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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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So, not to sound like a jerk but, you do know you are posting this on a site called "We make zines" right? To me that sort of implies that what you make is a zine, or that you accept your creation to be considered under the umbrella of "zine".

The chapbook analogy is a good one though, it is true I might be annoyed a bit if someone called my zine a chapbook, but I also understand that might be the only word they know for what I create. I have also heard "newsletter" or "little magazine" which may sound silly, but when someone has no other word for it, I would hardly complain.

In my head with people who create mini comics and are active in the zine community I sort of assume they are ok with calling their work a zine. I know many mini comic arts that seem perfectly fine calling their work zines.
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.
Thanks for stopping by, Sean! (In case folks wonder why he opened with "Hey Heath," it's because I emailed some of my favorite minicomics makers to let them know that this topic had come up.)

I'd agree with Sean's description of the Venn diagram. I've always considered minicomics to be more zine-like than comics-like, but that's just me. In the APA world, some people call what they make "hobby journals." I think that you can call them -- zines or minicomics, whatever we're talking about -- whatever you want to call them. I won't stop you.

But I tend to be concerned by any hardline attitude. It's what makes hardcore music less interesting, and I'm not sure I find a purist's debate about whether something's a minicomic or zine all that interesting. For example, what if you were describing what you do to someone who's into small-press poetry. Were they to say, "Oh! You mean like a chapbook," then you're much closer to speaking the same language. If they insisted on continuing to call it that, I might point out that chapbooks tend to have one author and focus on poetry and prose, but that's that.

Even within the minicomics world, you have a range of approaches to the form, as well. You have people who are doing traditional superhero comics in a DIY form. You have people doing single-panel gags. You have people doing things that are totally out there. Sometimes they're just comics. Sometimes they're zines. And sometimes they're something else entirely.

Call 'em what you want to call 'em, and let others call 'em what helps them understand 'em -- and be enthusiastic about them. As soon as we go, "Oh, no. That's not a zine. That's a minicomic," it gets stand-offish, confusing, and weird, IMO.
The only chaps I know of go on the buttocks of cowboys or men who put the fab in fabulous, so I'm hardly an authority, but I have to give alex props for the zine call :P
I think this is a great response. I have noticed, at least with the Portland Zine Symposium, that each year there are more comics and they are always welcome. I would say now it is almost half and half.

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............Artists shouldn't spend too much time categorizing what they do. Just make something.
i think it's like squares and rectangles. i often consider mini-comics zines but also as comics and i would then differentiate between perzines, mini comics, music, etc.
People who do mini comics and say they're not zines are like people who say they don't watch TV but they do download TV shows off the internet and watch them on their computer. Technically it might be true and it might make you feel better to say it but you ain't fooling anyone.

There are subtle differences between the mini comics culture and the zine culture but there also differences between the subcultures of music zines and perzines. Bottom line is we're all just a bunch of dweebs with access to xerox machines.
I agree with the folks above that it's basically a matter of "you call it this, I call it that" and as long as no one shuts anyone out, it's fine. I'm a bit confused by the idea that "A comic zine would be a zine about comic books, such as Thwip!" I always considered comic zines to be loosely defined as a crossover between perzines and comics: sort of a perzine in comic book form. Not that a comic zine need necessarily be autobiographical, though I guess the same could be said for a perzine. Wow-- these categories do get confusing, don't they? I just had never heard of that definition of comic zines before.
Got an email from Matt Feazell over the weekend. He said he basically considers a zine anything that's a homemade magazine -- something an author prints, folds, and staples themselves -- regardless of content.

Interestingly, he's slightly strict about minicomics, however. In his estimation, they're always a 4 1/4" by 5 1/2" stapled quarter fold... if it's not quarter-sized, it's something else -- so a half fold would be a digest zine (or comic).

I like what Andrea says about about not shutting anyone out. Neat range of opinions and ideas!
I'm glad this topic is being discussed. Starting a discussion was my original intent with this post, not to draw any hard lines between this publication vs that.

Heath: If Matt Feazell said it, then I'll subscribe to it. He's been at it longer than probably most of us on here have been alive (myself included). I think it's interesting what he said about dimensions, though. I think that brings this discussion to another level. Typically, when I think of mini-comics, I think of those he describes (quarter-sized, 4.25" X 5.5"), which is what he and I publish. However, I'd consider half-size comics to be mini-comics as well, as long as they're self-published. I think the "mini" aspect of mini-comics can create confusion because it not only implies size, but also publication method (i.e. self-published). Obviously, I wouldn't consider something that's half-sized that's published Marvel to be a mini-comic, but I would consider, say, Always Comix to be a mini-comic. That's interesting that he makes that distinction though.

To reply to Andrea: To me, a comic zine describes a zine about comics, just like a music zine is about music, travel zine is about traveling, mental heath zine is about mental health, etc. Thwip! is a zine about comic books, a fanzine if you will. It's a self-published version of what you might find in Comic Foundry, Wizard, etc. That's why I think the term "comic zine" is misleading and why I consider zines and mini-comics to be two things. However, I believe the two to be cousins and employ similar methods of production. I just see mini-comics as being self-published comic books whereas zines are self-published magazines.

I think rather than saying mini-comics fall under the umbrella term "zine," I think mini-comics and zines fall under the umbrella term of self-publishing. I could self-publish, bind, etc. a book and it wouldn't be a zine, but it would employ the same production methods as a zine. Same with a self-published newsletter or newspaper.
Josh Blair said:
I'd consider half-size comics to be mini-comics as well, as long as they're self-published. I think the "mini" aspect of mini-comics can create confusion because it not only implies size, but also publication method (i.e. self-published). Obviously, I wouldn't consider something that's half-sized that's published Marvel to be a mini-comic, but I would consider, say, Always Comix to be a mini-comic. That's interesting that he makes that distinction though.

That's an interesting point. Makes me wonder: Is an ashcan a minicomic?
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.

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