This issue is all about reviews. I start with 50 Favs From Zine World, my favorite reviews from the zine-review zine called Zine World - and what a wild bunch they are. Then I look at The Fairest of them All, an article on what I think is the most fair review system of them all. And finally an update on Musea's Review Service, 10 Champs and Chumps
50 Favs from Zine World
It all started in 1996 when Doug Holland from San Francisco, asked me and 17 other zinesters across the country to help him launch a new zine review zine called Zine World.
Factsheet Five, was then the bible of zines, but its editor Seth Friedman had announced that he was going to cut back publishing to only twice a year. Doug felt that was too long between issues and started Zine World.
This is Doug's autobio from issue one:
"I publish Pathetic Life, a personal zine about my low-rent life in the slums. It's the diary of a fat slob; unskilled, uneducated, unkempt, with missing teeth, scraggly beard, old clothes, and bad manners. The zine is my life, with the occasional splattered cockroach or oddball anarchist rant."
He stressed honesty in reviews - period. No excuses. He also stressed the fact that every zine sent in, would get a review - EVERY zine.I am one of 2 original reviewers for Zine World that is still there (the other is Jerianne Thompson, the current editor of ZW). Over those 8 years I have reviewed hundreds of zines. Here are 50 of my favorites.
Note three things - I have not listed any of the zines in the Zine Hall of Fame. Those inductees are listed on the Musea website. I have also not listed the full addresses. Zinesters move so much that I'll leave it to you to find them! P.S. good luck on that. And finally, I've spiced it up with some interspersed favorite quotes from other reviews of zines that didn't make the final 50. They are in italics and are followed by the zine name. Enjoy!
1. Comixville #7: "A Quick, Little Guide to Self-Published Comics". Oh I liked this a lot - a mini that spotlights a comic artist on each page - 18 total - with a sample, a summary of the story, and contact info. Plus an interview with artist Carrie McNinch (The Assassin and the Whiner, Food Geek) and 2 pages of short reviews. One gripe is that the reproduced cartoons often have print too small to read. Otherwise highly recommended for its well chosen samples of indy comics. Portland/OR
2. Morgan Anne and the Pirates: Jen continues the adventures of Barrie's characters from his kid classic Peter Pan. She writes, "This particular adventure involves Capt. Hook and his band of Pirates, as most exciting adventures do. As we all know, Captain Hook is the most Ruthless pirate Captain ever to sail the Seven seas. That isn't to say he didn't have a Ruth (which he didn't, but he many times considered getting one) but only meant that he was quite a jerk, and what he had planned for Morgan Anne was indeed jerkish." That ex. Gives you a taste of the playful and sensuous take-your-time writing going on here. Add to this some sketchy but expressive illustrations and you've got a real treat. Highly recommended, and I want to see a book full of these adventures by this talented writer. Jen Pilles, Welland Ontario, Can.
3. Savage Daisies Book 7. Delightful
and smart retelling of the Snow White fable in comic book form
with all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. This is the '2nd
fifth or so' of the complete work called "Bitten
Apple". The drawing technique is solid and has some real
expressiveness to it. The story has charm, moxie, and a sense of
humor. This artist/writer could make a career out of redoing all
the Grimm stories. Recommended. Jesse Hamm, Lodi, CA.
"The drawings are done with enough skill that they are genuinely creepy in a ransom note sort of way" - The Darling Factory
4. Ripples 'A Seasonal Journal - For People, Not Profit'. An extremely well written zine with an upbeat activism for political and environmental issues. Ex "These days are for splashed in urges and filling needs in fields of green. Summer is ahead full of helium, light, laffy and lackadaisical. So full, soul full." Lots of issues covered: Daily Acts - 17 ways to do your part, a look at the neglected Palestinians, some perzine like articles on the authors background; plus, he adds URLs at the end of most articles to give your further information. Very well done zine and note cover photo with the bumper sticker that reads, "What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it's all about?" Trathen Heckman, Monte Rio, CA.
5. Caboose #3 'The Modular
Karaoke Issue.' Liz, Joe, Rachel, Pete and Dave love karaoke,
especially at their favorite lounge, Ax. This zine introduces the
5, then records a conversation about all aspects of karaoke
between them. Ex. "And some people are ridi - like Liz,
you're ridiculously effervescent when you're on stage, you're
just like, you're tremendously into it. You're not Celine Dion.
And that's why we're friends with you. But nonetheless, you're
tremendously entertaining on stage." Add to that a ton of
cheesy pix and you have a quirky, and certainly what must be a
1-of-a-kind highly recommended zine. Liz Saidel, Chicago, Ill.
"A zine mostly for those who love intoxicants" - Hopewell #4
6. 12 Items or Less: A Grocery Shopping Zine. This one shot, the 2nd installment in the "Low Hug Life Maintenance series" is an incredible collection of 23 writers and comic artists all pondering about grocery shopping, from both sides of the counter', says the intro. And it's right! Great layout, smart engaging writing with not a false note among them - plus fine illustrations and cartoons. Read about the 2 worst odors in a grocery store (one is bad watermelon), or why one customer asked "Is there any cheese that's particularly Christian?' or about Kevin, the check out guy who would cease scanning in the 10 item or less aisle after the 10th item! And what about plastic or paper you may ask? The zine is wrapped in a paper bag with a limited edition number of 158/2000. Highly recommended! An instant zine classic! A.J. Michel, Champaign, Il.
7. Poopsheet Jr. #3: The Zine World and Beyond. Mini review zine covers mostly comics and is a nice way to survey that indy field. I enjoyed the smart reviews and occasional cover photos of the comics, though most all of these were new to me. Nicely done, and a great value for a stamp. Take a look. Rick Bradford, Fredericksburg, TX.
8. Supreme Nothing #11: This reads
like a young girl's dairy where everything is vital, and passion
rules, "I'm so tired. I didn't get to bed until late last
night. I called Adam. We talked for a long time. Like...over an
hour, I know... it might have been two. I have not talked to
anyone like that in a long time. Well, not really. I talk to Todd
and Josh, but not for hours... and I talk to AV but that is
different because he is so far away..." But beware, some
pages are out of order? Some clipped off, and she was crazy for
Brandon but he drops out - what happened? Denny Lewalk, Burton,
"One Strange Cookie here..." - Kempner 214
9. Clutch #2 "Forty Days." From intro, "This issue was a bit of an experiment. It's a cartoon diary of 40 days of my life. From August 30th to October 8th. I drew about each day as it happened." Greig is a bit of a dork and his life is anything but exciting - yet these 40 days of mundane life were riveting to me. His drawing style is simple but very expressive and I quickly got lost in his day to day activities that usually started with something like, "woke up and drew comics'. But I think you'll love the guy too. I mean how can you not be intrigued after reading panels like this from Sept. 22, "Later Gloria explored my mustard collection!" with drawing of same! Highly recommended for low key fun. Greig, Portland, OR.
10. Eraser Carvers Quarterly #45. This long running zine (#45!) spotlights some solid examples of erasercuts (rubber stamps) by at least 20 artists, plus some assorted articles such as a salute to George Lawrie Thomson's life work. The art given, is first rate. My only complaint is that at 15 pages it seemed a little short for the cost and it ended too soon. Otherwise recommended. Mick Mather, Clay, NY.
11. Zine Beat #2: 'Commentaries, essays, and movie reviews.' "Welcome to Philadelphia. Which continues the adventures of a zine writer seeking to prod underground publishers into creating a literary movement." This zinester writes about moving to and living in Philly with some side trips into film reviews, 4 pages of "Stars of the Underground" (a list of literary favorites in zines); and a call for an indie literary revolution. He writes well and his style reads like pulp fiction, with most of his perzine adventures in or around bars. Recommended. King Wenceslas, Philadelphia, PA.
12. Stitch in Time #2: This cut and
paste zine reads like a confessional from a '50's beat poet - all
prose poetry. Ex. "I found America on the bus, of all
places. In unlikely heroes, in passing phrases. The land hurtling
by and the loudspeaker crackling, the drivers speech never
varying, teling (sic) us not to drink, then people busting out
their bottles as soon as we hit the highway. A day or so, and my
heart wasn't my own anymore. I knew I'd never be alone again. I
found me some angels." If you like that style of writing,
you'll recognized the gifts of this writer and want to check this
out. Dalia, Syracuse, NY.
"Has a lot of first-issue-of zine problems" - Shake
13. The Carbon Based Mistake #4: "Things You Told Me in Confidence." This nicely printed zine is marvelous unless one of your secrets is one of the 24 (plus one of his own) that Marc was told in confidence but is now spilling to the whole wide world - hilarious, dark, and true (?) secrets. Get this! Ex. "#12 you get sexually aroused by the music from Nintendo games, especially super mario bros." Marc Calbary, Eugene, Oregon.
14. Raw Sugar This zine reads like a
mental loop in your brain that keeps repeating only slightly
different each time. In this case the loop is Nidhi's extreme
passion, anger and sadness, usually for lost love. It's a zine
worn on its sleeve. I recommend it for those who crave intense
writing. Well illustrated and designed too, with a raw sugar
packet on the cover. Sample; "Sometimes I miss you and I
look to the sky with mist & fog in my eyes. I glance at a
star or two and walk without direction." Nidhi, Laguna
"A story on the sensuous bullwhip" - Boudoir Noir.
15. Semibold #6: This is my favorite zine of the zines I've reviewed lately. Kathy tells of her brush with doctors - double vision and no one knows why; and "Go! Or Seven Daze in New York" (she even has her photo taken in front of Tom's Restaurant, the facade used in the Seinfeldshow). Then Kathy's NYC friend, Patricia rounds out the zine with her trip to see Kathy in her home of Chicago - a chatty and fun trip both ways and recommended. Kathy Moseley, Chicago, IL.
16. LISFAN Monthly Vol.3 #12 Oct.'99: Sometimes you can't use the word "quirky' enough. Case in point. This fun zine all about the "Lost In Space' (LIS) sci-fi TV show. There's LIS news clippings, LIS conventions 1999-2000, websites that look like they're related to LIS but aren't, "Building the LIS Robot: Questions and Answers", related photos and more. Ex. From "Interview: Jack Johnson" (who played Will Robinson in the recent film remake) Mitchell: How did you prepare yourself for the special effects shots? //Johnson: I worked with a puppeteer and pretended." A LISfan must! Flint Mitchell, St. Louis, MO.
17. 1000 Interlocking Pieces #5;
this is the best zine writing I've seen in a long while. He
rambles from topic to topic in a leisurely way, but it's always
mesmerizing. And that is no small compliment when he talks mostly
about writing or his job at WalMart! Ex. "Morals and ethical
concerns run for cover like so many cockroaches when the lights
are turned on. Character is what you do when nobody's watching,
when you think nobody's watching..." Highly recommended - as
good as it gets! Jason Adams, Florence, SC.
"No new Tolstoy's in these 40 pages of poems and short stories" - Zine Zone.
18. My Pencil Lead Broke: Now here's a nice surprise, a chapbook of children's poetry - and first rate stuff at that. Ex. From "Kid's Beware!" /A mean old witch lives on the hill. / she thinks kids make a tasty meal./ she seasons girls with ginger ale./ but never eats the pony tail.../ Twenty one fine little poems that are clever and make good sense too. I highly recommend this for kids and lovers of good children's poetry. A unique and new voice in zines here! Asher Jones, San Antonio Texas.
19. Eat the State 'A Forum For Anti-Authoritarian Political Opinion, Research, And Humor' May 26, 1999: No it's not the latest James Bond evil nemesis, it's Monsanto - who have developed a seed that grows sterile plants so the farmer will have to buy new seed from Monsanto each and every year. How diabolical! As you can see I am fired up by this issue of Eat the State - a well written, left leaning, newsletter, and you will too no matter which side of the political spectrum you are on. Recommended weekly newsletter on world and national and local politics. "Yes, I want my copy of Eat the State! Delivered to me every week by a uniformed agent of the United States Government." Seattle, WA.
20. Action Plan For a Bike-Friendly San
Francisco : The Programs of the San Francisco Bicycle
Coalition. Part of the new city ideas that are sweeping the
country is fewer cars, more bikes and the SF Bike Coalition says
in their action plan that "if the streets were safer and
secure parking was available" there would be 10 times more
cycling than the current 3-4% of SF residents. The rest of the
zine outlines the necessary changes in neighborhoods, bridges,
streets, etc. Recommended for all city dwellers. SF, CA.
"'In desperation he journeyed to the land of lollipop trees to consult his old friend Preschematic man, but he seemed detached and saturnine for some reason..." uh...I'm out of here." - Sticky's Fun Factory.
21. Lummox Journal: "Examining the process of creating" Vol.4 Aug.'98.This is an excellent tribute (3rd annual) to writer Charles Bukowski that includes 2 excerpts from his own work plus remembrances from writers who had met him - Michael D. Meloan tells about a party where not only Bukowski attended but Madonna with Sean Penn and even Ginger from Gilligan's Island! All this plus tribute poems and some fine photos. I highly recommend it for all and it's a must for Buk Lovers. Raindog, San Pedro, CA.
22. Aliencola 'Freshell': With this issue #4 Karijane continues her great mix of surreal prose and visuals. Pardon me if I gush but I love this stuff. It's poetry, prose, collage, all cooked together. Alongside a charred burnt human hand is "I bite the dialing finger that called you' (typos hers). Under a negative image of a hurt and contemplating face is 'I refuse to accept that those who break free for what they believe are 'asking for it', that anyone is 'asking for it'; I refuse to allow anyone to smuggle any bit of happiness from my gxxx galaxy just to pacify their needs;" (typos hers). And this incredible quote, 'truth is that which creates the desired results.' I could quote all day but that still doesn't show you the visuals so get a copy for yourself. B/w with raw typing. karijane, Duluth, MN
23. Hollow Daze: This Anthony Rayson
essay illustrates his passionate left wing philosophy through an
examination of the nation's holidays. He's steamed and
articulate: "We start with New Year's Day. This is an excuse
to get stinking drunk the night before, chase after someone
else's wife, then mope through countless college football bowl
games (with more booze,) pretend to be pleasant to relatives and
eat dead animals.
It's not the most poignant of occasions. Skip it." Anthony Rayson, Monee, IL.
"Chatty zine that's not about much, but fun to spend time with." - Throwrug #22
24. Supermonster Comics #9: This is far from your usual comics. Kevin has taken text from real life adoption records and set them to marvelous b/w Chinese like landscape drawings. The total effect is one of Zen-like mystery, and the drawing expertise - with waterfalls dropping from 1 panel to the next for example - is first rate. I highly recommend this! Kevin Huizenga, Griffith, IN.
25. Ten Thousand Things #33: The
concept of 10,000 things is the best part. Each page of this mini
covers some idea or issue and counts as 1 thing. This issue
counts down from thing #9448 - 9432 plus illustrations. But the
actual writing rambles somewhat for me. Topics include; does
orange and syringe rhyme; lyric choices in Bowie's Space
Oddity song, etc. Still it's better written than most and
overall above average. K.D. Schmitz, Poughkeepsie, NY.
"This well written zine will probably offend everyone." - J Man Times #13.
26. The San Francisco Herald "The Elvis of Free Publications!": This is a one story comic titled "Class of '83". Main character Chauncy Dillinger begins by talking about the death of 80's Austrian singer Falco. Then onto the flashback love story of best friend Sheldon and ex girlfriend Petulia. This is all setup for the Class reunion that follows. I thought it was clever storytelling and great fun that was never predictable. And all of it was drawn in a style that was... well... very animated and expressive. Recommended. Gene Mahoney, SF, CA.
27. Ker-Bloom! #15 A lite but very clever mini zine/tract on how the author thinks computers-no, books-just fine. And note her bookmaking art: type is handset, with each edition numbered. An elegant package! Subtitled: The world wide cob-web. Artnoose, Oakland, CA.
28. The Encyclopedia of Truth &
Humor #4: This is a viewpoint you don't see in zines too
often. A very conservative Christian has assembled some smart but
most, way over the top articles on morality - mostly the excess
of Satan's influence in TV, the Great Seal on our money, Masonic
rituals, Hollywood films, the novel Portnoy's Complaint, Star
Wars, Homosexuality, Santa, and more. And though it's extreme,
it's more reflective than pushy, which is rare in proselytizing
tracks. A marginal thumbs up (Satan made me do it). Paul A.
Miodus, Metairie, LA.
"He confesses that one of his fondest desires is to obtain a crossbow." - Kurluck Newsletter.
29. NOE-FIE 'issue Lucky seven'. Noe fie is a lst rate and highly recommended comic story - yes story that begins with "Dad" being fired and sliding downhill from there. And what a ride he takes till the surprising ending with the family. It's almost all visuals / no text - well done b/w with color cover. A bargain too at $2. K. Wolfgang, Collinsville, CT.
30. Last Laugh CXXXVIII.: Let's say you dug up a pack of personal letters that were all out of order with a lot of the words missing or printed pressed together; and they were about Bill or to Bill, plus some disturbing b/w drawings. Are you dazed and confused? I was. This is dark experimental writing that will unnerve all but the few who look for the extreme. On typewriter paper with 1 staple in the left upper corner. Ex. "Depressed. Mutated virus. Back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain. Can't move on Princess Vagareth right the moment but that is alright - I think this is a book." Bill Blackolive, Port Aransas, TX.
31. Spooneye: This one of a kind
zine is a rule book for a card game called 'Spooneye'. "...
a game of swashbuckling, swarthy, sweaty piracy set on the
roiling and tempestuous seas of a, uh, regular 52 card
deck." It's created by Jesse Fuchs though attributed to
pirates in the Caribbean in the late 17th century. There's basic
rules (the object of the game is to build masts to capture
cards), a sample game, variants, etc. - all fully illustrated.
Then a 10 page essay, "Uno: Blight, Scourge, or
Menace?" on the authors thoughts and fascination with card
games, "If there's an object with a more blissfully lopsided
cost to utility ratio (than playing cards) I've yet to find
it." All this is amazingly fun, creative, and clever stuff
that I highly recommend. Aye matey, Let's build some masts! Jesse
Fuchs, NYC, NY.
"When all the musicians and reviews are wonderful (like they are here) they're meaningless." - Lick #24
32 Blow Job Queen #2: An extra small mini zine, 2"x2" that chronicles a woman's frank confessions about her love/sex life with line drawings on 1 side and 91 line of speech on the other. Ex. "I don't believe in/love. It hurts. I/sacrifice, it still dies./It's like the scabs-/never quite healing/before I rip myself/open again." She's got a laissez-faire attitude with a bittersweet edge that I found quite moving. A. Sklar, Albuquerque, NM.
33. Dateline Unknown #3 Summer '98. Rick is a photographer that takes a tape recorder along on his travel assignments. And when he finds interesting people he convinces them to tell their stories. My favorites in this Texas issue were the Polka feud story between TX. punk/polka band Brave Combo and Wisconsin's Wilcolac Jan; and Rick's own story about a rocky period in his marriage. All this mixed with 35 b/w photos with some real stunners like the overhead shot of the carnival at night in Van Alstyne, TX. A recommended travelogue that's never predictable. Rick Waldroup, Arlington, TX.
34. Chiapas: This zine does what
political zines do best - it tells the rebels side (facts?
propaganda?) about a rebellion that the gov. And the mainstream
press won't. In this case it's about the armed protest against
Mexico by its southern most state, Chiapas, what the rebels want,
and the reactions of the Mexican know more about the uprising.
Grundig Government, etc. The zine states it's case in a simple
straightforward manner and I recommend it for those who want to
"Commendable message in an incomprehensible writing
style." - Declaration #3Fanzine, Portland, Oregon.
35. Psycho-Babble: "I work five nights a week on an in patient psychiatric unit..." begins this zine about the author's job. Articles include sobering stuff like "My Worst Nightmare", the patients revolt; "Take Down", a term meaning to immobilize unruly patients; "Reasons Why You Wouldn't Want To Be A Psych Patient" etc. Fascinating, recommended reading with a fine and disturbing color cover too. Ty Fitzgerald, Berkeley, CA.
36. Faces of the Goddess #22 Spring '98: Mix mysticism with mythology and you get this gently uplifting, long running zine filled with a generous amount of articles on magical beasts and their meaning: Centaurs, Dragons, Pegasus, Unicorns, etc.; holy sites: Mt. Shasta, Mt. Arunachala, and Isle of Avalon; and beings: Hsi Wang Mu, goddess in the Chinese pantheon, Keltic Fairies, and Children of the Fey; plus some fine pen and ink illustrations. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it as a 1st rate zine for open minded spiritual seekers. Sharon Niman, Crows Landing, CA.
37. Deviated Prevert #1 First issue
with 3/4 record reviews and music interviews (yuck) an article on
"Movie Shit" (so-so) and "The Chainsaw guy",
a 7 page small type, episode in the life of a video store clerk
(wowie-zowie yahoo!) Buy it for these pages alone and find out
why the Chainsaw hippie started cutting down the tree outside the
store on his honeymoon! These 7 hilarious pages would make a
better film script/proposal than anything Hollywood has done in
years! Monty, Hollywood, CA.
"For a future technology zine this doesn't go much further than next week, and it's a boring week at that!" - Future Imperfect #5.
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