Zine & Comics
In the El Borbah and Big Baby collections, Charles Burns
finally gets the treatment his work deserves, these two stylish large
format volumes from Fantagraphics, showcase Burns' ultra-clean scalpel-sharp
lines in true black and white, not the murky grey and off-white that comics
readers usually have to put up with.
Facetasm - a creepy mix & match book of gross face mutations! - is
a collaboration between Burns and Gary Panter (Jimbo comic, "Pee
Wee's Playhouse" designer). It takes the form of one of those
kids flip books - where you build up faces identikit-style from different
hair, eyes and mouths. The pages of mutants, zombies, robots, monsters,
aliens and some very odd looking humanoids alternate between the artist's,
there's a marked contrast between Burns' ultra smooth lines
and Panter's scratchy more primitive style.
Whilst I feel it necessary to point out that I bought the larger, collectable
1992 edition of Facetasm when it came out, this new version is
more satisfying, the smaller format makes it easier to play with, there's
some extra monsters and a thoughtfully provided space to insert your own
Gary Panter's Burning Monster is one of the first titles in
a new sketchbook series issued by maverick French screenprinters Le Dernier
Cri, his ultra-scratchy, almost totally self-obliterating sketches of
monsters and monster trucks alongside holiday and wedding scenes make
me think of those biro-scrawl encrusted fag packets sometimes found on
pub tables. Gary Panters most recent work Pink Donkey's Coot Country
is not available in any shops, it's a web animation exclusive for
the cartoon network; www.cartoonnetwork.com/wpt/coot/index.html
Also in the Le Dernier Cri sketchbook series is Caroline et Ses Amis.
Caroline Sury's scratchy sketchbook wander around Marseille, calling
in at the Post Office and Boulangerie, running the gamut of loitering
track-suited youths, dropping in on numerous friends' studios and
bars, centrespread is unsurprisingly of the Dernier Cri screenprinting/bookbinding
studio, there's a recipe for fish soup as well.
Julie Doucet's My New York Diary is a collection of three
autobiographical comics, the title story is a powerful account of the
brief and rather miserable time she lived in the Big Apple. Moving in
with a boyfriend she'd only just met proves to be a mistake. Julie
soon gets distracted and bogged down with too much cheap beer, too many
drugs, too much TV and the poor quality drawing paper she has to work
on! She misses her cat, suffers increasingly frequent epileptic seizures
and feels trapped by her overbearing asshole of a boyfriend and the sheer
remoteness of living in a shitty NY suburb. It's just too much having
to put up with all this crap when she should really be living downtown
and hanging out with New York's cartooning fraternity. Despite the
desperation of her situation, Julie doesn't seem to get too bitter,
perhaps drawing this strip seven years later helped her come to terms
with it all, putting it down to experience, she swiftly gets the hell
out of New York and leaves for the cartoon artists Mecca of Seattle.
Cheap Date magazine started out as a magazine about second-hand
clothes but soon evolved into a more all-encompassing anti-fashion/anti-lifestyle
magazine. Cheap Date the book has plenty of new articles together
with the best parts from six issues of the magazines. The contents are
just as varied and unpredictable as a junk shop or jumble sale. Interviews
with people off the telly jostle with an eulogy to the Stylophone, celebrity
pin-ups fight for space with Old Bangers. Editor Kira has assembled an
ultra-eclectic gang of contributors, skip-scroungers, ketchup dispenser
historians, ex-teenage Goths, dandies on the dole, Anti Consumerism Campaigners,
Oxfam obsessives, crap collectors, zinesters, junk shop addicts, obsolete
technology aficionados, inspired entrepreneurs, the fashion-victimised
and assorted celebs.
Cheap Date interviews their style-idols and then goes out shopping
with them. It pays homage to Flexipop magazine with the goofy "Tale
of Putney Turner" photo story - starring Wreckless Eric no less!,
and bravely goes where others fear to tread - inside Christopher Biggin's
Flat! In a ground-breaking photojournalism story certain to be picked
up soon by the newspapers, Cheap Date exposes shop-dropping a subversive
new craze sweeping the high street: its the opposite of shop-lifting,
recycle old clothes by leaving them in shops! Get a copy now, unless you're
a real cheapskate and prefer to wait a couple of years in the hope of
finding a copy for 29p at the local Mencap shop....
Stephen's Second Little Book Of Charity Shopping by Cheap
Date contributor Stephen Drennan features ten of his favourite recent
finds from Bighton and Hove's numerous charity shops. Each item is
lovingly described together with the price paid and shop location details.
Superb illustrations by Erica "Girlfrenzy" Smith and endpapers
patterned with charity shop logos make this a cute, neat little book,
and unlike Drennan's writing for Cheap Date which is for some
archaic reason hand-written, his own Second Little Book Of Charity
Shopping is neatly typeset and thankfully we're spared the scrawl.
Coming from the opposite direction of Cheap Date yet similar in
many ways is Things, a publication put together by history of design
post-graduates "as a forum for the free discussion of objects, their
histories and meanings." Things significantly avoids calling itself
a Journal, the writing is relaxed and accessible and avoids being too
academic or theoretical. Each issue begins with "contents",
three or four long pieces, followed by "other things" with approximately
25 short pieces - "texts, exhibitions, ideas" - this eclectic,
zine-like section is the most interesting part; a recent issue covered:
disappearances in Soviet Photography, Donkey Jackets, Taylorism &
scientific management, children's games past and present, the '98
England v. Argentina World Cup Second Round, the Museum of Collectors,
Cod and a poem about Picasso's Pots. The issues I've seen vary
from 130-200 pages long and have all been completely different, the lively
mixture of research based writing exhibition and book reviews with more
personal musings, selected literary quotes and snatches of oral history
works extremely well.
Cool And Strange Music! Magazine #15 - "dedicated to unusual
sounds" is required reading for anyone into the vast field of what
has come to be known as "Incredibly Strange Music". Recent issues
have featured Julie London, Wildman Fischer, Alvino Rey, Claudine Longet,
Mrs Miller, Hanna Barbera Records, Elvis Parody Records, Star Wars Cash-in
Records, Twist Records and Music from Car Horns - this gives you a
pretty good idea of what to expect. Issue 15's Julie (Cry Me A River)
London article is accompanied by a full colour 2 page spread of her sultry
album covers, and I particularly appreciated the thoughtful and considerate
"Once is Enough! Recordings you don't need to hear a second
time" article, it's enough to just know that some of these records
exist without having to hear them.
With snazzy layouts, colour covers and cartoons by Wayno (best known here
for his illustrations in the Guardian Guide) C&SM! is looking
more and more like a proper magazine, but the lively letters pages and
overlap/interchange between readers and contributors reveal their zine
roots. With the golden days of finding Incredibly Strange records at charity
shops and car boot sales now long gone, the extensive CD reviews section
is particularly useful for keeping track of new and reissued material - much
of which you're unlikely to see mentioned anywhere else, I'm
keeping an eye out for the Ramonetures LP - 16 classic Ramones tunes
played instrumental surf guitar Ventures style!
My only complaint is that Cool And Strange Music! comes out too
frequently, I've only just finished reading the last one and made
a shopping list of records to track down when a new issue arrives!
Fucked Up And Photocopied: Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement,
is an impressively hefty 240 page collection of American Punk gig flyers
accompanied with photos and short pieces of writing. More than 100 band
members, concert organisers, Punks, ex-Punks and poster-makers have contributed
material from their personal collections by coming up with photocopied
posters that have been lovingly kept for years.
Most large US cities have ultra-cheap photocopy shops and concentrated
"downtown" locations with plenty going on, these factors combine
to produce a tradition of flyposting, that sadly there is no UK equivalent
of. Fly posting - as an attention grabbing, quick and cheap form of
communication - thrives in such an environment according to 'Winston
Smith': his hometown San Francisco had an active flyposting circuit,
he loved making posters, but didn't happen to know any bands - so
he just invented band names and went ahead sticking their posters up all
over San Francisco. The book is divided into regions, Northern California,
Southern California, the Pacific North West etc., in this way each section
gives a flavour of the importance and vibrancy of local scenes, each with
their own set of bands and venues.
Initially I was a disappointed that there's very little about creation
of the posters/artwork, but there's not really much that needs to
be explained - the posters themselves say it all, they combine information,
art and the method of communication on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper.
Collages, photos, drawing and stencilled, hand-drawn or pricey letrasetted
text were the quickest, most accessible methods of making posters in the
pre home computer age. It's interesting to see very early work by
Gary Panter, the Hernandez brothers and Raymond Pettibon - all of whom
retain a Punky edge or content in their current work.
Sadly most UK readers won't have the fun of being able to flick through
the book saying "I was there!" My copy has already started acting
as a repository for Punkabilia, there's a flyer for a 1978 Slaughter
and the Dogs gig inside the back cover.
The Fucked Up And Photocopied editors have done an impressive job
of assembling so much US Punk ephemera, their book gets extra Punk points
for being defiantly bar codeless but is guilty of wimping out in a most
un-Punk way by not daring to have the full title visible on the front
cover or spine!
Check My Chops is a fine example of an all-round personal zine
with a bit of everything, I read it cover to cover the morning it dropped
through the letterbox rather than the usual reviewing technique of filing
it in a pile of magazines and forgetting about it. Publisher 'Dave
tha Chimp' is one hyperactive ape and keeps plenty busy with pen,
sketchbook and camera. Issue 5 has stories of his travels as he swings
from New York to Japan, Germany, California and Portugal, there's
photos of Motel signs and the desert, cartoons, reviews of skateparks
and sideburns as well all the other usual things that zines review, there's
even some poems as well. Layout and lettering is all done by hand in a
nice 'n' chunky skateart/graffiti style, no computers appear
to have been used, the tall-and-thin A3-folded-in-half format is different
and effective. Check My Chops is bursting with monkey energy, an
organised chaos feel, with every inch of background space crammed full
of collages and doodlings is reminiscent of Bugs 'n' Drugs.
Parasol Post creates its own cross-fertilisation of fringe and
mainstream cultures, the result is a surrealistic, sometimes disconcerting
zine. The Association of Autonomous Astronauts, Zoë Ball, Leicestershire
Psychogeography, Chris Evans, umbrella symbology, Grateful Dead Conspiracy
Theory, a rant in praise of Lard and a possibly non-fictitious Stewart
Home interview are all haphazardly juxtaposed leaving the reader to sort
them out. The transcript of a Jerry Springer show with couples scrapping
over fundamental philosophical principles: "I am so an existentialist,
Bitch!" is a precisely observed classic parody that surely deserves
to be filmed! Serious subversives or cheeky wisearses? Do these people
really want to make a revolution and have fun at the same time? Parasol
Post's lo-fi presentation and home-grown mix of articles of uncertain
origin with loopy press clippings may not be to everyone's taste,
if you don't get it, don't get it.
El Borbah and Big Baby, both Fantagraphics, £19.95, fantagraphics.com
Facetasm, Gates of Heck, £8.95, www.heck.com
Burning Monster and Caroline et Ses Amis, £5.50, Le Dernier Cri,
41 rue Jobin, 13001 Marseille, France available in UK from disinfotainment.
My New York Diary, Drawn & Quarterly, £9.99, www.drawnandquarterly.com
Cheap Date antidotal anti-fashion, £7.50 inc. p/p, Slab-O-Concrete,
PO Box 148, Hove, BN3 3DQ, www.slab-o-concrete.demon.co.uk
Stephen's Second Little Book Of Charity Shopping, £1.25 inc.
p/p, Fabgear Books, PO Box 2927, Brighton, BN1 3SX
Things, £6.00 inc. p+p, PO Box 10632, London, SW3 4ZF
Cool And Strange Music! Magazine, £3.00/$4.95, 1101 Colby Ave.,
Everett, WA 98201 USA, www.coolandstrange.com
available in UK from disinfotainment.
Fucked Up And Photocopied £29.95 Kill Your Idols/Gingko Press Inc.,
5768 Paradise Dr., Suite J, Corte Madera, CA 94925, USA
Check My Chops is £1 and an A5 stamped addressed envelope. Send
cunningly concealed cash or unused postage stamps to; CHIMP, 27 Puteaux
House, Cranbrook Estate, Mace Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 0RF.
Parasol Post send some stamps or trade your stuff; to 24 Marfitt St.,
Leicester, LE4 6RN
disinfotainment PO Box 664 London E3 4 QR www.mpawson.demon.co.uk