Reason #457 to go to Japan...

"Black lifestyle!" (See video)

One more...because Sumayyah Said So

...because Sumayyah Said So

Free / digest-size/ 30pgs
PDF download available here

Like many zine enthusiasts, I treasure the tactile familiarity of printed words on hand-folded paper. Still, I was mildly intrigued when I noticed an offer to download a free pdf version of Sumayyah Talibah's zine ...because Sumayyah Said So on my last visit to the We Make Zines website. Talibah is an admirer of the sci-fi and fantasy author Octavia Butler, and she mentions her yen to follow in the author's footsteps on the title page. Now, having just reread Butler's Wildseed less than two weeks ago, I couldn’t help but see a hint of serendipity in that mentioning, and took it as a good omen of what was to come. ...because Sumayyah Said So plays host to four of Talibah's thoughtful and well-worded poems: "Why I Write," "Annoyance," "Because Poems," and "The End of Everything." The zine also features the 8-page fantasy work, "Devour." As good as her poems are–and they are very good inded–I found "Devour," a thinly veiled homage to Butler, to be such an excellent work that after reading the final paragraph, my head shook from right to left in amazement. And after fully absorbing the poeticism of the final sentence, my first thought was that I had probably never read a better piece of fantasy writing in any zine. If I had any criticism of the work, it would be in the form of a lament that ...because Sumayyah Said So wasn't actually 48 pages, which could have allowed for more of Talibah's fantasy writing–because one piece was simply not enough. Encore.


Rarely Written Zine Reviews - Episode II

True confession.

The majority of the following zine reviews were actually written over the end of June and the first week of July. Somewhere between a nasty bout of writer's block and finally gettin' my mojo back, I remembered that I had forgotten to post 'em. Since nobody has been waiting' around to read what I thought of their zines, the fact that I'm posting these much later than originally planned is no great travesty. But I do still feel a smidgen of guilt that these didn't hit the web much sooner. So I ask that you please pardon my lateness, even though you didn't know that I am tardy.

St. Paco, Your Kung Fu Sucks


9 and a Half Left #10*
$5 / digest-size / 44pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

"The great thing about Charles Bukowski is that he's inspired a whole generation of bums, drunks and otherwise borderline personalities to fancy themselves as writers. I'm glad I'm not an editor reading these miscreant poems. I get enough of your shit in the hours of the early morning." This amusing quote from page 16 of Mike Rodemann's 9 and a Half Left reminds me that I've yet not yet read a single page of Bukowski. [Hears collective gasp from people who ride the man's jock like the last train to Paris.] I don't know if Rodemann is a fan of Bukowski, or even if he fancies himself as a writer. But the guy is a zine-maker, and that makes him a writer by default. In this issue of 9 and a Half Left, Rodemann offers confessions on the difficulty of tobacco addiction and a moving glimpse into the strained relationship that Mike had with his father before his passing–a man that he justifiably feared as much as loved. The zines also contains lots of other bits of real life stuff that we deal with, both good and bad.

Note: 9 and a Half Left #10 published in 2005, but reviewed because it was a recent purchase.

Blackguard #3: The Crime Issue
$5 / digest-size / 44pgs
Available direct from the publisher

Soon after the first issue of Blackguard began invading mailboxes across the globe, I saw so many gushing reviews that I was tempted to not write one of my own–perhaps out of fear of just sounding like a parrot. But :::squawk::: toss me a saltine and call me Polly, 'cause this is one cool zine. Edited by Stuart Stratu, Blackguard features twenty-something pages of comic strips by an international alliance of some of the most sick-n-twisted cartoonists you've probably never heard of––and another twenty pages of mini-comic and zine reviews. In addition to all that, this issue also features two theme specific short stories. Oh, Blackguard #3 is the "crime" issue, so sick-n-twistedness is mandatory when you're creating comix about a "nazi super-zombie monkey sleeper agent," True Crime trading card "lovers," John Dilliger, the wannabe nightclub singer and killer Kenneth Neu, Walt Disney and the Hamburglar. Yes, there's actually even more to this 44-page crime spree, and it's pretty damned good at being bad.

Blue Okoye #1: No More Flared Jeans
$1 / digest-size / 24pgs
Available at Quimby's Books

Blue Okoye is a zine that I bought mainly based on an interior illustration that was used in Narcolepsy Press Review #6. Unfortunately, though, only the covers (front & back) and two interior pages of this publication have illustrations. Thus, after reading Blue Okoye, I kinda' found myself wishin' that there had been more drawings and less text. The writing is quirky and odd with glimpses of serious humor and originality, but it didn't engage me–not like the image on the back cover of a helmet wearing brother getting his temples kicked in by a turban wearing dwarf. Who is he? Where is he from? What is his purpose? The answers to these questions only come out in an abstract sorta way near the end. But the zine only costs a buck and it is more than obvious that a respectable amount of time and effort went into producing it. And while I can't heartily recommend Blue Okoye #1, I can honestly say that I am glad to have it in my permanent zine collection. I also look forward to seeing what Mr. Okoye does with the next issue.

Booty #23 & 24
$2 / 16pgs
Available at Atomic Books

I've been semi-familiar with Anne Thalheimer from the reviews she writes for Xerography Debt, but somehow never made the connection to the Booty mini-comics she also does. I had also never read Booty, but recalled seeing several decent reviews over the years. The latest reviews for issues #23 & #24 that I read in the last issue of Zine World piqued my curiosity, so I prepared an envelope and mailed off my order. A few days later, Anne broke me off some booty. [Ahem] Booty mini-comics, that is. And I pretty much got what the reviews had set me up to expect: some really quirky, thoughtful and entertaining mini-comics. Comics that I can't easily compare to anything else, but the scratchy illustrations kinda' make me think of the old Cathy newspaper strip. Anne's warm writing offers engagingly personal perspectives on work, life goals, relationships, wintertime, pets, road trips, growing up, the joys of eating breakfast for dinner (or dessert for breakfast), and that butt-kickin' spectator sport known as roller derby. These issues also reveal that Anne has an unabashed love of comic books, which (to paraphrase one of the panels in issue #24) kind of fucking rocks.

Fish With Legs #13
$1 / digest-size / 24pgs
Available direct from the publisher

The 13th issue of Eric Lyden's Fish With Legs contains page after page of random, laugh-out-loud funny perspectives like the two that I've sampled below:

"One of my karate teachers was an older guy (I was maybe 10 years old, so he was maybe 40 at the oldest) who had a black belt so I just figured he was a bad ass. Then a few weeks later I went to the movies and this bad ass, black belt karate instructor was the guy standing outside the theater checking and tearing tickets. I was one of maybe 50 kids he dealt with and I was quiet so he didn't recognize me, but I recognized him and the notion that a guy who could be such a bad ass in one area of life while being a working stiff with a menial job in another area life was pretty depressing to me. If being able to use nunchucks properly isn't enough to guarantee respect wherever you go then what hope do the rest of us have?"

"Devout atheists are just as annoying as devout bible thumpers. When gathered in large groups the Bible thumpers will certainly cause more damage, but if I'm at a party and a Bible thumper is in one corner and a loud mouthed atheist is in another corner I'm going to find a separate third corner to avoid both of these pests. Some atheists sure seem to devote a lot of energy to something they don't believe in."


Grunted Warning #7
$1 / digest-size / 12pgs
Available direct from the publisher

Fortunately, I've never been the kind of monarch that requires reading material while sitting atop my castle's porcelain throne. But if I was one of those unfortunate souls whose lower intestines tend to fake the funk, Stuart Stratu's Grunted Warning would probably be my read of choice; I could be wrong, but the title even seems to smack of cheeky bathroom humor. Anyway, this 12-page rag offers an oddball assortment of creepy clippings that the editor has eviscerated from various newspapers, magazines and even toy packaging! Like a serial slasher-in-training, he even lays it out cut-n-paste style. Cree-py. This zine is also reasonably priced at a buck per copy. So, I really recommend that you write Stuart to see which back issues are still available, because I can't help but think that a stack of five or six issues of Grunted Warning is the perfect thing to have in throne rooms across the land.

Nostromo #1
$3 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

Not a lot that I can say about Nostromo. The first issue of this zine offers roughly twenty pages of sci-fi and post-cyberpunk related geek speak, tapped out on an old metal typewriter located on an organic vegetable farm somewhere in rural Virginia. Subjects include a consideration of the impact of technology on human behavior as examined against the fictional backdrops of Star Trek and Star Wars, experiences with the role-playing (RPG) war games of Gamesworkshop, "reactions and reconsiderations" of Isacc Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, and a brief explanation of the genesis of Nostromo. I enjoyed every page of this zine, and am now kinda' ticked off that there there isn't yet a second issue that I can order. 'Nuff said?

Shotgun Seamstress #1*
$3 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

Shotgun Seamstress is described on its opening page as "a zine by and for black punks" and it is probably the most fitting description. That being said, this really isn't for the average zine reader. I myself have never been into punk, but I can easily relate to the issues addressed by an editor who grew up often being the sole black person in a "sea of white kids" at punk music gatherings. Again, not being into punk it was actually the chalky Jean-Michel Basquiat art remixed on the cover that attracted me to this zine, but inside I found some interesting pieces on the late Toni Young (a pioneering bassist in DC's hardcore scene in the early 1980s) and the documentary Afropunk: The Rock and Roll Nigger (whose sub-heading re-appropriates the controversial title of a Patti Smith song). Other features include interviews with punk dancer Brontez, zine-maker Adee-licious, and an excerpt from Adee's Finger on the Trigger zine.

*Shotgun Seamstress #1 was published in 2006, but reviewed because it was a recent purchase.

$1 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

I actually don't remember when I purchase this copy of Refugee by Suze B., but it was probably well more than a year ago. It was misplaced somehow, and when I found it again recently I realized that the zine still needed to be read. Because I decided to write some zine reviews, it worked out perfectly. Refugee documents the author's 2004 trip to Burma, where she spent four months working with the women involved with Burma's pro-democracy movement. This zine is dense with information, pictures and varying typefaces, including handwritten text, which keeps it all visually stimulating and interesting. It's so dense that I actually haven't even finished reading it, but still felt compelled write this review now because Refugee represents one of the things that I like most about zines. Information like that found in this zine so often gets lost in 400+ page scholarly tomes that only students will read. But with only 36 pages, a zine like Refugee provides an accessible and affordable snapshot of the culture, politics and social and economic challenges faced by a people in another part of the world–and the things they do to survive.

Slice Harvester #1*
$3 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at the Slice Harvester website

This food oriented zine was baked up by a self-described pizza expert named Colin. His goal is to write reviews of pizza slices eaten at "every single pizzeria above 110th street in Manhattan– barring the Marble Hill section," which Colin sez' he thought was part of the Bronx. Inside there are a good twenty mouth-watering reviews, many of which are brutal and hi-lar-i-ous. One of my favorites was written about a joint called Ernesto Pizza. Here, Colin details even the minutes before he and his 'dinner date' entered the place, and how "the pizzamen were standing in the doorway staring us down with the worst stink eye, trying to draw us into their pizzeria with their tractor beams of loathing and superiority." Slice Harvester is funny, well-worded, heavily opinionated and deeply passionate about its subject. And with me having grown up in the great pizza city of Chicago, the pie is something that I also take seriously. So, I wanna to take a second to say to the editor that I would put Chi-town pizza up against New York pizza any dia de la semana. Our Sicilian slices are so cheesy, so meaty, and so saucy that 'cha need a fork & knife to get through 'em, capice? Anyway, what I really wanna say is that I know good zines like I know good pizza and–no disrespect to our sacred Sinatra song–but Slice Harvester is my kinda' zine.

*After this review was written a copy of Slice Harvester #4 arrived in my mailbox. This clearly suggests that Colin is still eating his way across Manhattan.

Video Tonfa/Feedback #7 (Split)
$5 / digest-size / 44pgs
Available at Quimby's

Due to the enthusiastic stamp of approval received in Zine World #30, I felt the Video Tonfa/Feedback #7 split was a sure bet. So, I added it to the list of zines in the last order I placed with Microcosm and – not surprisingly – that sure bet paid off handsomely. John Issacson's Feedback #7 comprises the first half of this zine and features some fun reviews from what seem to be concerts in and around the Portland area. The cool thing about the reviews is that they're formatted as four-panel comic strips, and Isaacson does not draw the "Marvel way." His illustrations are scratchy, but dynamic and pleasing to the eye. Adding to the overall aesthetic, the facing pages of many of the strips show the concert promo flyers, which gives a cool sense of context. Video Tonfa anchors the back half of this split, and features, um... 'written while under the influence' movie reviews, accompanied by rough illustrations of the DVD and VHS covers. My favorite review is of the 1979 blaxploitation film Petey Wheatstraw. I actually consider that flick to be the least enjoyable of all of Rudy Ray Moore's (aka Dolemite) movies, but I do like knowing that somebody in the world enjoys this flick so much that he "could have, and will again watch this movie twice in a row." Other films reviewed include the John Belushi & Dan Ackroyd film Neighbors, Dead Zone, District 9, Phantasm II, The Convent, Buckaroo Bonzai and Critters 4. By the way, I also learned some cool Buckaroo Bonzai related trivia and that Angela Bassett co-starred in Critters 4. Normally, you'd have to pay me or roofie me to sit through a flick like Critters, but I would suffer through nearly any indignity for Angela. So I foresee some personal suffering thanks to the Video Tonfa/Feedback #7 split. A very cool zine.


Syndicated Zine Reviews: KFG5

Kung Fu Grip! #5

KFG is a beautifully put together zine. It’s the kind of zine that, after having read it, I keep thumbing through it to admire just how fucking cool it looks. With the aesthetic of a 1970’s era comic book/martial arts magazine, Kung Fu Grip #5 explores a wide variety of subjects ranging from graffiti artists (Shiro), Jamaican recording artist and comic book enthusiast Lee Perry, and the link between giant Buddha statues, Shinto deities, and popular Japanese television superhero shows like Ultraman. Paco D. Taylor appears to be a true aficionado of 70’s pop culture, art and style, and he brings that passion to life in the modern world with this zine. The subject matter is interesting and engaged, never feeling pretentious or out of place, and the layout is flawless.

Randy Spaghetti, Syndicated Zine Reviews


Lost in Translation

Just so'z you know, I did my best to properly translate the introduction to the Dadá Mini interview which follows this post. But it probably won't sound as poetic or fluent as it would in its native tongue. Anybody who knows even a little about the Spanish language knows how it can take drastic changes from one country to another. For example, a word like "pendejo" (which was used in the intro) is an extreme vulgarity in Puerto Rico, a mild insult in Mexico, and a largely innocuous term in Argentina, where its used to suggest childhood, or a brat. This was the challenge I faced while translating the introduction, written in Spanish as it is spoken in Argentina. The actual interview, however, was much easier–since it was originally done in English. Jajaja ("Hahaha" in Spanish)

My Dadá Mini Interview

Paco D. Taylor
The street fighter that stalks the photocopiers
Section D / Text by Nica & Coco Muro
Dadá Mini Magazine

Paco D. Taylor would much rather talk about art, music or movies, than himself; the things he wants you to know about him are reflected in his work.

The creator and editor of Kung Fu Grip! zine was born in 1969 and raised in Chicago. From childhood he was deeply involved in hip hop culture, writing rhymes and experimenting with graffiti. At 26 he moved to Arizona to study graphic design and immediately after graduating got a job as a designer for a magazine. After two or three years of that, he soon realized that working as an artist in a corporate environment was not for him, and has since worked primarily in call centers, earning enough money to pay the bills and to buy cigars, comic books and Chinese food. While the day job has nothing to do with his passions, it does allow him unlimited access to photocopiers, as well as free time to write articles and browse the Internet.

His zines are small, independently produced publications in the photocopied format. Throughout its 56 black and white pages, Kung Fu Grip! zine is a resume of his work in the form of a fanzine, full of graphic design, collage and illustrations–and all of which emanates from Paco's creative universe.

The terms "street fight" and "exquisite randomness" could be used to describe the work; something like an out-and-out street fight with exquisitely random improvisation.

The D. between Paco and Taylor remains a mystery.

What were your projects or dreams as a boy, who did you admire the most?

When I was a kid I sketched a lot and imagined that when I grew up I would be a professional artist with paintings hanging in various galleries. I also imagined myself as an animator and a comic book illustrator. Back then, two of the people who I admired most were Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee. I can also remember a time when looked up to Charles Schultz, the creator of Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

What are Mr Paco´s favourite activities nowadays?

A lot of my time is spent doing research on the Internet for various projects, some of which have been made and others that are still very much in the planning stages. I collect photographs from old history books and anthropology books, listen to music almost endlessly, study Tai Chi, watch movies, collect old comic books, practice my writing and make zines.

Why produce something you`re not sure for whom it is or how it will be received? What for?

Honestly, the things that I produce are made for myself. They are creative and tangible expressions of who I am, what has influenced me, and what inspires me. It is only after satisfying the innate need for creative expression that I then find myself hoping that someone else will also see something that they can appreciate in the work, and that it will inform, inspire or entertain.

Why do you prefer the street as a communication channel instead of Internet?

The street has the advantage of being an immediate channel for creative communication, but it is often very impersonal. I have tremendous respect for the Internet, because it allows me to reach a broader audience beyond the shores of America. Because of the Internet, I am able to send my work to people in Argentina, Mexico, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Israel, the UK, Australia, and other places.

Please describe in ten words what a fanzine is. Why not a magazine…?

Zines are cheaply made publications usually produced on a photocopier. I make zines because standard magazines are fairly expensive to make in America, and usually require advertisers to support them–as well as shelf space in stores from which to sell them. All that it takes to make zines is the passion to produce content, and access to a photocopier.

Considering both your zines and designs which do you think is Mr Paco`s trademark?

Black & white imagery has clearly become one of my trademarks, followed by the use of text, no matter what language the text communicates: English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian or Hebrew. It is all visually interesting to me. Found, borrowed and stolen images is another common theme in my works.

Why do you choose only one color and a disposable format to talk about the city and its codes?

In the beginning, designing with black and white was done for practical reasons, the first of which being that it was inexpensive to reproduce. But I immediately made it a goal of mine to make the best designs that I could produce in such a cheaply made manner. Among various groups in the United States, zines can be viewed negatively because they are not made on a real printing press, so it has always been important to me to make things that are not only visually interesting, but intellectually stimulating.

Which is your favourite magazine? Would you edit it and have the courage to say what we editors can't? What do you read and watch?

My favorite magazine is Giant Robot, an Asian arts and pop culture magazine based in Los Angeles, California. If I was the editor of Giant Robot, though, I don’t know that I would have the courage to say some of the things that I do in my zines. Zines are often deeply personal in nature, and when you have a large audience, and advertisers who purchase page space, there are many more considerations that have to be made.

Some of my favorite zines are Samurai Dreams, which is a movie review zine, Xerography Debt and Zine World, which both provide reviews of many of the zines being made today. I’m also a fan of the street art zine, Very Nearly Almost, which comes out of the UK.

Kung-Fu is a Chinese expression for "a well done job", what is all this street fight about?

To quote a line from a Gordon Liu movie: “It’s a secret! Never teach the Wu-Tang!”

Would it be the same for you to be a freestyle wrestler, Hugh Hefner or a ball boy at Wimbledon? If you could choose who you want to be, would you accept to be yourself or someone different?

I think that I could handle being an African-American Sumo wrestler in Japan who wears a lucha mask, like the image in a sticker that I designed. By day I would wrestle to protect my champion belt, but by night I would write haiku poetry like Basho and love poems like Pablo Neruda. I would be so popular in Asia and South America that I would have as many women as Hugh Hefner.

Other than that, I would just like to be myself–but with a lot more money, and publishing contract.

Your work proposes a random journey through the streets of a hidden city, a crazy trip. Where did this idea come from? What message do you want to convey with your collages and all the information you gather and share?

One of the great things about collage is that it allows you to communicate multiple layers of meaning. The thing that drew me into the study of graphic design when I was in school is that it is a multi-layered form of communication that often involves the integration of words and pictures–which is something that I had been experimenting with through collage. As random as collage can be, though, I have always sought a unifying theme, which is often color.

Taking those principles even further, zine making allows me to communicate so much more, on a variety of subjects. At the same time, I still challenge myself to tie it all together with unifying themes. The zine Octopussy is my most recent example of that.

How do you get along with independent magazines? What can you tell us about other producers like you? Who are they?

I have been making zines for more than ten years now, but I have only interacted with a few zine makers. Those who I have met in person have been friendly and supportive. Like me, they are passionate about what they produce, which immediately makes us comrades in the creative struggle, so to speak.

Which are your dearest projects, which of them excites you the most?

Kung Fu Grip! zine is my first love, but I feel that two of the best things that I’ve ever made are In His Image zine, and an article that I wrote on the negritos of Southeast Asia that was published in Giant Robot magazine earlier this year.

Tell us one amusing anecdote related with one work of yours.

Making zines is a good way to pick up women. But I can’t give any more details than that.

What happens when you run out of paper? What do you do?

Sometimes I buy more paper. Sometimes I steal more paper.

For designers and publishers time is an issue. It never seems to be enough, what do you think about that?

Fortunately, none of my publications follow anything resembling a real schedule. I produce as the inspiration comes. Still, I never seem to have enough time to make all of the things that I have in my head.

Who do you look up to?

I look up to children, and those adults who remember their inner child.

As you lived in the streets, is there a story you want to tell that has not yet been written?

There is one graffiti related story that is on an old SyQuest computer disc from back when I was in design school. I would love to publish that, but I haven’t found a way to get the story off the disc it's on. Nobody has SyQuest drives anymore.

Name three objects indispensable for you.

Computer, printer and paper.

Name three websites worth mentioning.