Recently I went to a zine fair. The Festival of the Photocopier zine fair to be precise. With over 100 stalls there was a wide range of range of people present – both creators and attendees. Overall, it was a fantastic event and I met some very interesting people. It got me thinking about how zines are an accessible way of enjoying comics – especially for those who are not so much into mainstream comics.
Before I talk more about zines I should probably explain what they are for those who might not be aware. Zines are magazines and comics that are handmade and DIY in nature. They generally have a small circulation and due to this stay relatively local. They’re very community driven and are generally distributed locally by the creator in a variety of places, most of which are more alternative leaning.
For the sake of this article, and the because nature of this website, I will be focusing on the comic variety.
Due to the DIY nature of comic zines they can often be very creative. As the creator(s) are not tied to any publisher, editor or any other stakeholder they are free to create what ever they want. This could come in the short story or even an exercise in visual experimentation, which doesn’t really tell a story but is more about exploring a creators art-style. Zines allow them to create personal or offbeat (sometimes very strange) stories with creative expression.
That might sound a little wanky but it’s true. Looking at the zines that I bought and saw at the zine fair each one is completely different. Not only in art styles and narrative but also in presentation. For instance, one of the zines that I purchased at the fair, “On My 42nd Birthday I Was Washed Out To Sea” by Jase Harper, looks like a conventional comic at first glance but folds out to be read as a poster. Another example of this is “The Wolves of King Street” by Meg O’Shea, which also looked like a conventional comic but was actually comprised of one long, and well folded, sheet and topped off with a nicely crafted slip to hold it all together. Ideas like these are creative and the kind of thing that you wouldn’t see at a large conventional publisher.
They also represent voices are not present or lacking in mainstream comics. At the zines fair I saw people from all walks of life – much more than the assumed hipsters. People of different races, ages, sexuality, interests and lifestyles were present and were offering zines that reflected there points of view of the world. Each table I went to was different. Some were about feminism, some were about sexuality and I even saw one that was about the creators love for cats.
Zines have a DIY ethos, which means are few barriers for entry when it comes to creation. All that is needed is a pen and some paper and you can begin. A simple desktop printer or photocopier is the method of creation too, with creators not reliant on having their zine produced through a professional printer. A creator can print or photocopy, put them together and have them out in a few hours.
This method of production generally means a small print run of anywhere between a handful to a few hundred, which makes them all that more special. Think about it this way, you have an object of creativity which there is only there is only a short run of.
A DIY ethos can often keep costs down which means that zines are an affordable option for comics. Most of the zines were only a few dollars, making them cheaper than mainstream comics. So next time you have a few dollars to spare at a convention head down to the artist alley and you’ll be able to pick yourself up some great reads at a great price.
After reading all about zines you might be wondering where you can find them. You can track them down in a variety of places including some of the following:
- Comic Book Stores that are more alternative friendly or are big supporters of local creators.
- Zine Fairs and events (Comics Reporter’s event list is great place to find an event near you)
- Comic Book Conventions.
- Online Stores such as Sticky Institute (Australian), Quimby’s Bookstore and Spit and a Half.
- Through creators online.
If you are not really interested in what mainstream comics have to offer dive into the the world of zines for another aspect of the comic book world. One full of stories full of creativity, oddities and things you wouldn’t find in conventional comics.
This is a great guide for those who want to make there own zines.
Hopefully this article has made you want to discover zines for yourself. If it has, let me know in the comments below.
Trevor Van As
Trevor Van As is the founder of How to Love Comics and has loved comics all his life. When he's not reading or talking about comics he can be found eating frozen yogurt and dancing like no one is watching.