I was a good four or five years between my initial V.P. Comics days (from Part 1 of this post) to my discovery of zines. In the intervening years I had discovered punk rock, learned the sacred bar chord, and gone through a couple of girlfriends. Like most kids, I was busy with the business of being busy. Sneaking out, drinking vodka, and smoking clove cigarettes was in vogue amongst my elite group of small town hipsters but we did seem to find a way to do other things like create art and music.
I can actually pinpoint the day I really discovered what the underground press was all about. I was in Knoxville (the big city) for some reason and I went down to Raven Records off Cumberland, which used to be called "the strip". Raven was like some sort of little chapel or shrine to rock and roll, tucked neatly and discreetly away behind a drug store in a little alley just off the main strip. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they had housed secret macabre relics of rock's past. Preserved bodies of some of its fallen saints, or even hosted meetings of some kind of Fraternal Order of the Obscure and Awesome where Roky Erickson came out wearing a robe and holding a sword emblazoned with the Sun Records logo. But I digress.
Raven was the place where I bought my first Cramps record (the picture you see here is of myself (right) and my friend Scott when we were just babes in the record store). It was now the place where I was introduced to another facet of cool. I'd looked at their selection of magazines but I hadn't ever had enough money for both a record and a zine before so I had only really glanced over them. This time, though, I had a couple of extra dollars and I decided to take a look. There were a few names I had heard like Maximum Rock 'n' Roll and Flipside but the one that caught my eye that day was Factsheet Five. I think there were three reasons I decided on it above the others. (1) It had the most pages (2) It was only a dollar and (3) It had a bold bright yellow cover featuring some crazy artwork by, I think, Jeff Gaither or someone similarly demented. At any rate, I bought it and read it on the car ride home and for days after. Factsheet Five was not really a zine per se, but a zine about zines. It was a huge compendium of reviews for everything underground, from music to zines to poetry to mail art. Pretty much, if you could send it in an envelope, Mike Gunderloy would review it. I was immediately enthralled and began ordering one dollar zines and two dollar cassette demos through the mail.
It didn't take long at all for me to decide that I had to get in on this. Finally, I had found a way to contribute to the scene that I had only watched from afar. Punk culture was no longer "out there" as much anymore because I could be a part of it via the U.S. Postal Service. I enlisted the help of my good friend and music collaborator, Johnathan L. Perry, as co-editor and we went to work immediately on our first zine, Apparitions of the Future. It was a cut and paste tribute to everything we loved. Death rock, poetry, books, comics, and whatever else we could throw in the mix. Scissors, tape, glue, stolen library books, and contributions from friends we had met through the mail were the tools of our trade. We would go to the copy shop down the road and re-size all our bits and pieces to fit on a standard sheet of typing paper and then back to my room to put it all together. Once we were finished with an issue we would copy a few to send out to other zines for review and then wait. Before long the orders would start coming in and we would wait until we had five or six and then make another trip to the copy shop, repeating the process until we had put another issue together.
This was our internet. I met a lot of people when I started doing zines and contributing to the ones that others did. Some of those friendships lasted many years. I remember going to my mailbox and never knowing what would be in there. Mail art, which could be anything really, was one of my favorite weird things to receive. Sometimes it would just be an envelope full of glitter or something else you could never send in these days of anthrax and "terror". I'd also get loads of cassettes from bands and strange propaganda from environmentalists, anarchists, and nazis alike. I think I was introduced (and eventually ordained) into the "mysteries" of the SubGenius through one of those random mailings. Anyway, my point is that this was my first Renaissance. Apparitions of the Future was not the greatest piece of art or the most intellectual of the staple rags out there but it was mine. Johnathan and I put it together with the same vigor, immediacy, and love that we made our music with. I was still a sophomore in high school with a fanzine that was going out all over the world and playing original music with my own band, The Flesh Thorns, every few weekends in clubs I wasn't even allowed in as a customer. I was tortured by adolescence and happy about it at the same time. But I couldn't wait to get out of school.
All that survives of Apparitions of the Future, at least in my archives, are three issues. If you'd like to take a look at them in their entirety, here's a link where I've scanned and uploaded all three of them as image files.
Download "Apparitions of the Future" (20mb)
Friday, November 14, 2008
Posted by Psyche Zenobia at 10:35 PM
My love affair with zines and publishing started when I was only about 11 years old, before I even knew what a zine was. My friend Robbie, who lived in the same apartment complex, and I were big comic book fans like most kids our age. We were also big ninja and Kung-Fu Theater fans. Our local comic shop was (and still is) Mountain Empire Comics, and we would spend every cent we could get our hands on for the best in Daredevil, X-Men, and a whole slew of other favorite titles.
Since Robbie and I were both artists ourselves, it didn't take long for us to figure out that we could make our own comics. We could take out all the boring parts of storylines geared towards older readers and pack our creations with nothing but action held together by the most tenuous of premises such as those we saw in those classic Shaw Brothers films. Our first creation was a series called Ninja Tales. Obviously, our intent was to indulge our fantasies of living out the lives those mysterious assassins of the East while exercising our talents for art. Our two main wandering ninja characters were based on ourselves and we shared artwork duties by each drawing our particular character and taking turns when it came to enemies. With blood, swords, revenge, and bad guys with names like "the Dominator" we couldn't go wrong! When we finished an issue we just stapled it together and took turns reading it as if we had bought it off the shelf over at Mountain Empire. With no concept of photocopying or distributing our little creations, Robbie and I were content to just move from one issue to the next and maintain our imaginary comic book company in the realm of our minds. We called this company V.P. Comics Group after the initials for our last names, Van Huss and Price.
V.P. Comics went on from Ninja Tales to branch out with other titles such as the Lightwave series, which was my pet project, and a few one-shots with titles like Shuriken, Super Stooge, and Black Belt Bunnies (apparently inspired by the contemporary trend of various animal species turning ninja). If my memory serves me well, we made these little comics for about a year or so until my family moved out of the apartment complex and gradually Robbie and I lost touch. Somehow I managed to hang on to these first forays into publishing over the years and they remain in near mint condition, haha!
Not long after I moved away, and V.P. came to an end, I began discovering punk rock. I was probably about twelve years old and life began to change dramatically. My first girlfriend, first band, and first zine were not far away. The DIY ethic of punk rock really appealed to me as a young person and, having already done it myself when it came to comics, I was immediately smitten when I first discovered the underground press and the world of cut-and-paste fanzines.
Posted by Psyche Zenobia at 6:57 AM