Friday, January 04, 2002

From the Reading Pile V

Cars-R-Coffins #10
Why do the best bicycle messenger zines always come from the Twin Cities? Hurl's slim but extremely well-designed read quickly touches on bike event news, the allure of winter bikes, Congressman Jim Oberstar (also chairman of the House of Transportation Ways and Means Committee), and punk rock. It's a quick read, but it captures the energy and enthusiasms of single-speed riders. The mindful political undercurrent is also welcome. I'd read the next issue of this with no hesitation, and I think I need to order a T-shirt. Cars-R-Coffins, Hurl Everstone, 117 Washington Ave. N, Minneapolis, MN 55401.

Engine! #5
Toby Craig and Todd Gail's 48-page comic is a two-part example of what happens when Futuroid meets Brian Ralph and Paranoia. The first story, "No Light Box," exemplifies the first two influences, telling the story of a group of gladiator-style robots who fight, discuss, remember, and fight again. The panel sequence on p. 27 is an impressive bit of comics cinematography. Then, "Robot Free" adds Gail and the Paranoia roleplaying element. Two people answer a jobs ad only to find themselves testing robots: one wheeled, one an overly agressive chair, one a washing machine, and one... well, let's just say that the Fred Hembeck- and Phil Foglio-styled artwork adds a light touch to the ending's heavy hand. I'd like to see more watercolor work as displayed on the cover, but otherwise, I'm not sure how long this'd hold my interest. Little Engine Studios, 116 Natures Way, Huntsville, TX 77340.

Fragments #2
Five years coming since #1, this 48-page zine focuses on the theme Power -- of community, over nature, and sex, of belief, of fear, and of the military. The editor and contributors offer interesting perspectives on the power of small groups, animal rights, the funeral of Orlando Letelier, and the Gulf War, but I have some trouble wading through the contributors near-academic language and postmodern posturing, as well as the zine's clip art-ridden design. That said, two pieces hit me extremely hard. The narrative "Jason" recounts encounters between activists and police, as well as an attempt at dialog. And Maureen Milton's "Girl in the World" shares her appreciation for a man she'd perhaps never pursue but who "made me realize that, as a girl, I have all the power." The whole zine is worth reading for this line alone: "I have the power. I have it and they are afraid of it. They may run banks, drive fire trucks, and tinker with the government, but these guys can't toy with me. Ultimately, they can't do anything without me." Right on. Hey. Don't take five years to make #3, OK? Fragments, P.O. Box 28253, Santa Ana, CA 92799.

Go Metric! #13
If you've ever been into Bunnygrunt or the Mutant Pop back catalog, chances are you'll dig this fully fledged pop music and punk culture zine. Ostensibly trying to become a general interest lifestyle magazine, this issue opens with a hilarious sex quiz rivaling those in Maxim. Brian Logan pens excerpts from an imagined Chicken Soup for the Punk Rock Soul. Kimmie Varsity shares some stories from Junior Varsity's tour of Japan, including a shop run by Sachiko and Ronnie of the 5,6,7,8s. Mike Faloon comments on some recent Plastic Man reprints. Rev. Norb rants about the X-Men movie. Johnny DIY anthropologizes some stereotypical mail order customers, including Anarchy Dude and the Girl Band Geek. And John David Cawley asserts Why Mod Matters. While there are scads of interviews in this issue -- the Sissies, the Figgs, the Young Fresh Fellows, and Swearing at Motorists -- Mike's conversation with Michelle and Doug Daugherty, makers of the zine Spank, might be the most insightful. While thousands of zines document emerging culture, very few people look at the motivations and background of zine publishers. Michelle and Doug have a lot to say about how Spank has changed since 1994, how people react to reviews, and the self-publishing process. And Mike has a lot to say, too; this issue weighs in at a whopping 56 pages, well worth the $2. (Full disclosure: Mike reviewed a CD by my band, the Anchormen, in this issue. He liked it, and dare say, I like Go Metric!) Mike Faloon, 2609L Village Court, Raleigh, NC 27607.

Mreowkoblast! #17
Another charming comic from the local talent Dan Moynihan. Combining his old Microblast comics with his new Mreow project, this issue is a clever assortment of John Porcellino-simple comics, writing, and photography. Dan and Leslie demonstrate how the game Caption is played. Nixon the cat goes on an adventure. Ethylene treats Crash to her own version of Understanding Comics ("I draw pictures and you come into my world."). Dan skates to MassArt. And a closing wordless comic about music brings Megan Kelso's Queen of the Black Black to mind. #18 should be ready by now -- it was going to be done in time for the canceled SPX. Get this. You won't be sorry. Dan's quickly becoming one of my favorites. And he has a Web site!

Off My Jammy #13
Lisa Kalner went to Brazil. And while there she met various filmmakers and zinemakers. So doing, she spent a lot of time learning about the country's indie rock scene, but she also roped in a bunch of notable Americans to share their Brazilian experiences. Mac McCaughan from Superchunk recalled the country's 1977 state of punk rock infrastructure. Chris, editor of the Brazilian zine Tudo E, addresses how Brazilian bands look to America for inspiration. The Donnas listen to a Brazilian musician's demo tape. Ian Svenonius of the Make-Up recalls their Brazilian tour. Lisa shares tips on how to eat vegan overseas. And Tom Ze schols Cibo Matto. As always, Lisa brings music together with multiculturalism and somehow ends up looking at something other than music. Something more real. Off My Jammy, P.O. Box 440422, Somerville, MA 02144.

Paul the Punker #2
This Sharpie marker-made photocopied cmic is a silly example of what happens when someone gets into punk rock and self-publishing. Unlike the thoughtful and highly stylized Arnie comics, Paul the Punker is a 12-page series of profanities, racism, and crotch jokes. While there is one clever sequence -- p. 4's paranoid obsession with a lighter that doesn't work and is "but a soldier for some large conglomerate fat cat [who] has sent you to throw a 'wrench in my works'" -- too much of this is poorly drawn and overly dependent on punk-rock cliches: squats, beer, anarchy, and vomit. There's some promise here in terms of dialogue, so perhaps the creator will improve as he continues to experiment. FNS Publishing, 24 Bynner St. #1, Boston, MA 02130.

Ponytale of Tears
A brilliant comics/zine from Da Claw. Starting with some found text and art, Mr. Claw builds a mystery story about four friends' bad haircuts that reminds me of the Three Investigators, Behind the Music, and the Blair Witch Project. Might even be a little Bloodhound Gang (not the band) in there. While trying to solve the mystery, the four friends -- Alexis, Patsie, Stacie, and Christie -- suspect each other, skate the "peace full pipe," write each other notes, and encounter the elusive Mr. Claw himself(!). A wonderful combination of found and fake text and comics. Probably available via Paper Radio.

Queer Zine Explosion #19
Larry-Bob hasn't put out an issue of Holy Titclamps or QZE since mid-1999. But he's started organizing a queer comedy showcase, volunteering at KPFA, working on local political campaigns, and been laid off for more than a year, so it's understandable. And it's super good to see him dabbling in zines again. This four-page newsletter reviews almost 60 queer-related zines, including notables Batteries Not Included, People Under No King, and RFD. His reviews are constructively critical, friendly, and in depth. QZE is international in scope, although if zine production is any indication, there are no queers in Massachusetts. There goes my idea for a zine column in Bay Windows! If you live in the Bay Area and want to see more of QZE, you can help by volunteering to catalog Larry-Bob's zine library, which he hopes to donate to the SFGLBT Historical Society. Larry Roberts, Box 590488, San Francisco, CA 94159-0488.

Seattlite #19
Part of Imageanation's Spacecamp series of comics, this edition focuses on Seattle: its rain, the space needle, and the WTO. Starting with a couple of choice word pictures -- the fan and pipe -- the comic's trenchcoated narrator realizes that the WTO wasn't only a trade organization, gets some alien assistance, and kicks some tentacled-alien butt Raymond Chandler style. Mission accomplished, our hero sets the "culture dial at twenty years." and so ends another cryptic of Imageanation. Equal parts Yul Tolbert and Max Traffic, these comics increasingly intrigue me. Who makes them? How can you get them? Where are they going story wise? Good stuff.

The Comics Interpreter Interview SPX 2000 edition
There's a reason why everyone who's anyone in self-publishing these days thanks LA-based comics maestro Jordan Crane in their books: He rocks. And Robert Young's interview in this edition of the Comics Interpreter's interview counterpart indicates why. Jordan reads the right comics, and he firmly believes in editing self-published work (his anthology Non). The interview also addresses the unwanted role of publisher, inspirations, how to surpass your own work, and why good comics belong in bookstores. Jef Czekaj talks abut the Star Wars bug, the New England comics scene, the distractions of making music, the value of doing mersh work, and why it's good to make fun of your friends. Jesse Reklaw touches on dreams, spoofing other artists, distribution, and comics networking. And David Choe expands on his cultural influences, artistic process, how to make your own comics, and how people -- including his father -- respond to his work. There are few good comics magazines and zines today. Read this. Then read the Comics Journal. Robert Young, TCI, 5820 N. Murray Ave. D-12, Hannahan, SC 29406.

The Wurst
This is the best zine I've seen in awhile without any contact information. But maybe you'll find it somewhere; if you have any leads on how to contact the folks behind the worst, let me know. Ilene Ree contribues an article on various drugs and how they affect the author's irritable bowel syndrome. The cocaine and acid vignettes are especially colorful, and the piece is noteworthy because it was supposed to appear in Vice magazine. Then the Wurst's pig mascot interviews "No-Smoke Sally" about when she started smoking, smoking rituals, what brands she smoked, and why she quit. LL contributes a story about an ice cream truck that serves as cover for a crack dealer. And "Alice's Story" is a sad, sad almost poem about a dope addict. All are solid stories about substance abuse, done in a variety of styles. Wish I knew who did this!

What are you reading?

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