Somewhere between the first time a cave man chiseled an idea into stone and an early adopter tweeted a phrase in 140 characters, the zine was born. Zines are self-published magazines, often hand-drawn, collaged, typed on old-fashioned typewriters or scrawled in Sharpie, pen and pencil. The contents vary: Some are political, others are surreal, personal or instructional. If somebody has conceived of an idea, there's probably a zine about it somewhere.
Unlike the click-and-read blog and widely available books, magazines and papers, zines can be hard to find. Often they are shared within a community amongst friends, distributed at shows, punk houses and art events or exchanged through the mail -- snail mail, that is.
At Denver's Zine Library, one of our initial MasterMind winners ten years ago, zines are lovingly maintained in a collection with over 15,000-plus titles. Here are five of our picks from the DZL collection.
Mime Compliant 11: Read Jesse Reklaw created this black-and-white comic, published in October 2002, about the imaginative possibilities triggered by reading. In this wordless zine, a string of weirdos go to the library, check out books and lose themselves in the pages. As the characters read, they morph into fabulously weird, emotionally charged, fantastical creatures whose normalcy will be forever compromised by the written word.
Freedom of Depression: 9 Ways to Commit Suicide Painter Dylan Scholinski's The Last Time I Wore a Dress is a nonfiction memoir chronicling his experience, at fifteen, of coming into his gender identity in the grip of a mental hospital. While working on the book, he created a series of glib artworks offering viewers nine ways to kill themselves and collected those in this zine. His preferred tools include guns, plastic bags, skyscrapers, razor blades and syringes; Scholinski describes the perks and drawbacks of each way out. Laughter saved him from suicide, Scholinski writes, and he hopes his morbid humor will help his readers, too.
Read on for the rest of the picks from the Denver Zine Library.
Extended Riders Ruth O-R traveled the country by Greyhound bus for a month after the 2004 election. On the road, she grilled fellow passengers about their travel plans, their reasons for riding the bus, what they'd been thinking about on the journey and what they might have learned. The passengers' answers are frequently profound. This simple collection of interviews is a beautiful portrait of United States culture and the many reasons people hit the road.
Invisible Robot Fish: The Copter Billy McKay sat down to draw a comic and realize a story in as few minutes as possible. A week after his first go at it, he managed to write his second zine in the series in two hours and five minutes. The result is a crudely drawn, hilarious story about a helicopter that lives outside a store and encounters a bully named Joe. The helicopter tolerates Joe for a while, but ultimately takes revenge. When Joe no longer shows up to tease the helicopter, it falls into despair.
Shortandqueer #4: The Coming Out Issue The Denver Zine Library's own Kelly Shortandqueer writes the popular Shortandqueer series -- an ongoing coming-of-age memoir about queer sexuality, transgender issues, baseball and the friends and family he loves and often struggles with. Shortandqueer #4 details his experience coming out as a boy. He laments his Denver friends' inability to get his pronouns right and offers up a series of letters with his mom, in which she wrangles with his emerging identity.
The Denver Zine Library, which recently moved for the seventh time, will host a free reopening event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, August 16 at the Temple, 2400 Curtis Street.
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