Thursday, September 29, 2011

Peach Melba #22, #23, #24

By Pearl
PO Box 74

It's been so long since I reviewed Peach Melba (a rad list zine made by a 14 year old), that not only do I have three issues here, but apparently there are more issues waiting for me in the mailbox of my previous residence (I'm trying to get them!).

Each issue of this zine is folded in a crazy and neat way using only one piece of paper. It's hard to explain, but if you ever see it you'll also think it's neat. Within the carefully folded pages you'll find lots of typewritten lists about whatever Pearl is thinking about in a given month.

Some of my favourite lists in here are "rooms in a house" from issue 22 ("secret passageway" is the first listed room, awesome!), "Things that I've been hating recently" from issue 23 ("capitalism"!!!), and "Animals that I'd never even heard of until I wrote them in this list" from issue 24 ("zorilla").

I also love that Pearl is so political at a young age, being involved with critical mass bicycle rides (the dates of which are listed here), the UK Green Party (while acknowledging that "they are the lesser of many evils"), and generally hating the royal family!

Reading an issue of Peach Melba always leaves me smiling, and I hopefully they'll make you smile too.

Monday, September 26, 2011


By Elliot Baggott

So this is by far the most delayed review ever. I've had the images uploaded for months. Sigh.

This comic opens with two awesome pages that combine words written by Charlotte Bronte about the Crystal Palace, with drawings of Westfield shopping centre in London. It's a pretty neat juxtaposition of ideas, and I like how it compares things that were incredibly amazing with things that we now consider just common place. One hundred years ago people couldn't imagine wearing clothes made in another continent.

After this, we move into the main story, which is a short piece about the daydreams of a guy who works in a teeth whitening place in a mall. The whole piece has expository narration boxes that mirror the style that Bronte uses at the beginning of the piece. These help to make the idea of teeth whitening seem amazing and terrifying at the same time.

In addition to traditional panel based art work, we're also exposed to diagrams, anecdotes presented as asides, maps, and some pretty rad lettering. The story itself isn't that amazing or anything (dude works in a job he doesn't like, thinks about what he'd rather do), but the way it's put together is pretty fun and uses some innovative techniques.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Conversational History: Roberts Street Social Centre

By Caleb, Nicole, Jyelle, and a whole bunch of other people

The major reason as to why this site hasn't been that updated over the summer is that I moved to Halifax and developed a social life. I've also spent a lot of time volunteering at the Roberts Street Social Centre and the Anchor Archive Zine Library contained within it.

This isn't to say I haven't been writing things. I continued writing my column for The Beat until this month, I've made a couple of zines (mostly at a 24 hour zine challenge, more info soon!), and have also spent a lot of time updating the website, facebook page, and email announcements list for Roberts Street.

So it is with a fair amount of bias that I approach this zine.

The Roberts Street Social Centre is a space in a former house that houses a zine library, the People's Photocopier, a screen printing co-operative, a meeting space, and more! It's been around for about six years, and this zine (which was about a year in the making it seems) is mostly a transcript of a dinner conversation (from 2009?) between eleven (I think) people involved in the space, and their memories of how the space began, and how it's grown and evolved since then.

There's also an interview with the people that set up the website and online zine catalogue (really interesting to me, but possibly boring to everyone else), an interview with the owner of the house who we rent from (more interesting than it might seem), and flyers and posters advertising events from the beginning of the space.

As someone (heavily?) involved in the space, I find this all really interesting, but I'm not sure how interesting it would be to someone who has never visited. There are some problems (all of the pieces just seem to stop, with no real ending or conclusion), and there's some information that I would have liked to have seen included (why start a zine library at all?), but overall I think it's a really awesome zine, and the style of it (while a nightmare to transcribe I'm sure), is one that allows a lot of different people to tell their memories and opinions in an organic way.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Oblast #13 - Ten More Videos I Watched On YouTube

This is the other zine I made at the Roberts Street Social Centre. Collect them all!

Unlike the last YouTube zine I made, this time I bothered to make a playlist, so you can watch along!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


By Stathis Tsemberlidis

Reviewing this silent, dream-like comic is pretty hard. There are no words or dialogue anywhere inside, and the plot is one where events flow into each other with no explanation of what's going on or why anything's happening. My friend thought they might be stuck in Hell. I wondered if the comic was all about how circular life is and how nothing truly changes. One side wins and they become who they were fighting against. Maybe that is Hell.

The comic opens up with a groups of protesters facing off against police officers in riot gear. Part of me really thinks that this is inspired by the riots that happen in Greece fairly frequently. Tsemberlidis is (I'm pretty sure) from Greece, and he is presumably more aware of the events going on there than most people.

After that the comic becomes more metaphysical and mystical, and there are panels that wouldn't feel that out of place in some of Alan Moore's weirder comics. (Actually there are a couple of panels that wouldn't look out of place in a more popular Alan Moore comic either.)

However the story (however strange it may be, and ignoring the three paragraphs I've written about it) is not the reason to check out this story. The real reason is Tsemberlidis' amazing, though hard to describe, artwork. Each image is filled with incredibly amounts of detail and texture, and while there aren't that many backgrounds I feel that this is done on purpose, and adds to the mystery of the story. What backgrounds are there also look amazing, so it's not like he's avoiding drawing something he's not good at.

Mostly though, we're left with unanswered questions: Where did that crocodile come from? Is it actually an alligator? (I can't tell the difference.) Is that a vagina? Is Tsemberlidis ever going to draw a zombie comic? Cause I bet he would draw amazing zombies (I don't even really care about zombies!).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oblast #11 - Places I have Slept January 1st - August 28th, 2011

By Matthew Murray

Last month the Roberts Street Social Centre held their 6th annual 24 Hour Zine Challenge. I participated, and this is one of the two zines I made during that time. (I've actually worked on it a bit since then, and changed the cover slightly, but this is the version that physically exists at the moment).

It features manipulated photos, and stories and information about the the 25 places where I slept between January 1st and August 28th this year. Check it out!

Monday, September 12, 2011

DIY Zine Libraries

By Cheyenne Neckmonster
cheyenne's tumblr

I really love zine libraries, which if you know me you would already be aware, as I spend a lot of my time nowadays hanging out at the Anchor Archive Zine Library (you should come by!). One of the awesome things the Roberts Street Social Centre (where the aforementioned zine libray is located) is a summer zine residency program. This is where various zinesters and artists come and live in our shed for two weeks and work on art and zine projects.

So far this year we've had some pretty rad people come by, one of whom was Cheyenne Neckmonster, who finished her zine a few weeks months ago. It's kind of strange reviewing this zine as not only do I know Cheyenne (and hung out with her a bunch while she was here), but I helped her a bit in this zine by giving her the contact info of some zine library people I know (I'm even thanked on the back page!).

This zine combines general info about zine libraries with quotes from people involved with some libraries. The general info didn't interest me that much, but that's probably because I already know about zine libraries! I was interested by the quotes from various librarians and wish there was more information about them. In fact, I'd rather read profiles on each individual library, but that's me asking for a different type of zine than this is.

This zine is cool though, and I know Cheyenne is already planning a second edition (or a second issue), with information from more libraries. If you're interested in the idea of zine libraries and want to start your own this zine is totally worth checking out, though you don't have to take it as your bible. As Cheyenne says "Every zine library is unique.", and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Melon Farmer

Melon Farmer 3
By Orson and Zeel

[Yeah! It's my birthday! So to celebrate that (and the fact that someone just asked that I remove the review of their zine that I posted six months ago) here's a review I wrote weeks ago but was unable to post due to internet problems and traveling. More soon.]

When I went to the Brighton Zine Fest earlier this year one of the really neat things they had was a zine scavenger hunt. This was a list of different types of zines that you had to try to collect in order to get a prize. The list included things like "a blue zine", "a tiny zine", "a zine about tea", and other things. However, the organizers wanted to give out the loot bag prizes and would allow pretty much anyone to get one if they made up some decent reasons.

Part of my lootbag was this zine created by a little kid and (I assume) his dad. This is reminiscent of Axe Cop and also a project I was involved in recently that involved redrawing children's characters. I really love the ideas of these projects, as it encourages creativity at a young age.

From what I can tell Zeel drew the panel borders, did toning and lettering, and maybe drew other background background elements. Everything else seems to be by Orson. The art is mostly the type you'd expect from a little kid, with little consistency, and the story frequently doesn't make a lot of sense.

Despite this there is definitely a lot of charm in this comic, and there are some panels (like below) that I really like the look of, as they have a style and energy I really enjoy. There's a lot of charm in the work in here: characters powers being based upon their names (as opposed to vice-versa), diagrams showing the powers and equipment people have. This reminds of what I used to do as a kid, and I think it's awesome that kids are still doing this.

Plus the lootbag also had one of those party noisemakers (with a pirate!), a glow stick thing (which I've broken), a temporary tattoo, and a rad stamp/marker thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You're the Best.....Around!!! #1


Honestly, when someone emailed me asking if I wanted to review their "kids in sports films" zine I was a bit wary. I mean, what the hell type of topic is that? But ultimately that's one of the things I love about zines: they can be about anything. And by having people send or trade me their zines I end up reading some weird stuff that I would never seek out.

So this zine pleasantly surprised me. It begins with a discussion of the ideas behind "kids in sports films" and how they generally follow identical plot maps, feature the same type of characters, have the same messages, and are pretty damn predictable. Now after reading this you might wonder why someone would even bother watching them, but I think if you know anything about any type of genre fiction you know that they have the same tropes that they follow pretty frequently. I mean, I watch terrible science fiction action films and read a lot of super hero comics, and you can describe those in such a way that they sound incredibly awful (and to many people they are!). Yet I enjoy them anyway, even if they are bad a lot of the time.

Next there's a description of all the different character types that appear in these films (from "The Coach" to "The Ethnic Minority"), which was informative but probably could have used a few more examples from films. Then we have an indepth discussion of the Will Ferrell film "Kicking and Screaming". In fact, I think this might be the most ever written about this film as it doesn't sound very good, even by the conventions of the genre.

The plot is discussed, the actors are discussed, the director is discussed, hell, even the uniforms are discussed! It's kind of insane really. But it's all written in a fairly informative and entertaining style, by someone who seems to love this genre, but hates this film in particular. It sort of reminded me of something like the Zero Punctuation video game reviews, which find every flaw and problem in a game and scream "why why why was this decision made?". (Well, it's not as good as Zero Punctuation, but this is only the first issue.)

There's also an interview with the band My Dad Is Dead (about "kids in sports films" of course), and a recipe for a baked chocolate banana thing. So all in all this zine was a pleasant surprise, and now I'm actually kind of looking forward to reading the next issue.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crazed Mazes Issue #1

By Myron Smith
PO Box 354
Ridgeway, VA

When I made my last zine (Potato Maze) I was super stoked with the maze I made for the cover. I thought it was incredibly cool and I was really proud of it. After reading the first issue of Crazed Mazes I'm incredibly glad that I waited so long until I read it, because now all sense of pride has disappeared.

The mazes in here really are crazed! No basic rectangles here, rather the mazes form faces, symbols, trees, and pictures that I didn't even understand were mazes until I looked at them. The difficulty of the mazes differs from ones that looked too hard for me to even try to ones that are pretty simple (because all of the borders are cats or fish, adorable!), so there should be some for everyone to try.

If mazes aren't your thing there are also find the object drawings set at a circus and on the street, and a crossword! The answers to everything are also in the back, so if you're really not sure how to finish one of the activities you can always cheat (or "check your answers").

The only problems with this zine are some less than stellar reproduction on the cover, and that it's just on 8.5 x 11 paper and stapled in the upper left hand corner. Still, this was a preview issue and I hope that in the future Smith will be able to use 11 x 17 paper and make some awesome activity books.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Meanest Greenest Frog

By Eric Baker

While I've categorized this as a comic (and it is one), I think it can be better described as an illustrated "children's book". Baker has taken certain aspects of comics (speech balloons) and added them to a single large picture on each page.

The story concerns a young boy's quest to find the titular frog somewhere in a forest. Baker has chosen to present the narrative text and the characters' speech in rhyme. Combined with the somewhat repetitive nature of the text this means that the story seems as though it should be read out to someone else (while of course showing them the pictures at the same time).

The art is all pretty good, and I enjoyed Baker's depiction of various frogs and other animals. He's also put a lot of work into the general appearance of this book, with end papers, page numbers, and a "This book belongs to" page. It's all very professional and nice to look at, though I did think that the colouring could have been a bit brighter.

It's pretty clear that I'm not the target audience for this, but I can see kids enjoying either reading it or having it read to them. Let's hope that this is what's happened with other copies of this story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Robots and Electronic Brains number 14

Edited by jimmy possession

This music zine is packed full of reviews, interviews, and articles about music and bands. Unlike most zines of this type it doesn't focus on one particular genre and the content can go from discussing Welsh language hip hop to the bands influenced by '60s French pop music.

Writing about music can be a pretty difficult thing to do, and I think even the best writers are writing it for people that read music writing. Thus, as someone who doesn't know that much about music I often felt a bit lost when reading some of the content here, which perhaps can be said to be aimed at the sort of people who spend their weekends searching through crates of records at garage sales in the hopes of finding that one amazing seven-inch.

However, some of the interviews were pretty good, and it came with a compilation CD with loads of different music on it (everything from hip hop to indie to weird cut up spoken word bits featuring Vincent Price), and it's worth it just to get hold of that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Echo Echo 8

By Kagey

Reviewing perzines is hard sometimes because they are so personal. When someone is spilling out their mind and their soul onto the page it's difficult to criticize their layout or their writing style. It's even harder when the person writing the zine is a friend of yours. You can find out more about what they think and how they feel by reading a zine they made for dozens of strangers than you ever did by talking to them.

Saying all that I did enjoy this zine. I felt a connection to Kagey and her fears and anxieties. The physical and metal actions she describes rang true with me, and I thought about putting on masks and pretending to be someone you're not, drinking in art galleries, and awkward conversations. "One thing you hate about being drunk is that, while you forget your shyness, you're still as awkward as ever, so you cringe harder in retrospect." (And even if you're not actually that awkward, your mind still concentrates on the small details and ignores the larger picture.)

I didn't dig everything in here (the poetry didn't register, as usual), and I wish that Kagey included more of her drawings as I like those, but I enjoyed the writing style that Kagey used; it was filled with loss and loneliness and little truths.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out of the City and Into the Trees Issue #2: The Battle of Dalkeith Country Park

I think the environment is awesome! I think that (sub)urban sprawl is terrible! I think that there are many things our society does that could be done better and without hurting the earth and the people that live there. We could focus less on cars and more on bicycles and alternative forms of transportation, focus on using what we have instead of buying new things, and focus more on people instead of profit.

I think that these things are important and that we have to fight for these things if and when it comes to that. And so I have some amount of respect for people that go and lock themselves into trees and and other places to prevent nature being destroyed.

However I am frequently left very confused by some of the people who are incredibly moved by the beauty and importance of nature, are involved in movements like this, and express dislike of modern society and a desire to go back to something more "primitive".

(Now please note, this isn't all necessarily aimed at this zine and its creators specifically, some of these complaints are more general.)

So how is flying a large group of protesters/activists to Iceland good for the environment? Perhaps if you spent the time, effort, and money trying to educate people wherever you are and creating a community that cares about where they live you will have more effect than going to another country and chanting.

And how can you justify owning cars and iPads and things like that when you express your rejection of modern society and technology? I love society and civilization and technology and would be incredibly sad if I had to live a hunter gatherer/farming existence due to the lack of opportunities to learn and the lack of art to see. And yet I don't have a car, I don't have an iPad, and somehow manage to get by fine on a technology I've found or been given. I guess I choose a "consume less" lifestyle, but find certain eco-primitivists to be pretty hypocritical. (Of course other people probably find me hypocritical too.)

This zine has some interesting stuff, but at the same time I find the writer's viewpoint to be somewhat naive. If you're really into this sort of stuff and are interested in reading more about it, I'll recommend that you check out the highly enjoyable Holidarity, a minicomic about environmental protest camps in the UK.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Panel 13

Behind the neat cover (both sides open like doors) lies a a comics anthology put together by a group of creators in Ohio. They function like a writing group, getting together every few weeks to show each other what they're working on and to give constructive criticism. Twice a year they put out an anthology, and this is the 13th. Impressive!

This anthology is based around the theme of superstition and bad luck, and, like all anthologies, the contents are up and down with some comics just leaving me confused as to why they were even created. (Though I suppose that could just because because I don't really see the appeal of baseball.)

The two comics I liked the most were one by Craig Bogart that told of the unfortunate ends of the various contributors to this "unlucky" book. Each person is given a panel and their fates are revealed as everything from being forced to see the world like Thomas Kinkade to being burnt alive. No fun!

The other piece I liked was by Molly Durst and Brent Bowman and was a sort of pre-World War II adventure piece that recalled stories like The Shadow. It features a mansion, fencing, chemistry labs burning down, and the Spider King! How can you not love a giant centaur like spider goblin? I wish this comic was longer so that we could have seen more of him.

And so, once again, Matthew's love of monsters triumphed over all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Every Reason #4

Edited by Keith

You know, the only way to get better at writing (or anything) is to do it every day. Do it all the time and you will improve. I've really been slacking on that front, but I feel like I've turned a corner and am doing zine stuff again (I've already posted more reviews than last month!).

Thus the importance of zines like this, which provide amateur writers with somewhere that they can submit their work to. I'm pretty much stealing this idea from the introduction where the editor says that he sees the zine as social work and wants it to promote writing and give more people the opportunity to read work (and to have writers have their work read). And yeah, what's the point of making a zine if nobody's going to read it?

Mostly though, the content of this zine didn't really leave much of an impact on me. There's a bunch of poems, which generally go in one ear and out the other when I read them. I did like the first one, though mostly because after a mention of Bukowski in the introduction I heard it like this piece in my mind.

Other than that I didn't really dig anything in this anthology. I feel as though I can't even critique the writing quality as the styles and story content aren't things that really interest me. The characters in the fiction pieces act in ways that I don't really understand, and clearly have different goals and thoughts than I do. So yeah, this is pretty much a non-review as I think all I can say is "not my thing".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chloe Noonan Monster Hunter #2

By Marc Ellerby

Sometimes the comics industry makes me sad. Not because it's mostly based around superheros. Not because it's not the most sexually or racially enlightened of places. Not because they are ignored by so many people.* But because there is really good work put out by amazing artists that seems to be almost completely unknown.

Case in point being Chloe Noonan by Marc Ellerby. This is an incredibly well drawn, well written, and funny comic with characters I like reading about, yet Ellerby is self publishing it with no major distribution. Now sure, maybe he wants to self publish it, but after reading about some of the problems he had getting issue 3 printed I wish that all of that was being taken care of by someone else and he could just draw more comics.

Still, apparently he is currently pitching it to various people. So hopefully we'll have a full book before too long. I certainly can't wait to read more comics about this not very good monster hunter, and her adventures with bands and clothes stealing friends. Until then I'm just going to have to go and read all of his webcomics.

* Okay, yes, all of those things make me sad too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Peach Melba #21

By Pearl
PO Box 74

Peach Melba is a zine made by a 14 year old girl, and she's been doing it monthly for almost two years! I can't even seem to update this site that much sometimes.

Each ingeniously folded issue is filled with lists of whatever has caught Pearl's fancy recently. Thus this issue has lists about pirates, spies, clothes (though I think that skirts and dresses aren't always impractical, and sometimes they are made for men!), food, and Doctor Who (everyone loves Doctor Who right?).

This final item made me think about my own memories of Doctor Who. When I lived in the "old country" (a long time ago), I used to watch Doctor Who on TV, and I was terrified of the Daleks. I remember a girl running around with a baseball bat, and hiding behind the couch. Ah, memories. Now all I want to do is watch the old episodes of Doctor Who with the Liquorice Allsorts robot.

Um, anyway: Peach Melba is super rad, and this issue features a reprint of instructions on what to do if arrested at a protest in the UK. Super useful! (Especially of late.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hope for the Future 7

By Simon Perrins and Andrew Livesey

Reading this comic now is a little bit frustrating, as I saw the guys at various events in the UK, but never picked up their comics. I even read the first issue online, but didn't read any more. Why is this a problem? Because I really enjoyed this issue and want to read more, but am in the wrong country. I will just have to read all their comics online (well, at least it saves me some money).

One thing that's pretty neat is that about this comic is, despite the fact that it's issue seven and features a full page of small text recap, it's enjoyable without any prior knowledge of the characters other than "they're university students who keep getting into supernatural trouble". In this case they're traveling back in time to the far off and distant lands of the mid-90s. How horrible!

They're on the trail of a painting with some mysterious connection to something. We don't really know what it is, but the story's well written enough that it seems as though there will be a decent pay off at some point (though not necessarily in this issue).

The art by Andrew Livesey plays a large part in my enjoyment of the story. It reminds me of Andi Watson and maybe a bit of Steve Rolston. The characters are angular, pointy, and a bit blocky, but they're generally attractive, individualized, and the overall art features some nice toning. It really looks nothing like the cover at all! (Which is a good thing, as the cover didn't really grab me, partially because I didn't really like the movie it's based on...)

Also: there are monsters!

But ignoring my obsession with monsters (and ghosts), this is a supernatural adventure comedy that's well written and fun. I wish I'd started reading it sooner.

(Maybe not really representative of the general art, but a pretty rad page nonetheless. click to see it bigger.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Secret Spots Halifax anti tourism tour

I was super pumped when I found this zine in the Anchor Archive Zine Library. Things to do in Halifax! I've just moved here and don't know where there is anything to do. Plus: maps! I love maps! Sadly, this zine is something of a disappointment.

While it's totally cool that all the information in here is bilingual, it does mean that there's less space for locations to be included, but that's not a big deal. The actual list is a bit disappointing too, though it's not really aimed at me. There's a number of islands and lakes and stuff included, which aren't really things I have any interest in going to see, though I can understand other people finding them interesting, and there _is_ some stuff I thought sounded cool.

However, the real problem with this zine is the map. It's just photocopied from another source with numbers placed on top. It is not designed for the page, and is so dark I can't find where anything noted actually is located. Since the text refrained from including any addresses this becomes an "anti tourism" guide in that it tells you about places you cannot visit, you can only imagine them in your mind. Which, in some cases, might actually be an improvement. I mean, how cool can that lost overpass be?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Automatons in Love

By Jesse Durona, CJ Joughin, Kevin Uehlein, and Carl Mefferd

Robots! Robots! Robots! I love robots so much. And this zine is beautifully put together, with a silver cut out cover, pages printed on clear plastic, and occasional spot colour. It all looks really nice!

The four stories in here are pretty varied, and while all of them feature robots, not all of them really fulfill the title criteria. I was a little disappointed by this, as I've recently been reading Pluto by Naoki Urasawa. It's a fantastic comic about what it means to be a robot and a human, artificial intelligence, and how the two groups would interact with each other as robots get steadily more advanced. I've just read the first six books and I'm (im)patiently waiting for volume seven to come in at the library so I can finish reading the series.

So back to this comic! The first story, by Durona, appears to be from their webcomic that no longer exists. It's a cute little story about a robot who befriends some monkeys. Rad! I like the way the various apes are drawn, though I don't enjoy the human's designs as much.

Joughin's comic is an interesting one about consumerism and wants vs needs. However, while I liked the idea behind the comic, the actual story didn't really grab me. The pencil only (I think) art didn't reproduce that well either, so maybe Joughin should work on either their inking or digital manipulation skills to ensure better reproduction next time.

Uehlein's comic was my favourite out of all of them. The art is reminiscent of old funny animal cartoons (in no small part because most of the characters are animals in fancy clothes), and the plot of a robot performing cello in an orchestra seems like something that would fit right into an animated short. The comic is almost entirely silent, and one of my few wishes is that Uehlein had made the entire comic without anybody speaking. Still, it's pretty awesome in general.

The final comic, by Mefferd, features some really good robot designs. However the story doesn't really grab me for some reason. Maybe it's the pages of build up for what turns out to be a fairly old joke.

Overall though, this is a well put together anthology that features a variety of different styles. It's worth checking out even if you're not a huge robot fan (or a fan of huge robots).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Khyber Komix Jam #4

Comics Jams are when a bunch of people get together, hang out, drink (or not), talk, and draw comics. They're a pretty neat way to meet other people into comics, and they allow people to draw really bizarre stuff.

Generally what happens is that each person draws a panel of a comic, and then passes it off to the next person who continues the story. It's sort of like an exquisite corpse thing.

While I think they are great for the people who are at them (meet new people! practice drawing!), I think that reading them afterward is a less satisfying experience. The comics may feature some nice art, but the stories are just insane mashes of ideas that don't lead anywhere, sentient hamburgers giving oral sex to girls, or comics that remind me of this song. What? I mean....

So yeah! At the very least, I hope these sort of publications inspire people to create their own comic jams. More comics is more better!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Eyeball Suck #4

By Andrew Lips and Tom Evans

While the cover of this comic may make you think that it will be filled with nonstop zombie action, it's actually mostly Lips' autobiographical comics. The comics cover losing teeth, random thoughts (such as zombie attacks), being single (I didn't have a girlfriend until I was 21, it's okay!), and writing letters to Stephen Fry.

There's also a comic drawn by Tom Evans about a fetishy relationship between Batman and Robin, which is a trope that gets brought out by many different people, but isn't one I really understand.

Lips' art isn't that great, though it generally manages to get the stories across. I would like it if he drew more backgrounds though, as people standing in blank white voids is kind of weird. Evans' art uses a lot of lines, and I'm not sure how well it reproduces in photocopies, but it's fairly good overall.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sunday of Apples and Blood Oranges

By Beth Hetland

While I'm sure it took a lot of work, the nature of the cover (with the apples and oranges being cut out and stuck onto a white background) made me think that this would be a really boring slice of life style comic.

And the first page and a half inside didn't really disprove me of this thought, but then oh my gods there's a talking snowman and a robot shows up later on in this comic and now I really like it. I mean, if there wasn't a robot here I wouldn't care about this girl's shopping trip, but there is a robot and he has a pet cat and complains that humans can't deal with robot emotions, and I really like robots and don't judge me.

It's not like the robot is just there acting like a human, it's clearly part of society, has it's own feelings and goals in life, and plays a roll in the story. It's the contrast between the normal (going to the grocery store, waiting for a bus) and the abnormal (a robot cashier, fruit yelling at you, a melting snowman trying to bum money) that creates humour in these situations.

Hetland's art is probably what you would expect from indie autobio comics, so it's extra surprising when totally bizarre things happen in the comic. I like the contrast, but I feel as though I'm explaining myself poorly. I had a couple of drinks earlier, and my room is really hot even though my window is open. This is what happens when I try to review something every day. This is a good comic though, I read it when I was sober.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Deadtime Stories

By Emix Regulus and Frater Alarph

This is a collection of short comics and prose pieces by two authors. They frequently have a strange sort of metaphysical bent to them. One of the comics is about cosmic rays from another universe penetrating human minds and causing mutations, so that space aliens can eat us. We are, of course, saved by post-mammalian super genius creatures who seem to communicate entirely in math.

Another comic features a narrator telling about their experiences after waking up as a grain of rice, while the last features some sort of weird thing about shared consciousness or something. While these all could have been interesting, in a Kafkaesque or Gogolian way, none of them really achieve this, in part due to confusing page layouts, and narratives that seem to be more about expressing ideas than telling stories.

The first of the two text pieces is a strange story about attending a psychic phenomena class and encountering a possible spirit (ie. ghost). The story is sort of interesting, though, as I'm not sure if it's supposed to be fictional or based on a real event, it's kind of hard to see what the author was trying to achieve.

The final text piece is the most interesting, though also the most simple. There are two word clouds, one created by each author, using dream journals that they kept over several months. Dreams are pretty cool things, and the best (like the ones I had last night about exploring underground lairs and fighting super-villians) are really awesome. It's interesting to see which terms recur in the people's dreams and wonder if they have any meaning. Why does one person dream about mothers and the police? Why does the other dream about houses and holidays? More than likely no reason at all.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some of my Best Friends R Strangers

Ooooh, a sealed white envelope. How mysterious! (I love mysteries!) What's inside? Two minicomics!

It's Cold, Up North, This year. / New Year

By Mike

Both of these are diary comics by Mike. Or rather, they are pages from his diary which happen to be in comic form. Is there a difference? I don't really know.

The comics in "It's Cold, Up North" are rather sad and deal with it being cold and dark, Mike feeling uninspired and not knowing what he's doing with his life, and breaking up with his girlfriend of ten years. They're not the happiest of comics, but reading about stuff like this kind of makes me feel better about my life, in that it means I'm not alone in my thoughts and feelings. This isn't to say that there are no moments of humour or joy. At one point Mike states "My travelling companion today is a sousaphone." a line that, in its seemingly normal take on a (to me) absurd situation, brings a smile to my face.

"New Year" is comics from the first few weeks of January and continues the tales of depression, cold, and darkness. Somehow these ones seem more optimistic than "It's Cold", and it could be that with the new year Mike has attempted to concentrate more on the positive things in his life instead of dwelling on the negative. That's something I should really take to heart as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


By Laura N-Tamara

The way this minicomic starts I was almost sure it was going to turn into porn. The library is closing, the (sexy) librarian is kicking everyone out, one person hasn't left yet, the librarian starts to take off her clothes and...


And then we start getting bizarre Inception/meta-textual references as the story changes to almost self-referential illustrated text.

The story (and the stories within stories) reminded me somewhat of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, both authors who liked to play with telling stories using non-linear styles, and narratives within narratives. I like some of the stuff they've produced a lot. Oh! And Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, it's a really good book that features nested stories.

Getting back to this comic, the art is very clearly influenced by manga (to the extent that several of the books have the covers on what we would consider the back). Some of the weirdness that shows up in here reminded me a bit of Shintaro Kago and other artists that I've seen on the Same Hat blog. The interior art is generally pretty good, and way better than the cover would have you think. (I'll try to scan some tomorrow! See below.) There are a lack of backgrounds, and I think the artist needs to work on their page layouts a bit, but I enjoyed the weirdness and the art and wouldn't mind reading more of their work in the future.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lucid Frenzy Digest 2011

By Gavin Burrows

It's almost...ironic that I reviewed a zine about about mental health issues and then almost immediately didn't update for two days because of my own problems. Haha. Hilarious! (No wait, it's not.)

Um, so, this is a collection of pieces that Burrows has run on his blog, and despite liking what I read in the last issue of this zine, I've never actually gone to his blog to read anything. This is probably because Burrows' pieces are quite long and in-depth and take a while to digest and process. Thus I find it easier/better to read these things in paper form when I'm not being distracted by someone talking to me in another window or funny pictures of cats or something.

In this issue Burrows talks about zines, and reviews concerts, movies, and art shows. I enjoy Burrows' general writing style, which is most evidenced by the fact that I read all of his pieces about music I had almost no familiarity with. Music articles/interviews are probably the bits of zines I skip over with the most frequency, as I find that they generally require you to have knowledge of the artist to really get anything out of them. Here, however, Burrows has managed to weave information about the band/music, history of the genres, and descriptions of the bands that are considerably more informative than "band x meets artist y". So yeah, I enjoyed reading them even if I don't want to seek out what the bands actually sound like. That's what music writing should be like!

Though I must admit that the repeated references to Francis Bacon kind of flew over my head. I guess I should read more about him at some point.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Treasure Hunt issue two

I think the strange collaged cover featuring multiple drawings, photos, text and other elements is possibly the best part of this group zine.

The contents are as random as the cover, and include pieces of art, poetry, a few bars of musical notation, photographs, an incredibly long and dull (to me) interview with a musician (that I just couldn't get into because it was about someone I'd never heard of, and didn't seem to discuss why I should care about him), a recipe, found art, and a prose piece about a breakup that was pretty good and written in an interesting style.

The zine was supposed to be a showcase of ephemera, and to that extent it succeeded. However there really wasn't anything in here that stuck in my mind. I looked at the cover of this zine before writing this, and couldn't remember a single thing featured inside. I'm not in the best of mental states right now, and I do like zines that collect random things and found objects, but this issue didn't do much for me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pathologize This! A Mental Health Zine

Mental health is an important issue, and one that is frequently ignored by many people and most media. Zines are one area where there are people telling their stories about mental health issues. This allows people to learn that they are not alone, discover how other people live with their mental health issues, and heal through writing about their own lives.

However, it can be hard to read this sort of thing, and even write about it. This zine is filled with brief, anonymous accounts of different mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, physical problems, dealing with rape and sexual assault, and other things are written about in stories, poems, interviews, and essays. They are not all easy reading, and some of them kind of upset me.

It also made writing this review kind of hard, as I didn't know what to mention and what not to mention. However, if you are interested in this area, you might enjoy this zine.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shabba's Crappy D Stories Part: 1

By Saban Kazim

I have, thankfully, never worked in fast food. However, as I am currently not working anywhere I suppose those working in fast food have one up on me in that they have a paycheck and know where next month's rent is coming from.

The two brief stories in here are good at showing how terrible these sort of jobs are, and how to find humour in them. The horrible customers, the worker/manager relationship (where all the power seems to be with one, but occasionally the other can get the upper hand), the nonsensical rules, the horrible tasks, the trying to do as little as possible. It's kind of impressive that all of that is portrayed in just a few brief pages, but I guess so much of those things are part of popular culture nowadays that it just has to reference them and I understand them far more in depth.

There aren't many backgrounds and Kazim reuses panels and character art, but you don't really notice that on your first read through. I like the character designs of his boss and the customer, both of which remind me of muppets (is it the eyebrows? I think it must be). Kazim's art style isn't the most polished, but it manages to tell the stories that he's set out to tell, and I was a little disappointed that this was so short, as I wouldn't have minded reading some more tales of fastfood life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Before the Law

By A. Moore

My knowledge of Kafka is pretty limited. I've seen The Trial (I think), and I read a graphic novel adaptation of the Metamorphosis (actually, more than one if I think about it), but I don't think I've ever read any of his actual work, or even read much about it.

And so I look at this short adaptation of one of his stories and I think it is something I would appreciate far more if I was more familiar with the source material. It does seem "Kafkaesque" (though perhaps I only use this term because I know it's based on a work by Kafka), is printed nicely on cardstock, and is laid out in an interesting manner, but...

I don't know, is the point of Kafka that life sucks and doesn't make any sense? If that is the case I don't really want to read any more of it. If it isn't the case I'm pretty clearly not getting something.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Man's Zine: 6 Types of Women to Avoid

By Sarah Cai

So I'm discovering that living somewhere where there are things to do means that I do lots of things, and thus have less time to goof off on the internet and write these reviews. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop (not until my review box is empty), but it does mean you're getting another short zine review today. Hopefully soon I will figure out a way to fit everything into my schedule.

The back page of this zine says that it shouldn't be taken "too seriously" by women, but that men should reference it often. Each page inside features a type of woman, and a drawing of the woman with a speech balloon.

Most of the advice seems fairly sensible, but at the same time anyone who reads these things probably isn't going to end up with a girl who wears high heels every day and is a slave to makeup.

However, I must admit that I probably am the "over apologizing" type, and I think getting drunk is pretty cool, or at least fun sometimes. So boys beware! You should clearly stay away from me as I am, to the surprise of nobody, terrible girlfriend material.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Things I Wonder About but Don't Really Want to Know the Answers to

By Nomi Kane

This short zine features a number of drawings representing various things Kane has thought about, but doesn't really want to know the answer to. Just like the title says!

They're all pretty funny, and several of them are things I've thought of myself. (Especially "How long has this been in the fridge?".) There isn't a lot of room for Kane's art to really be seen, but what is there is attractive. I do wonder about the way she draws herself, always with the same sort of worried/sad look on her face. I hope she is more cheerful in real life!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Halifax Urban Maple Sugaring Project

(Apologies for the less than stellar cover scan.)

By Mike and Juele

I'm pretty much guaranteed to give this zine a good review because I got to try some of the maple syrup that they made! Mmmmmmmm. Delicious!

The zine is made by some people who are all about bringing food production to people, through guerrilla gardening, urban farming, and similar projects. In this case they decided to tap a number of maple trees, collect the sap, and make maple syrup out of it! I guess I knew that maple syrup was made from tree sap (or maybe I didn't...), but it's kind of strange to think about it.

It turns out that making maple syrup is considerably easier than I would have expected. You can get up to four litres of sap from one tree in a single day! Of course, once you've gathered enough you have to build a fire and boil it down for hours on end, and the day these guys choose to do that on was pretty horrible weather wise. I guess if you have to be outside when it's raining, snowing, and windy, being gathered around a fire is probably one of the best places to be.

The zine was generally easy to read and follow, with illustrations showing the various tools and objects that they used at each step. I think it could have been a little better organized, but it's not a particularly long zine, so you can easily read it all before you start making maple syrup yourself.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Child of the Atom

By David Blandy and Inko

Just before I left the UK I happened upon an art gallery showing a kind of neat exhibition. It featured action figures, comic books, a video game, and several video pieces all about the creator, David Blandy. Not that Blandy created all the stuff himself, rather he had hired other people to draw the comics (and maybe make the other stuff?) based upon his ideas.

It was a kind of neat idea, and the reverse of the art pieces I've seen that try to take a fictional character and make them real.

This comic is about Hiroshima, and if you'll allow me a brief moment I will tell you about my time there, as at this point I don't think I'm ever going to make a zine about that trip. I visited Japan in 2007 after living and traveling around Asia for most of the previous two years. I did the normal geeky stuff in Japan: went to Harajuku, went to the science museum, went to the Ghibli museum, looked at the homeless people's cardboard dwellings, hitchhiked on buses of old people (okay, so maybe my trip wasn't always normal).

And then I got to Hiroshima, which in many ways was my favourite city in Japan. There was a rad tram system, the food was good, there were art galleries, the people were friendly, and it just seemed nice. Except that you never knew when you would turn the corner and uncover a memorial to the people that died because of the nuclear explosion.

I cried looking at the monuments and museums. I cried reading Barefoot Gen (a really good, if brutal, comic you should read) in a library. I cried because to so many people this was just another tourist attraction to be bussed to. I cried because I don't know how the war could have ended with less loss of life. I cried because I remembered how the Japanese had kept their prisoners of war in Sandakan a few months before. I cried when I saw the paper cranes.

All of this is to say that I don't really know how to review a comic like this. The wordless comic and images of Hiroshima conjure up a lot of memories for me, but I have no idea what someone who hasn't been to these places will take from it.

One thing that is interesting, and the reason Blandy created this comic, is that he and his family sort of feel they owe their lives to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Blandy's grandfather was in a Japanese POW camp and believed that if the war hadn't ended the way it did, he wouldn't have survived. Which is something to think about at any rate.

Friday, April 15, 2011

l'âge dur

By Max de Radiguès

This is a cute little set of five minicomic bound together with a paper band. The comics focus on small events from teenage life. The characters skateboard, ride bicycles, get into fights, lust after girls, and the like.

As a Belgian de Radiguès's art is clearly influenced by the clear line style popularized Hergé, but there are aspects of other creators in here too. His large eyed females remind me of somebody. The name is on the tip of my brain. I was going to say Hope Larson, but I just looked her up and while her characters do seem to have large eyes, the rest of the art style isn't the same. Dang, this is going to bug me for ages.

Uhm, so anyway, the way de Radiguès draws boys and girls in his comic, combined with the stories he tells, really separates them into two groups. The girls seem knowledgeable, worldly, and sophisticated, while the boys seem little more than children. Even those boys that do manage to achieve any kind of connection with the girls are seen as having skills and knowledge beyond the norm.

These comics have thus captured some of the awkwardness prevalent in being a teenager. Not knowing what to do, not knowing what you're doing right, and not knowing how to get what you want.

Though, I say that's prevalent in teenagers, but I'm pretty sure I still deal with all those problems on a daily basis.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Things That I Have Eaten / Things That I Have Drank

By Devin Renshaw

These are two cute little zines that show everything that Renshaw ate or drank in a one week period of time. Each page features a number of small drawings of food or drink that he consumed in a given day.

It's a neat idea, and I'm wondering if it's something I should do (if only to keep track of what I actually eat), but I'm kind of disgusted by Renshaw's eating habits. He eats fast food stuff like every day! Who goes to IHOP three times in one week? His drinking habits seem somewhat more reasonable, though he still consumes way more sugar than I would be comfortable doing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carnet D'un Sauvage

By Nye Wright

I love traveling, I love writing about my own trips, and I love reading about other people's trips too. If it's somewhere I've never been to, I get to live vicariously through them; if it's somewhere I have been to, I get to compare what they did to what I did, wonder why they didn't go to that awesome place I found, and feel dumb for not doing that awesome thing I didn't even know about.

This zine takes the form of a sketchbook that Wright made during a trip to Europe. He tries to draw something every day, and in the margins writes about what he's been up to. It's a format that allows him to show the people he met, the different types of architecture that he saw, the food he ate, and other random things.

Wright's art certainly manages to capture snippets of what he experienced, and I enjoyed the drawing of him exhausted from traveling (after only a few weeks, the amateur!). However, the text is considerably weaker. Some of his lettering is really nice, and I enjoyed the titles that he did, but the longer pieces of text are harder to read.

The text also suffers from it not being a complete account of what happened, so the reader isn't sure of everything that's going on in the trip or why certain things occur. There's also some unfortunate xenophobia and general weirdness stemming from Wright being an American. However, he does at least point out these faults in himself, so it's not that distasteful.