Zines reviewed in the 2015 Year-End Zine Review:

The Zines

979represent ~ Always and Forever ~ Big Sassy Piece ~ Brainscan ~ Caboose ~ Cecil ~ Chorrada ~ Copy This! ~ Doris ~ Fixer Eraser ~ Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet ~ Mournals ~ Museums Tell Me They Hate Me ~ Phillips' Quarterly ~ Pinocchio ~ Release the Hounds ~ Shards of Glass In Your Eye! ~ The Letter Exchange ~ The Real Ramona ~ The Zine Explorer's Notebook ~ Watch the Closing Doors ~ We'll Never Have Paris

The Collections

AAPA ~ City of Angels Zines ~ Dithering Doodles ~ I (Kinda) Know Billy ~ Mineshaft ~ Musea ~ Shelf Life ~ Something for Nothing ~ Stratu ~
The Faloon Collection ~ The Juniper/Elephant Mess ~ The Ken Chronicles ~ Thirty Days/make posit[i]ve effort for the good ~ Zine Fest Houston

The Oldies

Call & Response ~ Escape ~ Factsheet Five ~ Pathetic Life ~ so what? ~
The Little Rhino Gazette ~ Thrift SCORE ~ Zine World

The Rest

Fizeek ~ Fizz ~ Last Supper and Mixed Reviews ~ Love and Other Strangers ~ Pacifica Literary Review ~ Rad Dad ~ Spitball ~ The Body is a Wild Wild Thing ~ The Original Story of the Hermit of Seneca Lake ~ Toad Suck Review


A sample of zines reviewed in this issue . . .

Big Sassy Piece #1
The day before the Dallas Zine Party, I was part of a panel at the Dallas Public Library to explain, in part, what was a zine. The attendees were getting the general concepts but were still confused as to what a zine looked like. Luckily, I had Nicki's zine in my backpack. "This," I said holding it up to the crowd, "is a zine." Subtitled "Essays, Listicles, Collages & Other Buffoonery," Big Sassy Piece is pure fun. It's a well-designed publication that actually brightened my day. It's broken into three main parts. In the first, Portraits in Female Stock Photo Courage, Nicki takes stock photos of suburban woman and gives them names and hilarious descriptions. The second are lists of the top 3 things to do with parties, like the 3 worst party bag favors and top 3 party shirts. The third part - my favorite - is a list of 13 things she does to "Delay the Fuck Out Of Writing." It's funny because it's true. (By the way, Nicki runs the zinester collective Self-Publishers of Chicago and works at Quimby's. This girl must bleed ink.)

Cecil #1
Growing up as an Army brat, I went to several elementary schools that had an eclectic mix of students. In seventh grade, I attended my first public school in Alexandria, Virginia, and instantly became the Other. Jonathan Todd's graphic comic zine, Cecil, takes place in 1987 as Cecil tries to find his way in a new, predominantly white middle school. I certainly wouldn't compare my experience with Cecil's, but I can appreciate Cecil's fish-out-of-water feel (and Cecil reminds me of my own middle-school best friend). Jonathan's artwork is distinctive and the story is reminiscent of the great TV show Everybody Hates Chris. My only complaint is that I wanted more. (I think Jonathan is working on a larger historical fiction graphic novel for children, tentatively titled Cecil Hall is an Oreo, and if the eight pages of this zine are any indication, it'll be a superb book.)

I imagine, when drawing a daily comic journal, there is a fine line between documenting your daily activities and how much of your life you are willing to expose to strangers. In Mournals, Suzette gives the reader just the barest glimpse into her life. Created for Seattle's 2014 Short Run Festival, Mournals is a daily journal of March 2014, "generally a bleak time of year [when] the sun of Portland's February disappears into endless rains." It's hard to ask a reader to jump into the middle of your life and understand, or care about, what's going on, but despite some questions, there were enough commonalities to help this outside reader form a bond with the artist, albeit it tenuous and fleeting. What I really enjoyed was Suzette's Jules Feiffer-esque artwork. Her drawings were a perfect reflection of her mood: it was like looking at her life through a rain-streaked windowpane.

Shards of Glass in Your Eye! #12
Kari is a zine phenomenon. A zinester since the mid-'90s (Shards of Glass in Your Eye! began in 1995 and was reborn in 2010), Kari has published several zine titles and is the creator/curator of Zines for Troops!, a volunteer project that sends donated zines to members of the U.S. military. Lately, I've been enjoying Kari's essays in Xerography Debt, but not satisfied with just these humorous glimpses into Kari's mind, I went in search for a copy of Shards of Glass in Your Eye!. It's worth looking for. It's a classic cut-and-paste zine of whimsical words and clipart. It's full of LA-centric observations, some of which made me laugh out loud; micro diary entries; and another installment of her ongoing segment: "Seven Celebrities I Have Seen in Their Natural Environment." It's silly, it's funny, it's entertaining.

The Collections


Last year, I read (and reviewed) Mineshaft's fifteenth anniversary issue (No. 30). I then purchased a small stack of back issues. I chose six, going back to #16 (2005), mostly to see how the journal has aged. They arrived less than a week later in a lovingly packaged box. Not only is each issue a jewel, they treat it as such when they mail them.
Mineshaft was created in 1999. Inspired by Irving Stettner's little magazine, Stroker, Everett and Gioia figured they could publish something similar, so Mineshaft was born. Stettner actually contributed artwork to their first issue (including the cover), and in 2000, they got their first big break when R. Crumb sent in some work. (I highly recommend Gioia's write-up of the history of Mineshaft on their website: mineshaftmagazine.com/history.html.)

The issues follow the same basic formula: tons of drawings, lots of comics, some poetry, a little nonfiction, and letters. In a few of the issues, there were photo essays and one of my favorite parts, "Inside the Mineshaft" articles, which, written by Gioia, keeps readers apprised of their zine.

But their big draw is Crumb. Crumb has been contributing covers and comics and drawings from his sketchbook for the last fifteen years. They also include excerpts from his dream diary, which are amusing, but easily forgettable (it's a dream diary, for God's sake).

Most covers of Mineshaft come with an "Adults Only" warning, which is a little unfair (at what age do you define adulthood?) but probably warranted. There isn't anything with the content or comix that would offend or corrupt today's teenagers, but their parents are another story.
What really impresses me is their consistency of excellence. Mineshaft averages about 175 subscribers, and they print around 1,000 copies of each issue. Back issue sales keep them afloat, and I recommend grabbing a copy or two before they are gone. They are worth the cover price.

The Oldies

The Little Rhino Gazette

A few years ago, Gabe pestered me to drive around to all the record stores in North Texas. So, one Saturday, we headed out and our first stop was Bill's Records in Dallas. It was a dump, and I say that in the most loving of ways.

Gabe disappeared into the stacks while I just wandered around, taking in the atmosphere. At one point, I found myself along one of the side walls in the back where I found shelves and shelves of old magazines and posters haphazardly thrown around, so I started digging.

I didn't unearthed much - lots of glossy music magazines from the '80s and '90s - but I did find a zine-looking publication that intrigued me. I went up front and asked how much, knowing the $2 cover price was 20 years out of date.

"Where did you find this?"

"On one of the back shelves."

"Yeah, I've been meanin' to sort that stuff out. Give me five dollars for it."

I did without complaint.

What I found was an old copy of The Lil' Rhino Gazette (or The Little Rhino Gazette). The LRG was an alternative music fanzine published by K. K. R. (Kelly) North out of Arlington, Texas. It was a "quarterly bi-monthly (or thereabouts)" zine that lived from 1986 to 1998, which is unbelievably impressive.

I found issue 17, the Winter 90-91 issue. It is 25 legal sheets folded and stapled with a green cover, 52 pages covered in text and clipart priced, as I mentioned, at $2.

Issue 17 was the special censorship issue that contained album reviews, interviews with Babes in Toyland and Dash Rip Rock, a couple of comics, letters, and essays. There's even a Rhin-o-crostic.

There also are zine reviews, but I only recognized one of the zines: Cometbus. The reviewer had just picked up issue 24 on a trip to San Francisco. It's a long review that starts off with:
"Honestly, I don't know how to describe this sucker...I mean it's not a music 'zine... it's not a comics 'zine...it's not anarchist...or otherwise political, but it is this: it IS moving and somehow, it's also essentially 'punk.'"

LRG was masterfully put together, just a spot-on perfect design . . . except for the size of the text. I swear to God the letter from the editor looks like it is in 1pt font. I know there was a lot of resizing going on in the early days of zinedom to fit massive amounts of typewritten text on the page, and I understand that if Kelly hadn't shrunk the text, she'd be looking at a hundred pages or more, but I would have enjoyed this zine so much more if I didn't have to stop every twenty minutes and give my eyes a break.

I couldn't find out much about LRG online, though I did come across a website Kelly built in 2013 where she said once she gets a scanner she was going to put all of the past issue of LRG online. That would be nice. (At least I could resize the scan to read it.)

Thrift SCORE

I've known Robin for almost thirty years, and since our first date to just the other Saturday, when she needed to find a cheap blazer for Gabe, we have been thrift store aficionados. Everywhere we've lived and ever place we've visited, we spend time in thrift stores.

And back in the day, had I known about it, I would have been a devoted subscriber to Thrift SCORE.

There are few zines more iconic than Thrift SCORE. It was the first zine featured in Volume 1 of V. Vale's Zines! book (1996). Vale's interview with the creative curator behind Thrift SCORE was 15 pages long (remember, Zines! was an 8½" x 11" book, with two columns on each page) and included pictures, cover shots, and even a couple of reprinted essays from the zine.

Al Hoff (another zinester from the great city of Pittsburgh) launched Thrift SCORE in 1994. There were 14 issues in all, the final issue coming out in 1999. In the introduction of her last issue, "Hoff listed several reasons that she was ending the zine, including: 'reproducing this has become a major headache,' 'I'm out of questions and mysteries,' and 'I hardly even thrift anymore.'" (http://zinewiki.com/Thrift_Score)
I was able to track down two issues of Thrift SCORE from the interwebs: #10 - The Thrift Love Issue and #12 - Where's it been?
Published in 1997, issue 10 is not about the love of thrifting (well, it is), but about finding love through thrifting. Al put out a call and people wrote in about their thrifting relationships with their significant others. There's an article about the romantic value of old board games, discarded objects of love found in thrift stores, and the overwhelming amount of romance novels on thrift store shelves. There's even a Mail Call section that contains a note from a young "Davida in MD" (kind of surreal to see).

Issue 12 came out in 1998 and contains an excuse for the delay between issues: Al was on a whirlwind tour for her Thrift SCORE book (more about that in a minute). Issue 12 contains a detailed article about aluminum Christmas trees, more board game finds, letters from readers, and a self-promotion page. My favorite was the section on found objects: what money, mystery, and memories do you find embedded in the objects you bought from thrift stores. Debbie in PA found a 1960 game 6 World Series ticket - Pirates versus the Yankees at Forbes Field in Pittsburg. The Pirates won the series in dramatic fashion with a homerun in the 9th inning by future Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski. Debbie found the ticket in little old lady black purse she purchased for .99 cents.

The best part of looking back at these two issue of Thrift SCORE was reading about Al's little publication going mainstream. In issue 10, Al confirmed the rumor that Thrift SCORE was going to be a book published by HarperCollins and in issue 12 there was a brief but intriguing write-up on her media tour adventures. (I don't know if Al ever wrote in more detail about her time on the publicity road, but if she did and someone could point me to it, that would be great.)

Thrifting hasn't changed much since Al's wonderful zine, though it is harder to find a thrift store that doesn't have a sense of some of the treasures they have on their shelves (or, more likely, under glass near the register). That doesn't mean I can't uncover a treasure. A few months ago, at the local Salvation Army, I found a first edition of Practical Demonkeeping, Christopher Moore's debut novel. I spent two bucks for a fifty-dollar book. Score!

[2015, 24 pgs, $4, Quimby's]
Nicki Yowell

[2015, 8 pgs, $2, Quimby's]
Jonathan Todd

[2014 (second printing: 2015), 26 pgs, $5, Quimby's]
Suzette Smith

[2014, 24 pgs, $3, Etsy]
Kari Tervo

Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri; PO Box 1226, Durham, NC 27702

K. K. R. (Kelly) North

Al Hoff

2014 YEZR
Copyright 2014-18 David LaBounty