What Are the Zines That Changed Your Life?

Gabe Fowler, the owner of Desert Island comic shop in Williamsburg, has his own top 5:

Forced Exposure was fundamentally a music magazine, but that’s what I wanted to read as a kid. It folded the year I graduated from high school (1993), but I continued to read and reread the articles, interviews, and record reviews for years. Where else could you read Steve Albini mocking the Pixies after recording Surfer Rosa? Pure gold. Forced Exposure also alerted me to tons of art and culture that is still relevant today.”

Bananafish was the West Coast noise zine, and it came with a CD of freaky shit you probably never heard. The early issues came with 7″ records, and those were already hard to find by the time I knew about it. The letters section is a good example of the tone of the magazine: it was formatted like a normal letters section and had a few real letters, but included lots of ridiculous found texts from junk mail, notes from the landlord, and other hijinks.”

Various Small Fires and Milk is an artists book published by Ed Ruscha in 1964. Not really a zine in the sense of ‘little magazine,’ but still one of the most mind-blowing self published objects ever made. It looks like a real book with a spine, a little larger than pocket-size, and consists entirely of photos described by the title. Photographs ‘document’ a variety of small fires, including a gas range, a cigarette, a blow torch and a highway flare. The final photograph show a glass of milk. Why? It’s punk rock.”

Le Dernier Cri is a small publishing company, not a particular zine. But they have been making handmade screen printed books for 17 years by outsider and fringe artists from around the world. They basically make beautiful books of grotesque subject matter, and the sheer labor involved in producing these hand-printed objects over the years borders on the obsessive. So, not really a specific publication, but a mini-publishing movement unto themselves. Check out their insane website.”

Paper Rodeo, Arthur, and various underground newspapers: “Again, this is more of a category than an individual publication, but Paper Rodeo in particular opened my mind to the potential for cheap disposable newsprint as an amazing artists canvas. Working backwards, the history of underground newspapers in America is a ridiculously rich and rewarding history of the expression of unpopular opinions. Most of this material is hard to find, as it was intended as ephemeral in the first place. Beautiful stuff.”