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.

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