Self-published work pushes through the clutter of ‘likes’ by way of hands, not thumbs
Before hopping on the phone with creators of Duval Comic and Zine Fest (DCAZ Fest) to get the scoop on the previously postponed event happening in the Jacksonville Main Public Library on Oct. 22, I spent a brief period in the library’s Zine Zone. Lined chronologically on the wall, skinny pamphlets of neon blue and pink poked out of the sea of preserving plastic baggies. Unsure of the content due to the lack of a spine on most of the publications, I grabbed one at random, and it just so happened to be Lindsey’s.
Lindsey Anderson has been in Jacksonville for about 25 years. In 2013 they started a zine aptly named River City Raunch, a handmade, self-published compilation of various conversations surrounding sex lives, photocopied and placed in public restrooms around town. Capping out at issue number 10, Lindsey partnered with comic maker Dan Anderson in 2019 to focus on building a self-publishing community where they could host workshops, teach people and later formulate the idea for DCAZ Fest, Jacksonville’s first public event celebrating regional self-publishers. Dan, who spearheaded the initiative, knew a creative and non-judgmental community of creators already existed in Jacksonville; not to mention the River City has the largest collection of zines and comics in the Southeast.
For those who don’t know, a zine (pronounced “zeen”) is a small-circulation, self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via a copy machine. Zines are similar to comics but rely more heavily on text and imagery than illustration and graphics.
Like many things, the pandemic put a halt on print media. Some publications moved to digital or dismantled all together. Locally, Void Magazine went under, and even Folio went on sabbatical for a minute (but we’re still here, lucky for me!). Simultaneously, other tangible things became more popular. Vinyl accounted for more than half of all physical music purchased in 2021, according to a report from Billboard Magazine and MRC Data. Also, the resurgence of film photography last year caused huge price increases and a higher barrier of entry into the hobby. Dan noted a resurgence in self-publishing, and the digitization and accessibility to information during the pandemic which opened a lot of doors with more free classes and workshops. Speaking on the accessibility factor of self-publishing, Dan said, “It gives a space for experimentation that you can’t find in other forms of art because they’re too expensive.” This notion of accessibility is a driving force in the location of DCAZ Fest at the Main Library since the space provides public access to the internet, thousands of books, printers and scanners at a relatively low cost, if not for free. When making River City Raunch, Lindsey didn’t have access to the internet or a scanner or anything of that nature. They simply made the entire thing by hand, which is historically the nature of a zine. Obviously, in this day in age many creators have turned to computers, but, as Lindsey believes, readers lose out on that cathartic state of creation that really makes zines so special.
Zines were originally associated with the DIY movement of the ’70s and ’80s punk scene after the rise of copy shops, which allowed creators to quickly reproduce their work and ideations on social justice, queer history and radical feminism. Today, we are deeply immersed in the internet or, as The New York Times writer Jenna Wortham called it in her piece titled Why The Internet Didn’t Kill Zines, “a Gutenberg press on steroids.” It’s no longer just the stud wearing, spiked-hair humans of planet Earth who have opinions; it’s sex workers, teachers, therapists, musicians, social workers, etc. In the piece, Wortham wrote, “Millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of posts are published to social media sites each day. And yet somehow, it can feel impossible to engage with new ideas, even as our compulsive inability to stop scrolling exposes us to an unending stream of new content.” Zines offer a tangible glimpse at society, pushing through the clutter of likes and shares by way of hands not thumbs. Dan uses comics as a way to process hard emotional times, feeling empowered by the ability to connect with people on uneasy topics. “I have things I want to say about mental health, and I have every right to do that,” he said.
Stepping away from the instant gratification of the digital world to sit down and do a deep analysis of how you’re feeling while documenting the growth and change of ideas over time builds a more <real> reflection of self that won’t get lost or hidden as easily as an algorithm. “Don’t overthink it,” Lindsey said. “Get it out and get it down, and nobody has to see it but you. You can redo it until it’s perfect until you’re ready to share, if you choose to share it at all.” Most importantly, there are no rules.