(NOTE: This was originally going to be a post about the zine of the month club, but I got carried away.)
I like 'Zines. There I said it. There is nothing to be ashamed of really, but it seems sometimes that I was born about 10 years too late. Its like I should have been going around in my 20's during the 90's wearing my flannel shirts and ripped jeans, brushing my long orange and green hair out of my face while wearing my favorite Pearl Jam t-shirt. You could find me slaving over a hot copy machine at the local Kinko's (not FEDEX Kinko's) printing out page after page of my latest art masterpiece. Folding and stapling with a sense of pride for this rough product about to be unleashed on the world.
I never did any of those things though. Except for the flannel shirts, and the jeans with holes. It wasn't about fashion, I was just a poor teenager. I didn't make my first 'zine until 2003 maybe? It was for my drawing II class. It seems there really aren't too many zines out there these days. I think it is a combination of there not being too many being produced locally, or it could be that I just don't know where to look. It could be that I have a certain romanticized idea of what a zine should be based on the comics of Adrian Tomine, Jim Mahfood, and Daniel Clowes (Zine-o-phobia in Ghost World?). Cool drawings, cool stories, maybe an album review, or movie review. I would think that 90% of my love of zines is probably related to me collecting comic books(especially the smaller sized and often roughly drawn Ashcan and underground comics), always thinking that one day it would be ME writing and drawing and publishing my own work. This was attainable in the form of the zine. Even if I gave up on that dream during my first year of college.
I remember Brat magazine and Burt the Cat, in Louisville. Both of these were collections of stories, funny pictures, comics, and ink that came off right on your fingertips. Brat was a lot more political, and rebellious with its articles along the lines of what to do if you get pulled over, and violence in schools, and self education. Meanwhile, Burt the Cat was more local around town things, and funny pictures and websites(and the website had better be good because you still had to dial them up!). It seemed like so many zines, or local publications were so musically geared that it was very selective. I remember seeing a lot of things with interviews or reviews of bands and albums that I had never heard of, or just didn't care about. I suppose that is why zines are often called "fan-zines". It is supposed to be for a small audience of the initiated. If you didn't know what they were talking about, then it wasn't for you.
A few years after the drawing II assignment to create our own zines, I started to seek out new and interesting zines from the internet. I got a few things from Rob Ullman, which are mainly pin-up style cartoons and other assorted drawings and comics, but that was it. I made a zine for one of the Big Bone art shows which was all about my saint prints, and one for my BFA show. It wasn't until earlier this year when I went to the Southern Graphics Print Council Conference in Chicago that I found zine heaven. There were people who were self printing zines left and right! The Colombia college store had a zine called "Bitches" Which was sold in the store as a "zine", but under the guise of "one page artist book" during a Demo one floor up. It was in reality a photocopied piece of paper that was folded in a very creative way. "Claptrap" #2 was hilarious and screenprinted which was a bonus for me! Another great one is the CD-booklet-sized-gold-covered "The Longest Night" by Lederer, Lake, and Singer. I got this in Chicago also, and it is very sturdy in its construction, and the drawings inside are great as well. Recently I discovered a club called the Zine of the Month Club. For 75 bucks you get a different zine every month. It really is a cool deal. They are from a variety of artists, and published by Mark Price. When I say "published" I mean that 90% are screenprinted. (I will go into more detail about this group of zines in a later post.)
There is something about holding printed paper that can not be reproduced on screen. A Kindle from Amazon will never be a book, with a cover designed by someone, and a font that someone had to pick, or a smell, or the feel of the paper. A kindle will always feel like a kindle, and no matter what book you read it will feel, and smell the same. The same goes for Albums. You will never hold a digital download in your hand, and you will never read the digital download liner notes. You will never smell the ink, or feel the texture of the paper. Is it glossy? Is it rough? The same is DEFINITELY true about comic books. It makes me laugh to think that some comic companies are pushing so hard to go digital as the future of comics. I just don't see that catching on. Much like these mediums, a Blog will never be the same experience as a 'zine, or a magazine, or newspaper. There is the touch, and the smell aspect, but there is also the feeling while holding a zine, that someone somewhere thought this was important enough to cut, paste, write, draw, and copy. This is someone's product, and it is more that a simple layout where they fill in the blank insert HTML and hit "post" You can see the craft, and you can see the screw-ups, and in both cases it is a sign that there are still people out there getting their hands dirty.