Stapled and Xeroxed Paper: The Power of Zines

May 17th, 2001 | Category: Essays

You’re right, Roy, you’re hopeless. Hopelessly obsessed with a time in your sport that died a long time ago… — McGoo

Even after being dissed in Ride BMX (see the November/December 1995 issue) by McGoo, I still believe whole-heartedly in the power of zines. In his lengthy debunking of my DIY print media enthusiasm, McGoo enlisted the help of Andy Jenkins (an explanation of his importance in the zine world is too long to list here) saying, “If Andy’s own words don’t convince a thousand zine kids to throw away their Kinko’s cards and get on with their lives, BMX will remain locked in an era of Club Homeboy wristwraps, Army pants and Vision hipsacks forever.”

Courtney Banks by Andy ZalanAt best, zines represent a hidden circuit of media, a grassroots exchange of information and ideas that slips through the cracks of popular culture. As much as some old schoolers like McGoo might decry them as meaningless wastes of time, zines are literal power in the hands of the people. As Mark Lewman (ex-Editor of FREESTYLIN’ Magazine, head of Club Homeboy as well as “Chariot of the Ninja” zine) points out, “The first zine I did once I moved to California was called Homeboy. I did one issue and some stickers, and it ballooned into a mail-order lifestyle company with 15,000 members, and became one of the first youth culture magazines, a pastiche of art and sport and randomness. So, the power of zines is pretty unlimited as far as I can tell.”

In spite of the proliferation of the Web, zines are not entirely a thing of the past. Every time we do something on our own instead of just taking what’s given to us, we strike a blow to the massive media machine that constantly shoves products and personality down our throats. Making your own zine is not only immeasurably rewarding (ask anyone who’s ever done one), but it gets your point of view out there and incites dialog between readers, riders and other zine-makers that wouldn’t necessarily take place.

Independent BMX journalists wield the power to expose local underground talent as well. There are always obscure riders in sporadic locales ripping like top pros. The way to get them noticed is not to bitch about major magazines’ lack of attention, but to give the magazines a reason to pay attention. As John Paul Rogers puts it, “Quit bitching and get off your ass and do something about it.” 80s BMX zines like Mike Daily’s “Aggro Rag” introduced the world to Kevin Jones, Mark Eaton and The Plywood Hoods long before they showed up in the pages of a national glossy. Daily went on to work for national glossies, which exemplifies the further power of taking the media into your own hands.

If you don’t think John Paul or Losey are giving it to you straight, or you just want to try your hand at zine-making, grab your camera, some gluesticks, write some stories, paste it up and head to your local copy shop. Get your views out there and take the media back.

Lew’s Zine Tips:

  • Hercuean Effort = Make It Worth Keeping: The effort to make a zine is pretty ridiculous–all the writing, photos and art, layout, copying, folding, stapling, addressing, mailing. It better be something really fucking good and powerful when you’re done, otherwise you’ve wasted an insane amount of resources.
  • Top Picks of Today: The best zines out right now: Ed Templeton’s one-offs are consistently mind-blowing. Earl Parker, Neil Hampton, and Tobin Yelland do a zine called “Street Star” that rules. Mike Daily‘s zine about Lifter-Puller was great. I hardly ever get zines in the mail any more though.
  • Fresh Toner: The last zine I did was a thing they sent out with Spike’s commercial video reel. I’ve been planning the comeback issue of “Chariot Of The Ninja.”
  • Package Power: Once a zinekid from Texas mailed me a ketchup sandwich sealed in a bag of dirt containing real texas fire ants. Another time a guy sent me a peanut butter jar containing Scorpo, his deceased pet scorpion. Mostly though, I got an endless supply of stickers, random photos, dry-cleaning tags and other stuff that people thought was too precious to just throw away. I, in turn, would send these off to other zinefolk. It was like an endless ocean of recycled crap. I never got any nude photos, or drugs, or scandalous things like that.

[Faction BMX Magazine, 2001]
[Courtney Banks photo by Andy Zalan; photocopy by Roy Christopher]

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