Friday, August 27, 2021


(Digest, 52pp, $6)

This wonderfully thoughtful and intense fanzine was published in 2018 by Orange, Calif., native Adrian H. (@asphaltpearls, perhaps) to focus on his intense My Chemical Romance fandom a decade prior in 2008. 

A handy "Nutrition Facts" panel on the back cover suggests that the contents address the band's cultural impact and what made them special, plus leather jackets and boas, fan forums and masculinity—and that the zine includes discussion of poetry... and revenge.

It's all true. 

I'm not even the biggest fan of the band, though I have listened to them—inspired by my now teenage son's interest and awareness in the song "Welcome to the Black Parade"—and I found the fanzine an excellent example of nostalgic fandom and an older fan's attempt to come to grips with a pop culture phenomenon that was particularly important to them while in middle school.

Remarking on the self-harm scare in England as covered by The Daily Mail in England, Adrian draws a straight line from the more recent band to the satirical Big Fun song "Teenage Suicide (Don't Do It)" featured in the 1988 movie Heathers. He also comments on Glenn Beck's criticism of the song "Sing" as an example of older folks' inability to appreciate and understand music that's more intended to be the domain of the young.

The zine traces the band's emergence from working-class New Jersey post-911 and in the midst of widespread school shootings, considering the various members of the band over time—and largely focusing his attention on Ray Toro, Gerard Way (who's since gone on to write comic books, including The Umbrella Academy, more recently adapted for television), and Frank Iero. (The author also identifies the band's influence and inspiration by science fiction and comics, including the work of Al Columbia, Neil Gaiman, and Alan Moore.) 

Several pages are spent dissecting the band's dramatic goth-pop sound and considering a number of specific songs, analyzing their lyrics and drawing parallels to performers such as Cher, the Doors, Jose Feliciano, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Joan Jett, the Smiths, Gwen Stefani, and Suede. Adrian addresses Way's struggles with suicidal ideation and substance abuse, and considers the gender roles portrayed in the band's music videos. Attention is also paid to the band's live performances and concert staging.

But the bulk of the zine focuses on the band's surrounding fandom, including fan art and fan fiction such as the Harry Potter fanfic "My Immortal" on and Mibba, some of which focuses on the erotic and homoerotic. (Adrian even tips hat to slash fanfiction focusing on Star Trek and The X-Files.) This is where the zine gets particularly interesting, as the writer draws on the art of Phoebe Ayscough and her comic essay "Phantom Wings," trauma porn, Leslie Jamison's essay "Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain," William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, the poet Richard Siken (author of Crush and contributor to Spork Press), and online fan discussions on sites like iMusicast and LiveJournal.

At times, the zine reads like a perzine or series of LiveJournal posts. Other times—especially the fandom portions—the zine reads like the first draft of an academic essay or thesis. In the end, I'm left wanting to listen to My Chemical Romance, and to remember the connections I first felt with my own obsessive pop culture interests—and the people I met through punk rock, zines, and minicomics. 

That's not a bad thing. In fact, it's a very good thing, even if those teenage years might have been marked by low self-esteem, identity confusion, and the emergent assertion of the self I'd become.

What is your My Chemical Romance? We all have one. What's yours?

Songs mentioned in the zine:

The above songs are also available as a Spotify playlist.

You can buy this zine at Crapendemic. In fact, I recommend you do so.

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