zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Shoes Fanzine #8

Shoes Fanzine #8: Interviews old & new
by Nate

June 2018

72 pages, 14cm x 21.5cm, b&w. 

$3 (Canadian dollars) plus p+p. Free to prisoners. 

The latest issue of Shoes contains varied and substantial interviews. While it's a zine pretty much grounded in punk, you definitely don't need to be part of that scene to discover something rewarding and thought provoking within its pages. The interviews tackle issues affecting countries the world over: the rise of white supremacy; the gentrification and cultural smothering of cities; the further marginalisation of certain communities.

Outside of those themes there are also very specific interviews that are utterly fascinating. For example Karmin recounts the story of when she sailed the Pacific Ocean for seven months with only her estranged dad for company. There is also an inspired then & now interview with the infamous Aaron Cometbus. Nate first interviewed him back in 1999, and asks the same questions again in 2018, without allowing Aaron to see his original answers. The result is a rare insight into the drives and despair of the man behind the longest running zine. 

In fact Cometbus is the closest comparison to Shoes that comes to mind - apart from the obvious overlap of punk & activism, there is a larger ethos both zines share. And from where we stand in 2018, spreading the reach of that ethos is no bad thing. 

To get hold of copy contact Nate directly: shoesfanzine [at] hotmail (dot) com

Or write: Shoes Fanzine, PO Box 88023, Chinatown, Vancouver, BC, V6A 4A4

Please say Syndicated Zine Reviews sent you. 

Review by 
Nathan Penlington

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bombinate #1

Bombinate #1: bees

20 pages, A5. 

£3 (free shipping in UK, int postage varies)

I'll be honest, I had to look up the meaning of 'bombinate':

verb (used without object), bom·bi·nat·ed, bom·bi·nat·ing.1. to make a humming or buzzing noise.

Which is obviously fitting for a zine whose theme for issue #1 is bees, but also fitting for a zine literally buzzing with ideas. 

The bee crisis is already a very real problem - in recent years the UK alone has lost three species of bumblebee, and in parts of China apple farmers have been forced to pollinate by hand. Objectively, at this point in time, you could only say things are going to get worse the world over. 

Some of the work in Bombinate #1 tackles this issue, while other work takes bees as metaphor, image, narrative: a bumbling encounter between new lovers; feeding sugar water to the dying; two bees on the coffin of great-uncle Evan. 

Bombinate #1 contains mainly poetry, alongside a couple of short stories, with illustrations by Mot Collins.  The styles are diverse, and give different opportunities to view the same topic through different eyes and different angles. This diversity of content is increased in following issues, and the Bombinate submissions guidelines state they are looking for fiction, non-fiction, essays, plays, flash fiction, poetry, and recipes. 

For a reason I can't quite articulate a section of Fionn O’Shea's 'helo this doesn’t have a title' has set up home in my brain:

"there was a post I saw a while ago how you can see in google stats that in every single language that google supports, someone has searched 'where do the birds go when it rains'. The post was about how it's nice that everyone everywhere hopes that the birds are ok when it rains. I hope the bees are ok when it rains." 

To extend the image, in a world that is raining hard I'm happy there are places like Bombinate to retreat to. 

And don't forget to submit your own work. More info here: https://www.bombinate.space

Review by 
Nathan Penlington

Monday, August 13, 2018

Läskimooses - year #2 (2013)

Läskimooses - year #2 (2013 - numbers 10-15)
Matti Hagelberg 
23cm x 17cm, black and white, colour covers.
6 issues, variable page count (24-38 pages), with A4 English translation sheets.

€60.00 (Euros - price per year)

The second year of Matti Hagelberg's Finnish experimental comic book epic continues the precedent set by year 1. My reviews will take the series year by year, until we catch up with the latest issue #42 - the full set of reviews will be found here, and like the the series itself its probably best to read them in order.

A simplistic way to describe the narrative of Läskimooses is a series of nested and interconnected diversions. In year 2 that means exploring the Fu world, and with it the questions that arise: What is Ohto? What is the relevance of the sad life story of the ape-like Antti Treebranch? Our interrupting conversation partner reveals more of his theory about monkey evolution - facts he's combined from sources like Planet of the Apes, King Kong, Tarzan, The Flintstones, and the odd newspaper story. 

Läskimooses hangs over everything, an absence and presence both in the narrative, and the larger world of the comic, always circuitously avoided yet constantly referred to.
Yet, it is the completely textless silence of Issue 14 that leaves the most impact. This is the first time we get a glimpse of the wider world of the narrative, and begins to answer the question of where we are, as we follow the source of the ominous klanking that leaked into the end of the previous issue. What is revealed though only increases the unease, and multiplies the questions. 

Fittingly, the artwork within Läskimooses also diverges in this issue, as 'reality' seems to be constructed with images culled from war comics, "I didn't read that much comics", said our interrogator in Issue 10, "except for war comics. That's a bit like studying history". 
The textual silence continues into Issue 15, when our conversationalist finally returns "What do you say, should we continue?". 
At this stage in Läskimooses, how could you answer anything other than "Yes".

Here's a short documentary of Matti working on the series:
You can check out some samples of Läskimooses here, along with the international ordering info. Most of the sold-out issues have just been reprinted, so it's a rare occasion that all the issues are available - so get in quickly: 

Friday, August 10, 2018

A guide to picking locks - #1

A guide to picking locks - #1
Nick Adams & CrimethInc /  Microcosm Publishing

21.5cm x 18cm, 80 pages

Cost: offered as part of Microcosm Publishing sliding scale pricing $6.95-$10.95

Confession time: as a kid I was really into magic, and like pretty much every young boy who is into magic I developed a fascination with the most famous magician in history - Harry Houdini. Houdini, of course, most famous for his infamous escapes - some of which form part of his legend, some very much still in the popular imagination (scenes in films like Mission: Impossible, and Ocean's Eleven, owe a huge debt to Houdini). My obsession with Houdini meant I read all the locking picking books I could find, persuaded the postman to donate any sacks they were throwing out so I could be tied inside to try and escape, and my mum even knitted me a straitjacket. If only this zine existed back then, perhaps my interested would have developed in a more practical way.

A guide to picking locks - #1 is another compilation zine lovingly produced by Microcosm Publishing, essentially a revised and updated compendium of PLT (How to make your own Professional Lock Tools 1-4)

Don't get me wrong, this is not a zine for wannabe Houdinis, it's a meticulous and serious guide to making and using your own lock picks. It takes you step-by-step through the principles of lock pick design; the types of metal and tools you need to make various picks; layout, grinding, filing and finishing; the most common types of door locks, as well as car doors, and office equipment. 

If you have access to a moderately equipped workshop you could easily follow this guide - the illustrations and text are crystal clear - and with a steady hand and practice you could  have a solid sideline as a locksmith. Nowhere in this zine does it encourage breaking the law - if you are mindless enough to break and enter you are unlikely to want to put the time and effort in to mastering these techniques. With this skill set comes responsibility, but it might just save someones life. 

As for how I escaped from that knitted straitjacket? I'm afraid that's a trade secret. 

Buy a copy of A guide to picking locks - #1 direct from Microcosm: https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/2883

Review by Nathan Penlington

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The CIA makes Science Fiction Unexciting

The CIA makes Science Fiction Unexciting
Series edited by Joe Biel

Microcosm Publishing

18cm x 11cm, 160 pages

Cost: offered as part of Microcosm Publishing sliding scale pricing $7.95-$11.95 USD

Microcosm Publishing excels in producing a diverse array of zines, and perhaps more importantly also produces compilation publications that collate together and reprint series of zines that would otherwise be unobtainable. 

The CIA makes Science Fiction Unexciting is an updated compilation of the first 5 zines in the series, which were originally written ten years ago. Subtitled 'Dark Deeds & Derring Do from 1950 to Today', it examines the secret history of the CIA and the shadowy world of American politics. Looking at the USA today, its a publication that has never been more relevant. 

Broken down into chapters that concentrate on separate events or topics: The assassination on Martin Luther King Jr; AIDS & biological weapons; how the PATRIOT act infringed upon basic American rights; the assassination of Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios; and the reality behind Iran-Contra. 

While some of these topics are certainly in the area of conspiracy theory, we are living in a time where political conspiracy is revealed on a daily basis. Nothing in this publication is beyond the scope of a government with global power and the wealth of the 1% as its key motivators. 

The content is extremely well written, leading the reader through the relevant terms and key players, building compelling arguments with thorough research, incontrovertible facts and data, examining and eliminating secondary sources where necessary. If you want to dig deeper each chapter has its own list of further reading and references. 

While incidental to the text, i
t's stylishly designed and illustrated, and just goes to prove Microcosm's attention to detail.

The CIA makes Science Fiction Unexciting
 is a book that will fit in your pocket. Buy it, carry it with you - and if you ever disbelieve the way the US is heading, have a look at where it's been.

Review by Nathan Penlington

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Läskimooses - year #1 (2012)

Läskimooses - year #1 (2012)
Matti Hagelberg 
23cm x 17cm, black and white, colour covers.
9 issues variable page count (24 pages - 32 pages). 
€60.00 (Euros - price per year)
As I've said before, zine makers are currently reaping the advantages in printing technologies and new distribution channels. Allowing independent writers and outsider artists to create work that are still zines, but also overlap with other forms and formats. 
Läskimooses straddles experimental comics, diy culture, punk aesthetics, and graphic art.  With 42 issues already published, it is the longest single comic book story ever produced in Finland. I've been sent the entire back catalogue for review - but rather than a torrent of single issue reviews, or a huge full series review, I'm going to break it down into years - the same way the subscription is sold. 
Läskimooses contains elements of pulp sci-fi & pop culture, and the history of the universe. But in essence Läskimooses is a parody of conspiracy theory, you know the kind that underpins TV shows like Ancient Aliens - theories that begin at the fringes of reality and quickly veer off into unhinged absurdity. 
Yes, I know what you're thinking - what exactly is Läskimooses? You'll have to read as far as Issue 5 before you can start connecting dots, and the story with the title. The narrative is plotted in an intriguing way. Largely its a conversation between two people - one is unseen (the reader is given their vantage point within the conversation) - while the other person constantly interrupts with counter stories and theories, and frustratingly often wanders off to make coffee. Everything that happens is part of what they are telling each other, and as you begin to piece together details you realise perhaps it isn't as straightforward as that. 
The art is completely suited to the content - abstract frames alternate with fantastical creatures, clearly drawn with an obsessive line. It's that obsessive line grid, combined with a scratch technique to create white on black, that gives Matti's work a distinctive quality.  
Läskimooses is written entirely in Finnish but thankfully, for the non-Finnish speakers, each issue comes complete with an A4 sheet containing English translations. My initial concern was that reading the translations would disrupt the experience, but really it's no different than watching a film or TV show with subtitles. In effect, for me, the Finnish text only helps create a dislocating effect that adds to the strangeness of the story. 
I think you can genuinely compare Läskimooses to the epic TV series phenomenon - the world it creates is huge, the characters intriguing, and its not afraid to push and pull you in directions you think you don't want to go.  So far I've only read to the end of Issue 9, and I genuinely can't guess where we're heading, all I know is I want to stay on the ride. 

Here's a short documentary of Matti working on the series:
You can check out some samples of Läskimooses here, along with the international ordering info. Most of the sold-out issues have just been reprinted, so it's a rare occasion that all the issues are available - so get in quickly

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Terrible Stories from Kelly McClure

A5, 28 pages (cream and navy).

What qualifies as terrible? Quite a lot of things, I should imagine. The lack of politics taught in Britain’s schools? The internalised gender divide? My colleagues’ insistence on discussing nothing but Love Island for the past two weeks? All are different flavours of terrible.

Kelly McClure’s stories certainly aren’t terrible, which led me to the conclusion that she must be the sort of person whose modesty is so extreme that she would actually take the naming of her anthology as a weird opportunity for self-deprecation. Slightly bemused, I began to read, and then I got it – perhaps it wasn’t the stories that were terrible, but the characters.

A sadistic rancher, an imperfect mother, an extreme introvert. In truth the characters’ personalities are scattered all over the morality spectrum, and it’s difficult to judge whether each of them are good, bad or other.

One of the interesting qualities to McClure’s writing is that her stories feel more like scenes, the reader is placed into the characters’ lives and just as they begin to feel like they know them, they’re whisked into the next story. This anthology seems to be less about providing the reader with entertaining stories, and more about creating a feeling of kinship with the characters (whether that be positive or negative). It’s an interesting read and skilfully written – these six stories will play on your mind for a long, long time.

You can get a copy of Terrible Stories from Kelly McClure via Budget Press here.

Review by J.L. Corbett

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A short, sad story

A short, sad story

by Will Conway

A7 zine fold from A4. B&W print on coloured paper. 


A short, sad story is, well, a short, sad story. 

The zine is similar to Will's other work that I've had the pleasure of reviewing, in that it is made up of witty wordplay with a poetic sensibility. 

Each page contains a line or two, illustrated minimistically, that also work towards the whole. The whole in this instance being a love poem. In my opinion it's worth reading for the last line alone.

Buy a copy on Etsy for only £1.50: etsy.com/uk/listing/579513592/a-short-sad-story-booklet-will-conway

And while you are there check out the rest of Will's zines (some of which are reviewed here) - a pick up a couple of other ones too. 

Review by Nathan Penlington

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Arc 1-4

Arc 1-4

by Will Conway

A7 zine fold from A4. B&W print on coloured paper. 

£5 for four issues. 

A sci-fi saga told through a four part series of linked zines. 

Expect interplanetary warfare, artificial intelligence, hybrid technology, and the ongoing stupidity of humanity. The perfect elements for a juicy, witty epic. 

Each page is illustrated by a combination of collage, pen & ink drawings, and paint.  

Buy the set of four via Etsy: etsy.com/uk/listing/589031460/arc-1-4-bundle-will-conway

And while you are there check out the rest of Will's zines (some of which are reviewed here).

Review by Nathan Penlington

Friday, June 8, 2018

The ship'd sailed - stories about friendship and loss

The ship'd sailed - stories about friendship and loss

by Amy Ng & Weng Pixin

A5, 40 pages, coloured print. Plus contributors sheet. 


Part of being human is experiencing loss of someone at some point in your life. I don't mean through death either, I mean the kind of loss that comes through the withering away of intimacy or through sudden departure. 

While loss is understood to hurt if that loss is of a romantic partner, betrayal by - or loss of - a friend is spoken about less, especially between grown-ups. But the resulting hurt and anger is no less real, and is sometimes no less all consuming, than it is when the same happens as a teenager. 

It is these raw and real experiences that Amy & Weng set about collating for this zine. What results is a set of varied stories from life about adult friendships written and illustrated by seven different artists. 

While all of the pieces overlap in anger and grief, their honesty is intimately personal, yet they reach out. In a way, its like talking with a new set of friends. 

Buy a copy of The Ship'd Sailed here: etsy.com/listing/583969599/the-shipd-sailed-stories-about


Review by Nathan Penlington

Volunteers #1 - Rob Jackson

Volunteers #1 - Rob Jackson 

36 pages, black & white

£4.70 (free UK p&p, see site for rest of world)

Volunteers #1 is the first in a series of comics following a group of volunteers working on a preserved stream railway. It's easy to imagine the setting as the perfect idea for a sitcom, and the storyline unfolds with the tension of the best TV dramas. 

It's charmingly drawn, and the script evokes the tension, burgeoning romance, rivalry and chivalry, between the characters. 

Look beyond the steam railway of yesteryear and you'll find themes centred around investment and 'progress', and treachery inherent in capitalism. Volunteers #1 couldn't be more about now, even if it was focused on electric cars.  

You can buy direct from Rob at his website: robjacksoncomics.ieasysite.com - check out the rest of his work while you're there. 

Other comics by Rob are due for review here soon.

Review by Nathan Penlington

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Headwinds - Issue #2

A4, 24 pages (23 black and white pages, colour front cover).

£1.50 (+80p p&p)

Headwinds is a relic made in modern times. The second issue promises more of what was delivered by the first; reviews, interviews, columns and comics.

One of my favourite parts of this issue was the interviews with two ageing punk bands, because the parallels between the them are too delicious to ignore (and perhaps intentional). Culture Shock is a punk/ska outfit from Wiltshire who split in 1990 after an eleven-year run, before reforming in 2010 to put out a new LP, Attention Span. The Proletariat is an American band, originally part of the Boston hardcore scene before they split in 1985 and then reformed in 2016 to play a few shows and put out a vinyl reissue of their debut album, Soma Holiday.

Culture Shock and The Proletariat had their heydays at least thirty years ago, and both have a lot of thoughts about how returning to band life in the age of the millennials is a bit of a culture shock (you’re welcome). For all their similarities, the two bands have somewhat opposing views on the evolution of the musical landscape over the last few decades. Both interviews are an interesting read, even more so when read one after the other.

Another highlight was Mike G’s column detailing his stint as a homeless youth. The column doesn’t quite fit alongside the album reviews, band interviews and comics in the zine, but that scarcely matters. It’s an honest account of a difficult time – even though most readers won’t relate to the panic of not having a home, they will relate to him as a fellow human.

If pressed to find a fault with Headwinds, I would perhaps shoot a side-eye over to the comics. The art style is endearing, but the stories do seem to meander and then cut off somewhat abruptly. I do feel it’s worth remembering, however, that comics are more mainstream than they have ever been before, which means that the bar for them as an art form is staggeringly high.

Much like its first issue, the best part of the second issue of Headwinds is its sense of nostalgia for a time passed. Generations X and Y collide in these pages, and the two fit together wonderfully.

To keep up with Headwinds’ latest updates, you can follow @tblastzine on Twitter. You can get a copy of your own through PayPal by emailing HeadwindsZine@gmail.com.

Review by J.L. Corbett.

Friday, May 4, 2018

More Snippets

More Snippets
by Will Conway

A7 zine fold from A4. Coloured print. 


More Snippets by Will Conway is a pocket sized cut & paste zine with a healthy dose of wordplay. It's tough to review, not because I didn't enjoy it - I did - it's just hard to give a sense or sample of the contents without giving anything away. But think witty aphorisms with a poetic sensibility. My favourite is the bike one, you'll know it when you read it.

Buy your copy on Etsy for only £1.50: etsy.com/uk/listing/580032896/more-snippets-booklet-will-conway

And while you are there check out the rest of Will's zines (some of which are reviewed here).

Review by Nathan Penlington

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What Cubehead thinks

What Cubehead thinks 
by Will Conway

A7 zine fold from A4. B&W print on coloured paper. 


A short comic from Will Conway in which the enigmatic Cubehead ponders the problems surrounding zombie reproduction, energy conversion versus decomposition, before ultimately questioning what it means to be wanted. 

Cubehead as a zombie? I'd be f***ing terrified. 

You can pick up a copy on etsy: etsy.com/uk/listing/593512650/what-cubehead-thinks-a-comic-will-conway

While you are there check out Will's other pocket money priced zines, more of Will's work is reviewed here.

Review by Nathan Penlington

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Minor Leagues #5 - Simon Moreton

Minor Leagues #5 - Simon Moreton 

Published by Lydstep Lettuce - March 2018

62 pages, A4, black & white. Cardboard cover. Plus 22 pages, A6, coloured paper.

£5 (or pay what you feel you can afford) + p&p

The fifth outing for Simon Moreton's Minor Leagues series (previous issues are reviewed here) sees a change to a larger format, and with it an enlargement of Simon's stories to encompass histories beyond his own.  

We learn about the real ghosts that haunt his present, spectral memories from childhood encounters, and thoughts of the recently departed that shift focus when you observe them. 

It's no secret that Minor Leagues has come one of my favourite zine series - and it still has the capacity to surprise, and genuinely move me. In this issue, like previous ones, the interplay of documentary photography, well crafted text, and expressive illustration, pulls you into Simon's world. Included too is an additional smaller zine which explores the locus of this issue from different perspectives. 

Whether this is your first encounter with Simon Moreton's work, or you're a regular reader, you won't be disappointed. It's a zine of hope, heart, and humanness. 

Buy a copy: smoo.bigcartel.com/product/minor-leagues-5

Or visit smoo.bigcartel.com for subscription options.

Review by Nathan Penlington

How to make this booklet

How to make this booklet
by Will Conway

A7 zine fold from A4. B&W print on coloured paper. 


The ultimate in self-referential artist-book meta-zines, or a practical how-to guide for those wanting to see how you make a small booklet from one piece of paper with no glue or staples. I'll be honest, I'm on the fence - perhaps it is both simultaneously, like a kind of Schrödinger zine. 

Either way, each page offers simple, illustrated step-by-step instructions on how to make the object you hold in your hands.  

Buy a copy, and pass it on - you might just help encourage a new zine maker. Or just take pleasure from the philosophical conundrum.

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