WHAT'S BLACK and white and read all over by Philadelphia's independent media? Philly Zine Fest, now in its 10th year, is an annual gathering of do-it-yourself publishers, artists and writers that showcases small self-published magazines.
Themed "HallowZine," this year's festival, Saturday at West Philly's Rotunda, offers the chance to flip through hundreds of these publications. There will also be costume, trivia and ghost-story contests, plus food, a DJ and live broadcasts on Drexel's WKDU (91.7-FM) radio station.
"Zines can be about anything and can inspire a lot of different feelings," said Sarah Rose, one of the festival's organizers. The most powerful zines make readers laugh and think about big issues at the same time, she said.
Rose is the creator of a zine called Tazewell's Favorite Eccentric, which addresses addiction, abuse and poverty. Her other zines include Worries, about anxiety, and Dangerous Damsels, about feminist fairy tales. She's shown her zines at fests in New York and Washington, D.C. Casey Grabowski, who founded Philly's fest 10 years ago at the Rotunda, said that festivals help dispel certain stereotypes about zines and those who make them. "It is untrue that all zine writers and artist are vegan, feminist or anarchist. Zines can also be about mainstream topics, but maybe put together in some personal goofball way."
Like their themes, zine art encompasses varied styles. Some look like traditional comics or incorporate hand-stitching or silk-screening. The paper a zine's printed on might be hand-made. These works of art are as individual as the people who make them.
For eight years, Grabowski produced a popular (about 3,500 copies per issue) newsprint zine called Trixine Chemical Corp that featured music reviews and comics. He now produces small-quantity photocopied zines of comics, personal writing and graphic art. He's also a DJ and musician.
Rotunda director Gina Renzi has hosted the festival since it began. It's one of the Rotunda's longest-running events and one that embodies the Rotunda's mission to be inclusive, DIY and community-oriented, she said. "From the moment people set up their zines and tables here for the first time in 2002, the Zine Fest was at home."
Added Rose, "There's always a strong sense of creativity and fun. You can expect to see a lot of punks, hipsters, authors and artists."