Zines My Eye!
To be very honest, I don’t exactly know when I found myself falling into zines as, much to my oblivious nature, I wondered into them without even knowing it. My approach to zines came in layers. Sure, I was familiar with comics in general like any other average American brat, thanks to Mad Magazine and my flirtation with Josie & The Pussycats and it wasn’t until the late 80’s when I bumped into my share of underground comics and titles from the likes of R. Crumb, Neat Stuff, American Splendor, Zippy the Pinhead, etc. However, these were individual artists who were fortunate enough to be close to the printing presses and a distributor…..much less talented enough to need one. As for the UNtalented starving artists like myself….obviously, bupkes.
Despite these odds, the first real crack in my roadblock of massive self-expression came in the very late 80’s, thanks to a furry APA. During this time, I started to go to a club called the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization; their M. O. was showing old new and rare animation mainly from Japan at its monthly meetings. Another function of this club was it served as an umbrella for various fandom splinter groups. One of the majors was the anthropomorphic crowd, a. k. a. ‘the furries.’
Once in awhile, members of this group carried around and read this big stack of papers littered with art and text; it turned out to be a massive furry APA called Rowrbrazzle and it was, at the time, anywhere from 200 to 350 pages with a massive membership list. Even though I had no ‘furry’ interest, I was impressed with the mountain of art and general individuality
I read within its pages, and, even more, I met many of these artists and writers and saw first hand their drive to put their art on paper through the process of mass xeroxing and interaction with each other. It was like
bumping into an artist fraternity.
It was also through this club that I heard about the San Diego Comic Con and, much like the club; it also served as a pop cultural umbrella that was offering fractions that I never heard before….like other artists putting out their own comics for mass public consumption. It was at my first visit at this con that I discovered publications like
Comics F/X and Small Press Express which opened my eyes even further to the point of thinking about a title of my own.
For my first mini-comic, I had to really reach out in the inspiration department for an idea, so I combined a few things I knew well;
comics, comic fanboys and the city of Bakersfield (another personal story too idiotic to go into here). Thus the creation of ‘Bros. From Bakersfield’; a title about a group of desperate fanboys trying to escape from Bakersfield, California.
Not only was this a comic about isolation, it was isolated in the first place as I was the only one I personally knew that was doing zines as the rest of my friends at the time and at C/FO didn’t get what the hell I was doing, as it had nothing to do with furries (porn and non porn), anime (ditto) and superheroes.
Undaunted, I sent the first issue of ‘Bros.’ to Comics F/X and, much to my surprise; I got some decent reviews and a few trades. From here, my self-confidence in my art was boasted and so did my zine production: I made a
personal art zine called Don-O’s Odds & Ends, wrote a strange ‘fake autobiography’ about my time in Utah, and, even though Bros. died a typical zine death after four issues, a surviving character called Shmuck-O
Rat splintered off into his own solo terrain, from an id of one of the Bros. characters to the streets of Venice Beach, CA.
Then there was the discovery of Factsheet Five in the early 90’s and things began to get real fuzzy and out of hand, not just my output, but everything related; letters, friends (shout outs to Astor Gravelle, Bob Nelson, Mark
Strickert and Otis Fodder), other underground and independent media outlets and influences; like Negativland, the art of radio prank calls and audio tape trading the odd and rare thanks to Otis’ Mofo Outreach Ministry.
I got so giddy with my zine universe that I even volunteered to take over Bob Nelson’s old Negativland fanzine, Negativfan, and turned it into NegativFANBOYland when got his hands too full with his own zine output, which made mine pale in comparison.
(As a side note: establishing the clique ‘turn about is fair play’ for this piece, Bob told me that he later got into furries thanks to my Shmuck-O Rat!)
As with any new emerging media, the mainstream gets the whiff of the oncoming cattle and tries to ride on top and, in 1994, my turn came when I was called and briefly interviewed (I timed it at 4 minutes) for what turned out to be a two page zine piece for Los Angeles Magazine. I was even photographed along side much bigger names like Darby from Ben Is Dead and Lyndsey Parker from Porkshops and Applesauce. Not much for me came out of that as the magazine, like many other main ones at the time, failed to list the addresses of the zines featured.
The closest I ever came to anything resembling “zine notoriety” was through my Josie & The Pussycats accidental zine series, JOZINE. Not only did this lead me to meet Josie creator Dan DeCarlo and receiving his thumbs up, it lead to Archie Comics’ management declaring my zine a “rag” and banned my name from their offices. Oh, the price of “fame”.
The years of 1989 and 1997 bookmarked these hyper zine years of mine. I was even fortunate enough to get close to the zine vane by attending many zine conventions where I met other zine monsters, like the Alternative Press Expo in the Bay Area.
By 1998, change was in the air and it didn’t smell good, especially for a low-end zinesters like me; Factsheet Five was folding and the internet (and it’s blogs) went ‘over the fence’ big time with technologically challenged (like me, again) taking a big hit. My last major title was
JOZINE #3 in June 2001. It was released a few months before DeCarlo’s death and 9/11.
So much for motivation…..
Despite the zine downturn, I had a chance to actually publish an actual book with actual ink in 2002; it was a collection called, The Whatever Of Shmuck-O Rat. Unfortunately, just after the book was released, Diamond Distributors pulled the plug on lot of the small publishers,
along with my publisher and me with wherever unwanted plugs go. Despite this setback, this was where my entry into the internet comic strip with Rat began.
From here, my personal zine drought started, though my art “career” continued, which included my admission into the pages of Rowrbrazzle, which, shortly thereafter, the APA imploded thanks to fanboy politics, my former roommate and APA member picking fights
everyone and the C. M.’s health condition.
It wasn’t until 2008 that I slowly got back into the zine swing of things when I started up a perzine called Twilight World (zine version) and have been throwing out these message in da bottle since.
Then there’s this here web site you’re blindly staring at; sucking the life out of the internet since 2010. This is where the ‘You’re Now Here’ sign is and I hope you enjoy this and future projects and abuse I will inflect on all this all-media jazz….
P. S.: Since I brought this up, here's a page on the early
incarnation of my NegativFANBOYland, Negativfan.
Plus here's my 15 seconds of "fame" from the pages of the
Los Angeles Magazine, August 1994.