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
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
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,
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
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
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.)
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
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!