Jason’s Zine Club: Doris #31

I noticed that I like to start these recommendations by explaining how I found each zine in the first place. This one’s pretty vivid in my memory: I was visiting my oldest brother in San Francisco when I was in college, and asked him if we could go to City Lights Books (I’d just read Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, which has a scene taking place there). We couldn’t find any parking in North Beach, but my brother offered to keep circling around the neighborhood while I ran in and explored the store. That’s when Doris #16 by Cindy Crabb somehow jumped out to me from the zine shelf. I bought it on impulse, eventually liking it so much that I mailed Cindy a letter to order more issues (as we had to do in the old days). Among these back issues was #15: the “DIY Anti-Depression Guide,” one of my all-time favorite zines.

Fifteen years (and issues) later, reading Doris still has a way of waking me up and making me feel inspired about life again. The newest issue does this right off the bat, with this passage from the intro that may as well be Doris’ mission statement: “How do we imagine and build a world that we want to live in, despite all the messages coming at us that it’s not worth the fight?” #31 is the shortest issue in a while, but this gives it a sharp, focused feel. Most of the issue is taken up by “Cape Cod,” a beautifully written 10-page story about Cindy and her friend “Elliott” squatting in Cape Cod after one of their friends is killed. They find a vacant motel cottage in the woods and live there for a month in the dead of winter, going to the library, walking to the ocean; each of them mourning the loss and healing themselves in their own way.

The issue is rounded out by two shorter essays, one about white privilege and reparations, and another about the mixed emotions she feels about raising lambs on her farm (“It has taught me about love and loss.”)

You can order Doris #31 from Cindy’s website, or from distros like AK Press, Microcosm, Pioneer’s Press, Portland Button Works, and, yes, you can still get it at City Lights in SF!
I also highly recommend the Doris anthology published by Microcosm (which includes the “DIY Anti-Depression Guide” mentioned above).

Previous picks:
Somnambulist 25 by Martha Grover
When the Dust Settles by Rina Ayuyang
Blindspot #3 by Joseph Remnant and Eschew #3 by Robert Sergel
Gnomes by Sam Gaskin
TABLEGEDDON and As You Were #1
Real Axe (#1) by Josh Frankel
Extra Time #2 by Jeff Levine
May 2013 – Is It The Future Yet? by Corinne Mucha
April 2013 – SMOO 4, 5, and 6 by Simon Moreton
March 2013 – Painful Vices by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
February 2013 – Ochre Ellipse #3 by Jonas Madden-Connor
January 2013 – Not My Small Diary #16
December 2012 – Ramble On #2 by Calvin Wong
November 2012 – Veggie Dog Saturn #6 by Jason Young

Jason’s Zine Club: Somnambulist 25

I first read Somnambulist in 2008, when I picked up a copy at that year’s Portland Zine Symposium. Right away I could tell this was a standout zine, and that its author, Martha Grover, had a knack for writing. I haven’t missed an issue since.

Issue #25 tells the story of Martha’s experience working as a private investigator, in which she mainly interviews people and types up reports, but also does some more sleuthy duties, like surveillance. It starts out promising enough – she likes that her employers value her writing skills, and enjoys the novelty of telling her friends she’s a “P.I.” Over time, though, the underlying horribleness of this industry starts to reveal itself. We also see that the types of qualities that make Martha a good person, and would make her an asset in any sane work setting (her empathy for other people, her work ethic and desire to get things right), are seen as liabilities here. The job quickly becomes a stressful nightmare.

One of the reasons this story works so well is that there’s so much going on at once: At the same time Martha is interviewing people who’ve made injury claims, one of her family members is recovering from an injury at work that threatens his livelihood. Martha is also living with a chronic illness, and applies to get compensation for the time in her life when she was too sick to work (which puts her on both sides of this often uncaring and cruel system). All of these things feed off each other to create a tense, richly-layered story.

The part that impressed me the most was an experimental paragraph in the middle of the story, where Martha creates a collage of the types of answers she’s gotten from her various interviews. The rhythm of this paragraph is perfect, the way the stories run into each other, and the way she repeats certain phrases like “I felt something snap.”

Besides the powerful writing, this zine is valuable for its firsthand insight into both sides of this industry. You can order a copy for $5 at Martha’s website, but while you’re at it, I’d say go ahead and sign up for a subscription.

Previous Picks:

When the Dust Settles by Rina Ayuyang
Blindspot #3 by Joseph Remnant and Eschew #3 by Robert Sergel
Gnomes by Sam Gaskin
TABLEGEDDON and As You Were #1
Real Axe (#1) by Josh Frankel
Extra Time #2 by Jeff Levine
May 2013 – Is It The Future Yet? by Corinne Mucha
April 2013 – SMOO 4, 5, and 6 by Simon Moreton
March 2013 – Painful Vices by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
February 2013 – Ochre Ellipse #3 by Jonas Madden-Connor
January 2013 – Not My Small Diary #16
December 2012 – Ramble On #2 by Calvin Wong
November 2012 – Veggie Dog Saturn #6 by Jason Young

Wedding Drawings

After 8 years as a couple, Michelle and I finally got married last month down in the Santa Cruz area. As one of the wedding favors, I made a little 13-page comic with stories about our relationship:

I have a few left over, and will bring some to SF Zine Fest next month to give out to any friends who haven’t gotten one yet. Let me know if you want me to put one aside for you.
This is my personal favorite story from the comic:



My old friend Leo and I also drew these cards for the centerpieces of each table (the tables were all named after places that have a special significance for me and Michelle):

One of my favorite moments of the day was when my table of cartoonist pals ambushed me during the reception, so we could take a Cartoonist Selfie. And when I read our guest book later, many of them had drawn pictures for us, like this beautiful drawing by MariNaomi:

Jason’s Zine Club: When the Dust Settles

Most of the comics in When the Dust Settles (the new zine from Rina Ayuyang, author of Namby Pamby and Whirlind Wonderland) fall under two categories: (1) introspective, journal-entry like pages and (2) funny, more traditionally paneled comic strips. I think a lot of these comics were drawn in the early morning, while the rest of her family was still asleep, and the whole zine gives off that mix of melancholy and peaceful emotions you feel when you’re up before everyone else.

The introspective pages are well drawn, but at the same time have a loose, spontaneous feel, with creative layouts. Rina often sketches her surroundings, but also draws from her imagination (one of my favorite pages is a series of imaginary desks she used to draw as a kid). The writing in these pages also feels spontaneous – a lot of them arrive at some kind of discovery as they go, or pack a punch at the end:

Some of my other favorite last lines:
“We’ll continue to focus on the petty dumb things that makes us less bored and make us feel better. At least that’s what I’ll do.”
“The progress of the construction site that I walk by everyday is my primary measure of time.”
“It makes life all too real if I stop and deal with it.” …

The funnier comic strips usually show a quick snippet of dialogue or slice of life. Most of these involve Rina’s family: sweet interactions with her son and husband, hilarious things said by her dad (who’s made some classic cameos in Rina’s comics over the years), and funny misunderstandings like this one with her mom:

This 60-page collection is a lot more varied than I’m probably making it sound — some of the comics are more like a combination of the two categories I mentioned (or fall somewhere in between), some of the pages are in full color, and of course Rina’s obsessions with football and old-timey dancing are represented. All in all this is a zine with a lot of weight to it, that spans almost four years of the author’s life. You can order When the Dust Settles from Rina’s Yam Books website for $4.

Previous Picks:

Blindspot #3 by Joseph Remnant and Eschew #3 by Robert Sergel
Gnomes by Sam Gaskin
TABLEGEDDON and As You Were #1
Real Axe (#1) by Josh Frankel
Extra Time #2 by Jeff Levine
May 2013 – Is It The Future Yet? by Corinne Mucha
April 2013 – SMOO 4, 5, and 6 by Simon Moreton
March 2013 – Painful Vices by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
February 2013 – Ochre Ellipse #3 by Jonas Madden-Connor
January 2013 – Not My Small Diary #16
December 2012 – Ramble On #2 by Calvin Wong
November 2012 – Veggie Dog Saturn #6 by Jason Young

Jason’s Zine Club: Blindspot #3 and Eschew #3

I picked up both of these comics last year at L.A. Zine Fest, and they’re two of the best “one-artist anthologies” I’ve read in a while. Reading these comics is like listening to a great record — each story works on its own, but also forms a larger emotional arc when read together.

Joseph Remnant’s Blindspot #3 opens with Remnant drawing at a coffee shop in L.A., while everyone around him seems to be working on crappy screenplays. This sets him off on a tailspin of negativity, as he mocks them in his mind, feels guilty about these thoughts, and then (in a priceless ending) pokes fun at himself a little. The second story also shows him in crisis, as he gets more and more lost while driving to a comics show in his native Midwest. The third story, “Elevator,” gives the issue its emotional climax. It has a twist ending of sorts, but a well-crafted one that dawns on you gradually as you read. It’s a haunting, melancholy story and my personal favorite of the bunch.

The beautifully drawn last story, “You Are here,” is like the calm after the storm, as Remnant goes for a long hike in Griffith Park without any electronic gadgets, clears his head, and finally finds some peace of mind.

Robert Sergel’s Eschew is a series I first discovered from Dylan Williams’ Sparkplug distro, and is now published by Secret Acres. Sergel’s comics are often worldless, with a deceptively cold or deadpan tone, but beneath the surface is usually an undercurrent of emotion and humor. Like Blindspot #3, a lot of these stories play off each other or are linked thematically. A comic about a strange coincidence (Sergel kills an insect in his living room, right as a character in the movie he’s watching says, “The life on an insect”), is followed by another one where he reads an article about superstition and people who look for coincidences as a coping mechanism.

The highlight of the issue is “Growth,” an 18-page comic about Sergel (at least I’m assuming these are all autobiographical) going to a dance club by himself. The only narration is the seemingly unrelated text about panic disorder and immersion therapy, which eventually synchs up perfectly with what’s happening in the panels.

The ending of this story is so gratifying — a truly triumphant moment.

Blindspot #3 is available from Spit and a Half (and it sounds like Joseph also has a book-length collection in the works). Eschew #3 can be ordered from Secret Acres.

Previous picks:
Gnomes by Sam Gaskin
TABLEGEDDON and As You Were #1
Real Axe (#1) by Josh Frankel
Extra Time #2 by Jeff Levine
May 2013 – Is It The Future Yet? by Corinne Mucha
April 2013 – SMOO 4, 5, and 6 by Simon Moreton
March 2013 – Painful Vices by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
February 2013 – Ochre Ellipse #3 by Jonas Madden-Connor
January 2013 – Not My Small Diary #16
December 2012 – Ramble On #2 by Calvin Wong
November 2012 – Veggie Dog Saturn #6 by Jason Young