When I was in high school I learned about zines from Sassy magazine. My besties and I were so inspired that we decided to make our own, a fan zine dedicated to our friend’s exploits, as she drank and sexed her way through life. It was pretty awesome and also an indication of how fucking crazy people are in high school. What do you get when you combine total boredom with raging hormones and a dash of sociopath? Our zine.
The years passed and my relationship with zines faded as my relationship with a far more addictive medium surfaced, the Internet. Man, oh man, I love the Internet. It’s brought me couches, bed bugs from said couches, one-night stands, syphilis from said one-night stands, more Lindsay Lohan than most people can handle (not me!), and finally, a relationship with a real human dude. A human dude who happens to be very into zines. And we come full circle, folks.
My boyfriend, Jonas Madden-Connor, is one of the organizers of the San Francisco Zine Fest and a creator of many (award-winning, he’s very fancy!) comics, which leads me to my one problem with him: He’s too good at everything. I am not content to be the wind beneath another person’s wings; I must be the gale force that knocks that person out of the air so that I may fly even higher. Knowing this about myself, I knew I too must create a zine, The Best Zine Ever, to sell at this year’s fest, or I’d die (or give up) trying.
So I’m going to make a zine, but what am I going to make it about? My two main passions are veganism and being fat. Whatever, don’t judge. I’m sure your list of interests isn’t strictly chemical advances in neuroscience and Danish philosophy (actually, I’m into this if we’re talking edible Danishes, screw Kierkegaard). Since I write on the regular about being vegan, I thought I might tackle a zine about what it’s like to be fat.
I settle on Fat Zine for my title (creative, huh?) and decide to include drawings, essays, and comics about what it’s like to be chunky in America. I choose to accept submissions and advertise this fact through Craigslist. I also put up a few posters at local comic shops, like Isotope and Mission: Comics and Art, and spread the word to my friends. If you get deep enough into the self-publishing world, you might be able to ask for submission from peers on Dirty Drawers, the Bay Area comics Yahoo group. It’s invite only, kinda like the indie pubs equivalent of the Skull and Bones. Until I get tapped, Craigslist and word of mouth will have to do.
Within a few days, I have some local notables on board, including artist Jen Oaks, who contributes a drawing of a foxy chubby lady, and writer and comics maker, Susie Cagle, who submits a fat centerfold. Hot! Other than that and a few submitted essays and comics from friends, I create most of the content myself, as many of my Craigslist submissions didn’t involve fat people, just pictures of penises. They weren’t even fat penises! I spent a few afternoons sketching cartoons about adorable chubby dogs, and penning essays about ice cream sundaes.
Now that I have my content, I need some supplies. I am so used to producing everything on my computer that I honestly don’t know where to buy paper and pens. Scary. I do a little questioning of comic artists around town and get a list of their favorite places. Although I could cheap it out and create my zine on copy paper from Office Max, I really want to go the whole nine yards with this baby. I settle on Flax Art on Market because it’s got high-quality products and more importantly, it’s next to Martuni's and I love a good martini piano bar.
At Flax, I am greeted with a wonderland of art supplies. It’s room upon room of paper, pens, stencils, stickers, and my personal favorite: glitter. An entire wall dedicated to glitter? Girrrrl.
I take my time perusing the wares and settle on a heavy stock (industry lingo!) paper, some smooth as silk Sarasa Gel Retractable Roller Ball Pens, every color of Sharpie, a few glue sticks, some tape, and a shit ton of glitter. Shit is about to get really sparkly over at Fat Zine, Inc. But first, some drinks at Martuni's.
After several martinis and a rousing piano rendition of Nelly’s “Hot in Here” at Martuni's, I head across town to Paper Source on Fillmore to check out its selection of colorful paper. Flax has a good selection, but I hear the folks at Paper Source will blow my mind. And they do. So much paper! So many colors! My zine is going to be in black and white but the cover will add a delightful splash of color to class up the joint. Should the cover of Fat Zine be in a welcoming light pink, or in-your-face chartreuse? Decisions, decisions! After an hour of drunken browsing (and more glitter buying!), I settle on magenta. The color is powerful, but still feminine. Just like a fat woman.
With supplies in hand and vision in mind, I return home to get down to business. Cutting and stapling, pasting and coloring, I do it all. Especially glittering. I ingest so much of the sparkly stuff that every time I visit the bathroom, it looks like I crap out Tinker Bell. Collecting pages from other artists and essays from people I respect, it’s exciting to see my creation spring to life. From a mountain of paper and a mess of stickers comes a monolith so epic it can only be called Fat Zine.
I hold Issue 1 in my hand. It’s an impressive specimen that looks like three mental patients escaped, broke into a kindergarten classroom, and then had their way with the crafts supply closet. I am a proud mama. The only issue with my issue? Uh, I only have one. Crap, I can’t sell just one zine, I need copies. Crap.
Lots of independent publishers hit up printing houses like Speedway Digital Printing to get the job done. I’ve made many trips to Speedway with Jonas to check out proofs for his comics and found everyone very helpful, especially manager, May Tang. She does a wonderful job printing more complicated orders and never makes you feel like a total dork when she explains how to look at a proof. The only thing is, going to Speedway is lot more expensive than DIY-ing it. If you’re printing something intricate, substantial, or just have scrilla to burn, definitely head to Speedway for your zine printing needs. Since I’m a serious newbie, I decide to take this shit to the streets. And by streets, I mean FedEx Office.
FedEx Office (you’ll always be Kinko’s to me!) is the home to many independent publishers. A word to the wise: Your neighborhood copy shop might provide higher quality service for less money but with 20 locations in San Francisco, a vote for FedEx is a vote for convenience and laziness. Also, it has rulers, tape, glue sticks, and Wite-Out on hand, and large work areas for your use, which is really great for putting together something like a zine. The week before the SF Zine Fest, you’ll find the FedEx Office stores citywide are brimming with artists printing up last-minute editions of their work.
I set up shop at one of the large color printers and get down to business. I print color covers on magenta paper and the rest in black and white. Except, of course, for the centerfold. That bitch is printed off in the most vibrant, sexy color. Two hours and a trail of glitter later, I hold 25 copies of Fat Zine, Issue 1 in hand. The only step left is the loving application of glitter to each issue. While my one zine doesn’t begin to compete with any of Jonas’ work (OK, fine, I lose!), I couldn’t have been prouder to be holding something in my hands that I made with my hands. It’s a helluva rush.
The last order of business is securing a table at the SF Zine Fest. I’m able to do this because I have connections (holla!) but anyone can easily sign up online. The booths are cheap, but quite a few indie artists and publishers set up shop in front of the event and sell right there.
As I prep for the big day, Jonas gives me a few insider tips for newbies like me:
- Don’t be afraid to make eye contact and self-promote. Be ready to talk to anyone and everyone who passes your booth; nobody wants to buy from someone who is all scowly. But don’t act too weird; just be friendly without being overbearing!
- Freebies can lure over potential zine buyers (one year I ate a cupcake fest at someone’s booth). Stickers, buttons, and candies are cheap but cool swag. I’m thinking of getting some candy necklaces for my table.
- Zine Fest is all about expressing creativity, so take time to make your table look nice; this isn’t East Germany before the wall fell, after all!
- Prepare a sign-up sheet. I see this being helpful for Fat Zine, Inc., for two reasons: first, to collect names for future Fat Zine collaborators and also, eating buddies! Hello!
So it looks like I’m all set. Fat Zine, Inc., is coming to a zine fest near you. See you there?
Make a zine, you little Picasso! It’s easy, fun, and a great outlet for the pent-up creativity of the digital age. Fat Zine cost me about $76 start to finish. The majority of that went to the paper and the printing, but you can cheap it out even more by using stuff you have around the house and scavenging from friends and at places like SCRAP, where you can find all sorts of creative reuse for dirt cheap.
Once your zine is complete, shop your creation around to places like Goteblüd Zine Gallery, Mission: Comics and Art, Needles and Pens, and Isotope, which all feature sections with local zines. Pretty rad.
Sell your stuff at the annual SF Zine Fest by securing a table on its website. Booths will set you back $90 for a full table or $45 for a half table.
Or you can attend the fest. This year it takes place on September 4-5 at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. Admission is free, so come support the little guy and find the newest, coolest shit before anyone else. You know you want to, that's why you live in San Francisco!