Research 4 – Comics and Fanzines
What is a fanzine?
It is a publication that celebrates a music genre of or literary form just for the joy of it. It has extended into hobbies and anything you are a fan of. The work is often created using photocopying and a form of collage and mixed media, it isn’t for profit and is exchanged with others for sharing information and something you’re passionate about.
Where did it originate?
It was originally formed by a science fiction enthusiast that created a short zine called The Comet. This became a popular way of exploring ideas and sharing information and soon there were a number of science fiction zines circulating.
When did they become popular?
Mimeographs had been used for printing purposes in the earlier zines, but as the technology evolved the method of producing the zine shifted into something easier to do. Photocopying in the 1970’s made it easier and cheaper to reproduce zines, so they became a very popular way for groups to exchange their enthusiasm for genres and music and things they were interested in.
The late 70’s and early 80’s had a full range of zines being circulated as it seems the Punk scene was a fertile ground for them. They were also a lot more D.I.Y. and grungier, which had a distinct style and appeal. The zines became popular with a number of underground scenes and music groups. It became part of a bands identity to have a fanzine which at times gave more information out about gigs and venues and a history of the group.
What did they include?
The zines contained a mashup of images, articles, poetry, opinions, reviews and were discussions on the topic they were fans of. They were extremely popular in their more homemade form and contained art and collages between the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. This period of time before the internet, was where the zine really excelled in creating groups and communities with similar interests. Now everything is online and although the artform is not dead, there are online communities that serve to create a space to exchange ideas about things they’re passionate about.
The areas this covers has broadened considerably, as boardgames, games and other hobbies have their own websites or pages to connect with others all over the world.
There are so many ways to publish now that there are often Kickstarter projects created for the purpose of funding a self-published project. In the past, black and white printing was the cheapest way to produce self-published work and these would be sold at markets and fairs or events.
There are currently very few such events in Ireland as a combination of markets closing and a Pandemic have basically cut off any sense of creativity in the place, but in the late 90’s and early 00’s, there were a number of places and markets where you could sell your comics. Mother Red Caps, Liberty Market, Co-op Market, and various small pop-up venues throughout Dublin city centre provided ways of sharing your work. For various gigs that were on, there were fanzines and self-published work shared and sold at these events. They would detail the next gig and other reviews and articles.
Some Saturday zine fairs were quite common, and there were a number of annual events that then created further opportunity for presenting your work to others and potentially having your portfolio of comic work reviewed by an editor.
In the early 2000’s and until recently, I was part of that Indie scene and quite active in it. I joined a group of other artists back in around 2000, and we would meet up and chat about comics and art and creating our own work. This evolved into groups of us collaborating on comics and putting work together for publication. We would attend the various annual events and sell whatever we had self-published that year. We were all working in regular jobs and trying to push our creative side to be more than it was.
This evolved into other groups forming and independent work being produced as well as collaborative efforts. Originally the group was called Wolfman comics but the founder of it relocated to America so we restarted a new group, Longstone Comics, and we tried our best to produce a range of work on a fairly consistent basis.
We had a number of self-published comics printed over the years and finally the group started to dwindle and fade out. Our jobs became the focus as it paid and the comics got pushed to the side. We all still attended the events and some of us pushed ahead to forge careers in storyboarding and animation. Overall, we published a grand total of 4 volumes of collaborative work, a book of short stories, 2 independent comics and a range of contributions under our Longstone Comics banner. We also contributed independently to other collaborations with other groups.
Some of the work was extremely amateurish and done for the sheer joy of collaborating and creating. I learned a lot about the work of an editor and how much you have to chase people to get work out of them. I definitely was learning as I went, and it showed, but the group of people we had were highly creative and generous with their time and art.
Because of the comic scene at the time, the people we met and the events we attended, a number of us did have opportunities to speak with recruiters for DC and Marvel as well as IDW. I found it brilliant to get the feedback from it and had the opportunity to do comic sample papers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars for Titan Publishers. What was learned from that experience was the sheer stress involved with something like that and the number of edits that had to be done. It showed me how inexperienced I was in that field and it was a real eye opener to the level of skill needed to pursue a comic career.
It helped to be part of a group, it helped to go to events, I even created my own festival and organised a weekend of workshops and markets one year, and it definitely helped getting your portfolio checked out by the professionals as their insight and feedback was invaluable.
The Irish Comic News website was started by a friend, Tommy Kelly, in 2011, and I was a contributor for a number of years. It wasn’t something I pursued as a career as the belief in myself wasn’t there to be able to play at that level. I simply didn’t have the skillset to do it and I didn’t have the confidence to pursue it. Had I been a younger me then perhaps it could’ve been something to go for as blind faith in learning as you go would have driven me to succeed. However, I did feel a return to a creative education was needed and it took a while to find the right place and that is when I found OCA.
Since then, I have enjoyed encountering a wide range of graphic novels, comics and zines that I feel more of a creative spark with. They’re not superheroes or mainstream and I love the storytelling mixed with beautiful artwork. It feels like something I could venture into and so I’m drawn to try and create my own work and publish it in this lifetime!
I’ve included the links not for egoic purposes, but for the simple fact that the site that my past efforts is featured on is a great example of how far things have evolved from a fanzine. We now have communities of people dedicated to locating information, sharing, and maintaining websites dedicated to the very things that they love.
It really is amazing how far things have come from a photocopied page of shared passion to a thriving community online. Below are some of the comics created over the years and some of the comics bought by fellow creators at events.
Hilary Lawler (2021) Irish Comics Fandom
Irish Comic News (2021) Irish Comics Fandom
A brief history of zines (2021) Duke University
Wikipedia (2021) Alternative comics
Wikipedia (2021) Fanzine
C.Arnold (2016) A brief history of Zines – Mental Floss