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I was describing to someone recently the difference between a zine and a mini-comic and realized that many people, especially in the zine community, refer to mini-comics as zines. To me, the distinction is clear, but I’d be interested in hearing other opinions and, possibly, educating some. This is my take.

A zine is a self-published zine and a mini-comic is a self-published comic book. The difference between a zine and mini-comic is the difference between The New Yorker and The Amazing Spider-Man. Zines and mini-comics, like magazines and comic books, are two types of media. Mini-comics are not a genre of zines. And they are not comic zines. A comic zine would be a zine about comic books, such as Thwip!.

For some, the distinction might simply be semantics, but to others, myself included, it’s more. Would you want someone calling your zine something other than a zine? What if someone called it a chapbook? I know it’s not the end of the world, but I want to clarify that a mini-comic is not a zine. I realize some mini-comic publishers call their mini-comics zines, and that’s their call. If they call it a zine, then to them it’s a zine. But to a lot of us, our mini-comics, while related, are not zines. Nothing against zines, I enjoy zines, have friends who publish zines and consider myself a part of the zine community, but I consider what I do different than what zine publishers do.

Discuss.

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I would say mini-comic's are zines,since they often have less of a plot,and the consistency of a comic is not as prevelent.Plus,since comic artist's are usually broke desperate loser's who would call thier art a tuna fish sandwich if it would get somebody,anybody to notice it,that the line is so blurred that it is nonexistent.

I love this comment, and I agree with you. I don't know much about the early zine fest attending, but it doesn't surprise me that mini-comics didn't quite fit in until recently. Whenever I've explained zines and mini-comics and fanzines to classes visiting the zine collection where I work, I've always taught that they all fall under the zine umbrella... so it's kind of news to me that an artist might be offended by my break down of the types of zines out there, and I'm sure there are different cultures, intentions, and goals within those areas of self-publication that may or may not conflict.

Sean Bieri said:

Hey Heath,

If you overlapped a red zine circle and a blue comics circle, mini-comics would be the purple almond-shaped overlap between them. They are a subset of both the zine format/ethos and the comics art form. They are, if you will, the Reese's peanut butter cup of self-published books.

Time was that mini-comics were, I think, sort of a bastard child of zines and comics, too frivolous and fannish for either camp to embrace. I recall going to zine shows and with my minis and feeling like the odd-man-out amongst all the political and personal zines. (I ran into a few humorless folks at those shows, too.) And mini-comics were usually only for up-and-coming cartoonists, to be set aside when you get a publishing deal.

But now when I bring minis to craft shows they're much more accepted. I think the DIY scene is more inclusive than it once was. Mini-comics have long since got their due from the comics literati, and even well-established creators (some working in mainstream comics) still produce them now and then.

Artists shouldn't spend too much time categorizing what they do. Just make something.

I think "mini" comics can be of any size. I use the definition posted at Barnard Library's Zine Collection website though. says "Minicomics are creator made comics, that do not necessarily have to be fun-sized." At another place... I cannot remember for the life of me where, I read that the "mini" part of minicomics refers to the size of the print-run and distribution, not the size of the zine itself. That's generally how we decide which independently produced comics go into the comic book collection or the zine collection in my department.

Josh Blair said:

Oh, and I forgot to add something. I have a friend who self publishes comics, but they are your standard comic book size. I would not describe these as mini-comics, seeing as how they are regular size. Rather, I would describe these as self-published or small-press comics.

Just found this thread, and I thought I'd contribute.

 

At this point there are plenty of people self-publishing comics that have only a fleeting awareness of the larger zine world.  There are so many festivals/blogs etc dedicated to small press/self-published comics, that it's easy for a comics fan to discover "minicomics" without ever setting foot in the zine world.  That said, it's clear to me that minicomics are zines, by definition of what a zine is.  Like, before I knew about zines, I called my publications "mags."  That's just because I hadn't yet heard the term zine.  But clearly they were what people call zines.

 

In the early days self-published comics had their own breakdowns, like Matt Feazell alluded to:  those small, quarter sized comics were "minicomics"; half-sized comics were "digest sized" and so on.  I still never refer to my own comics as minicomics, both because they're not quarter-sized, and because I always felt that the term minicomics was co-opted by the more traditional comics world as a catch-all for anything self-published, in a somewhat condescending way-- like they're not "real" comics, they're "mini" comics.  Which of course I don't agree with.  But it's the term that stuck, and it's not worth worrying about too much.

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