Zines and I

The announcement of a second Swindon Zine Fest this July leaves me pondering my zine-making past, with edge.


Her triangular-cornered glasses slunk down her vaulted snout as those elderly eyes gawked at me. “Something in graphic design then?” she muttered after an unending awkward silence. No, I felt like screeching, “I want to be a cartoonist!” It was a safe bet to fluster any careers officer, not less one as antiquated as this hag; they had no clue, no guidance for me.

I figured examining hairs sprouting from her facial wart was getting me nowhere, other than a strong desire to caricature her, if she didn’t do that herself. I’d obtain advice by writing letters, one to the chairman of the Cartoonist Club of GB, and to a professional cartoonist, Sally Artz, who invited me to her home. A stark warning from both recipients though; perseverance was necessary to pursue a career as a cartoonist. I was too keen to be the next Charles Schutz, refusing to accept any more rejection slips from the newspaper houses; only fifteen, had to look up the word perseverance.

Zip on a few psychedelic years, subject matter warped into something publishers would go to jail for printing. Yet I’d found an avenue in which to unleash my labour of love, despite the payment was swapsies, a pint or pull of a bong, if anything at all. Discovering the free press was an eyeopener, a sensation I was not alone. Finally, a world unfastened before me, a world of gunky Pritt-Stick, wonky Letterset and stolen photocopiers; I was a zine-maker.


I’d go out without a penny to my name, hoarding a bag of self-published comix in hope someone would be drunk enough to buy one. I’d park in a city carpark, drop into head and comic shops to pick up three quid of earnings, only to return to discover a twenty-quid parking ticket. I spent eons scribing my zine, by hand, and writing letters stuffed with flyers for zines and cassette tapes from others. It was a shareware ethos, zines; you plugged others and they plugged you. It was a community of nutcases, across the world, distributing free information via Royal Mail, unaware of what dot.com would one day mean.


Therefore, imagine my surprise upon discovering Swindon has an annual “Zine Fest,” a thing I thought the internet would’ve extinguished, or moulded into digital media. In some ways I guess it has, the freedom to publish whatever you like on social media, though, abducted by non-creative types, out to post a picture of their manky dinner, or have a barney with the other half. Yet while the internet heralded a new-age in self-publishing, and web-comics rapidly became common, there’s something missing from digital; the feel, smell and individuality of solitary printed exertion; blood, sweat, tears, your little art piece. It’s an ethos mainstream media cannot touch, yet a secret, niche market of charm and personalisation.


It’s only their second year, happening on the 27th July 2019, at the Central Community Centre in Swindon from 12pm to 4pm. But there’s a deadline of Friday 31st of May, for stallholder submissions. Accepting applications from zine makers, zine distros, illustrators and small press comics, tables are reasonably tagged at £5 for a half, and £10 for a whole table.

They also have a communal table where people unable to attend or take a table, can sell their zine at the fest, and are interested in hearing from those able to hold a workshop. Workshops can be either a relief for the usually solitary hobby, or pandemonium in a fun way!

@dogsnotdietsshop at the first #swindonzinefest .jpg
@dogsnotdietsshop at the first #swindonzinefest

A part of zines remains with me, thankfully not flattened staples or paper jams. To think, people ask what the “zine” part of Devizine means. Devizine is not a zine, not really, but I endeavour to run it with similar ethos; creative, community-spirited, and anything goes. Zines can be any shape, any size, can be simple photocopies, quality printed or hand-decorated for complete uniqueness. They often start as sole efforts, but extend to anthologies, as the creator trades and befriends a cluster of likeminded souls; zigzactly what a zine fest provides!

Zines tend to end abruptly though, money or motivation drops, the slog rarely worth the output, the shyness of creator to distribute and market themselves as effectively as their dreams, and those who offer such services seldom paying out. It’s a labour of love. Me? Life moved on, marriage, kids; once I sat on the top-table, with comic legends, but a chain of disillusionments slowly deflated hope, reality sucked the air from it. The truth was it would never be anything more than the sum of its parts; effort to achieve more is often when a zine sadly folds.

That said, historic triumphs have developed from a zine; Superman, Viz Comic, 50 Shades of Grey, even Monty Python, all owe self-publishing for their fame. But it’s such a vast, diverse market, impossible to make a comprehensive list, though many tried. Subjects range from 1930s sci-fi fandom and rock n roll fanzines, through to underground comix and punk-paste, pop stars and sport clubs to poetry or radical essays, cult religions to FINs (Free Information Network.) I was once handed a zine about a revolutionary design for a female urinal with detailed diagrams of how women can pee standing.

Forever Incomplete & Purple Sense at #swindonzinefest.jpg
Forever Incomplete & Purple Sense at #swindonzinefest

If there’s one thing which springs my attentiveness to The Swindon Zine Fest it’s intrigue, to know there’s a new generation of zine-makers keeping the spirit alive, but fear I may be out of touch with current trends! Swindon Zine Fest gives priority to women/non-binary/poc/LGBT makers, suggesting they, “want to make sure we have zines that represent a diverse selection of people.” My own comic, perhaps archaic even for its era, which tended to be “Riot Grrrl,” in the nineties, instead harked back to punk-paste of the seventies and underground comix of the sixties; may have to await a stoner comeback, but that’s the beauty of zines; your creation, your prerogative!


For more info on July’s Swindon Zine Fest click here.


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