Zines: Local Underground Subculture
A bead of sweat drips down the pierced nose of a girl as she grabs a hold of several heart-shaped balloons and floats away into the summer sky. Her balloons are etched into a piece paper with black Sharpie while her summer sky develops with the reader’s imagination. The wind picks up and flutters the pages of “Dreams of Donuts”, a comic zine for the young at heart filled with stories of bike rides, building gazebos from recycled materials, and other personal accounts from a local zine-creator who simply goes by Heather.
Zines are a heavily photocopied, do-it-yourself mini-booklet commonly printed in black and white. Held together by good old-fashioned staples, zines open a window into the colorful life of its creator with the turn of each page. Zines can double as a homemade diary to the creator, who then chooses to share those experiences with growing the zine-world.
“I do document much of my life through true stories and a lot of my fiction is borrowed from true events,” Andy Garcia, a former Sacramento City College student and creator of “Up the Kids” zine, quietly said. “Maybe hoping someone else can relate to it, or learn from it, or feel empowered even.”
Garcia, a soft-spoken 27 year-old, with tattered pants and an earthy-green beanie, remembers when he first stumbled upon an old pile of black and white zines at his friend’s house.
“The first zine I ever picked up was a D.I.Y zine that had everything from booking tours, composting, to making your own tofu,” Garcia said holding his warm coffee. “There were so many things in that zine that blew my mind; it opened my mind to a different culture.”
Garcia describes his zine, “Up the Kids”, as a hodge-podge of many zines rolled into one. “Up the Kids” can be found at Newsbeat, a Sacramento news shop at 1050 20th Street.
Zines come in many forms, no two are the same. Comic-zines capture clips from everyday life and transform them into mini-comics, while how-to zines may explain the mechanics of building your own bicycle. There are also political-zines featuring strong opinions and outlooks, food-zines sharing recipes with readers, and poetry-zines expressing the poems of local poets.
Zines have a way of connecting people from all parts of the country together with relatable stories of growing up, heartbreak, traveling and real issues that people find themselves facing like abuse or mental illness.
“I like writing about broken hearts because that’s universal and maybe because I might hope that one of those terrible people will pick up my zine and know that I am talking about them,” Garcia jokes.
Anyone can get a hold of zines, whether it is checking out the pile of zines at Sacramento’s R5 Records, going online to search for an independent distributer of zines, or attending the many zine festivals held all over the country.
San Francisco, Calif. and Portland, Ore. are two major cities on the west coast that hold annual zine fests. Over 100 different zine creators from all over the country will share, sell, or trade their work with thousands of people.
“The thing I appreciate about zine culture the most is that it’s not about making money, it’s about trading,” Sarina, creator of local zine “Carrots and Condoms”, explained. “You’re trading a piece of your art for someone else’s, a piece of your experience for someone else’s experience.”
Sacramento held its first Zine Symposium this past July at The Brickhouse Gallery and Arts Complex. A group of people involved in the zine community from the Sacramento and Davis areas, collaborated on the idea of bringing creative people together.
“I wanted to bring together a community of creative people from Sacramento and Davis that use each other as resources,” Sharmi Basu, head-organizer of Sacramento Zine Symposium, said. “Part of the reason why I want to do this is so people can get the confidence to do it themselves.”
Making a zine can cost several dollars per issue at your local copy and print stores, depending upon the number of pages printed, color or black and white copies, and many other variables those stores throw your way. Many zinesters tag a price of about $2 to $3 onto their finished photocopied masterpiece, but frequently, many zinesters will accept zine for zine instead of money.
“I think a lot of people that are new to zines don’t understand that you are not going to make money and you’re not going to break even either,” Sarina said twisting her brown dreadlocks. “You’re going to make a zine out of love and if you’re trying to make it for money or to break even it’s not going to happen.”
There is no right or wrong way to start making a zine because they work as an imaginative or therapeutic outlet for those who choose to create them, the creator has total freedom.
“I just like the creative process of digging into yourself,” Sarina said. “It’s almost like therapy, you cry when you write a lot or at least I do.”
Spending time getting lost in the pages of zines can remind us all that we aren’t as abnormal as we feel and that everyone no matter how different can relate to one another somehow even if that person is across the country.
“I wanted to create some sort of community even though it’s small,” Garcia said. “If I can write some story where someone is like, ‘I can relate to that,’ then I feel like they have some sort of community with that person.”