Two Saturdays ago, I had a chance to visit the second annual Zine Machine Fest at the Durham Armory in Durham, NC. I spent the afternoon perusing several aisles of booths arranged with a variety of printed matter including zines, comics, original illustrations, screen prints, buttons, stickers, and more. The Triangle was well-represented by many local artists and artist collectives. Several out-of-state guests attended as well.
Zines are typically small, printed pamphlets centered around a particular topic. (The word “zine” is short for “magazine”—just as zines are shorter versions of magazines.) Zines can trace their beginnings to science fiction “fanzines” of the 1930s. Fanzines were a type of printed media that could be cheaply and quickly produced by amateurs, particularly in subcultural scenes. Zines gained popularity in the mid-twentieth century, coinciding with the Beat Generation and, later, DIY and punk culture. In the 1990s, the Riot Grrrl movement popularized zines as a method of spreading political messages, ideas, and stories, while circumventing mainstream media outlets.
Today we can find zines on almost any topic imaginable, and in many different formats. At Zine Machine Fest, I encountered poetry, art, and photography zines, as well as those that told personal stories. Many comic artists attended the fair, bringing with them mini comics, which overlap with zines in the DIY publishing realm.
Below are several examples of zines and mini comics from the RBC’s collection of Latino comic books. These items show how it can be difficult to draw a line between different types of printed media, be it a personal zine, comic book, or even coloring book, but the media chosen by these artists allow for playful and open discussions of sensitive topics.