The Golden Age of Zines
November 30, 2004 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Beer Frame and Dishwasher and Murder Can Be Fun. My top 3 Zines of all time (here's a list of more). There was a used record/comics store near where I worked. They had lots of Zines and I would frequent them just to see if new issues were in. Weeks of waiting were sometimes rewarded with a new issue. Almost always worth the wait. Anyone have a favorite? Any good Zines around anymore? [more inside]
posted by e40 (37 comments total)
Beer Frame was my first. I was turned onto it by a very perceptive
friend. He could notice little things that most people would never
see. Once I started reading it, I was really hooked. Next came
Dishwasher. What a gem. Hand written in tiny, legible block letters.
Each issue was 20-30 pages. It was essentially a diary of this guy
that wanted to wash dishes in all 50 states, but it was so much more
than that. It was an insightful reflection into our culture, good and
bad, and the struggle of of working class people. He was even invited
onto Letterman, but he sent a friend instead, and wrote about it in a
later issue. He retired in August 2001 after 100 jobs in 33 states.
posted by e40 at 8:45 AM on November 30, 2004

Zines became blogs, dude. It's kind of like thinking the dinosaurs went extinct when you're sitting in the middle of an aviary.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:49 AM on November 30, 2004

'On Subbing' has to be one of the best zines out there.
posted by jasonspaceman at 9:03 AM on November 30, 2004

I really like Cake or Death. It's three college girls from Pennsylvania who do the most interesting things, including write commentary on one another's articles in pen before they start the production process. They've interviewed Greg Graffin, a little boy who played Oliver in a community play, several punk and hardcore bands and inspired a friend and I to start our own zine in tribute to them last year. Very funny reviews and articles abound inside C/D and I'm quite surprised that they have a rather large distribution.
posted by Captaintripps at 9:08 AM on November 30, 2004

Zines became blogs, dude.

Which is a shame, since zines are way cooler than blogs.

Zines are still alive and well in Chicago!
posted by agregoli at 9:36 AM on November 30, 2004

agregoll: I completely agree. zines are still very alive, as far as I can tell.

You've got The Parcell Press.

The Philadelphia Zine Fest was this past summer.

The folks over at bOING bOING link to quite a few zines from time to time.

I still see zines in New York stores.

I'm still very happy they're in print, too, not just on line.
posted by Captaintripps at 9:40 AM on November 30, 2004

It was good at one time, mid to late 80s

I published a zine for awhile (The Core - Rockford, IL). It was amazing to me how much major labels would give a little nobody like me to plug their artists. Concert tickets, record promo parties (yes, party with Jesus Jones!), backstage, lots of swag . . .
posted by tr33hggr at 9:40 AM on November 30, 2004

adamgreenfield: "Zines were replaced by blogs" would be more accurate. I know of no blog like Dishwasher. It would be impossible, because there are parts of the Zine experience that cannot be replicated on line. A lot of magazines and newspapers were replaced by websites, but some magazines (Wired and The New Yorker) still interest me--I'd never want to read those on the web.
posted by e40 at 9:43 AM on November 30, 2004

As much as I love Beer Frame, I can't take that zine list seriously because it omits ANSWER ME!
posted by jonmc at 9:49 AM on November 30, 2004

I mean, generally, that the kind of people who would have done zines in 1985, had they been sentient at the time, now blog.

I'd also agree that there are ways in which Web sites do not and cannot replicate the joy of zines, but on the flipside (no pun intended) you do get interactivity, zero distribution cost and vastly improved feedback channels.

My first zine, CENSORED!, was me and a xerox machine and a pair of scissors and some Elmer's Glue at the age of 15, and it got me girls and stuff, so how could I possibly slight the medium? (My second zine, Rise Above, got me a job at SPIN, which at the time I thought was pretty fuckin' cool.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:02 AM on November 30, 2004

CometBus was always worth a read. Insightful and well-written, I thought that by the time I stopped reading it (mid-90s) it had become a bit to sure of itself.
posted by OmieWise at 10:03 AM on November 30, 2004

Duplex Planet all the way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:06 AM on November 30, 2004

I don't get down there near often enough, but Powell's City of Books in Portland, OR had some of the best zines I'd ever seen. That would come as little surprise to anyone, Powell's is one of the best bookstores in the country, selling new and used together right on the shelf. But they've got a helluva magazine section and they incorporated a pretty impressive collection of zines into their mainstream stuff.

In some ways, Portland's kind of a head town anyway. The area just seems to lend itself to a zine scene.

Oh yeah, speaking of which, if you're at all interested in zines, especially doing your own, there's a pretty decent book called Zine Scene by Block and Carlip. (ISBN 0965975436). It'll get ya started.
posted by GreatWesternDragon at 10:15 AM on November 30, 2004

Duplex Planet, good call. Don't forget Motorbooty, Scram, and Grindstone.
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on November 30, 2004

cometbus, king cat comics, found
posted by ifoughttheapemen at 10:38 AM on November 30, 2004

Zines became blogs, dude.
- Blogs most definitely came from the same family tree as zines, but zines never died off, my friend. You just have to keep looking harder.

On Subbing is wonderful, and a great look at zine-kids growing up and finding new topics/material, but still using the same methods of publishing.

Probably one of my all-time favourites was Andy Submissionhold's"I'm Johnny And I Don't Give A Fuck". Issue number five was a beautifully written account of 7 years in one of Vancouver's more well-known punk-houses, ending with the birth of he and Jen's son, Samwise Danger.

Another great one is the How 2 Zine edited by Kyle Bravo. Everything from scrappy winged costumes for bike-rides, to in-house greywater systems, to how to fix your toilet.
[3 images down in link.]

Also: Zine Librarian Zine shows how many people managed to bring a passion for zines and self-publishing into the public view, by legitimately spearheading and maintaining zine-sections at their public library. It's pretty amazing to see people turning sub-culture hobbies into meaningful livelihoods.
[bottom of the link]

Plus, East Village Inky, like On Subbing, is an incredibly charming example of zine-kids growing up, finding themselves filling 'grown-up' roles, but still holding on to the same creative outlets that they had when they were young: drawing, writing, self-publishing. Ayun Halliday draws comics and writes stories about her life, and her two children.
So. Very. Heartwarming.

Zines are alive and well. Look Toronto, Portland, Montreal, Chicago, and lots of other cities still have yearly (or more frequently) zine-fairs and zine-symposiums. And they're still just as exciting now, as they were in 1990, 1980, or 1970.
posted by paultron at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2004

Cometbus, and Kingcat are also two of my favourites.

Found is phenominal in print, and almost as phenomenal online.
posted by paultron at 11:16 AM on November 30, 2004

When you're in Portland the main branch of Powell's is definitely a must-visit, and they do have a fair amount of zines. But if you're on a zine mission you need to go half a block away to a store called Reading Frenzy, which has oodles of current and older zines, as well as indie magazines that Powell's doesn't stock. They're also affiliated with the Independent Publishing Resource Center, which has a zine archive and lots of ziney resources.
posted by lisa g at 11:24 AM on November 30, 2004

I'm starting a zine called, "Minus World."
posted by mcsweetie at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2004

Diswasher and Cometbus were two of my favorites. I met Aaron when I lived in Minneapolis. I still have a couple old issues of each. If anyone collects, drop me a line and I'll send them to you.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 11:44 AM on November 30, 2004

agregoli: When I think of Chicago zines, I think of Quimbys. Great place to visit, just off of the blue line, Damon station. Another source for zines would be Atomic Books in Baltimore.

2600 Magazine probably still qualifies as a zine.

Ben is Dead, while being controversial for various reasons, was fun to read, especially for a child of the 80s. The editors and friends compiled three issues of their memories of the 70s and 80s. They later released this as a book called "Retro Hell". Out of print, but available through Powells and Amazon.

One current zine that is still very underground and fun to read is Infiltration. Urban exploration, mostly Canadian, lots of pictures and a dry sense of humor.
posted by ensign_ricky at 11:52 AM on November 30, 2004

Not so much a zine as a photocopied comic, Kevin Huizenga draws about ordinary life in the suburbs of of St Louis--with a hint of the absurd or a physics lesson thrown in when you least expect.. He's recently been "discovered" by Drawn & Quarterly (publishers of Chris Ware & Julie Doucet), who've released the stunning, fantastic D&Q Showcase #1, in which Huizenga chronicles the adventures of [mythical ordinary guy] Glenn Ganges' as he wanders the surreal landscape of 28th street suburbia in search of a feathered ogre who can cure his wife's conception problems.. Buy it, if inclined, at Copacetic Comics Co., my favorite tiny lil' comics shop.

As for straight-up zines, Al Hoff's Thrift Score (and subsequent book) & Diane Kossy's Book Happy: World of Weird Books are among my favorites out-of-print zines..
posted by soviet sleepover at 12:12 PM on November 30, 2004

Here in Philly Wooden Shoe Books on South Street carries a bunch of zines and "alternative" magazines, although they tend to have a more radical bent than, I dunno, zines that zine for the sake of zining.
posted by deafmute at 12:30 PM on November 30, 2004

I'm a pretty big fan of Found Magazine (does that qualify?).

Robin Bougie, a local zine publisher who is responsible for Cinema Sewer, put out a zine called The Ex-Revenge Project recently - a zine that collects emails from bitter men about their ex-girlfriends. Each email/story is accompanied by illustrations made from 'private' photos of said ex-girlfriends.

The review on Atomic Books sums it up best:

"Bougie manages to turn blatant misogyny on its side. In what could easily be a celebration of hate toward women here reads as a testament to the ugliness of men when hurt in love. But by the end, it's hard to hate these guys, they just become too pathetic."

This zine is, hands down, the best zine I have read in the last year.
posted by fizz-ed at 12:33 PM on November 30, 2004

I *heart* Beer Frame, Found, Dishwasher, Duplex Planet.

And no one has yet mentioned Preparation X, which I grew up with, or the wonderful Stay Free!, which is still alive and kickin' in Brooklyn.
posted by Vidiot at 12:39 PM on November 30, 2004

I'm loving Snake Pit, the true story of Ben, who works at a variety of hourly jobs in Austin, plays in a million bands, and listens to all the music he can. He draws a three-panel comic telling what he did each day of his life. Think "Jim's Journal" only true. And you can get caught up on years of it via the new Snake Pit book.
posted by GaelFC at 12:42 PM on November 30, 2004

May I modestly suggest my now-passed-on pal Steve Millen's Tussin Up, of which I host a complete scanned archive?
posted by mwhybark at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2004

Hey, if this is where we post links to books about zines, let me add one to The Book of Zines, which I have no real opinion on, except it's my favorite because Chip Rowe used a cartoon of mine in it.
posted by soyjoy at 12:49 PM on November 30, 2004

Sorry, it just occurred to me that the way I found that was through this page, which also has a lot of good info about zines alive and dead, even if you don't give a damn about that book.
posted by soyjoy at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2004

Also: Don't forget the Zine Yearbook, which is essentially a compilation of selected sections of selected zines released every year. Published by Clamour Magazine. It's actually really cool, and there's a lot of worthwhile stuff in every issue.
posted by paultron at 1:17 PM on November 30, 2004

Which is a shame, since zines are way cooler than blogs.

Zines are still alive and well in Chicago!

Well I wouldn't go that far. Each has it's place but the lines are blurred far more than ever. I've done readings for SPEC in Chicago and got along fine with all the zinesters in attendance. Maybe in the future there be a Zinester .vs. Blogger knife fight or good ol' fashioned throw down but for now, the two seem to co-exist quite fine.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:30 PM on November 30, 2004

I really enjoyed reading the Cometbus compilation. Does anyone know whether he's still publishing?
posted by subgenius at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2004

yes, i just picked up a new short story collection of his at dog eared books in SF... "chicago" or something like that. haven't read it yet.
posted by jcruelty at 1:54 PM on November 30, 2004

I see Factsheet Five is re-launching soon...
posted by Vidiot at 5:20 PM on November 30, 2004

Snakepit is my current favorite. And not just because I'll be appearing in the next issue. Clutch is awesome, too. The best place to find new zines is the Portland Zine Symposium.
posted by sharkweek at 8:00 PM on November 30, 2004

READ Magazine is another good one that's been going strong.
posted by zinegurl at 8:29 PM on November 30, 2004

« Older Tantamount To Torture - Red Cross Finds Detainee...   |   Giant Jesus Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments