For a while now, probably since the riot grrrl explosion of the early 1990s, there has been a lot of talk about girls and zines. The attention is not unwarranted. Women are doing interesting work in the zine format, and the surrounding community functions as a space for them to explore, in vibrant new ways, issues of sexism in the media, body image, sexual assault, and other, more lighthearted subjects. But guys of all stripes—queer or otherwise, punk, hippie, and job having—make zines, too, you know. Here is a handful of popular titles (and personal favorites) by male zinesters that feature comics, fiction, literary nonfiction, CD reviews, and fun with clip art.
No. 12, like most issues of Dream Whip, is a thick stack of pages with a good heft held together with a rubber band. It’s entirely handwritten and embellished with Bill’s beautiful line drawings. For several years now, Bill has used Dream Whip as a place to describe his chronic and solitary roaming around America, placing the zine in the category of punk travelog. But the writing is so nuanced it transcends a need for that kind of description. In this issue, Bill experiences pecan pie at the House of Pies in L.A., finds himself in a spooky old hotel in downtown Fargo, and ends up heartbroken in Portland, OR, when the girl whose house he crashes at one night never comes home. Lovely.
In this witty zine, Toby, a punk band bassist and Bruce Springsteen enthusiast from Brighton, UK, cleverly uses the sort of clip art that would look at home in a stuffy boardroom presentation. He reviews music, records overheard conversations, and tells personal stories from his own life, all by placing the text in the mouths—or speech balloons—of stodgy and improbable clip-art characters. In the most recent issue, a conversation on the nature of friendship originally conducted between two of Toby’s best friends is retold by Clip Art Tony Blair and Clip Art George Bush. The gag never gets old, and this zine’s snarky-sweet content is just as funny.
Martin, Jason. Laterborn. #7. 2009. 24p. ½ size. $2. Distro: Microcosm
This issue of Bay Area writer Martin’s literary zine includes one short story and four comics. The story, “Radio,” is as quietly smart and sad as anything you’d hear on This American Life. The comics take on common life experiences, like a lousy temp job, and the good writing renders them even more relatable. In “Hy Gene,” Martin tells a story about reconnecting with an old friend through the online grapevine, and it feels at once timeless and timely. This is the kind of zine that makes readers feel they’ve made an important discovery. It should appeal to any fan of literary fiction or smart comics.
Black Carrot is described by Fried on Zinewiki.com as one-third perzine, one-third punk zine, and one-third queer zine. That sounds about right. It’s been interesting to watch Dave grow and change through the lens of his silly, smart, and passionate zines. In 2003, with “How I Learned To Love Myself and Occasionally Other Men,” he wrote about his newfound attraction to men, and queerness is a topic he often explores in his serial Black Carrot. He has also written about living the crusty punk lifestyle—doing things like salvaging birthday cakes from dumpsters and eating them for dinner. In this issue, his most recent, Dave has written 50 short pieces in his signature, almost-throwaway style on a range of topics, from getting married (to fellow zine publisher Kisha Hope, with whom he published Fort Mortgage) to his desire to hike the rest of the Appalachian Trail. (The cover and some of the pieces contain swear words.)
The rumor buzzing around the 2009 Portland Zine Symposium was that someone had made a whole zine critiquing the fashions of Dorothy Zbornak, her ma, Sophia, and their housemates Rose Nylund and Blanche Devereaux. This turned out to be deliciously true, but only in part: Miami, You’ve Got Style features still pictures from the entire first season of the Golden Girls alongside commentary by authors Zack and Scott. But their zine is also about Star Wars, pinball, comic books, and other nerd pastimes, all of which are explained in extensive, self-deprecating footnotes. The jokes have an edge to them but retain an essential sweetness.
|This column was contributed by Katie Haegele, a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and publisher of poetry zines and zines about language, love, and rummage sales.
Jenna Freedman, who coordinates and edits this column, is Zine Librarian and Coordinator of Reference Services at Barnard College Library, New York. She is also a librarian zinester (Lower East Side Librarian, among others)