Hi BGN fam! I’ll be writing a series of short posts about some of the subscription boxes currently on offer at Cratejoy, a service that features a variety of shipments for practically every single nerd-itch you could muster. Most subscriptions provide numerous options for size, item-type, and shipment frequency. To find out more, check out their website.
Recently I was talking to a friend who had never heard the term “zine” before. He remarked “Isn’t that just short for ‘magazine’?” Rather than respond with righteous anger, I was saddened by the notion that the time for the DIY, hand-distributed, homemade comic may have been dismissed from the zeitgeist.
Of course, zines don’t always mean comics. The portability of the format is probably the best identifier, typically being a self-printed folded-over 8 ½” x 11″ collection of printed pages featuring artwork, photography, handwritten ramblings, printed essays, sketches, doodles; it’s unfettered creativity as its own physical objet d’art, usually priced-to-move, and most likely placed in your hands by the creators themselves. It’s harder to define what a zine isn’t than what it is, but there is a recognizably comprehensive history that makes space for fan-fiction, erotic stories, poetry, and virtually anything else that can be put on a page.
The format remains alive, striving, and thriving into the digital age, stacked in rows at comic conventions, or in their own dedicated bins and racks at certain comic shops (bless the ones who still give them shelf-space). While the internet offers an easy venue to sell these to the public—Etsy tends to have a nice variety available, though they’re hard to search for and are consolidated with “magazines” by tag—it’s seeking out the best of them that proves the trickiest. Which is what brings us to this Cratejoy shipment.
Zine-o-Matic intends to send you a nice bundle of zines, stickers, and related ephemera once a month, with what looks to be an emphasis on quality and diversity of content. This month, the star product is probably Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore, a probing, heartfelt, and witty short comic about the perils of Blackness in casually non-Black company. I was mostly unfamiliar with the creator and was especially grateful to discover this talent.
In addition to this comic (probably the most professionally bound/published item), there’s also a short memoir by Cambodian writer Aki Ra, Theo Ellsworth’s Imaginary Homework (definitely the most well-known creator in the bundle), and the wonderful mini-comic Love Is Stupid by Jenny Cao. The latter is exactly why you would purchase something like Zine-o-Matic, because I could barely even read the handwritten website listed on the back of the comic, let alone know how to begin to search for something like this.
In terms of dollar value, Zine-o-Matic does not technically represent an excellent ratio (since the total cost of the items closely approaches the cost of the subscription), although this is a little hard to determine based on the type of product we’re talking about (many items do not have an easily-found listed price). But, in my opinion, that’s entirely reasonable; this sub is about paying for a savvy curator to find you artists and reads you’d have trouble seeking out on your own. If this month’s shipment is any indication, the curation casts a wide net, offering up established creators alongside excellent unknowns.
If you’re interested in discovering more indie artists in a groovy collectible format, definitely try out Zine-o-Matic.
Approximate Cash Value: $20.00-$25.00 (hard to determine with some of the included items)
Cost of shipment: $18.99 / $22.99 (two sizes of shipments are available)
Shipment Format: Over-sized envelope with padded bundle inside, and will easily fits inside a small mailbox.
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Leonardo Faierman is the senior film editor at Black Girl Nerds. Born in Buenos Aires, raised in Queens, Bar Mitzvah'd at Young Israel, buried under student loans. He writes video game, music, film, and movie reviews, as well as poetry, comic books, bad dreams and good copy. He's 1/5th of the comics podcast #BlackComicsChat and 1/2 of horror film podcast The Scream Squad.