How to Express Yourself Through Zine-Making

Post by guest contributor Lucy Kagan.

When you walk down the Artist Alley at GeekGirl Con, if you’re looking for them, you may find a TON of different self-published or small-press books. Many of them call themselves zines, but the content, format, and presentation from one to the other might be wildly different. I know that’s part of what makes me so excited to stumble upon each new zine I find: the feeling of discovery, excitement at finding something totally unique, and the way that each creator’s individuality comes across so clearly to show me a new perspective on something I had never thought about before. 

So, how do you define a zine, and what makes it such a perfect medium for self expression? Pronounced “zeen” as it is short for “magazine,” the name gives us a clue: a zine is a small press publication, popularly thought to have less than 1,000 copies produced (it’s the low quantity that makes it small press!), but more typically having even 100 or less copies made. 

It’s hard to imagine someone from the 1940s saying the word “fanzine,” but it actually goes back at least that far! It’s worth mentioning that self-published papers have been a way for marginalized groups to share their truths since the invention of the printing press, but fast forward to the early 1900s, and amateur printing was becoming a phenomenon. The term “fanzine” arose from science fiction fan material being created, and artist groups like the Dadaists, who you may remember from art history, gave these publications the visual style they can be identified by. It’s not surprising speculative fiction has always been pioneering, even in zines!

There’s a lot more I could say about early SF fanzines, but I’ll just mention that the first TV-inspired fanzine was about Star Trek, and it was called Spockanalia. (…Okay, I can’t just leave it there, I have to say that Star Trek fans also created some of the first slash fics through zines, and if that doesn’t spark your interest in history, I don’t know what to tell you.)

Throughout the ‘70s, science fiction focused zines were also standing up to do what small press had always done before: representing voices of marginalized people. Probably the best familiarity fans might have with zine culture from this time is through the 1990s riot grrrl scene: women who continued to be marginalized found a voice in punk culture, and were able to reach a wider audience through zines and small press when larger publishing houses were gatekeepers to the means to publish traditionally. The DIY nature of punk culture gave a lot of aesthetic influence to zines at that time, identifiable by the photo-copied-and-stapled approach, and you can still see plenty of that today.

Nowadays when I go to a con, I see incoming fans and their excitement for zines, but also their confusion. “I thought a zine was when a bunch of artists each do an illustration on a theme or fandom, and compile it into a book,” or “I thought a zine was like an ashcan*, really low budget and DIY.”

*Ashcans are usually specifically comics, typically low-grade prototypes for promotional use.

GeekGirlCon
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On the Changing Values of Animal Crossing

This piece was written by Emily Mozzone, one of GeekGirlCon’s Marketing Designers. If you’d like to pitch a guest post, contact us at blog@geekgirlcon.com!

There’s no doubt that Animal Crossing has come far as a Nintendo IP. For those of us who have played since the beginning, Animal Crossing has metamorphosed from an odd, obscure game that none of your friends played into the worldwide phenomenon it is today. The data backs this up: Animal Crossing for the GameCube sold a little over 2 million copies worldwide, while Animal Crossing: New Horizonssold some 1.88 million copies in its first 3 days on sale in Japan” only, and that’s not even including digital copies.

A lot has changed in the Animal Crossing universe since its launch 19 years ago, and overall I think these changes are for the better. The game is generally more accessible and friendly to players: I’m thankful that I live in a world where I can just fly to my friends’ islands over the internet rather than try to find another kid who owns Animal Crossing on the GameCube and then trust them enough to physically swap our memory cards. I’m glad that kids don’t have to get constantly berated and teased by their villagers (let’s be real, GameCube NPCs were savages).

xamples of Absolute Savagery in Animal Crossing - myPotatoGames
[Image Description: Screenshot of Animal Crossing gameplay. The dialogue reads, “Why, you’re so short, I can’t help but laugh! Whoa ho ho!”] Source: My Potato Games

But as the series has progressed and strived to be even more fun and enjoyable, I think a little bit of the magic and freedom has been lost. f

Historically, Animal Crossing has been about taking your time. We live in a world that constantly asks you to rush, be productive, make money. In video games, we fight, we level up, and we try to win. Animal Crossing throws all this out the window. There is no way to win: Animal Crossing simply asks you to value “family, friendship, and community.”

So what’s changed in the Animal Crossing world? Why do I feel like the game has strayed from these original values?

Teal Christensen
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Write for Us!

I started writing for GeekGirlCon about three years ago, after I attended GeekGirlCon ‘14 and was hugely inspired by what I had seen at the panels, Exhibitor Hall, Artists’ Alley, DIY Science Zone, and gaming floor. At first, it was sporadic, with just a few pitches here and there when a brilliant idea for a piece hit me. But writing for GeekGirlCon was fun; it was a way to express and articulate my interests in a way that I couldn’t in my other areas of writing (which were mostly academic journals). I wrote about all sorts of things: what it was like to be an Asian geek, how we could understand fictional worlds, geek taxonomy, and ferrets.

Then, a few months later, a position for a copywriter became open on the volunteer page, I applied for it, and here I am.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if you’re geeky, have interests that align with our mission or otherwise are passionate about supporting women in games, comics, science, tech, cosplay, and more, consider guest blogging for GeekGirlCon. Or, if there’s content that you’d like to see on the blog that isn’t currently being covered, pitch it as a potential blog post!

Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

If you’d like to be a guest blogger, all you have to do is submit a short pitch of about 100 words on the topic you’d like to write about and how you’d write about it to blog@geekgirlcon.com. If your pitch gets accepted, we will work with you on getting your piece published on the blog. Although we will consider all topics, we would especially welcome pitches from members of underrepresented groups, or on the topics of science, cosplay, or comics.

We’d love to get more voices on our blog, so please consider adding yours to our community!

 

JC Lau
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How American Television is Changing for the Better

Written by Chelsea Hinkofer

American television has seen some recent changes from a casting and technical stance. These are not changes we should heed with warning, but rather welcome.

Lately, women of color have been attaining more lead character roles, directing opportunities, and writing positions. Some prime examples of women of color as main characters that are killing it are shows like The Get Down (Herizen Guardiola is mixed race), Jane the Virgin (Gina Rodriguez is Latina), and American Crime (Regina King is African-American). These shows portray women of color as real people, not some stereotype. They show the struggles they go through and give a realistic view of the world where not everyone is white and looks and dresses a certain way.

There are more shows taking the leap and casting women of color in main roles (such as Fresh Off the Boat, Empire and Blackish), but what this might mean is that America is finally changing its stance on white people being in charge. However, this does not seem to be the case when it comes to directing, writing, and producing.

Guest Contributor
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Jane the Virgin: a Magical-Realist Telenovela

poster

Image source: thetvaddict.com

Written by Sylvia Monreal.

I’m already picking out my cosplay for GeekGirlCon ’15: Jane the Virgin. The new show, currently airing its first season on The CW, certainly has all the elements to spark a new fandom that would fit right in with the Lumpy Space Princesses and Daleks that typically make up the crowd: multiple sets of ill-fated lovers, a cast of dynamic characters (some absurd, some devious), a relatable protagonist at its center, and just enough magic to set it apart from other televised worlds.

Guest Contributor
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Mike Madrid: Vixens, Vamps & Vipers

Mike Madrid

Mike Madrid, a featured contributor at GeekGirlCon for three years running, returns this year to bring us a panel inspired by his forthcoming book Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics.

 

Whet your appetite for this romp through the seedy side of the Golden Age with Wendy Whipple’s book review.

 

 

Photo source: Heaven4Heroes

By Wendy Whipple of Plastic Heroines

 vixens_cover

Cover image courtesy of Exterminating Angel Press.

Mike Madrid (The Supergirls; Divas, Dames & Daredevils) has a new book due out this October called Vixens, Vamps & Vipers. Written as a companion book to Divas, this book looks at the bad girls in those Golden Age comics, whose stories ran from the late 1930s through the mid 1950s.

I love heroines; that’s certainly no secret – my basement is filled with of hundreds of action figures of heroines from movies and comic books – but I adore the villainesses. In reading Madrid’s stirring introduction, dipping into the psychology of villainy, frankly, being bad sounds like a lot more fun. (At least until the Comics Code Authority ruined all their fun in 1954…) But until that dark time, these were “[w]omen who were bad because they wanted to be.” Being bad was a conscious decision; it was, in fact, agency. These were women who were taking charge of their own destinies. Whether we, as readers, agree with their decisions is an entirely different question.

As in Divas, Madrid splits the comics section into themed chapters:

  • Vicious Viragos – these femmes fatales were dangerous, unprincipled, and often sexy, a wicked combination! From deadly accuracy with a whip to hypnotic persuasion to a very brazen granny, this is a selection of ladies like none you’ve probably seen before.

viragos

From National Comic #30, 1943. Bad girl Idaho digs a bullet from her own arm as henchmen watch helplessly.

Photo source: Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers

  • Beauties & Beasts – from faces that don’t reflect the evil inside to bitter monsters, these women are not to be trifled with. A beautiful face is no guarantee of a beautiful nature.
  • A Rainbow of Evil – heroines were depicted as white, but that restriction didn’t apply to villainesses. The stereotypes may be offensive by today’s standards, but at least there were women of color on the page, and viewed from their perspective, were they really even the villains of the story?
  • Crime Queens – these pulpy stories are the sort that eventually led to Senate hearings about violent content in things children were reading. But until that happened, Crimes By Women was a sensational title featuring some truly dreadful villainesses.

queens

From Crimes By Women #14, 1950. Drugs and murder are a family business for this horrid mother-son team.

Photo source: Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers

Aside from the awesome villainesses, the comics do contain some pretty spectacularly awful racial/ethnic stereotypes. Comics of the 1940s, in particular, were not known for their kindness toward Asian people; keep that in mind while you’re reading. The world was in turmoil, and open xenophobia was even more rampant than it is today. The Comic Code Authority banned the practice of making fun of racial or religious groups, but all that really did was erase them from the comics altogether.

My only real criticism of the book is that the comics are reproduced in black and white. Color printing is expensive, and I completely understand the decision, but seeing these villainesses in all their bloody glory would have been even better. (If you’ve read Divas, you’re already familiar with that same publishing decision.)

As always, Madrid’s commentary is insightful and interesting. His affection for the heroines in Divas is readily apparent; so too is his respect for the villainesses in Vixens. “They were in control of their own destinies,” he says. And who doesn’t want that?

As a reader who is still fairly unfamiliar with Golden Age comics, I found some of the selections Madrid used for this book astonishing and eye-opening. The drama is tight, given that the stories are so short and typically not continued on into the next month’s issue like we’re used to in today’s comics. If these are the gems he selected, what else lurks in the dusty recesses of comics history? The heroines in Divas, Dames & Daredevils were exciting and intriguing, it’s true, but my heart is still pounding over some of these very bad Vixens, Vamps & Vipers. Sometimes it just feels good to be bad.

Find Mike Madrid on Twitter, @heaven4heroes.

 

Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics

© 2014 Mike Madrid

Forward by William Kuskin, Ph.D.

ISBN:  978-1-935259-27-5 (print)

978-1-935-259-28-2 (ebook)

Exterminating Angel Press

 

This review is of an uncorrected proof and there may be changes to the book between the publishing of the review and the book; I have no control over that. Please see my reviews of The Supergirls and Divas, Dames & Daredevils. For more Golden Age comics in full color, please visit the Digital Comics Museum.


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