Now that I’ve had a chance to sit down and actually read the zines I picked up at DC Zinefest last weekend, here are some quick reviews (clockwise from upper left in the photo).
Mt. Olyphant is a graphic novel in eight parts — only the first installment is available just yet — written by Zack Ziemba and illustrated by Christine Skelly. This is the tale of Paul Tomarchio, a mythology scholar who wakes up in a mental hospital only to find that the doctors, patients and staff are all figures from Greek mythology. Is Paul frightfully insane, or is he seeing the machinery behind the curtain of reality? The production value is perfect and professional, the writing is skilled and original, and the artwork is inspired. I was blown away! If the quality holds up until the end, this thing could and should win awards. Buy yourself a copy here. You won’t be disappointed! (A+)
Felis Leon is a short story written and illustrated by Christine Skelly. My only criticism is that the language is overblown in a few places, just a little too over the top. But this is offset by great art and superb allegory. Whether or not Skelly was aware of the alchemical symbolism she was using I can’t say. But the colors of the internal illustrations — red, magenta, purple — are analogous to the rubedo phase of alchemy sometimes called “the purpling,” the final stage of transformation toward achievement of the Great Work. And the protagonists? The peacock and the lion? Deeply symbolic and compelling. Joseph Campbell could give a talk on this little gem. Download available here. Highly recommended. (A)
Next we have two pieces from the G. E. Gallas collection. The first is The Poet and the Flea which, like Mt. Olyphant, is a graphic novel being released in installments. How in the world could you not love a graphic novelization of the life of William Blake? Holy Urizen! I’m no Blake scholar, but I’ve got my feet wet on the subject of England’s mad poet, and Gallas is doing a banging job. And the courage to tackle Blake! Are you serious? One of the most studied poets in history? This thing is fascinating, and she clearly loves her subject. “A tree filled with angels, their light blinding, their wings bespangling every bough like stars.” Go and get some. (A+).
The second piece from G. E. Gallas is The First Reich. This teaser for a graphic novel in development is written by Shannon Brady and illustrated by Gallas. It tackles the subject of the whacko genius Wilhelm Reich. For those of you who are unacquainted with Reich, he was a highly educated and respected psychoanalyst who also believed in a cosmic energy known as “orgone.” Because Reich’s writings are the only ones ever ordered to be destroyed by a U.S. court, he is a darling of the occult and conspiracy theory crowd (and how do I know this? Back when I joined the Richmond League of Occult Research and Education they had just finished building an Orgone Cloud Buster based on Reich’s plans). I love the subject, and both writing and artwork are solid. Recommended (A).
FPOON skate ‘zine. This is a skate ‘zine, which means that it is, well, a skate ‘zine. Fragmented. All over the place. Funny as hell. But what makes this one different is the high production value, the color pages, the brains, and the political savvy. Blending fact and fiction, the serious and silly, this one was much more than I thought it would be. Check these guys out on Tumblr. I was impressed. (B+)
Queer Witch #1. This is a ‘zine in the classic mold — intentionally low production value and purposely offensive — which basically means I have to give it a thumbs up. I get the impression that issue #1 is a manifesto issue and that subsequent ones will have more actual witchcraft content. Explicit artwork, swear-filled, transgressive, and refreshing. It’s a little bit screamy, but if you want to shake up your perspective, buy it. Unfortunately there is nothing in/on this ‘zine to indicate where you can get a copy. Maybe you could tweet Kaitlin “Boomboom” Froom and find out? (B)
One of the biggest surprises this year was the stuff I got from Kelly Chick. I liked everything I picked up — a vertical folded booklet called Stop Having Boyfriends (“we made too much eye contact for it to ever be platonic/i always get out of the car just a little too fast”), and two quarter-sheet booklets called dear kelly…love kelly and Contextual Awareness (“you just want someone to rub your head until you fall asleep”). She tabled next to me and she was charming. She gave away a whole backpack full of free stuff. People like her reinforce my belief that life is completely not pointless. No website listed. Maybe if you email her she’ll send you stuff.
Abraxas by Marta Lapczynski (Fat Heart Press 2013, perfect-bound, 50 pages). The most expensive item I bought this year, and worth the $8.00 price tag. This is classic NY stream prose poesy — grimy, gutsy, Ginsbergian, nerve-jangling shit. Non-traditional construction sometimes hides her message rather than reveals it, and at times I wished she just wrote her story ‘straight.’ Still, Lapczynski should be very proud of what she’s done in this stunning little tome: “We’ve always been on the brink of losing our jobs. We were born walking the line, took our first holy breaths already mid-collapse.” She’s “swimming depths and waiting deep.” Fat Heart Press is now Elation Press. Get yours here. (A+)
Quiet Desperation: A Zine about Heist Movies needs a better cover. How can you put a 7th grade piece of art (no offense?) on the front of a doctoral thesis on the subject of heist movies? Luke Stacks has produced a 28-page half-fold booklet full of real deal film criticism that’s comprehensive, educated, and professional. At the end he promises to go even deeper in subsequent issues? How? This ain’t a ‘zine — it’s a reference book. Put it on your shelf next to your Oxford English Dictionary and your Brittanica. And he included Run Lola Run so he gets extra points. Email Luke and I’m sure he’ll hook you up. (A+)
That’s all my reviews for this year!