Imagine for a moment that the Internet has not become a ubiquitous part of your life. You've got an idea — maybe you want to rage against the machine — but that idea has to get out to the people. You're not looking for a newspaper advertisement or editorial. You're looking for uninhibited freedom in your publication. What you are looking for — you aspiring little revolutionary — is a zine.
A what? A zine — that's pronounced "zeen," like magazine minus the "maga" — because these are not mass produced, but rather they are small batch, often hand-made and then photo copied, small paper books.
The zine scene in Texas is alive and well with annual conventions in Austin and Houston. But for artists and creators in Big D, the community lacked the pizzazz of a self-publishing celebration until Randy Guthmiller, local zine-maker and artist, stepped up to the plate and organized the first-ever Dallas Zine Party.
The inaugural Dallas Zine Party will be Sunday, Sept. 6 at The Wild Detectives. More than 30 zine-makers will be exhibiting their work while local music acts jakkkechan, moth face and Kitbashes perform.
Debuting at the Dallas Zine Party is The Dallas Coloring Book Experiment, a new zine from local landscape architects and illustrators Gwen McGinn and Isaac Cohen.
The zine will be filled with line drawings and illustrations of famous Dallas people and places. For example, Big Tex and a number of Dallas sports stars are slated to grace the inaugural pages as well as interpreted Dallas landscapes.
"All it is is drawings about Dallas for other people to take and cut and collage and doodle on," McGinn said about the book.
"It is us starting a story for someone to take and reinterpret their own way."
On Saturday, Sept. 5, at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, a zine-expert panel will discuss the importance of self-publishing, zines in the arts and cultural community, zine festivals and the zine scene in Dallas. Panelist include Sarah Welch, of Zine Fest Houston and Mystic Multiples, Stacy Kirages, of Zine Fest Houston and "Modernizm," David LaBounty, of Blue Cubicle Press based in Plano — he has been making zines since 1999 — and Sandra Davalos, of Cemetery Sisters zine publishing based in Dallas.
After the panel, supplies will be provided for attendees to create their own one-page zines.
In addition to the panel and workshop, the library has begun its own zine collection. A portion of the private zine collection of artist Michael Wynne will be on display to inspire as well.
"We want to collect zines because they are really representative of Dallas and of the community," said Sheryl Anaya, the Lillian Bradshaw Gallery Coordinator and library associate for the Fine Arts Division. "As the public library the thing that is in the forefront of our minds is the community."
But, why make something out of paper?
Sure, kids these days have their Tumblrs and Twitter and whatever other digital formats are being created in some Harvard basement right now, but sharing information in a printed format is an arguably more visceral experience.
"I feel like zines are very much about telling stories," McGinn said. "Telling stories in a physical way, that they are accompanied by something visual. You take that zine and you read it and then you pass it on. There is that desire that it never be recycled or left alone. I think that is attached to the medium of print."
Zines are also a medium for community building. Guthmiller started his zine "Shapes" when he moved to Dallas as a way to make new friends.
"Shapes," as anyone who runs into Guthmiller has the potential to find out, is a zine that is one shape per page.
Generally, he'll run into you and then ask, "Do you like shapes?"
To which you of course respond, "Yes! Shapes are great." (Unless you're the one guy who said he was too busy checking his Facebook to like shapes.) Then Guthmiller will hand you a copy of "Shapes." You'll examine each page dutifully remarking to yourself, "Oh these are some pretty nice shapes." Then at the end of the book his name — Randy Guthmiller — is printed and you've officially met him and become friends.
Like McGinn and Guthmiller, many zine-makers interviewed said that the investment of time and resources into making a zine gives the medium and the ideas published in it purpose, legitimacy and clout beyond publishing online. Every zine maker has an idea that they see as being worth the time to create a physical object as a way to share that idea with others — a powerful thought.
I'm confused. Where did this all start?
How did we get to the point culturally where a person can make something out of paper in order to make some new friends? Well, many in the zine community would point you to Martin Luther — yes the seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation — as one of the first zine-makers. He wrote his "Ninety-five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" and nailed them to the church door. The man had an idea that he needed to get to the masses one way or another and so he turned to paper and public distribution, just like the zine-makers of 2015.
From there, self-publishing blossomed. Because of the no-rules nature of zines, their history is vast and varied.
In the 20th century, artists and revolutionaries started to use zines in the form of leaflets, small journals and mail art to promote their own ideas about the quickly changing world.
In the mid-20th century (roughly 1930s to 1960s) science fiction writers latched onto zines as a distribution method giving birth to the fan-zines. By the 1970s, the punk movement's DIY ethos combined with an increased accessibility to photocopy machines pushed zines beyond literature and art circles to a become widely produced sources for counter-culture information.
The 1990s were defined by riot grrrl zines, which focused squarely on feminist themes. Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna wrote the Riot Grrrl Manifesto in 1991 that called for women and girls to create art, music and zines of their own in order to promote female expression.
The '90s also saw the Internet take off and many zines became Web pages as well as printed materials. More recently, however, the Internet has developed into a tool to better promote the means by which to obtain printed zine materials.
OK, got it. How do I start my own zine?
Guthmiller said starting is easy, but ending up with a finished product takes commitment to your idea. Luckily, there are many zine-making resources. Esther Pearl Watson, a Dallas native based in Los Angeles, wrote and illustrated a comprehensive guide to zine and mini-comic making with her husband Mark Todd titled "Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine?" Stolen Sharpie Revolution is a good online resource as well.
Based on conversations with Guthmiller and Watson, here's a basic guide to zine-making:
Come up with your idea: There are different types of zines. Poetry, literary, photography, and per-zines (personal zines, Guthmiller likened these to being pre-blog blogs) are popular. Then there are counter-culture zines like those from the 1970s and 1990s. They are a big part of skateboarding culture — for my fellow '90s kids, remember Reggie's zine in Rocket Power? She had harnessed the power of self-publishing. Guthmiller said some zines are even more didactic and may teach you how to make a bomb or what your rights are when interacting with police.
Figure out the structure and size: Start folding paper, gather up or create your material. Find all of your photos that you want to include and get everything in the order that you want it to appear. Also important to consider here is how many pages you want your zine to be. For Guthmiller's zine titled "Shapes," he sets a cap at 10 sheets of paper or 40 zine pages because he also has to keep in mind the work required to fill each page then copy and collate them.
Consider how to make it: Zines traditionally are made by hand first and then copied to create more issues. However, since desktop publishing software has become more accessible, some zine makers do their layout digitally and print at home. When creating "Shapes," Guthmiller creates an individual shape for each page of his zine by hand, then scans it into the computer and adds more effects and elements to each page before printing them.
Think about how to print it: Will your zine be in color or black and white? What type of paper do you want to print it on? Are you using your home printer or are you going to go to a copy shop? "That is a big deal because there is a big price difference," Guthmiller said. "You’re looking at a nickel a page for black and white or $1 per page for color."
And now to bind them all together: Are the pages going to be folded or stapled? Watson's book provides many examples of folding and binding techniques. Guthmiller said that for some zine-makers, the binding is just as important to the meaning of the zine as the content inside the pages itself. For example, if you make a poetry zine, you might want to hand stitch the binding so it is more lyrical than with hard staples so that the feelings evoked by the zine is echoed throughout the physical object.
"Finishing is the hardest part," Watson said. "Collating your zine can be kind of a pain. The best thing to do is to have a collation party; have pizza or beer and you fold and staple together and you can go out and share and get it out there."
Take your zine to the masses: Some bookstores and comic stores sell zines or provide space for them to be picked up for free. Guthmiller said sometimes his zine can be found in art galleries. Watson said the important thing about making a zine is to get it out there — even if you're leaving it at the laundry mat or the bus stop — you spent time making this piece of expression that is meant to be shared.
Watson said that what is important to remember is that there are no rules to what makes a zine or what should go in one.
The zine culture is one of experimentation. There is no mandate that your zine must be published regularly, or even more than once. There are no limits on how many issues you can make before it loses its zine-y quality.
"In mainstream publishing you have to get your story approved over and over by people who have the company's interest at heart," she said. "With self-publishing, you don't have to get anything approved. You can have misspellings, you don't even have to be able to draw!"
Above all else, her best advice to aspiring zine-artists is:
"You just tell that yourself you’re going to do this and then you get it done and you get it out there."