ZL – What is your history with zines and how did that lead to zines.need.you?
ZNY – I began writing zines as a teenager – as a kid I’d make my own little magazines but didn’t realise that zines existed until I was about 16 and got into mailart through the internet. I made 20 copies of my first zine on a photocopier in a newsagent in 2001 and gave it to my friends. I’ve been making them intermittently ever since – zine fests help foster a community of zinesters, and more recently Instagram is good for seeings what’s out there. I’m not particularly prolific in terms of making zines but I think about them a lot and love them as a way of sharing experiences and ideas. Zines Need You is a new project that came out of thinking quite hard about who doesn’t get heard in the zine scene and how that can be changed. I’ve been involved in DIY scenes for 15 years and wanted to use that familiarity to open the door a little wider. I’m a middle class white punk and zine fests often feature alot of people like me – it can be a little too comfortable and I would like that to change. ZNY seems like a low key place to start – its a small project to help get zines into print that might not otherwise be published. We’re keen to do a good job with a small project rather than promising the world and half-arsing it – we’ve committed to printing a zine a month for 2019 then by the end of the year we should have some idea of whether its sustainable to continue.
ZL – What sort of process do you use to decide on recipients for the zines.need.you monthly publishing deal?
ZNY – There isn’t much of a process so far as it’s early days, and certainly no standard criteria for inclusivity. We are keen to avoid people feeling like they have to list all their points of marginalisation in order to get our attention so we’re largely trusting them to decide for themselves whether they need our help or not. We also don’t want people to feel like we’ll only print things they’ve written that focus on their experiences of oppression because we want them to be as free as anyone else to write about whatever they like. Some of my favourite zines are hilariously frivolous and making those shouldn’t be a luxury, you know? I think there’s a danger that those financially supporting projects can end up expecting to have influence over what is created, so in this project we’re trying to be mindful of that dynamic and so far staying out of people’s creative process as much as possible. That said it’s been really cool to get lots of queries about different parts of zine making and nice to be able to share knowledge about printing, cut and paste, mini zines, zine fests and so on.
We are bringing our experiences and knowledge of anti-oppressive practice to this project so there is a core ethos to who we are interested in hearing from. We’re keen for this project to show solidarity with communities of colour, disabled creators, neurodivergent folks, working class makers and so on, and especially the people who live in the overlap of those identities. There have always been rad zines being made by these folks but there are more that haven’t been printed for lack of funds and encouragement and that’s where ZNY hopes to offer a signal boost.
ZL – Do you remember the first time?
ZNY – The first zines I came across were ones that I got in the mail as part of art swaps coordinated online. The first few I got came from Australia and America and turned up in these wild envelopes covered in stickers or made out of x-rays. They absolutely blew my mind – looking back now the content wasn’t anything exceptional but the realisation that you could just crack on and make a zine and that there were other people out there who would read them was huge. Like I mentioned before I had been making these little homemade magazines since I was a kid and I’d always had this fascination with the form of magazines – free gifts and cut out coupons and letters pages. Finding there was a big scene of scrappy homemade versions of magazines was wonderful, and also tied into to other interests like anarcho politics, feminism, punk, etc etc. I grew up in the countryside and our house was down a long lane. Once I was home from college I was miles from anyone so my lifeline was MSN messenger until I found mailart and zines. It was the first time I felt connected to other weirdos and gave me hope that I could get to a city and find some in real life, which I did as soon as I could. So while I’ve read zines since that are more interesting or better written, those first zines will always be special.
ZL – You’ve just announced your first recipient hit on the heels of what looked like an extremely well received launch, how does that feel?
ZNY – It’s been very unexpected – we were hoping for maybe 50 instagram followers and to tick over quietly but then we got 800 followers in the first week and we’re still growing. The project was conceived as a small and self-sustaining project (basically we committed to putting our own money in for the first year) that didn’t need donations. So we didn’t think massively about getting attention other than trying to get the word out to people who might want printing. But now that people do seems to have noticed us then it’s nice to think that our featured zinesters might get some extra readers. And getting some donations has meant that we can increase our monthly budget which is really exciting.
ZL – You get to build the world’s most exciting web platform, people flock to see it, which five creators do you first showcase and why?
ZNY – First up would be Jacq Applebee, our February zinester, because they write about so many different topics with realness and humour and generosity. I would love a world where Jacq’s zines got left around on bus seats and in hotel rooms so that people who really needed them would stumble across them.
Then it’d be Saffa Khan who is well known in the scene but should really be a household name. She makes these exquisite and intimate zines that are precious and profound and beautiful – she has her own risograph machine and has really pushed things forwards with her use of colour and interesting layouts. I always want there to be a space for splotchy cut and paste zines but I love that there are DIY artists making things beautiful too.
Third and fourth is a double whammy of Holly Casio and Seleena Laverne Daye who each put out their own zines but are close friends who met as penfriends on Teletext back in the day! They’ve been around zines longer than me and they kind of personify what I love about DIY – I first came across them as radical cheerleaders supporting The Gossip in 2003, since then between them they’ve been making art, zines, podcasts and loads of other shit. Since people are flocking to see my web platform I’d hope their showcase meant they could spend less time working and more time making glorious weird shit because it makes the world better. It’s hard to pick a final creator because I could go on forever so I’m going to pick a non zine wildcard, Kensuke Koike who is a collage artist I follow on instagram. His work is so simple and total genius, he manages to conjure humour, subversion and the unexpected out of a few cuts in old photos. It’s nice to run across people who spark off that sense of wonder and possibility with their work so I would recommend him to everyone, not that he needs my help!
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ZL – I’m really interested to know the influences for your comic?
NP – I call it a slice-of-life in as much as the characters and their stories are imagined if not directly from real life, then from lives that could plausibly have been real. Will Eisner prefaced A Contract With God by saying that the book contained “stories drawn from the endless flow of happenings characteristic of city life. Some are true. Some could be true.”
I would say exactly the same for Slang Pictorial. I’ve taken characters, incidents, stories and sayings from my own life and the lives of my parents, recollections of friends and relatives, events recounted in memoirs, plots borrowed from TV narratives and the best lines stolen from the pulpiest paperbacks and mixed them all up in a hodgepodge to such a degree now that I’d be hard pressed to be able to tell you what was true and what was just plausibly, possibly true-ish in the sense that Eisner identified.
In terms of specific formal, thematic and structural influences I’d point to Film and Television as being very central to my thinking, as befits my coming from an academic Film Studies background. Take a love of the French New Wave, mix it with a deep admiration for the ambition of Anthony Newley’s criminally under-rated creative endeavours such as The Small World of Sammy LeeandThe Strange World of Gurney Slade, chuck in as much Sam Selvon and Colin MacInnes as you can read plus the long-form narrative ambitions and character-driven genre storytelling of contemporary TV like Fargoand The Deuce and I’d say you’ve got a good sense of the kinds of art that feeds my drive to keep making The Sheep And The Wolves
ZL – Do you remember the first time?
NP – For comics it would be Iron Man #150, the special double-sized issue in which Tony Stark and Dr Doom find themselves thrown back in time to the court of King Arthur. It had fantastic John Romita Jr visuals and a done-in-one story featuring sorcery and pseudo-science and an army of undead zombie knights that I read and re-read hundreds of times. I found the comic in a pile of my primary school teacher’s rainy-day comic books and so had no idea of continuity or who the characters were beyond what I’d seen in cartoons, but I was absolutely hooked and have been an Iron Man mark ever since.
ZL – Your cartooning style is very reminiscent of classic Belgian cartooning styles. Is the style influenced by the retro nature of the content, or is the content influenced by your retro style of drawing?
NP – I have a very binary brain and so as a child I was a Marvel reader which meant I didn’t read DC and I was an Asterix fan and so avoided Tintin. I loved the energy and dynamism of Uderzo’s art and the knockabout humour of Goscinny’s writing and compared to that Herge’s clean lines were always too clean, his characters too buttoned-up and the worlds he created too rigid, rule-bound and well-ruled in terms of everything being about straight-lines whereas Asterix was all curves and swooshes, architecture bending and straining to contain the lolloping limbs of these bonkers characters. I loved the historical aspect of the stories being a big ancient history buff, but I also remember wishing that Goscinny and Uderzo would do stories set in more modern times, with gangsters and spies and detectives, etc. I had no idea that there existed a slew of artists and writers working in the magazines Spirou, Pilote andHeroic that were doing just that sort of stuff, Franquin with Spirou and Fantasio,Maurice Tillieux with Gil Jourdan, Francois Walthery and Natacha, even Peyo and Benny Breakiron. I only discovered this side of the Franco-Belgian bookshelf when I came back to comics about six years ago and ever since I’ve just been steeping myself ever deeper into this stuff.
ZL – You are gifted the opportunity to set up a new museum showcasing all the creators who have influenced you from birth to now. The first show is called ‘First, Formative and Now’ who do you pick and why?
NP – I’d say First is going to be Dan Clowes, certainly not my earliest cartooning memory but very much someone whose work defined my return to comics in the early 2000s. I readGhost World, David BoringandIce Haven in pretty quick succession and each one seemed to progressively build on and transform what came before it. These were revelatory comics for me, both formally and thematically, in terms of what comics could be and say and how the interlinked craft of comics-making; of inking, hand-lettering and book and page design; all served to strengthen the kind of storytelling being showcased.
Formative is probably Franquin, a cartoonist I feel an affinity towards both in terms of his wonderful art style as well as, less positively, his psychology; but I am always trying to emulate and incorporate his character designs and world-building as well as to try and keep pushing myself to adopt new styles and techniques, adapting them hopefully into my repertoire in productive ways.
Now is definitely Gus Arriola, a cartoonist who doesn’t get enough love or column-inches, but his Gordo strip is very much everything I strive to make Slang Pictorial, expressive and animated cartooning in a character-driven soap-opera set within a fully-realised and jazz-infused world that’s just the epitome of hip, mid-century modern comics.
ZL – You are currently Kickstarting and you’re offering a package collecting all previous issues as well as the current 4th issue of Slang Pictorial. I like the way that the whole of the work is being made available as a tier, by the way! How was it to have successfully achieved your funding within 90 minutes?
NP – It’s always amazing when you hit that target and you can breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing that the project is going to get funded. Slang Pictorial #3 hit its target in under 12 hours and that was huge for me as it was my first ever time on Kickstarter and I really had no idea how it was going to go. I won’t say with #4 I was specifically trying to hit that 90 minute target but I did do a lot of work before hand in an effort to try and beat that previous result. So I set up a pre-launch mailing list, did a lot of Instagram and Twitter promotion to start hyping up the launch as well as offering a couple of Early Bird only rewards for backers who pledged on the first day. The point of doing all of that was to try and get us over the line as quickly as possible, but the fact that the project funded as quickly as it did is ultimately all down to the fantastic folks that jumped on board and did such a great job sharing and spreading the word.
In terms of the logistics of this Kickstarter, the funding will go towards printing issue #4 as well as reprinting some more of issue #3, issues #1 and #2 were reprinted as part of the previous campaign. I always try and budget the funding ask to cover printing enough copies of the comics to fulfil the backer rewards and leave me enough stock to cover convention sales for the following year. After issue #5, which I hope to launch at the end of this year, I am going to have to think about perhaps a trade collection of the first five, as I can see that after a certain point, new readers might like to engage with the work in a nice chunk, however I am very much committed to maintaining the serial form of the single issues. The challenge is working out a balance between what to keep exclusively for the individual issues and what to put in the trades by way of back matter, etc.
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It’s one that’s as much ‘what I bring to the party’ as it is one that is about the work itself. I’m going to get a mildly philosophical, political and personal – so be warned!
There’s a discussion to have here about the project itself, around purpose and worth. This includes the wider discussion about identity and what that means and is at points in life.
A separate discussion about the actual physical issue and its content is needed as well.
My identity and chronic illness, or; identity, it’s not for everyone
Oddly, for someone who’s pretty healthy currently, my life has a few eras of chronic illness that mark my identity. I’m not sure I should delve too much about these matters as that’s not really the point of a review, to talk about myself in detail, is it? Yet, considering the project, I think it is the point, will I find my reflection or feel left out?
There are pieces in here that are so close to the bone of my own experiences that I’m never going to manage any kind of distance to discuss quality. However, there’s an argument to make about the worth of that experience in itself, (which I’ll make shortly).
Starting at the macro then; philosophically I have an issue with the conception of identity in and of itself. It’s one of those reductive concepts that imply a person is a thing and a thing is a single whole. By which I mean, to be personal for a second, people often believe a way of feeling or an experience means you have AN identity. I’m a white, middle-class man. That’s apparently AN identity, except, I’m someone who has mental health issues and I’m someone with a history of chronic illness and I’m someone who parents a child with chronic illness and that child happens to have learning difficulties. Oh, and I grew up as the child of hippies in a working-class area, in the 80’s in Wales, in a post-industrial town. So where do I have my IDENTITY in that, as opposed to talking about the experiences that have shaped me as a person?
Also, there’s the opposite side of this which talks about the identity of a group as if it’s all the same for each one. What is the identity of those with learning difficulties, for example, it’s different for my child than it is for someone with autism or downs syndrome. I’m pretty sure the experience of a person in America is different from a person in the UK, especially, getting back to subject, when it comes to chronic illness, because at least we in the UK don’t have to worry about paying for our medication or suffering or dying because we can’t. That’s a real and true issue in America.
There’s the further issue of awareness outside of that identity group. I wonder how many people could even conjure an understanding of why I’d mention growing up in Wales in the 80’s without just thinking about neon wearing kids dancing to Duran Duran, because, you know THE 80’S. I’ll tell you, that’s literally NOT what it was like then and gives the absolutely the wrong image of what it was. So, as I say, identity is just a great way to allow stereotyping, misconception and failed understanding. Even with good intentions. I’ll also call out identity as a renamed bigotry in certain hands. Everyone knows disabled people are in wheelchairs, so only wheelchair users are disabled? Sound familiar? Thought it yourself? I encounter exactly that attitude every day.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that identity sounds simple, but I believe it is essentialist, reductive, stereotyping and exclusionary more often than not.
I’ve had a 6 month long stay in hospital because of a childhood illness, I’ve had nearly 9 months in a hospital hospice because of my first child’s initial health issues. So am I the parent who was a sick child, the parent of a sick child, the parent (who was a sick child) of a sick child. Where does my niche go and where does my experience fail to meet the description and purpose and in failing to meet that do I end up feeling like my IDENTITY is not true, angry at not seeing myself represented?
Am I seeing too narrow a stereotype or caricature and what is the impact of that being delivered to the public as well? Will they, the inexperienced, limit themselves by only understanding the issue as represented here?
That really is the matter for the project to consider and the yard stick against which to measure it. How does it deal with these matters of representation, of diversity, of essentially becoming a gate keeper simply by existing!?
That’s a heavy matter, particularly considering who it is trying to represent, people already suffering in life in some way, shape or form.
I can see why the first issue dealt with identity. It’s a matter of setting out your stall, delivering your agenda for all to see. It really does need to be up front, because it really does tell you whether you’re in or out of this project. I know I keep banging on about this, and I’ll get to it, honestly!
First though I want to talk about another matter of inclusivity outside of the politics of representation. Does the zine communicate effectively with people who have a wide range of need, including some who may have learning difficulties? Can it deal with all of these when it is a project that relies upon open submissions? Particularly when it’s dealing with the cross-over of chronic illness and artistic expression?
I think they’ve done some very clever things that mean that this project is accessible to a wide range of needs. I’m know for certain that some of these works by themselves would communicate to my child with learning difficulties. Yet the editorial approach has made the issues raised in those works accessible to them. I’m no mind reader so I won’t claim to know whether they planned that or came upon those solutions by other routes. In the end that’s not what matters, it’s accessible in a very clever and low-key manner. I want to pick up on that here, because I think it speaks clearly about the strength of this project, it’s humanity and openess.
On the second inside page they have a whole series of speech balloons summarising the content and opinions of those present in the zine. Pithy little comments that give quick insights into their experiences. It’s a clever way of priming people to the content they’re about to encounter.
It’s also a good way of making some of the internal, often expressionistic or abstract work, more accessible to those who can’t understand complex abstract ideas. It means that, although certain work will never mean much to my child, I can still have a conversation around the subject that it deals with. It frees the art up to be expressive, whilst still highlighting the content in a way that’s not forced or invasive to the art.
I’m also pleased that it’s meeting its own criteria of talking about both chronic illness and art dealing with chronic illness. The art is served well, with good reproduction and the physical item itself is on lovely paper with decent printing. More importantly, to me, it’s cleanly laid out and well labelled with details of the contributors, so it’s easy enough to go and find out more about their work if you want to. Simply put, it’s a well put together package, well edited to make it as accessible as a resource as well as a magazine to be enjoyed in and of itself. The mix and pacing of image and text is also well handled.
The project is also an interesting manner of dealing with chronic illness, dealing with aspects of daily life as well as more philosophical matters, for example, the second issue deals with having a sex life with a chronic illness. Identity is an interesting point, but it’s very BIG PICTURE. Sometimes you just want to know how to live through a day and the philosophy of it all matters much less.
I can imagine these being a great resource both online and within hospitals. A good library of these dealing with the philosophical and practical matters of life will make a good companion for someone dealing with chronic illness in their life, whether their own or someone else’s. Considering the subject, I think that’s important and appropriate. What’s the point in having this if it’s not a resource to help those it’s talking about.
So, finally, to talk about what’s in here on both the macro and micro scale, by which I mean – how well do I think it deals with the issue of identity and the associated matter of representation and what do I feel after reading the contributions included in here.
Well, firstly, some pieces are privileged with the nature of my own experience reflecting their content. There are those that aren’t and are still fascinating and there are those that aren’t my sort of thing. That’s again a ‘me’ thing though.
There’s a diverse range of experience. There are pieces that are short and blunt, some more like memoir. What all of them have in common, is that they talk about the personal, not the abstract. These are about PEOPLE talking about their experiences. Really, that’s how it gets around the matter of philosophy and politics. Everything is grounded in people and their experiences. The editorial team also take great care to identify that they are trying to reach out to as diverse a population as possible. The content is treated with respect, but the editorial tone is light, open and welcoming. It’s an encouraging approach, not a distancing one.
There is a work in here that I found fascinating as an artwork communicating the intangible. It tries to make visible the invisibleand uses such a beautifully simple idea it’s almost poetic. Considering that the solution is crumpled pieces of paper, I’m genuinely surprised by how visually interesting it is as well. I’m intrigued to see more, just because I can buy into that simple visual communication. It makes it very quick to get an insight into how day to day life can be for that person and for all suffers of endometriosis.
It also speaks of how different approaches can evoke different reactions in different people for different reasons. A piece like that, so abstract and so different from my experiences. My access into that is very much an appreciation of it as a method of communication, it’s an intellectual reaction entirely.
Very early on in this review I raised my own question about seeing myself reflected in pieces and how that skewed my ‘critical’ reaction to them, and what that meant within the context of this zine.
Well, I think it speaks volumes that there are pieces, dealing with people’s experiences of illness that are not mine, that can still evoke or trigger recognition in me. In particularthere is a very succinct piece (similar in visual style to the cover) that so sharply reflected one of the worst experiences of my child’s early illness that I was nearly shocked to tears at the memory.
I think it’s that recognition that gives this zine it’s power. I get to see someone whose illness, whose circumstances aren’t my own, reflecting my own feelings, so I get to see that not everything I experienced is niche, is my burden and mine alone. I think that I’m never going to identify with identity, but I can experience the sense of belonging to a community with shared experiences. Really, that’s the greatest comfort you can offer anyone who feels isolated and alone, the opportunity to recognise that there’s a community of people just like them in the world, even though they are not like them. This project delivers on that opportunity.
I love this little 16 pager in both thought and fact.
It’s a gathering of a whole murders row of zinesters who gang about with each other online, by which I mean, there’s the core of a whole online scene here. The thought that appeals so much here is the feeling that someone’s gathering up the troupe to put on a classic repartee performance for the audience. It’s the zine equivalent of a British ensemble cast. They all have their character they do so well that you never tire of seeing them do it. They’re all so good at what they do, they bring something new to it. They all like each other so much, that they just play together well and it’s damn fun to watch it all happen.
I love the thought that someone has finally put together this little scene as a physical object, it feels like the moment a notional thought has coalesced, a dream made reality is probably a step to far, maybe more a zine scene fest for your pocket?
The fact it’s a 16 pager of curated guests is as fitting as it gets really. Proper zine scene diy glory at its photocopied, immediate best. I should clarify why I say curated. Even if this wasn’t a by invitation production (by which I mean – I have no knowledge of whether this was by invitation, or just ended up this way) you can still see who is in touch with who in this scene here. It’s really, as I say, a murders row of all the biggies in their scene. This isn’t some exclusionary thing though, just a gang of online friends putting a best foot forward for the fun of it to let people know what they’re at and invite them all in on it.
It is a great little zine with everybody putting in a great turn. I literally liked everything in there. All killer, no filler is fair here – depending on your tastes of course. To expand a bit on that – this is just a great collection of zine creations. Its very typically zine; rough, all about the personal. It get’s in there and talks quick and cheap or it speaks it’s own poetic idiom and asks you to meet it with your arms open. By that measure, everything is great because I feel that I get to know each contributor from their single page, there’s not one where I come away wandering what that person is about. As the zine is labelled ‘a showcase of zinesters from around the world’ you can’t ask for more.
For my own personal tastes, there are some that I connected with more than the others, but that’s more about me and my tastes and nature than it is about the quality of one over the other. I’m not going to go over them all, but 2 examples that stand out are Richard Larios’s (feral publications) piece, which is just so quick and blunt and to the point it made me absolutely smile. Literally the zine equivalent of a hardcore punk 30 second blast of rage. I don’t know if anyone knows who Steve Ditko is or what his later career after SpiderMan and Doctor Strange was like, but this had that same blunt, political smash of his later work (though a different political take). Latibule’s piece just struck a chord with its cleverly poetic image. What struck me was the way they both use the same language, but one is spitting and the other is singing (both in the best way).
To stop myself disappearing into a detailed little synopsis of every piece, what I want to say is that I like how the pieces have been ordered as much as I like the pieces. I like that there’s such a range of style and approach, but I also think that the individual pieces have been placed in an order that flatters each piece as part of the whole.
I’ve used the analogy of an album of music being about the whole rather than the strength of individual tracks and I think that this is the case here. What is all the more amazing is that this is the equivalent of a scene compilation but feels like an album and not a collection.
Really glad I got this and if you’re interested in zine scenes, this is a great little taster of this group.
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ZL – Why and when did you start making comics and how many comics have you made?
TB – As a kid I was always drawing – little cartoons of my friends and family, doodles, comic strips. My friend came up with a character called Pseudoboy and I drew some comics about him, but it never occurred to me to publish them or show them to people outside my friendship group. It wasn’t until I visited Thought Bubble in 2010 that I realised there was such a large community of comic book creators self-publishing their work and I wanted to get involved! I started doing diary comics that I shared online and began a series called Grey Area, which was published by Avery Hill Publishing. There were four issues of Grey Area, and I self-published a few short comics before I made my first graphic novel, The Great North Wood, which was also published by Avery Hill Publishing last year.
TB – I vividly remember my dad reading Tintin comics to me when I was very young, explaining how speech bubbles and thought bubbles worked, and how you followed the story by moving from one panel to the next. One image in particular stayed with me – a
character called Rascar Capac breaking through a window to throw a crystal ball full of poison at Tintin. It was terrifying to me when I was young, but I would dare myself to look at it and try and draw it.
ZL – I currently own only one of your comics, but really treasure it, ‘Rock & Pop‘. What impressed me was the way you took many short anecdotes and wound them into such an emotive narrative. How did you work how what would be in the story and how to pull it together?
TB – Rock & Pop started as a webcomic. The idea was to draw and post online one comic a week about a song that had inspired me or that I felt related to an important moment in my life. I started with songs that had felt important to me as a child (like Belinda Carlisle!) and continued through being a teenager, moving to London, meeting my wife, and having kids. The narrative all comes from my life, being interested in music. Just growing up really. People really responded to the webcomic, so collecting them for a print edition seemed like the right thing to do. Since self-publishing it, I’ve asked other people to send me comics based on their own responses to songs important to them, and have been posting them online – various-artists.co.uk (I’m always looking for new contributors for this!)
ZL – You’ve recently had your first graphic novel published, ‘The Great North Wood‘. I know you’ve published smaller works prior to that. What was the main difference between the two experiences?
TB – I tried to be more disciplined when I was writing the Great North Wood, making sure I had all the pages fully planned before I started drawing. With my shorter comics I often start drawing without really knowing where the story will end up, but with this longer project I thought I’d run into problems if I tried to do that. I spent a lot of time doing research for the book – studying the history of the area that the book’s about, and reading about folklore associated with forests and woodlands. I think the fact that it’s a longer a piece of work, and took longer to create, means I invested more into it emotionally, and feel really attached to it. A lot of my comics are about a feeling of connection with a specific place, and spending so long writing about south-east London for this book has increased my bond with the area. I’ve recently finished a short comic called Asleep In The Back, and it’s been nice to feel a bit less involved with a piece of work – to put it down and move on.
ZL – Which one creator you love seeing do you feel the world knows too little about, and what would you like to tell us about them?
TB – I don’t know about in comics – there’s so much good work being made right now that I don’t think I can pick just one creator to tell you about! In music though, I’m always surprised Debsey Wykes isn’t more well known. She sang backing vocals for Saint Etienne and has fronted two bands – Dolly Mixture and Birdie. They’re both great!
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I don’t intend doing this often but Craig is someone who promotes zines and zinesters very effectively on his instagram account five o’clock zine – go follow that link and check out all of his reviews.
Review – Coffee & People 1 & 2
Two classic mini-zines this time round. A7 single pagers, typed and pasted up then photocopied and stuck down.
A lovely, immediate and simple format.
A format perfect for the two little stories told in these zines.
It’s very easy to say (and imagine) that such zines are just quickly thrown together, with little thought and can be quickly consumed and thrown away with little thought. In truth the medium prevents great depths; the content likewise, is seemingly small and inconsequential in the grand scheme. All of this is true. All of this misses the whole point of the worth of these items.
These little zines are the hand of friendship reached out from another world, reaching a stranger in a strange land. They’re a conversation on a bus or bumping into the friend of friend you barely know. You may share the same proximity, but not the same world. They are in essence, one of the reasons I find great virtue in zines. They open ways of seeing I never knew existed and focus my eyes for a few minutes on existence as I’ve never seen it before.
Coffee & People works this well, keeping the language simple and clear, getting out of its own way and letting it be a conversation, rather than a didactic exercise or the florid flexing of some personal neuroses. What recommends these to me is getting to sit and experience a life never lived in a world I know nothing about, (something I’m always going to immediately like, it’s my current jam).
Of the two, issue 2 is my favourite with it being more focussed on what it’s telling us. It satisfies more, even though (or maybe because?) there’s less in it that I recognise from my own life.
I also like how inexplicit it is when coming full circle at the end.
In the end, these stories will not rock your world, they will not plumb the depths of the human soul. These stories will open your eyes to another human life and let you see what it’s like to be alive as that person, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If that’s your jam, then indulge with these homemade lovelies.
I know as fact that things just happen BECAUSE. Because being my personal truth, (personal truth – the little white lies that cover the cracks). BECAUSE meaning the millions of things that are always happening that you know nothing about, refuse to acknowledge, don’t want to talk about, aren’t interested in as they’re just not important enough to waste life time on, etc.
BECAUSE being like this – Did you know microwaves were first created in the late 40’s? Not really popular until the 80’s BECAUSE. You could list cost, acceptability, blah, blah, blah. It’s just easier to accept that it was BECAUSE and get on with life. Is that the same attitude you want to take towards your future, your relationships?
Because is a default for the shoulder shrug, the pulled face, the ‘a butterfly’s wing flapping…’, the defeatist ‘oh who can be bothered’. I say or think BECAUSE as it’s so hard to face the thing I’m becausing about. The question is, is that how to live a good life (by which I mean attain contentment), (Happiness and the search for it, is a GRAIL quest, the modern search for eternal life).
Getting back to track. BECAUSE, then, is the enemy of a reviewer really. It is too often treated as a friend though. I guess that comes down to space and TL:DR. Too often a reviewer states that you’ll like a thing, rather than discussing what it does and why that should matter. It’s the gatekeeper mentality – I’m cool and I’ll tell you what’s cool, not argue why it’s worth your time.
It’s what I’ve been fighting with when thinking of a review for Warglitter. My urge is to say – get it BECAUSE it’s AWESOME, (another catchall for – too big to tell you).
I mean; it’s true, but it’s not honest. Yes, the two can be exclusive. Honesty requires the commitment to fullness, truth requires you don’t lie. I am not believer in truth, personal or universal, in case it wasn’t clear from the above. I’m going to be honest and say, I believe any search for TRUTH is the opportunity to avoid personal honesty and responsibility.
Now, you’ll be thinking, why are you telling me all this? (I like the sound of my own thoughts?) Well, because Warglitter – the person, not the zine – has crafted an amazing work where she’s starting to be honest with herself and maybe leaving the search for Truth behind. She may not even know it…
My evidence? Well, Warglitter lays out her purpose up front. She writes about why she writes a journal and tells us what commitments she made. She gives me all my clues right up front and right out clear.
These things are telling, to me at least.
write down beliefs and personal truths – having beliefs and personal truths next to each other sounds like someone being honest and then hiding a truth they don’t want to witness, saying ‘they’re not beliefs, they’re personal truths…’
A new addition to the list
dismantle your defence mechanism persona –having to go back and qualify and talk about personal psychology, about defences, seems a change in understanding. Time has given a gift of new understanding. Like 5 is the knee jerk reaction and then 8 is the slow dawning realisation of the Honest facts.
If that is the case, then these
keep up a regular tarot practice and dig deep
creating my next niche
work through depression and learn from it
are the pendulum swinging between how to be Honest and how to hide from it.
decorate this journal – make it a sacred object –says it all, fetishise that Truth. Then again, those later additions take it back down to earth – back to magic, down to earth. Pendulum swinging, swinging.
Being honest – why is this amazing?
There are so many echoes of what matters to me right now, what I’ve struggled with.
For me, this is a timely piece of work to appear before me.
It’s not what I’d do to deal with these subjects.
Likewise, Warglitter does things and holds belief that I have no personal commitment or interest in. Yet, here she is talking about things I’ve spent years struggling with, talking about things I’ve finally been able to think honestly about. Saying them in ways and contexts very different to mine and so making them clearer for me to see.
If you asked to label it, it’s a perzine verfremdung effect – I love Brecht’s idea that to make something more obvious, you should first make it appear strange.
It’s what I’m always hoping to achieve, but here made simple where I would hide it in layers of pomp.
That’s what I like about this, it’s like looking at my life but as I’ve never lived or experienced it, so I don’t have to hide from the truth it reveals.
What I take from this may not be what is meant by this and may not be what you get from this, but it is why I think this is an amazing piece of work.
I see that there is no solution to who you are, or what you’re feeling – there’s only being honest with yourself and dealing with those facts rather than just excusing yourself with BECAUSE, (because no one ever loved me, I’ll be unlovable… because I keep getting hurt, I’ll push everyone away – they’re all TRUE and you’ll never solve that TRUTH, you just have to be honest, face it and deal with it every day, but by facing it and putting it out there each day it might just get easier to be that better person, get that step closer to contentment and kindness.
This is a brave work and a hard path and deserves your attention because of the reward you may get from it.
Disclosure – I should let you all know that I am currently at work on a collaborative zine with Livor Mortis Zine, release date TBC, and that I once won a competition for issue 3 of LMZ (a set of three beautiful zines).
LMZ –Being born in the mid-1980’s, I feel that I owe a lot to analogue in all formats; from VHS to vinyl, practical effects over CGI etc. Even though I use computers daily and understand the great advantages of digital outlets, however, I feel that a physical item is a lot nicer and more human. I specifically started LMZ based on glue, paper, scalpel etc and felt I should keep digital creation to a minimum. We can rely on paper a lot more as digital/technology is a lot more harmful towards us both physically and mentally.
With physical copies of a zine, you can distribute and interact outside, away from a computer. I am sure that most of the population like to touch what they can see, and I feel that adds greatly to the experience. Having physical copies on paper has led to opportunities I would have missed out on if I were to be blog based, like selling zines on a face-to-face basis.
Their next zine fair is 17 thMarch 2019 @ 96-108 Ormside St, SE15 1TF.
Anyone that is interested in zines and DIY self-publishing should definitely visit.
One of my favourite zines of recent times was picked up (traded) at a previous zine fair at DSFL. It’s by Olga Writes Things and is titled ‘Body Hair: A Love/Hate Story’. Reading this really made me question how brainwashed our culture is by media. I would suggest reading this zine especially if you are open minded and not a sexist. I also appreciate how personal it is too, I doubt many people would be so direct and honest
ZL – Do you remember the first time?
LMZ –The first time I can remember really loving an artistic creation was probably as a 4/5 year old, whilst watching both ‘Ghostbusters’ the film and animated series. However, years later, the 2001 album ‘Mediocre Generica‘ by Leftover Crack really shaped me as a person and actually impacted my life for the better! It opened my eyes and ears to many different genres and styles of music. Before listening to that album, I was strictly into punk music and was quite ignorant and stubborn to entertain anything else.The album contains elements of ska, reggae, black metal, death metal and of course punk. It was definitely a great tool for mind expansion and propelled me violently into a world of mixing genres and breaking rules. Plus the lyrical content was perfect for my mentality as a teen; no pop-punk focused girl/boy relation dramas, just real talk and political anger. Without hearing this album, I do wonder if I would have ever spent 10 years running independent death metal record labels and if I would have stayed on a straight path and mixed with healthy society focused individuals. I do not really know many other bands that mix many alternative styles so well! Apart from the pre-fix of ‘Leftover Crack’, which is the band ‘Choking Victim’.
I can still listen to the album today and get wild enjoyment from it. ‘Mediocre Generica’ is not my favourite album, but it is totally an important release in terms of who I am today. I am sure LMZ carries some connection to the crack rock steady beat, away from the ‘INDK’ lyrics inside the front cover of issue 4.
ZL – Given an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, what would be the project you’d make to be remembered by?
LMZ –I literally had this conversation just the other day with a film maker friend of mine, we even started a script to be prepared for the day an unlimited budget comes our way! I won’t give away too much in terms of the overall direction, but the aim would be to focus on making a story to make people more aware and involved in stopping child abuse. I am sure I am not the only person who questions why the rich and powerful are always connected to extreme child abuse?! I know it is a nasty and emotionally destroying subject to even comprehend, but it is a vast problem all over the world. If I could be involved in anything that would expose and shutdown child abusers and sex traffickers in general, I would be very happy. The budget would go on practical special FX (ideally Tom Savini ❤️) and getting really strong and respected actors/actresses involved so people would take notice.
Away from that, I would really like to be involved and remembered for something that would get Tony Blair and George Bush Jr executed for war crimes.
As the budget is unlimited, any leftover would be used to buy and delete Facebook.
ZL – Your images come from all around the world, where is your favourite place in the world you’ve never visited?
LMZ –Asia, especially the Far East! I would really like to go there and I am sure that I would never leave. In my head, it seems so alien compared to the world I live in, I’m sure it would feel like home. The level of excitement and fear is through the roof!
My passionate feelings towards the continent originated from Eastern cinema and anime. I remember watching films like ‘Urotsukidoji’ and ‘Hausu’ at a young age and being so impressed after getting tired of the typical Hollywood/Western film formula. The imagination and creativity out in the East is so rich, there is even a Japanese horror sub-genre which focuses on cat horror alone.
Another part of Asia I would like to experience is Bali, Indonesia. There is an annual festival that takes places there called ‘Nyepi’ aka ‘Day of Silence’.
I do not think Google search results justify this festival, so take a look at the Instagram account @ogohogoh_bali
ZL – What single creation [book, zine, film, group, place, whatever!!] would you settle down with and just chill?
LMZ –I really chill with audio commentaries attached to cult Italian films such as Lucio Fulci’s ‘Gates Of Hell’ trilogy or any of Dario Argento’s early works for example. Last night I bulk listened to three commentaries on the early US slasher ‘The Burning’.
I find it really fascinating to hear all the behind-the-scenes details relating to the production of the final product. It is nice to be able to just listen to something, rather than watch. I guess I should check out some more podcasts!
ZL – You run a zine making group, how does that influence what you make and what made you want to start it in the first place?
WZ – I started a zine making club at the school where I teach. We had a rough year last spring and a coworker suggested I start a club. He said, on the hard days, he was always able to look forward to the club he runs because it was his time for sharing his passion with students who are actually interested. Late in the spring semester, it occurred to me that I should start a zine club. I talked it up in my classes and students are starting to learn about it by word of mouth. It’s pretty cool.
It does affect the kinds of stuff I put out there. I made the Carly Rae Jepsen Fanzine because I wanted to have an example I could show my students of different things you could try in a zine. I made the quiz and the mad libs because I remember seeing that kind of thing in teen magazines and enjoying them when I was growing up.
I wrote Guilt because that was a story from my own life that I always wanted to tell and I thought my students could relate to it. Usually, my fiction comes out very sinister and I didn’t want to share any of those stories or my poetry with them. Because I started the zine club, I chose to follow some ideas that I wouldn’t have usually. I thought I needed something wholesome to show them, so I made the opposite of what I’m usually inspired to make, and I really loved the process and the final results.
ZL – Do you remember the first time?
WZ – One of my earliest memories is of the music video for ‘Take On Me’ by a-ha. I was probably 3 or 4 years old and I was just transfixed by it. I didn’t see that video again until late at night in the mid-90’s. I think they actually showed it on Liquid Television, late night animation programming on MTV. There was no way I could have, but I felt like I had instinctively understood how that video was made as a toddler. Something about the live action world intersecting with the comic book world made sense to me. That moment when he reaches out of the comic book and the girl in the diner takes his hand is still just electrifying for me.
I really love music videos and actually use them in the classroom. There’s just something about that marriage of music and images that cuts me to my core. I can feel it in my solar plexus. A lot of music videos make me cry.
ZL – Given an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, what would be the project you’d make to be remembered by?
WZ – I don’t know, probably a one-night-only performance art event with some kind of giant multimedia collage and an interpretive dance routine going on simultaneously. And a lot of glitter. Barbra Streisand would stand next to it and she’d have to pretend to be very nice to people all night.
ZL – You’ve included a couple of drawings in the zines you have made and they’ve all been awesome, why don’t your zines include more art from you?
WZ – I think the Carly zine might be the only one I’ve made that doesn’t have something I drew in it, and that’s because I was really going for a more classic collage aesthetic but like the squeaky-clean version of that.
I doodle a lot, but I’ve never really had a good drawing practice. I kind of go through phases. Every once in a while, I tell myself I’m going to practice drawing every day and get REALLY good at it, but it never lasts long. I’ve always had a lot of different hobbies and creative outlets, but I’ve never really been aces at any one thing.
ZL – I know you talked a little about this on your initial Warglitter videos on YouTube, but some people may not have seen those, so, what made you want to do video reviews of zines?
WZ – I wanted to start a YouTube channel, but I never knew what to talk about. I felt like if I didn’t have something to offer people, no one would watch. Near the end of last summer, I started searching YouTube for channels devoted to talking about zines and I was really surprised at how few there were. And the zine videos with the most views weren’t even made by people with channels devoted to zines. I thought, ‘here are a few people who really care about something I’m interested in, and there aren’t so many people already talking about this that I would have to worry about getting views or filling my channel with content. We could just be a little community of people who are in it for love rather than money or notoriety.’ So the most obvious way for me to start, it seemed, was to review zines I was buying or getting from people through trades.
all art copyright and trademark it's respective owners. content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019
I have a long history with Gareth Hopkins’ work, or so it feels anyway. I was away a long time from looking at anything comics and Gareth’s were some of the first comic drawings I saw when I came back. They stuck with me as they felt interesting and personal. They are also the first abstract comics I’ve seen that felt like they had something to say, rather than something to do.
That’s quite an oblique description so let me explain more. Although these comics are abstract, they are not impersonal, not formal exercises. There’s something in them that affects me, not just something I look at and think, well that’s interesting, then turn away because that’s all there is to engage with – ‘clever trick’ or ‘boring trick’.
However – until ‘Extension’ I’ve not read any of Gareth’s writing (in fact I think this may be the first comic published with Gareth’s own words. He’s recently had Petrichor published and I think that was written before Extension but published after).
I was surprised by how much emotion he evoked in this story. How evocative and captivating it was. In all honesty I never thought I’d get emotionally affected by any of this work, abstract comics essentially being a distancing concept. However, there is such a strength in this work, in the pacing of the words, the sequencing of the pages. It feels like poetry; epic, raw and deeply personal.
He achieves an amazing range of pace and depth of meaning. To me, someone who easily glazes over when met by blank verse or stream of consciousness, I thought I’d pretty much delve into the images and skirt over the words. But I quickly found myself into the rhythm of the work, I could not believe how much life this had. I was head nodding at the call backs and remixing in the text, it kept it fresh, giving a sense of cohesion, of purpose.
I was impressed by the general mood of the art – the density matched the mood of the text. I felt that the images belonged to the world of the words, even if they weren’t showing the same thing always. To make a weird analogy – it’s a piece of work similar to industrial music tracks – the images play a dark ambient music under the words that feel like a voice muttering dark and velvety. Beautiful and painful like a Leonard Cohen song.
It’s the first times I’ve not found myself admiring Gareth’s design sense. I was too busy soaking in the atmosphere. The many, many moments where art and word weave emotively together. ‘When I wake up I’m going to absolutely’ big burst on the flip, bursting out of dream, a rupture of what they were trying to hold onto. A drawing that, in the context of the other pages, could have stood out as quite light and cheesy, that instead lifted it up and hit home the sensation of a dream smashing on waking.
I soon found myself believing its rhythm, going along with it, persuaded I was reading rhyming verse where there was none. I felt like I’d been pulled along into a dance and now I understood its rhythm I could go with its steps. There was something in pithiness of the boxes that made it have that same bounce as rhyming couplets. None of it rhymed. I’m not sure how much that was intentional, and how much intuitive (don’t call it luck – that’s a disservice to it), but it sucked me in to the story at that point.
It changed my appreciation from looking at the art, to feeling part of a moment. It hit home with feeling. This was personal, someone secretly reaching out by hiding a human plea in a seemingly abstract (and so supposedly emotionless) piece of art. There is a point where the words suddenly, directly address, for me, the whole purpose of the piece, not in a meta sense, just directly, openly speaking a truth at the heart of the work. It was like someone suddenly swinging their down staring gaze to burrow into your soul whilst switching their mumble to a firebrand’s roar.
To put it a clearer way – there’s a moment where it feels like you’re seeing the whole meaning of this swirling universe, the mists part and the path to the heart of it all is laid bare for you to follow.
The pages that followed are a beautiful synchronisation of text and image. Oddly they made me smile with relief and recognition, they felt like the first moment of human warmth, even though they’re filled with frailty and fear. That happiness is a sort of prelude to deeper, fearful emotions to connect to. Some say just before you die, you suddenly get a second breath and that’s what his moment feels like, that last smile before the rattling breath brings the fear home. A good and affecting end.