Sunday, December 18, 2011
A few weeks ago I got an email from Grant Thomas asking if I would review his comic books. I said I was behind on writing reviews, so he sent just one. It's Dodo Comics #2 Fall 2011. I would think of it as a zine, but Grant thinks of it as a comic book.
Dodo Comics #2 Fall 2011 is beautiful. The cover's attractive, a scene at an art gallery where a famous painting is being spoofed lightheartedly. Well, you can see it in the scan above.
This comic book is brief at 20 half-sized pages including covers, but there's some variety here.
The first piece, "Homage to Leone," is in the style of a Western. It includes some of the most gorgeous drawings I've seen in a comic book. I can't get over the characters' intense facial expressions. I'm no fan of Westerns, but "Homage to Leone" is extremely appealing to me, and it probably would be to anyone. Grant explains in the afterward that Leone is a filmmaker, which I didn't know. My only question was about a circle in one of the characters' mouths. I showed the drawings to my husband Erik, and he says it's a cigarette, which I didn't understand. It didn't look like a cigarette to me.
Next up is a piece about being a student in a life drawing class. It's in a completely different style from "Homage to Leone." "Drawing From Life" is cartoony and conversational in contrast to the stark intensity of "Homage to Leone." I like the insights about nudity and the way people react to broken taboos.
Again there was something I didn't understand. This time I didn't get the end. In the story, a "wino" is hired as a model for the life drawing class, and the three last panels show something happening. At first I thought the "wino" was masturbating because of the way his arms are placed and the peculiar look on his face. Then at the end he seems to have fallen off his chair. I've reread the ending several times and am still not quite sure what happens. It might be some kind of medical emergency. It's not clear, and I seem to be missing something. My confusion doesn't ruin the experience of reading, though.
"Visions of Johanna's Concert" is the third piece. I like the stirring facial expressions of the folk singer and the sparse clarity of the story's narration, the interplay between the two.
Finally is "Why Have you Shut Your Eyes?" again in an entirely different comics style--this time we get a page that looks sort of like a page out of an ancient manuscript, only with comics instead of text. We're treated to some drawings of a wonderful demon.
And then is the helpful contextualizing afterward, and on the back cover we get some info about Grant.
Writing this review I found myself wanting to use the word "expressive" a lot. I'm impressed.
Dodo Comics #2 Fall 2011 is available for $3 plus a dollar shipping on Grant's website.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
This is a small feminist zine about physical self-love. (For some reason my scanner couldn't handle the color of the cover--it's actually much brighter than this.) It covers masturbation techniques, DIY breast exams, what hands are good for. There are cute drawings of yonic foods--I especially like the strawberries. No one thing is elaborated on, but these are good messages for all women to keep in mind. It seems to have been created by a campus feminist group. Any woman reading this review, just let me know your address if you'd like me to mail this zine to you.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
It's a pleasure to spend time with DJ Frederick and his friends. I really enjoyed this zine. Highlights include thoughts about pirate radio and the excellence of vinyl records, interviews with John Poet and DJ Little Danny, and an account of an acid trip. Reading Paper Radio is like stepping into an alternate reality that I enjoy. The nostalgia is intelligent.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
This zine is from Hungry Knife Artist Collective in Arizona. It's brief and radical, good for anyone, yet concerned with local matters. There are plenty of appealing visuals, including a map of border patrol checkpoints. I think my favorite piece is No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes about what's going on with people who are trying to cross the border and humanitarian relief to help those people. No one idea is gone into with a lot of depth in this zine, but the ideas here are important.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Arg, I have been waiting all my life for this zine! I heard about it long ago, and finally I got my hands on one--this issue was included in the package W sent me, 50 or so zines out of the blue.
If you haven't heard of it, Xtra Tuf is about women on fishing boats. Do you love fishing boats? Do you love women? Do you love the best writing in the world? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, do yourself a favor and locate an Xtra Tuf. I answer "yes" to all three of those questions, so I am really in luck.
P.O. Box 6834
Portland, Oregon 97228
This is an attractive zine, nice shape, nice thickness, mostly about working at the mall. I liked it a lot. There's some cynicism, but a thread of true emotion runs through it. I like the ending, about a good concert. It made me feel like life was okay. And I like the way it says it's not a commodity. And I like the offer of a mix tape at the end.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Paper Radio #6 edited by DJ Frederick is a zine about radio. There's stuff about radio history here, some nostalgia. I really enjoyed the thoughts about pirate radio.
I remember listening to the radio when I was a kid, listening to top 40 stations in my bedroom. I remember once at the end of the year, staying up to hear what the top songs of the year were. I remember sitting near my stereo's speakers, keeping the volume low so no one else could hear. And I remember recording songs off the radio to share with friends.
I learned Morse code as a teenager in hopes of getting my ham radio license, something that never panned out.
I know the charm of driving on a long car trip, listening to random radio stations on the way, hoping to find a college radio station playing something interesting and possibly obscure.
So I know a little about the romance of radio. But there are whole radio worlds I am ignorant of.
Paper Radio #6 is a well-done zine--though I don't know much of anything, I felt welcomed and not completely lost. I like the essay that starts the zine--it's about European Music Radio. To hear about EMR's struggles was informative--I liked learning about what they went through. I also enjoyed the interview with John Anderson of DIYmedia.net. And I liked one DJ's account of some special music he first heard in the mid-'70s. Though I have never heard that music, I could relate to the feeling of finding something valuable.
I enjoyed this zine as an outsider, but I'm sure there are radio-enthusiasts who would go wild over this zine, as people who are in the know, and I hope DJ Frederick is getting Paper Radio into the hands of those people.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
This is the latest from Sage, and I loved it. We get to accompany her and her family on a cross country move. They visit a grave, a cave, and the original Pony Express station. Sage falls in love with Nebraska, gains a thimble, and loses part of a tooth. I read this in one sitting and enjoyed. More, please!
Saturday, September 24, 2011
One Minute Zine Reviews issue one is a zine review zine that starts out with a rant against youth culture? DJ Frederick says they're thoughts about the zine community from an outside observer, which doesn't make sense to me because DJ Frederick is a zinester, so he's an inside observer, but maybe he feels alienated from zine culture? After his list of zinester cliches, he does some preaching, telling us that heterosexuals, white males, and capitalists are not the enemy. Then he tells us what perzines should be like, which seems odd--has DJ Frederick encountered a lot of bad perzines? His examples of badness are "endless stories about your cute new kitten or your favorite cake recipe," both of which seem like valid perzine topics to me. The lecture continues when DJ Frederick tells us that not all zine readers are teens or twentysomethings. This wasn't a surprise to me, as the We Make Zines group for zinesters age 30+ has 229 members and I'm no youth myself. Finally, DJ Frederick ends this section of the zine with an entreaty to participate in change, something just about all zine makers would agree with.
After all this, I half-expected scathing zine reviews, but all the zine reviews found in this zine are nice. Maybe DJ Frederick chooses not to review the zines he doesn't like? I was familiar with 28 Pages Lovingly Bound With Twine, East Village Inky, and Constant Rider Omnibus, but all the other zines reviewed were new to me. I found myself most interested in Atlas of Childhood, which is a zine about children's books.
I like zine reviews, and DJ Frederick's are good: not too long, but long enough to convey his impressions, with factual information to supplement the opinions.
The thoughts about the zine community that begin this zine are sure to bother some, and I would imagine that that was DJ Frederick's intent. Meanwhile, the zine reviews are useful and smart.
This is a lit zine with no intro. Just poems and short stories, and a music article too, some of them truly bad and some of them truly good. A representative sentence is from a piece (short short story that ends abruptly? long prose poem?) by JF Himsel: "I was the burnt marshmallow on a dirty stick, being swung around some gods head, laughing." Yep, the apostrophe is missing in "gods" and we're not sure whether the god is laughing or the marshmallow is laughing. But it's brilliant anyway, right? This was one of the 50 zines W sent. The staple job was bad--it was falling apart, so I bound it myself. Now I don't know what to do with it. Email me if you want me to send it to you.
Friday, September 23, 2011
This perzine by Cath Elms out of Wales is quarter size, but there's a lot to read here. She covers the internet and how social networking changes us, some anti-feminist cliches and her response to them, how leaving university feels, and some goddesses. There are lists as well. I came away from this zine feeling supported and good. I like the intro--many intros are throw-away, but this one gave me a sense of the speaker as a person, and I like the person. A couple times Cath mentions events that are too personal to discuss in the zine. I would love to see the zine that the super-personal stuff makes it into, if there is such a zine. Probably I wouldn't be invited, but super-personal stuff is my favorite. Months ago I read and enjoyed a previous issue of Here. In My Head. So I can recommend this zine as a series. I look forward to seeing more from Cath.
This perzine by Kelly Shortandqueer almost entirely consists of an interview Kelly did with his Grandpa Sabin. Grandpa Sabin is so lively and fun. It's a pleasure to listen to him talk throughout the interview. There are snapshots too, but it's a text-heavy zine. I didn't read it all at once--I read it in three sittings. The war stuff is heavy though not boring. I guess my favorite part is at the end when Kelly asks what Grandpa Sabin thought about Kelly being trans. This is a good, solid issue of Shortandqueer, and I'm glad I read it. At the end I felt a little teary--something about the poignancy of the relationship got to me. I very much recommend this issue.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
This mini zine is a split--Color Wheel #9.11 is on one side of the piece of paper, and Night Train volume I number 4 is on the other side. The zine consists of one piece of paper, folded.
Color Wheel is three poems, and I like each of them. My favorite might be John O'Dell's "Rules of Painting the Orchid" which ends with the line, "Go make yourself some tea."
Night Train consists of an essay about Night Train and Color Wheel. The writing is clear and clean, the speaker likable.
This split is the first zine I've read out of a pile DJ Frederick sent, and it makes me look forward to the others.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I got a stack of durable goods when my friend W sent me those 50 or so zines in the mail. This one was my favorite. It's a micro-zine, just one piece of paper folded up, and it's a poetry zine. So short, like blink and you miss it. But I like it that way. The star of this issue is "This Dream is Not About You" by Dan Wilcox. It's so real and right. And it's short, and I feel like I can't quote from it because you need the whole thing. But it's surprising and I love it.
This is a chapbook of good poems by Jimmy Besseck. The voice is conversational, and the subjects are everyday. The speaker is grim and gritty, sometimes pithy. One poem called "Stating the Obvious" is about a man that's been shit on by a bird. It's very literal and compelling. Then at the end it seems to become about something more, about being shit on figuratively. Another poem is about hearing someone fart. There are some smart observations about human nature. Anyway, if you like poems and don't mind crassness you'll probably like this chapbook. There are lots of magazine pictures throughout.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
A friend sent me a package of about 50 zines a couple weeks ago. It was out of the blue, and I was delighted. I tried to read as many of them as I could--I was trying to work my way through because San Francisco Zine Fest was coming up. I knew there would be a free table, and I knew I'd be stopping by Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley afterward. I wanted to donate the "good zines" to Long Haul and leave the rest on the zine fest's free table. By "good zines" even I didn't know what I meant. I just had a sense that some of the zines should be given away freely, and some should be preserved and reread in a zine library.
When I actually got the fest and looked for the free table, it was different from what I remembered from years previous. It was neat and tidy. "Is it okay if I bring some chaos to this table?" I asked the volunteer, and he said sure. So I left a tall stack of zines at the free table, unsure of whether I had done the right thing. And that night at Long Haul Infoshop I donated a paper grocery bag full of zines, and the volunteer seemed happy.
Anyway, Three Days of My Life I Will Never Get Back, one of the zines my friend sent me, didn't go to Long Haul Infoshop or the zine fest's free table--I kept it for myself! It's first-rate zinery. It's someone's tale of a trip across the US by Greyhound bus. He's smart, he's funny, and he's English. It's all one continuous story of this bus trip, no nonsense. A few skillful drawings break up the handwritten text.
One of the things that most impresses me about Three Days is how the speaker is able to sustain the story. His attention span is admirable. And great attention to people. A favorite part is about a little kid. "His grandmother calms him down with tin foil wrapped chicken legs, which he devours and shouts 'I LOVE YOU GWANNY!' inbetween chews." It's all like this, a series of gems about the characters on the bus.
20 pages, quarter size, black & white photocopy
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I was on We Make Zines and read something about Virginia Is a People Name, loved the title, and contacted Virginia Shields to trade. She agreed, and it arrived today.
Being active in the zine community, I have come to learn a little about comics. And I've definitely come to enjoy them. These particular comics are so expressive and smart. I showed my favorites to my husband--he laughed too.
I like the strength of the emotions. The drawing style is distinctive. Oh, and I like that it's bound with orange thread.
I first came across Map of Fog when I was writing zine reviews for Zine World. It was one of the best zines I had ever read, a non-fiction zine telling tales of San Francisco, focused on people. Mature and professional, with a strong voice, yet DIY and personable, it was all the things I liked best about zines. I got in touch with its creator Marcos Soriano, and in that way I got a hold of Map of Fog 2, which is probably just as good.
Two weeks ago I got Map of Fog 3 in the mail, and it didn't disappoint. This one's almost entirely interviews. The interviews are with everyday people of San Francisco, and all come from elsewhere: Tennessee, Laos, England, Hong Kong, and El Salvador. The people are fascinating. Is everyone that fascinating, when interviewed with skill? The last piece in the zine is about some buildings in the Sunset (one of San Francisco's neighborhoods) that house secret societies.
Map of Fog remains one of my favorite zines of all time!
Appealing and good looking, this is Bettie's new perzine. Before, Bettie made mental health zine Anatomical Heart, which I loved, and I'm sorry to see it go. But Buy Her Candy #1 covers some important ground: being hairy, things she likes to do with her partner, marriage and how she can't marry her girlfriend where she lives in England, and having a lot of stuff. I can't not mention her layout. I love her use of images, like the old advertisement picture of a shaving baby. It's a short but solid perzine giving the sense of a person, a person who I happen to like a lot.
Monday, September 5, 2011
I know there are a lot of zine review blogs on the internet. But I figured, "Why not?" I read a lot of zines, I have things to say about them, and I have a scanner for covers. So send me any zines you'd like to for review. Except for music zines, that is. Poetry? Sure! Queer? Absolutely. Perzine? Yes, please. Mental health zine? Extra-special yes. Cookzines? Yes, though I won't make the recipes unless they're vegan. Any other kind of zine? I think so. Just no music zines, please. Email me for my mailing address at robotmad (gmail).