by Alisha Rae
I made my first zine, a mini-comic, at the age of 30. I didn’t start drawing until a few months before that, mostly about the eccentricities of working at a 24-hour coffee shop for 6 years. I thought I was drawing for catharsis and that I would never publish my scribbles. But one day, when I was visiting my family in Miami, I just did it–I made my first mini-comic. I had the idea for a year, and had been waiting for the right moment to get it done. A lot of people who read it related to it. Having art that people relate to is fulfilling for me because it informs me that I am not alone. I often feel like I’m not alone when I read other people’s zines.
Anyone can make a zine, so zines are made by real people. Because of this, they are honest and have integrity. My favorite zines are perzines (personal zines). They reveal people’s personal truths and vulnerabilities. They are honest in a way that only a true friend is. I like that because vulnerability created through art is something I value and hope to achieve with my work.
A couple of my favorite perzines are:
Doris by Cindy Crabb is a zine published since the early 90’s. I met Cindy in Chattanooga a month after making my first comic and traded my mini-comic for the new Doris zine. Doris was the first perzine I read and related to. She writes about gender, introspection, the need for challenge and change, mental health, family dynamics, and her own life stories. I feel less alone knowing other people feel the same way I do. And sometimes that’s all I need to know–that those feelings are out there, and that they are valid.
Telegram by Maranda Elizabeth. Maranda has been writing Telegram, a perzine, for almost a decade along with other published zines. In Telegram: A Collection of 27 Issues, they answer the question of “Why I write zines: for Survival and Revenge,” which means to write as a means of self-care and support. This is a way of surviving that I can relate to, especially in hard times. Publishing zines is a way to show all the haters that you survived the harsh world. Also, Maranda chooses to use the gender neutral pronoun “they,” which I respect because it challenges social norms about gender. All in all, they value weirdness and I have identified with that ever since I was eight years old and haters called me weird too.
New Orleans has a strong history with zines. Here are some zines from people who live or have lived in New Orleans:
Shotgun Seamstress, by Osa Atoe, is a music fanzine by and for black punks, but is also relatable to allies, queers, feminists, DIY artists, and musicians. I’ve discovered a lot of music through this zine, and even more that is indicative of the culture of POC (People of Color), DIY, and New Orleans. Osa includes essays, interviews with muicians, reviews, and historical portraits of important artists and scenes. A collection of these zines was just completed and published through Mend My Dress Press.
Chainbreaker! by Shelley Jackson is a zine I always refer to when working on a bike. My copy of Chainbreaker (now made into an anthology) is covered in grease and dirt from all the times I have referred to it while working on my bike. She often writes about being a female mechanic and cyclist, which I relate to as a volunteer at Plan B New Orleans Community Bike Project.
Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf is a project to challenge hetero and gender normative practices in sexuality education through comics. Topics like safer sex and consent from an LGBTQ-friendly stance are examined through submissions, primarily from young people. Each issue has a different theme, like firsts, bodies, and health. If there was any zine worth relating to, it’s this one. Exploring and discovering one’s own body and sexuality can feel very isolating. These comics give a new perspective on these personal issues and make you feel supported, but they also are funny and entertaining. A book compiling all the issues and some new content will be published in August 2013.
Invert is a comic zine made by and for queers in New Orleans. It is a tribute to radical queers that came before us and is an outlet for us to tell our stories in the face of heteronormativity. As written in the introduction, “This object exists because queer narratives are important and underrepresented.” There is currently one issue released. A call for comic submissions will appear soon for the next issue.
New Orleans eccentricities have been chronicled in zines for years. Stories Care Forgot is an anthology of zines from and about New Orleans before 2005. A collection of zines saved from Katrina by Ethan Clark, this anthology is a testament to a time in New Orleans when punk zine culture flourished. Clarke writes, “These zines tell the story of a time, a place, and a group of people who were struggling to follow their ideals and figure out their place in a troubled and magical city.” Reading through these stories, I relate to many of them. I have written several weirdo comics about bicycle delivery, and I see in Stories that some things never change. John Gerken and Happy Burbank were writing zines about their bicycle delivery jobs in New Orleans almost a decade ago. Additionally, I find in this anthology that observations about gentrification still hold true, just in different neighborhoods. The neighborhood written about in older New Orleans zines is well through gentrification, but it’s encouraging to hear thoughts from a previous time that parallels with my present. Also present in Stories Care Forgot is a history of Treme (did you know Claiborne used to have a park before they built I-10 over it?) and personal experiences in the sex industry, which is an integral part of this city.
Since moving to New Orleans, I have been drawing more and more. All the inspiration from bizarre encounters to magical life changing events have provided ample material for zines. New Orleans is very different since the storm, but its diversity and charm hasn’t changed. People will still travel from around the world to visit the city care forgot, and our zines will continue to chronicle the personal struggles and important issues the city faces that we don’t want anyone to forget.
Alisha Rae lives in New Orleans and harnesses magic through drawing, singing, dancing, baking, and bicycling.