Back to the Source: Duval Comic and Zine Fest helps keep a crucial art form alive

Words by Shelton Hull 

 

The third annual Duval Comics and Zine Festival (DCAZ) takes place at the Main Library downtown on Saturday, June 15, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The event is being run by two of my favorite people ever: author and publisher Lindsay Anderson and musician/author Dawn Watley, who’s also a member of Jacksonville’s own Black Kids, two of whose members are former Folio staffers–small world! There will be discussion groups, a risograph printer, and even a build-your-own-zine section where you can learn all the necessary skills, and put them to work in real-time.

 

Inspired by this city’s own legacy in the genre, the Jacksonville Public Library built its own zine collection over a decade ago, and it’s now one of the largest of its type anywhere in the world. Much of this material was never meant to be saved; it dates from an era where permanence was rarely considered, pre-internet, when most of today’s archival storage methods were not yet in common use. Jacksonville has a long, legendary roster of librarians who are/were artists and musicians in their own right, and the building’s contents largely reflect their own values and interests. 

 

DCAZ also offers a great opportunity to look through the zine collection, as well as some of the other unique features of the facility. There’s a green screen area, as well as a 3D printing station. The top floor contains their gorgeous map collection, as well as the Memory Lab, where you can digitize your old pictures, negatives, VHS tapes, Super 8 film, vinyl records and other archival materials, for free — an invaluable resource for all generations.

 

The history of zines in Jacksonville goes back nearly to the earliest days of the art-form itself. Zines can be viewed in a lineage that includes the earliest pamphleteers and propagandists of the American way. The whole idea of cutting and pasting can be traced back (so to speak) to the experiments of William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin in Tangier in the 1950s, and you can see elements of that in some of the flyers and posters for punk shows then, and you’ll still see that exact style being used today. 

 

Politics were always inherent to the genre, but the way we think of zines really goes back to maybe the 1970s, with punk rock and the do it yourself ethos that animated the spirit of that generation, a spirit that remains central to American culture, in particular, as it relates to art and music. Zines were particularly vital in helping to bypass the traditional media filters in regard to minority interests, women’s issues, LGBTQIA rights, as well as leftist politics and other modes of social and political activism. The alt-weekly genre, of which Folio itself is a big part of the history, is essentially a cousin of the zines that service those communities. 

 

You used to be able to pick up the newest zines at long-gone locations like Theory Shop, Fuel Coffeehouse, Stripmine Records and countless others. Chamblin still exists, but most of the others don’t. We had zines like Truckstop, Dare and Section 8 (which I founded back in 1999), and many others that only did an issue or two. Pages typed out, cut up with scissors and reassembled and recontextualized with glue sticks and Scotch tape. The old heads used printing presses and mimeograph machines; we used old copy machines at places like Kinkos and Office Depot, often scammed or pilfered or otherwise generated via “the hookup.” We’d staple them up and split the stash into our backpacks and like peddle zines like corner boys, a dollar each, but usually for free. I still see them in people’s collections, now and then.

 

Once social media really took hold, zines sort of fell into obscurity, which was tough because it was always very obscure. It requires a level of patience and deliberation that is anathema to our modern sensibilities, and those with such tendencies typically put their energies into something more computer-related. But that has changed, and a lot of that is due to the efforts of Lindsay Anderson, creator of the two best zines in this region in the past 20 years. The first was River City Raunch, a down and dirty discourse on hookup culture in the River City, and the second is Mischief on the River, inspired by a saying from the late great Kim Pitts. Issue No. 3 is currently in production, with original cover art by Jason Wright, and contributions from some of the city’s coolest creators, as well as a bunch of new talent receiving their first public exposure. And that, more than anything else, is what the genre is all about.

 

About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at [email protected].