When considering the contemporary history of self-publishing, it’s tough to ignore the role that fandoms– centered around a given artist, genre, hobby or other cultural phenomenon–have made.
While fanfiction and fan art are all over the internet today, in the 20th century such work would often be published in zines and pamphlets—and the subculture is still alive today.
Find six notable zines below that you might enjoy, not least because the average cost of a handmade item is under $3 bucks.
Stranger Things: A Fanzine by Chanel Wilkins
Are you in on the Stranger Things craze yet? Netflix recently announced a second season is in the works. If you can’t wait for more, have a look at this fanzine, featuring ten illustrations of your favorite characters–from Winona Ryder to Matthew Modine–rendered in a style reminiscent of what you’d find in a comic or graphic novel.
The images are black and white, done in pencil, ink and marker. Wilkins’ talent particularly shines in the small details: the eyes are expressive, and expertly capture the essences of the characters. As an affordable handmade item (under $5 bucks!!), the Stranger Things fanzine makes a great gift for the superfan in your life (or a nice coffee table conversation piece for your next Netflix night in with friends).
Dragon Ball Fanbook by Samuel Guerrero
Ask anyone about the first anime they watched, and they’d probably say Dragon Ball. The ultra-popular show was a gateway to anime for lots of ’90sKids, and its creator Akira Toriyama is an icon in the world of manga and Japanese animation.
This zine is a beautiful tribute to the series, featuring 18 original illustrations of nearly two dozen characters, from Son Goku and Kintoun to Bulma and Krilin. The cover, colored in cotton candy pastels, has an attention-grabbing vaporwave style that demands a space on your book shelf. It’s a beautiful nostalgic book, which might inspire you to pick up the original manga series.
Muchacha #4: The Funny Female Issue by Various
Muchacha is a quarterly fanzine that seeks to promote the “F” word feminism, encourage involvement in DIY music/art communities & inspire participation in grassroots activism.
This particular issue, #4, is titled “The Funny Female Issue” and while it isn’t based on any one particular hobby or franchise, its contents draw heavily from various women in pop culture. Adorned with MTV “misery chick”, Daria Morgendorffer, this is a feminist zine that discusses heroines and funny women.
It’s pretty hefty for a zine—38 pages—and includes a variety of submissions and pieces from hilarious self-identified feminists. Subject matter ranges feminist performance pieces (“Size 2 Pants”-Guerrilla Girls on Tour!, “How to seduce a feminist”-Sarah Fox), Feminist Disney, comics (“The Migrant Rights Activista on Her 21st B-day” “El Senor Bobo..”) the five stages of death concerning feminism within pop, men’s menstruation, satirical feminist songs, the debate between comedy and feminism itself, feminist jokes, Female Comics of Color, Samantha Bee on Abortion and more.
This radical zine ($3 bucks + shipping!) is perfect for a book club, stich ‘n’ bitch or idle afternoon.
Plant Woman by Daniela William
Plant Woman is a must for any garden enthusiast or reader who loves nature. It contains three prose poems that read like mysterious guides to gardening, meditating on the life cycles of plants and how they can teach us how to live, too.
The text comprises quiet little whispers of literature, accompanied by whimsical illustrations of the woman as plant, the woman as garden—a feminine and fertile space for growth and metamorphosis.
Williams provides us with a wonderful, thoughtful art object on nature that you don’t need a green thumb to enjoy.
Vidalia’s Gallery by Krisgoat
Few fandoms are as active online as the Steven Universe fandom– inspired by the Steven Universe episode “Onion Friend”. And if you’ve fallen in love with the all-ages queer-positive cartoon, too, then have a look at this full-color zine.
Vidalia’s Gallery (named after the character found on the zine’s cover, who is a painter) features 16 pages full of illustrations of Amethyst, one of the show’s main characters. The colors are gorgeous, and the images portray the character in various poses and styles.
There’s some interesting composition work, too, with images overlaying others to evoke the sense of exploring the titular gallery. Any fan of the show (especially Amethyst fans) should take delight in paging through this cute and creative zine ($3.99).
Shakespeare’s Lovers series by Laura Bibby
Forego contemporary pop culture and appreciate the well-established canon with Laura Bibby’s Shakespeare’s Lovers series of zines.
Each zine focuses on lovers from a Shakespeare play: Hamlet and Ophelia in issue one; Orsino, Olivia and Viola in two; and Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in issue three.
If you love Shakespeare and would like a little more insight in Macbeth, Twelfth Night or Hamlet, check out one of these zines. Bibby has a general Shakespeare zine as well to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his death.