A zine is simple in its definition; the word zine is short for, you guessed it, magazine. But zines, handcrafted publications featuring everything from poetry to comics, are far from run-of-the-mill. That’s the beauty of the craft — it’s inspired by the DIY movement, and no one zine is the same.
Pulp Gallery, the Upper King space we’re sure you’re familiar with by now — you know, the one with exhibitions that feature images of medical oddities and Saturday night shows that include hypnotists, comedy wars, and classic films — decided that it was high time to get in on the city’s small, but present, zine scene. “Zinefests are quite common in most cities,” says Will Eiseman, Pulp Gallery’s owner. He has enlisted the help of Leigh Sabisch, who also works at the gallery, and who has hosted her own pop-up art shows in the past.
“A zine has no rules. It’s a lawless form of literature,” says Sabisch. “It’s really accessible.” The gallery currently carries a wide variety of zines. There’s “Noice,” a medium-sized glossy zine that features print photography that focuses on one color in each issue. There’s “How to Talk to Your Cat about Evolution,” just one in a series of “How to Talk to Your Cat” zines. And then there are the tongue in cheek — if you will — pocket-sized zines. Our favorite? How to “Give a Five Minute Blowjob in Three Easy Steps,” by Cinda-fuckin-rella Publishing Co.
According to Duke University libraries, the first recorded zine, “The Comet,” was created in 1930, a science fiction fanzine. Zines grew in popularity in the ’60s and ’70s during the DIY movement and growing indie music scene. The ’90s saw the creation of “BUST,” a photocopied zine, “Bitch” magazine, and Zined!, a documentary all about the movement. Today, DIY is popular once again (please see: Etsy), with zines falling into the same cultural comeback category of vinyl records.
“Part of working here is having to make your own zine,” says Eiseman, who requires each of his employees to express their creativity in this genre. He says that most of the gallery’s zines are artistic and not political, although there is a sizeable market for anarchist zines, as well as special interest zines like those that focus on LGBTQ issues.
This year’s Zine Fest currently has 15 participating vendors and Eiseman wouldn’t be surprised if that number grew as the date draws closer. Participating zines include diary comics from a graphic designer, limited edition works from street artists including stickers and booklets, and a surrealist journal featuring collage, drawing, and found text. “Zines probably won’t go away,” says Eiseman. “People like having tangible things.”
Sabisch seconds Eiseman’s sentiment, adding that Pulp is an ideal space for this kind of art. “There’s so much stress to walk into a normal [downtown] art gallery,” she says. Pulp, in a sense, is more accessible for local amateur artists. If an artist can’t show his or her work on Pulp’s walls, they can at least have their zines on display.
“Zines allow me to dabble in a lot of things, and to see what resonates from all of that,” says Zac Crocker, a local Charleston zine creator and member of the band Beach Tiger. Crocker’s zine, “Party Politics,” is his first and only publication, but he hopes to create another zine in the near future. Crocker says he likes that zines don’t follow any rules, “A lot of times there’s a structure with a band. You put out an album, and then another one.”
Zines, though, don’t follow any set schedule, and they sure as heck don’t seek to make a profit — well, most of them don’t anyway. Crocker says it took him about four months in all to finish his zine, 24 pages stapled together, which he sells for $7.50. “The next one, I’ll probably give out for free,” Crocker says. “It’s just kind of for myself. My hope is that someone looks at it and sees that someone else is feeling the same way they are.”