of fiction, essay and memoir writing, side by side with grayscale art. Deceptively beautiful in its presentation, there’s a dark subversiveness that runs through the content with discussions on Countess Bathory, Greek sex practices and haunted cities. It’s a capital-R Romantic vision brought to print, and one that’s well worth seeking out.
Issue One of Jeremy Jusay’s Jusay Pulp is a stunningly-illustrated comic ode to 80s New Wave. I’m insanely envious of illustrators who can work in black-and-white, and Jusay’s deft handling of his inks is in the greatest tradition of Los Bros Hernandez. The story is absolutely charming as well, and if you’ve ever wanted to see the ghostly incarnation of Joy Division disrupt a mugging, then THIS IS YOUR BOOK, friend.
I would be the biggest jerk in town if I didn’t buy a copy of Lunchmeat, a zine that is second-to-none in its deification of VHS. The diehards at Lunchmeat exclusively review titles on tape format, rescuing the dustiest weirdness from format oblivion. So committed are these folks to their mission that they include within the pages of issue 7 a guide to maintaining your own VHS collection.
Suren Karapetyan’s f666 is a celebration of the DIY side of metal and extreme music. In addition to capturing the raw energy of live performances, Suren’s camera also documents the sweaty, exhausting and frequently beer-soaked reality of off-stage life. The zine does a remarkable job of breaking down the Fourth Wall between fans and performers. Nowhere is this more evident than in issue 3’s coverage of Maryland Deathfest 2011–much like the event itself, it’s as much about the audience as it is about the bands.
[All of which reminds me, I have to get around to telling you guys about my own journey to Maryland Deathfest 2012, which was… really, really weird and really, really real.]
Illustrator Mark T. Sedita’s “Sad Draculas” minicomic earned my Title of the Day Award and does exactly what it says on the tin.
Matt Crabe’s ultra-grotesque, ultra-detailed illustrations are packaged in a touchably-appealing package, featuring clear covers with hand-painted accents. Evoking the 90s underground aesthetic Mike Diana, Crabe’s drawings ooze, spurt and decay in a thrillingly disturbed manner. His half of the split-zine “Hot Dogs” (paired “Witches in Danger” by Sheila Marcello) is a litany of gruesome fates suffered by tubular meats. It touches the heart and upsets the stomach, much like its namesake.