Featured Zine Reviews Razorcake 112—The Deceived, Behind The Zines, Gratitude, The Hot Shot, Midlife Crisis Era HC

Nov 26, 2019

Illustration by Jackie Rusted

, $5, 8½” x 11”, color, illustrated, 36 pgs.
It’s no secret that the CIA, military, and other federal institutions have performed a lot of awful deeds, starting most obviously with the rampant imperialism and terroristic interference in the name of “democracy” in largely the Middle East and global South. But it’s less well-known—that is, not taught, generally, in public schools, often the highest history education a U.S. citizen will get (even at my university—American history is not required), that the CIA has a history of not only colluding with but actively including Nazis (not just neo-Nazis, but O.G. World War II Nazis who worked sometimes directly with Hitler) in “thought control” experiments. TLDR; this zine is about that. It’s also about one individual coming to terms with her abuse at the hands of related experiments. Between the poems and drawings of personal abuse and the history included in this zine, it’s an uncomfortable read, not, as I did, something to read over your lunch. Trigger warnings abound for sexual, emotional, physical, religious, and military abuse, and it was upsetting to me even as someone who is not a survivor of the level of abuse detailed here. Be cautious, but it is chock-full of good information for those interested in knowing more about the subject, and includes lots of resources, as well as tools for healing, along the way. –jimmy cooper (Sparrow, PO Box 14276, SF, CA 94114)

$3, 8.5” x 11”, copied, 39 pgs.
Billy has put out another solid zine with this issue of Behind the Zines. For those who don’t know, Behind the Zines is, as Billy calls it, “A zine about zines.” There are contributions here from all sorts of individuals in the zine community and their pieces vary. There’s a self-written Q&A from Neither/Nor Zine distro, a few questions with zinester Julia Eff, and a piece by our very own Todd Taylor titled “One Punk Who Makes Zines.” Todd’s piece is a good explanation of the history of Razorcake and how it operates. But all the writing is good—whether it’s an author explaining how he put together his first zine or someone writing how they register people for a zine fest, there’s a lot to take in here. If you’re part of zine culture, you should certainly check this out. –Kurt Morris ([email protected])

BIG TAKEOVER #84, $6, 5½” x 11”, glossy, 152 pgs.
Prior to this issue, I didn’t know The Big Takeover existed, but here it is, with a frankly overwhelming amount of content between interviews, reviews, editorials, and the like. Typically, with a long magazine like this, I’d be bored about halfway through (152 pages of magazine is a lot!), but these folks know their stuff, and they’re witty even when rehashing the same debates—as music journalism, particularly in the punk realm, tends to do. The interview with bev davies, a music photographer spanning decades of bands, from the Rolling Stones to D.O.A. to the contemporary Vancouver scene, was a highlight—all this history from one person who not only knows her stuff but was enmeshed enough in the “scenes” to know how it really was. However, the interview is left off halfway through with a note that it’ll “continue next issue,” which is a magazine peeve of mine—what if I just picked this up and don’t have or plan on having a subscription? Either way, lots of good content and lots of good photos for a reasonable price per issue make this a win in my book. –jimmy cooper (bigtakeover.com)

CIRCUMVENTION OF BOB SEGER, THE, 8½”x 11½”, copied, 32 pgs.
A wordless emotion piece about the religious conversion of a rock and roll fan. Bob Seger is hell, the Ramones are heaven. This is the kind of punk comic you want sitting on the toilet of a punk house. It’s easy to intuit, communicates its premise clearly, and utilizes the comic medium in novel ways. For the most part, this is emotional, metaphorical representations of mundane life and rock music, with little else. If you find yourself a copy of this, it’s worth the time it’ll take you to read it. –Gwen Static ( Jimmy “The Truth” Wysolmierski)

D (N) R / O (N) R (2019 re-issue), $2, 5½” x 8½”, 14 pgs.
Aisling Fae states at the beginning of the zine that there is more and more transgender literature written by trans people in English, but not so much in Spanish. That’s why she prints all of her stories in English and Spanish. This short story is written from the perspective of a woman who was just brought into the hospital emergency department after a brutal car accident. She can’t speak or move, so we read her inner dialogue about what she thinks, sees, and hears from the hospital bed. She overhears the hospital staff misinterpreting one of her tattoos and consequently their decisions on whether or not they should attempt to keep her alive. Despite this dark subject matter, the story is stacked with humor. Our narrator has nicknames for all the staff like “Beardie” and “Whoopi Goldberg.” In seven pages, you get a caboodle of horror, comedy, romance, and tragedy. The only thing you could ask for is some artwork in this basic black text on a white paper zine.­ –Rick V. (Aisling Fae, transfaerie.com)

GRATITUDE FANZINE #3, $2, 8½” x11”, copied, 14 pgs.
Gratitude’s got that now-classic black-and-white cut-and-paste aesthetic while remaining readable and clean, as well as a fantastic cover done by Joe Daly (a comics artist featured on occasion in Kramers Ergot). The content is a little light, containing one show review, two interviews (one half a page and one several), a letters section, and a few other short reviews, but what’s there is good, worthwhile content. The show review (Fiddlehead, Zeel, Guiding Wave, Glitterer, and Gem at AS220 in Providence) was rad, because it’s actually eight reviews of the same show, which made it compelling and a lot more fun than the typical show review. Fanzines—especially those true to the art like Gratitude—really never get old, even hardcore fanzines still asking questions about Fugazi. McGuire says it in the “Six Guidelines for Your Fanzine” in this issue: “Even if it’s the worst zine of all time,” (and this certainly isn’t. It was, in fact, more pleasant than most of the hardcore-specific fanzines I’ve seen) “it’s better than 100 percent of the zines that don’t get made.” –jimmy cooper (AJ McGuire, gratitude.storenvy.com, [email protected])

HAULING SAND, $?, 5½”, x 8½”, offset, 26 pgs.
Really nice looking art zine featuring the work of Victor Devlin, mostly abstract-ish ink images and meditative line drawings of foliage. A note on the inside cover says that everything here came from a couple years’ worth of sketchbook pages and commissions. The textured cover looks awesome in blue and fluorescent pink. I appreciate the care that clearly went into putting this together, but that’s pretty much all I know—the website listed on the cover appears to be dead, so I guess this will always be an enigma. –Indiana Laub (No address listed.)

HOT SHOT, THE, $?, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 58 pgs.
The Hot Shot is a short story about two runaways, their life on the streets, loneliness, friendship, and the sickness that comes with methamphetamine. Taken directly from the author’s life, this personal and heartbreaking story is well written, describing perfectly their world of homelessness and the struggle to make it on your own. Highlighted is the reality of needing kindness, generosity, and patience from strangers and those we know. Human connection is desperately shown as a necessity—and really a saving grace—when living with drug use and the trauma that comes with it. A heartbreaking first chapter from a larger collection of short stories. –Tricia Ramos (The Hot Shot, 1020 NW 9th Ave. #1112, Portland, OR 97209)

#MCKAYSTORYADAY 2016, $?, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 12 pgs.
Founding Slapshot drummer Mark McKay has taken to Instagram to write. It’s always nice to come across one of his pieces in the middle of all the show and cat photos in my feed. Here, Mark collects the best of this 2016 Instagram writing into a zine. He shifts from prose to poems throughout, making his work more effective. Both in his feed and in this zine, McKay defies expectations. –Michael T. Fournier (wrkrls.com)

MIDLIFE CRISIS ERA HC, ?, 8½” x 11”, offset, 36 pgs.
I was balls-out nutty for hardcore starting in 1981. By 1984, my interest was waning; by 1986, it was completely extinguished. Yet, despite almost thirty-five straight years of neglect, I still feel hardcore is kind of my baby. Granted, it’s a baby that I abandoned when it was in kindergarten, but I still feel it’s got a speck of my DNA rattling around in there somewhere and I still like to see what it’s up to every now and again. Daragh from Midlife Crisis Era HC, however—an Ontario schoolteacher in his late forties—is a disciple who never strayed from the flock, and remains, in his own words, “a proud lifelong fan of what is ultimately a fairly mediocre genre of music.” His cerebral, impeccably-thought-out approach to interviewing hardcore bands reads like it was written by Mike Faloon in spiked wristbands, occasionally leading to unintentionally amusing exchanges such as this: (DARAGH) “With the lyrics on the 7”, like ‘What Is This Hell?’, at first glance you look at the translation of that lyric and it could almost be standard D-beat fare with images of children’s bodies on the beaches and what not, but singing them in Arabic and the artwork and everything it adds this other layer and this other context to things... do you think that punk lyrics risk trivializing these sorts of situations around the world?” (BAND) “Yes, for sure.” This issue features lengthy interviews with Haram (a New York hardcore band who sing in Arabic), Forward (from Japan), and France’s Gasmask Terror, complete with footnotes. I don’t know that I’m more into this music now than I was yesterday, but this zine is rad as hell. –Rev. Nørb ([email protected])

, $8?, 9½” x 8½”, copied, 96 pgs.
In the intro to this third installment of the long-form story Where?, Simon Moreton mentions that this issue is way different because it doesn’t use any words. This isn’t quite true—throughout, images of text messages, book pages, and captions are mixed in with Simon’s drawings. What Simon is saying, I think, is that he’s consciously stepped away from the sparse dialogue found in the previous two issues. Already, Minor Leagues was one of the best zines out there, especially since this long-form story reflecting on the ways that family are tied to geography started. With this issue, Simon has pushed himself even further out there than before. His style of drawing has always glanced rather than stared at its subjects, and here the ephemera introduced through the texts and pages results in an even more feverish dreamscape than before. It’s great to see Moreton challenge himself not to repeat previous tricks—even more great because his risks pay off. Seriously, get on board if you’re not already: Minor Leagues is consistently innovative and rewarding. –Michael T. Fournier (smoo.bigcartel.com)

PASAZER #34/35, $20, 8¼” x 11½”, offset, 244 pgs.
You could say this is the MRR of Poland, as it’s packed with information on the latest bands, from past to present, and though focused on happenings and bands within Poland, they also cover what’s happening in the rest of the world. This issue features interviews with El Banda, Cela Nr 3, Abortti 13, MDC, Fate, and more. There are also articles and reviews. If you can read Polish, then punk rock heaven can be found here between the glossy full-color cover and perfect bound spine. The rest of us will have to enroll and learn the language, and enjoy the photos while we do. Comes with a CD comp too! –Matt Average (PO Box 42, 39-201 Debica 3, Poland, [email protected])

POSITIVE CREED#35,$?, 8¼” x 11½”, 24 pgs.
For a fairly old school photocopy punk music zine from England, I quite enjoyed this read, even if nothing revolutionary was happening. I guess perhaps being a fan or interested in a lot of the music covered in the issue goes a long way. There are interviews with Interrobang? (ex-Chumbawamba, which, the interview makes clear, carries a surprisingly large bit of pull with concertgoers), photographer Mark Richards, and band In Evil Hour. The interview I found most enlightening was with Steve Lake of Zounds, who I own a CD by, but honestly still didn’t know much about the band, despite their very interesting cover art and anarcho punk scene associations. The real meat and potatoes of the issue to me, though, were the retrospective review of Motörhead’s Orgasmatron and the tribute of remembrances about Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks. The contextualizing of the Motörhead album makes me want to give it a concentrated listen someday, and as someone who had seen the Buzzcocks every chance I got, I just really love the band and Pete Shelley’s contributions to the world. –Adrian Salas (Rob, [email protected])

, 5½” x 8½”, $3, copied, 24 pgs.
I’ve been grinding my teeth thinking about the prison-industrial complex for decades. It’s not something I’m unfamiliar with. Our familiarity with it, however, doesn’t mean we should grow lax. So wherever you are in your knowledge of it, I recommend you read this zine. Boning up doesn’t hurt, and this zine cites facts and puts things in perspective succinctly and systematically. I’m keeping my copy around for referencing. Buy a few copies and hand them out. Or buy one copy and make copies. –Craven Rock (PM Press, PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623, PMPress.org)

, $3 ppd., 5½” x 8½”, copied, 40 pgs.
Two new stories from Chattanooga punk house “Anarchtica,” describing the stresses and obligations of running a DIY venue. In this issue, the basement where the shows are held is described in intimate detail, the extension cords constantly blowing fuses to the house upstairs, water heaters and pipes in consistent danger of being broken from dancing and raucous shows, and of course the bathroom situation. One that any punk knows is always an… adventure when you run a show or attend a show at a punk house. A second story tells of several interactions dealing with cops being called on the punk house because of the noise, or cars being “improperly” parked on the streets. The futility of a cop trying to break up a punk show over and over was an interesting read, and the persistence to run this venue and house is admirable. Flyers for several shows are interspersed throughout the design as well. –Tricia Ramos ($pare ¢hange, PO Box 6023, Chattanooga, TN 37401)

STORY OF MY LIFE, THE, $?, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 20 pgs.
Written straight from the life of Aki Ra, a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, this zine is a short but concise glimpse into the history of Cambodia, and the violence and wars the nation has endured. At only five, Aki Ra experienced life as a boy soldier. By ten, he was given his first gun and taught to kill. Throughout his life he was moved from army to army, fighting for different reasons unending. Finally, as a teen, the United Nations came to Cambodia to clear land mines and recruited locals to assist them. Aki Ra joined, and after the United Nations left, he was inspired to continue dismantling and removing land mines. He has since opened a land mine museum to show tourists and locals alike the recent history of Cambodia, and to hopefully teach and inspire others to join him in helping clear land mines from his nation. –Tricia Ramos (The Story of My Life, [email protected])

subTERRAIN #82, $8 Can./$7 U.S., 5½” x 9”, offset, 96 pgs.
I’m not sure if subTerrain is intentionally distancing itself from the ivory tower of literary journals by calling itself a magazine, in spite of sharing the same sort of content (fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, book reviews, et cetera.). My guess is no, but they’d be right to do so. I think they should allow even further distancing. I’ll tell you why. It’s simple. SubTerrain rocks and literary journals suuuuuuck! Nothing about subTerrain has that journal feel. It lacks that shitty, graduate-degree-damaged creative writing selected (under duress) by a glazed-over and bitter college intern written by some desperate hack who gauges their self-worth on getting published by someone else. The theme of subTerrain #82 is “shame” and the editors have carefully selected writing by a diversity of people from POC to prisoners, with the strongest piece written by an elderly woman. Though the reality of the writer’s lives may differ greatly from the reader, most of them navigate sublimely the unique space of their struggle with shame while at the same time presenting it as universally human. –Craven Rock (subTerrain Magazine, PO Box 3008 Main Post Office, Vancouver, BC, V6B 3X5, Canada, [email protected])

UNVERIFIABLE COMICS: IMMATURE HUMOR FOR ADULTS #3, $2 (zine and sticker), 5½” x 8”, copied.
Scathing and nihilistic in the way memes tend to be (and the author does declare: “You know, if you don’t stop looking at memes, one of these days you’re going to turn into one!”), these comics hit a little too close to home on life in the “late anthropocene.” Life in the contemporary political landscape is pretty fucked up—that doesn’t need saying, but sometimes, with a touch of humor, it does, even if it makes us a bit uncomfortable to admit that, say, when we have our phones surveilling us all the time, it’s a little hypocritical to be nervous about a “robot uprising.” And it’s easier to admit these things with a little bit of levity thrown in. I love comics for this reason, and these comics do a great job at making us look at ourselves in the worst possible light while making us chuckle about it. Slightly uncomfortable, for that reason, but all the way fun. –jimmy cooper (AN!F, PO Box 345 Putney, VT 05346)

URBAN GUERRILLA ZINE #21, $1 ppd. or trade, 5½” x 8½”, printed, 36 pgs.
This photography zine (and one interview with California zinester and punk rocker, Matt Average), continues to feel like the beat of the pulse of the Bay Area in some ways. The photos range from documenting live bands, skating, graffiti, low riders, and the everyday faces you could see around town. The photos are beautifully taken and feel very personal, and the zine comes with stickers and two gel bracelets, which was an added bonus! –Tricia Ramos (Urban Guerrilla Zine, 1442A Walnut St. #419, Berkeley, CA 94709)

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