Five Zines

“Five Rad Zines” . writing & photos by Nate East . February 2011


Doldrums by Nick Wortham

The newest zine from Oakland artist and photographer Nick Wortham showcases intricate black-and-white illustration and collage.  I’ve been a fan of Wortham’s photography for a while, and so was very excited to come across this zine recently at Needles and Pens.  Definitely check out the artist’s site to browse a ton of inspiring and mysterious photography, as well as other work.


No More Bummers #3 by Jason File

This is just number three in the five-part NMB project, chronicling File’s travels across the country and continent.  In this issue, the writer lives in Greenpoint and works at The Strand, places no doubt familiar to many of y’all.  It’s been said before by many a fan and reviewer, but I’ll repeat it here: File is a super solid writer with a Cometbus-esque voice and a great sense of humor, which lend depth and page-turning urgency to sometimes commonplace episodes.  The unconfirmed word on the street is that Mr. File may be working on a longer work (novel?), and if the NMB series is any indication, it’s worth getting excited about.  I’ve now read issues 3 through 5, and hope to track down 1 and 2 someday as well.


Sara Thustra Art Lybrary and Heart 101 by Sara (Zara) Thustra

I first learned of Sara Thustra’s artwork while reading his mission-punk compatriot Erick Lyle’s essential book on the history of underground activism in San Francisco, On the Lower Frequencies.  Since then, I’ve been stoked to discover many local examples of the prolific artist’s work, which shows up everywhere from the walls of Clarion Alley to hand-screened calendars at DIY shops and art galleries.

Printed on newsprint and weighing in at more than one-gajillion pages, the accurately-titled Lybrary is packed with documentation of hundreds of Sara’s paintings, installations, and other work all over the Bay Area.  It also contains a handful of metallic confetti.  Very highly recommended for fans of street art, students of the intersection of grass-roots activism with visual media, and also for Erick Lyle fans looking for visual documentation of the vibrant activist/artist community that he and Sara lived in.  Pics of a recent Sara Thustra art show:


Journey into Darkness by Austin McManus

Super beautiful, stunning, “how is this real?” B&W photographs documenting the exploration of an underground tunnel system somewhere deep in the labyrinthine subterranea of the Bay Area.  The photos are by Austin McManus and feature artist Jurne.  Make sure to check out Austin’s extremely content-rich website, The Flop Box, where you can browse his large selection of zines for sale or peruse photography of the local art scene, including photo sets from almost every art show that has ever opened in San Francisco, ever.


Cometbus #47: “Lanky” by Aaron Cometbus

In this issue, the zinefather himself writes a full-on novella chronicling a few years spent in copyshops, coffeeshops, strange relationships, and elsewhere along the fabled Avenue of Berkeley’s South Side.  The narrative arc and protagonist’s name bear enough similarity to Cometbus’s own to make it unclear not whether the book is a blend of memoir and fiction, but whether any part of it is fictional at all.  Which only adds intrigue to an already very intriguing story.

The book moves along at a quick pace, powered by Cometbus’s signature strong yet sparse prose and penchant for laugh-out-loud one liners woven into often dark episodes.  “Lanky” reminded even this longtime Cometbus fan that what really matters in this world is a fistful of pizza flyers exploding like fireworks in the summer breeze above Telegraph Ave., and I can only imagine that a reader new to Cometbus would find this the perfect point of entry to the multi-generational underground world of DIY culture, a world which Cometbus simultaneously grew up in and helped to define with his zine and music.