Here are are some reviews which date back to the early print era of The New Puritan ReView, which were apparently transcribed here from old floppy discs (yes, you read that correctly) – presumably in the same finished form they would have appeared in the issues of the magazine. The dates on many of these cover a span of several years, so it seems these were what I was able to salvage at some point from all the material which was destroyed over time. C’est la vie!
Another Pair of Shoes
[No. 5; March 91]
Actually, I found this on the floor at my day job; I’ve never seen one in a store, although it supposedly comes out bi-monthly. From the looks of it, that’s probably a good indication that they should print more of these per run. One of the better xerox-produced zines I’ve seen as of late; and some imaginative layout – mostly cut and paste, mind you. Whoever puts this out [identified only as J.] is obviously very enthusiastic about promoting some healthy ideas for living as well as the current underground music scene. This issue [apparently printed in March] features an in-depth interview with a spokesperson for vegetarianism, providing sources of information as well as a list of materials for those who wish to pursue the topic further. There are also listings of alternative press and music distributors, and the addresses of poets whose work appears in this issue. Records and zines are reviewed somewhat briefly, but enough to give an idea of where they’re coming from. The preferred genre here would appear to be hardcore, but unlike so many zines I could say that about, this one shines for its lack of exclusiveness. The general feeling here is a peaceful welcome, rather than snubbing those who might be new to this sort of scene. Also features a casual but thoughtful interview with Babes in Toyland – one of precious few decent ones I’ve come across. Send this guy your money – he seems to care about what he’s doing, and part of that would include reaching out to you. [P.O. 300031, Mpls., MN 55403; 75 or $1.00 postage.]
[Vol. 2, #2]
As I write this I have yet to fully digest the fiber of editor / publisher Mike McGonical’s information overdrive pulp feast; it has reached the point where every re-acquaintance becomes a new sensory adventure. Through no small oversight on my part I was only able to briefly review the 7″ E.P. that accompanied this mega-zine in NPR #6, and I must have read and re-read this weighty tome at least a half dozen times since then. So overcome was I with the feeling that some vital piece of existential insight had eluded my grasp, I needed to return to the well-haunted scene of the crimes by and against humanity to discover any lost shred of truth lurking about. If that sounds too left of field for you, kindly consider that as submerged in other peoples creative juices as I find myself here at NPR headquarters, virtually nothing has hit my senses from nearly every direction and sent more than red and white cells chasing each other through my guts like Chemical Imbalance. Part of the titillation is due to the subject matter Mike and his friends expound on – detailed photography, post-post-expressionistic reviews from gallery crawls to lower east side performance spaces, in-depth essays on contemporary visual artists, musicians, and thinkers of the day.
Amidst the thick of it all, a stark realization emerges from the core of my media-splattered cerebral collective: for once I find myself not being confronted by any allegiance to the no / new / leftist front or its politically correct underground sanctioning. Art – or at least its compulsory tangible manifestations – is the victim on display, and for a change it is not suggested that I should harbor feelings of self-reproach for my voyeuristic indulgence. The most significant characteristic of this literary wonder is the irrepressible honesty with which the contributing writers tackle their subject matter, freely admitting at times their ignorance of certain schools of artistic merit. While were on the topic of shamelessness, how many dwellers of the scene-ic fringe have you read lately that would sincerely critique a recent B-52s LP in the same pages as an Annie Sprinkle performance review, or a retrospective feature on Yugoslavian filmmaker Dusan Makavejev [Sweet Movie], as if to suggest a common element exists in such seemingly distanced cultural habitats? Chemical Imbalance is in itself something of a misnomer, its mission accomplished by maintaining an equally nonchalant yet deliberate balance of chemistry, as opposed to prying things further apart. Not so far removed from the mortal fuel that propelled the legendary climb from Babel, this medium seeks to bridge channels of perception, not scatter the language of creativity so far and wide that no one can understand a god-damned thing. [$5.00, P.O. Box 1656, Cooper Station, NYC, NY 10276]
Chop Fold & Grind
[Issue One, Spring 1991]
Masterminded by one Dan Grzeca, also in part responsible for Industrial Strength [mentioned elsewhere in these pages], this seems to be yet another take on the comic book – or is it graphic novel these days? Call it what you will, you’ll find a diverse range of provocative narrative styles, demonstrating further the potential for the comic genre as an art form, if you will. Many of the ideas depicted here lurk well beneath safe restrictions, often creating a sense of uneasiness for no particular reason other than the uncertainty of our own existence. Not that you’ll find much in the way of gore or other such distastefulness here – the suggestion of such un-pleasantries proves to be more effective, allowing the contributors to demonstrate their keen ability to edit as well as create. Nine Small Coffins is particularly disturbing, but I suppose it depends on how well you keep house, the precedent having been established by illustrator Edward Gorey some years earlier, and no doubt met with an equally aghast reception – sure makes me glad I don’t have any kids. Basically, Chop Fold & Grind is not what most of us have come to expect in a comic book, but then expectations always were a failed proposition at best. [$2.00, P.O. Box 1005, DeKalb, IL 60115]
[No. 1; Feb. 91]
A 52-page surrealist epic that gently lulls you through the intricate netherworlds of creator Joel Orff’s vivid recollections and imaginative wanderings. Orff’s uncluttered pairings of prose and illustration draw the reader into a parallel dimension of youthful fantasy that not only reveals the authors past, but serves to remind us of our own potential for everyday real life adventure. The playfully animated innocence of Orff’s manner and approach has much more to do with adolescent transition and resourcefulness than the actual plot at hand. Cole Slaw centers around a film Orff made which would immortalize his midwestern hometown and the people who lived there. A miniature graphic novel that enraptures and entertains, and made me want to see the actual movie itself. Art imitates life once again and bears out the relationships between humility and flattery. From one of the contributors to Marvelous Marthas Comics. [P.O. Box 10696, Mpls., MN 55458-3696.; $2.00 – other publications available.]
[#25, #26 – Spring, Summer 1991]
Aaron Cometbus brings his famed zine into its tenth year of people-watching, travelogues, coffee shop reviews, and dumpster exposes. #25 came out of Mpls., a long way from its home base in the Bay Area, but it quickly becomes apparent that anyplace is home to Aaron, who seems to be able to tap the pulse of whatever his surroundings are, often transcending the locality with genuine insight and warmth many regional zines themselves lack. While in the Twin City area, Aaron discovered many cool places to hang out and write about: bridges, coffee houses, railroad tracks, a scams section, reviews of trashy paperbacks, and a map of the Green Day tour, by which Aaron first arrived in the city of snow and fake liberalism. Sadly, all of this makes me think how un-adventurous so much of our media is, compared to something like Cometbus, which accepts basic little quirks of humanity as a premise to write and learn about life.
Most of #26 was written in Arcata, CA, and carries on the Cometbus tradition of allowing everyone to espouse their own particular values in order to paint a clearer picture of the kind of society we live in. Nightlife in Arcata, ghost towns old and new, a Bay Area underground report, and a Men’s Room Graffiti Section are just a few of the highlights of this issue, along with pointers on where to find the best coffee and donuts, and the best sites for dumpster diving. Sartre was right – most people don’t let their imaginations run free enough to experience everyday adventure; at least Aaron Cometbus [not his real name, by the way] isn’t depriving himself, and come to think of it, he’s not depriving you either. [$1.00 post. pd., Blacklist Mailorder, 475 Valencia St., San Fransisco, CA 94103]
[No. 7; 91]
Visual histrionics from the contingent responsible for Shrimper Tapes, among other things. Complete lack of slick production values combined with themes of introspection and mundane existence make for a more unique approach to the comic book; my only grumble being that the more issues I’ve seen, the blotchier the ink has become, which sometimes distorts details or renders lettering illegible. Some of the plots here are about as funny as Zen koans, which is the way I like it. Dennis [who runs the Shrimper label] has an ongoing tale called The Bounjas in which the characters exit and re-enter the storyline whenever they feel they’ve had enough [often, it would seem], and a series of sketchbook poems entitled Loaf of Head – good wandering contemplative stuff. Other standouts include: Carnal Addictions by Alex Chavez, in which the recent war gets trounced by a lot of boy / girl talk; Days of Wine & Dyna-Girl and Funny Animals by Allen, in which the Dating Game ritual as well as vivisection are given the existentialist one-two punch; and Girls Comix by Linda W., a slice of life from the …fairer sex. Crump makes for some interesting reading that holds up over time …now if only they’d clean up some o’ those lines… [75 or 3 stamps & an envelope; P.O. 1837, Upland, CA 91785.]
A few issues have come out since I last laid my eyes on one of these, but therein lies a part of the love / hate relationship I have with this publication. Editor Mike Gunderloy has managed to establish a rather prestigious reputation for FF as a publishers network bible, which is fair enough in terms of content, but extremely frustrating for anyone who would care to keep up with the frequency and volume it entails. FF has come to be regarded as an essential vehicle for anyone involved in just about any aspect of alternative publications such as independently produced comics, fanzines, etc.; ranging in content from educational to esoteric. Gunderloy and Co. manage to squeeze out even the most minimal of review space for presumably every zine, album, cassette, etc. that anyone is willing to send in. This would account for the broadest coverage of independent networking/publishing around, with no restrictive guidelines as to content or taste.
I suppose the real problem lies with the horrific glut of material the staff is force fed – everyone it seems these days, is either in a band or puts out a zine of some sort, and they all want our attention [or bucks]. In what hardly seems an adequate amount of time for familiarization with the content of what they are sent, the busy FF staff rattle off hundreds [thousands ?] of capsulized reviews which attempt to capture an impression of each and every contribution. While this is probably reasonable enough for a paid [?] staff of writers, the potential effect it has on the reader is sheer overkill. It hardly seems likely that anyone can absorb an issue’s worth of reviews alone, much less seek out any of the releases themselves, before another issue of FF hits the stands.
Like a lot of independent zine publishers, my incoming mail increased significantly after a few mentions in FF, wherein lies the charm of it all for most folks. I must confess however, that most of the mail I received was from eager bands who routinely scour FF looking for places to send their demos, and not the art community I would have liked to reach [ – and have done so only through my own private distribution]. So what am I saying? If you’d like to see your name in print, FF provides a good method of achieving that goal. Personally, the mystique of too many condensed reviews [not to mention mail order in general] have kept me from sending out my random dollars all over the world in search of the eclectic-sounding titles listed in FF – I find for my money that rifling through the racks at newsstands and record stores provides me with a reasonable amount of literary culture, and allows me to see whether all those publishers are really interested in getting my attention or if its just something they do when they become bored. As for Factsheet Five, something about good intentions paving the road to hell comes to mind… [6 Arizona Ave., Rensselaer, NY 12144-4502]
[Number 9, Apr. 1991]
Miriam-Webster defines odious as “causing or deserving hatred or repugnance”; presumably that’s what the conspirators behind Feh! have in mind as suggested by their subtitle: A Journal Of Odious Poetry. I guess it comes down to whatever floats your boat; in this case that would include numerous references to bodily parts and their respective expulsions, sly schoolboy-ish innuendoes, and just generally absurd writings – intentionally so, I might hastily add. One tends to forget on occasion the art of the truly absurd – so surrounded are we by professional standards of literature, or on the other hand, shock-value elitism with little regard for substance. Feh! suffers no such ill-fated dysfunctionalism – the silliness abundant in these pages is thick enough for you to sink your teeth into and find them stuck there; at the same time so embarrassingly inhibition-free to make you want to read it in private. I’ve recently added Feh! to my selected bathroom reading materials, if only to observe the confused expressions on my guests faces when they exit. Let your friends know you care – do ‘em the same favor. [$1.00, 2226 Hennepin Ave., Box 20, Mpls, MN 55405 – Back issues $1.50 each, $10.00 for an entire set.]
[No. 8, Summer 1991]
What does queer mean to you? Whatever your answer, its likely you’ll find it here. Editor Lar-Bob has his fingers pressed firmly against the pulse of a sizable network of queer-minded citizens, and this well-assembled zine serves to amplify the heartbeat of a nation. While many of us are more often than not taught what defines queer, Lar-Bob makes no such rash generalizations, allowing his readers to take matters into their own hands. After all, it is a free country, right? If you are offended by words and pictures having to do with ideas and opinions [not to mention feelings], this li’l pocket-sized pal oughta send you into one heck of a tizzy. Why, there are drawings in here of men and women showing off their privates, and articles discussing what it feels like having intimate feelings for someone of the same sex as yrself; most important however, is the ever vital networking info Lar-Bob thoughtfully provides, so interested readers can venture beyond the lonely confines of casual voyeurism into someone else’s world, and actually become a participant.
While in itself, the mag functions simply enough as a forum for the passionate and all-too-often ostracized, a few points become painfully evident while browsing through its well-drafted pages: 1) there are a lot of people out here who have had enough of being bullied because of the terms dictated to them by their very nature, 2) the distinction between one persons desires and another’s are as vast as the number of people currently residing on the planet, 3) the number of people who prefer alternative lifestyles is clearly so great it can hardly be considered a minority – duck and cover, all you so-called P.C. white liberals! Tell the truth, do you squirm when confronted with the sexuality of others? Do you consider people who don’t think like you a challenge? I might suggest that you trot off to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Holy Titclamps, and check out a lot of people who are obviously a lot more at ease with themselves than you might believe possible, maybe even meet a few friends! Dispel the notion that this is a movement-baiting device, it’s actually just a lot of people who live their lives the way they choose to, and they heartily encourage you to do the same – and enjoy it! [Address to Boxholder, P.O. Box 3054, Mpls., MN 55403]
[No. 1, Spring 1991]
Presumably, this attractive looking zine was borne out of the need to escape a 9 to 5 existence and at the same time increase awareness of the industrial / dance genre; of which one goal was sadly fallen short and the other achieved quite nicely. Those of you who long for the beat of a different drummer [electronic, in this case] may be pleased at the care which has gone into this nifty little zine, friendly enough to spark the interest of the mildly curious as well as devotees of such bands as Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, and the like. The debut issue features casual interviews with Jim Thirlwell [a.k.a. Foetus, Wiseblood, etc.], Thrill Kill Kult [a disco band, mind you], a lovely pictorial review of a Revolting Cocks/Skatenigs show, and pages of vinyl reviews that are insightful and intuitive. Add an illustrated account of a gangster dog and an animated travelogue with Dionysus, and you have the making of a rather refined cutting edge publication that easily transcends its target audience. A fine example of freedom of expression that encourages readers to take a look at another set of alternative values, which is something we could probably stand a bit more of. [$2.00, P.O. Box 541, DeKalb, IL 60115]
Marvelous Martha’s Comics and Stories
[No. 7, Spring 1991]
Leave it to a bunch of old movie and obscure television buffs to produce one of the most deranged visual stimulants this side of the Atlantic. Eye-catching layout done by hand, a brain-twisting panorama of cartoon styles and plot assassination, and …just like it says on the cover – stories, the likes of which you will never read in Lit. 101. M. Cahill, [whose vacillating delineations can be found elsewhere in this issue of NPR], subverts the second generation Star Trek cast and renders them in desperate need of therapy, while elsewhere Joel Orff [creator of Cole Slaw] gives ice-fishing a bad name – unless of course, you happen to be a fish. The ongoing obsession with Ron Howards sibling Clint continues, and special thanks to this bunch for reminding me about marsupial thug actor Rondo Hatton, better known during my terror-stricken childhood as The Creeper.
The lovable staff at Martha’s plumb the depths of contemporary cultural kitsch as well as the antics of our parents’ generation, wresting forth an un-bridged gap between truth and fantasy which they promptly stuff with their two-sided wit. To add to all of this good-natured charm, nary exists here a trace of gore or other equally distastefulness, unlike so many of their graphically gifted peers in the world of ‘zine-dom. It becomes a statement within itself when the very absence of bad taste is an outstanding feature of any medium, but the proof is all here. As with the last issue of this fine publication, this one was accompanied by a rumor of its demise; it seems that few outside contributors have been making their presence known. Any and all scribes and scribblers of substance are here-to-forth-with urged to drop Martha’s a line, as I have yet to see anything of its caliber floating above the scum of intrepidity, and its loss would surely be ours as well. [$1.50, $2.00 for back issues. P.O. Box 10696, Mpls., MN 55458-3696.]
[No. 5, Spring 1991]
This is a fan – zine to end em all. Blue Oyster Cult-ologist Melne & hubby Bolle pay their favorite band the highest tribute possible: the gift of eternal life. Despite many critics rash Spinal Tap comparisons and many rumoured break-ups, Blue Oyster Cult are obviously very much alive and well, partly due in no small part to the legions of adoring fans such as this publication bears testimony to. Got a favorite story to tell about the band? A tattoo or some other gesture of appreciation? This mag definitely wants to hear about it. In this issue are no less than six fans memoirs of B.O.C. tours spanning from 1976-1991, a pretty well-researched U.S. singles discography, and a profile of the groups late-80s rhythm section. Coverage is also given to band-members related projects and various spinoffs, as well as an article on collectable rare recordings by an early version of the band called Stalk Forrest Group.
Even if you’re not a diehard fan of this band, you cant help admire the enthusiasm of a [dare I say it?] Cult following such as the one responsible for this zine. The theme in this issue is On Tour Forever, and it could be applied to the fans as well as the band in this case. Evidence that the relationship between an artist and their following works both ways and is timeless. Unlike a lot of fans of various scenes who spend a great deal of time slapping themselves on the back, Melne & Co. do their best to keep the band itself in the limelight. Every hard working band should be so lucky – with friends like these, who even notices enemies? [1610 N. Martel Ave. #8, W. Hollywood, CA 90046]
Did man create nature or did nature create man? Both, according to this subtle yet confrontational digest full of images and phrases neatly and vividly assembled for maximum environmental impact on even the most dormant grey matter. Mostly comic art with a bare minimum of text-oriented layout, the message is all too clear: start caring about the planet you live on or lose it. Those of you who cringe at such directness need not worry, as the minimally credited folks responsible for Nozone have obviously taken great care to not preach their nonetheless obvious point. Reaffirming the simple power of the comic as a spiritual mediator some of the finest moments here are restricted to a single panel, emphasizing an absence of clutter throughout these all-too-few pages. The comic aficionado will appreciate the inclusion of both Steven and Dream Of The Rarebit Fiend, which tie in neatly with the overall theme. Yet and still, there is a mischievous bent lurking beneath the surface of this ‘zines content that irreverently pokes fun at diehard ecologists. a call for a seven-year plant-life strike or the clever reversal of the recyclable logo are perhaps indicative of chaos, but ultimately must just be taken for what they’re worth to the reader. Where does it go from here? Anywhere? Maybe with the advent of more literature along these lines, we’ve got more than a fighting chance for survival. [$2.00, 1 W. 64 St., NYC, NY 10023]
[No. 16, Spring 91]
A full-size magazine that lives up to its name more often that not. The main focus seems to be on contemporary darkside culture from an inspirational viewpoint [largely from a religious perspective] as well as the various manifestations. Unlike so many genre-based publications, this 54-page magazine attempts to enlighten rather than ostracize, from a stance that is equally poetic and educational. This issue features remarkably intimate articles and interviews with Ministry, Cocteau Twins, Psychic TV, Sonic Youth, & Jane’s Addiction; as well as referential features on the historical impact of religious heresy and vampire legends. The literary aspect of Propaganda is emphasized throughout, and complimented by excellent band and scenic photography, and overall provides a warm and insightful view into an often neglected element of popular culture. [P.O. Box 296, New Hyde Park, NY 11040; $3.50.]
[#2, Spring 1990]
A one-man-with-a-little-help-from-his-friends operation that would appear to be poised in the general direction of a bona fide trade publication, if it can maintain the standards displayed in this issue; as opposed to the first-take D.I.Y. aesthetic utilized by many fanzines. Fairly sizable vinyl and performance sections, much of which one would have to dig a little deeper to gain access to; a good thing as far as I can tell. After all, if you’re gonna offer underground coverage, whats the point of writing about the same dozen or so bands that every other zine in the country is also writing about? There are bands mentioned here that many of us may have a bit of trouble finding, but one-man staffer Brian Welcker more often than not provides the incentive for looking past the two-way mirror of both the MTV-spawned alternative scenes, and the claustrophobic trendiness of label-generated scenes that amount to little more than a circle jerk most of the time anyway.
Within these pages the reader will find an enlightening account of a childhood road trip, a Killdozer mail interview, a scam story, comics, and interviews with the Cynics and the Bushmen. Of personal interest to this Minneapolitan was the inclusion of the origin of Wheaties breakfast cereal – invented right in my own home town, for crying out loud, and I find out from a guy in Pittsburgh, nonetheless. Interestingly enough, the record reviews are accompanied by miniature drawings of their respective sleeves, rather than photographs – just another indicator of what is obviously a labor of love, and not more incestuous lip service to scenes that would choke on their own tails if it weren’t for dedicated souls like Welcker to put things back in perspective. [$1.50, Cubist Productions, 3408 Juliet St., Pitsburgh, PA. 15213. Also ask about Cubist Pop Manifesto.]
[#7, Summer 1991]
I cant believe I’ve never noticed an issue of X lurking around my local shops before, but the full cover shot of Fischer Price’s Little People sure got my attention this time around. That’s right – an entire feature devoted to your favorite childhood playthings, including a detailed 32-year chronology outlining their origin, evolution, and final production run. Childhood enthusiasm at its very best, in other words. Also featured in this issue are probing interviews with cartoonist Evan Dorkin [creator of Milk And Cheese and the Bill And Ted comic books], and Pere Ubu, both of whom reveal their childhood play habits as well as expound on their respective careers. British pop-industrialists KLF are let off the hook about their childhood – there probably weren’t Little People in Liverpool, one must surmise. Also included are a somewhat brief record review section [mainly leaning toward British industrial/techno-pop, a Dorkin-illustrated rendition of Catcher In The Rye that would have likely terrified J.D. Salinger, and informative articles on the molecular structure of styrofoam, and thirteen ways to drive others insane with your Fischer-Price playthings [trust me, they did their homework on this one]. Make yours Brand X next time around. [$2.50, Card House Productions, P.O. Box 1077, Royal Oak, MI 48068-1077]
circa 1994 – 95
#0 – Nov ’94
Not surprisingly, when the door of free speech is left open, free thought + free enterprise are not too far behind. Since the ‘zine explosion has blown the lid off of personal expression in about every walk of life imaginable, it’s not too surprising that many of the new breed of small press publications espouse the very essence of revolutionary thought. Free from censorship [as long as they stay out of the wrong hands, anyway], free of journalistic restrictions [for better or worse], there are a wide variety of DIY publications which can be adapted to yr own political bent, sometimes serving as an introduction to a specific ideology or philosophy, pointing the reader in the direction of further exploration of these ideas.
Awaken is a mix of ideas sparked by Amish influence and anti-establishment anarchistic maxims ranging from Frederick Douglass to Abraham Lincoln to Alexander Berkman + then some. Much of the material in these pages have been appropriated from other sources, in most cases credit given where due. Editor Gargoyle fills in the blanks with their own political slant, beginning with a simple definition: “to end sleep, to wake up, to cause to shift from lethargy or apathy into activity”. Three easy steps to revolution are outlined as well: “awaken, unite, and rebel”. Not surprisingly, Awaken is a reactionary collection of literature + ideas that owes its very existence to the often overlooked oppression we all face every day of our lives, such as the over-proliferation of police control, discrimination, taxation, inequities within the workplace – tell me you’re unfamiliar with any of this + I can only assume you’re dumber than dirt or you lead an absolutely charmed life, or possibly one of the aforementioned oppressive ilk as well; in which case Awaken wouldn’t be the kind of reading material you’d appreciate – but then again, what’s the point in preaching to the converted?
I’m not personally in agreement with all of the ideas espoused within this 44-page anarchic primer, but the basic “Scam” idea in itself does encourage some very creative thought, to say the very least. And, umm …sorry, but that drek about advocating shoplifting from big corporations leaves a lot of questions unanswered in my mind, f’r instance:
• What happens to the fun-loving anarchist who gets caught stealing from the wrong people, and ends up as a love doll in some prison? In some states, punks are exactly the kind of people the legal system wants to make “examples” out of…
• Who decides exactly which businesses are the “right” ones to rip off? Do you single out any one who looks like they’ve got a few dollars, or does someone expertly research who deserves to be ripped off? Is anyone with a business an automatic target?
In addition to the overt political data, Awaken also includes reviews of “Plastic” [the kind you listen to], and “Paper” [what you’re reading]; favoritism being shown toward material of a similar political mindset, in case you’re interested in expanding yr consciousness to include more of the same. All in all not a bad general overview of revolutionary ideas, but the reader should be cautioned to do a little thinking of their own before just accepting all information at face value. Then again, if you need me to tell you that, you shouldn’t be reading something like this in the first place. [Awaken HQ • PO Box 8112 • $? (no price given – I paid a buck for mine) • Tampa FL 33674-8112]
#0 – Nov ’94
A self-described “lifestyle magazine for the 18 to 35 age range” – whew! That would seem to be taking on a lot. Particularly since there isn’t any specific cultural niche designated to reflect the focus of the publication itself. Quite a few ads, possibly due to the 11×17″ format and a keen eye for layout in general, although it is interesting to note that most of the advertising is fashion-oriented, with a slant towards vogue fetishism. Major features in this issue seem to be right in line with this specialized interest – an interview w/ Gen of S + M/rock purveyors Genitorturers, alongside a 4-pg. photo spread on “Fetish Fashions”. For the slightly fainter-at-heart, there are also features on Charlotte, S.C. band Shiner, Tampa ska outfit Magadog, Atlanta’s eclectic + somewhat jazzy Smoke, along with Georgia filmmaker Peter Sillen, area performance artist Grady Cousins, + local spoken word artist Randy Blazak. The hot-cha-cha disco couple on the cover was almost enough to prevent me from picking this up, but I’m sure that wasn’t so for a lot of middle Americans – prominently displayed as it was in the downtown Tampa business district. Whatever turns you on, I guess – which is probably the point here. Still, if I hadn’t read this, I’d have probably never known about Sillen’s video documentary on Athens’ own Vic Chesnutt, and that’s worth a lot in itself. [Babylon Publishing, Inc • PO Box 54037 • Free (in SE US • Atlanta GA 30308-0037 • 6 issues/$10.00]
#7 – 1994
One of the hardest-working and more resourceful ‘zines I’ve seen in this area so far, masterminded by a headstrong and imaginative woman named Fia. My kind of writer – not afraid to remind the music industry that they shouldn’t be too cheap to shell out a few bucks for the occasional ad [do they think we make money off these things?] and it couldn’t hurt their much-desired street credibility to show some support, y’know? My personal complaint about this ambitious publication is that given the amount of music-related coverage, the reviewers seem to be somewhat cut off from the music community as a whole, at least they don’t seem all that familiar with the groups being reviewed, which doesn’t seem likely to satisfy the inquiring minds of culture-hungry ‘zine readers. I just don’t feel that a writer’s personal tastes in art should have that great an influence on the way they write about the bands themselves. Hey, it’s great if you like a band, but are you letting the reader know why? If you hate a band, you can always “lose” a review, dig? Our community needs more professionalism and solidarity, and to some extent there is a good deal of both in Blink.
There is a strong literary focus within these pages, many of the contributors write about an exclusive area of interest, such as socialism or the meaning of [their own] dreams, not to mention Fia’s personal tour diary of the U.S. One article I was glad to see was the “Black Sheep Column” by Al. I’m always happy to read well-written pieces that attempt to raise male consciousness in regards to the very tired and still very prevalent issues of sexism – yes, even within our safe little “alternative” culture. As an aside here, it continues to perplex me that so much profanity still consists of phrases such as “assholes”, “dickheads”, “circle jerk”, etc. To borrow from an inappropriate terminology only seems likely to perpetuate the ugliness that gave it credibility to begin with. Look at it this way – if words like that describe something that is wrong with society, what do those words say about males, for instance? Not very much, I’m afraid. We really do need to do more to counter such degrading views of ourselves, okay?
Other features in this issue include a pictorial, “Art Now”, a photo-pictorial tour of the Miami River, some insightful and entertaining interviews with bands like Fury In The Slaughterhouse and Gas Huffer; a 20-year-old Sicilian girl named Fran who shares some insights of her own upon her first visit to the USA, and a charismatic chap called the Miami River Poet. If that’s not enough, there is a “Letters To God” section, intimate reviews of ‘zines from around the country, a video / film review section, poems and more. Not many ads, like I said, and the price is FREE. Maybe they could charge a token amount – but then, most of the free papers I’ve seen have conservative interests at heart, which is definitely not the case here. It’s a quarterly publication, and if you want to advertise something, write her for rates and show you care about your community. Better yet, get a subscription and help keep it going. [PO Box 823 • Miami FL 33243-0823 • Free (send 2 stamps)]
This is more of an entertainment bi-weekly than a ‘zine per se, but it avoids falling into the rut of catering to any one genre, which is something that far too many indie publications do these days. True, there are some definite “rock” leanings afoot, but as a newcomer to the Tampa Bay area, Focus provided me with an overview of vital information regarding venues, record stores, and much more which neatly touched upon several of my own diverse and eclectic leanings. In keeping with the times, this issue also featured a modern media section, articles on home-brewing, the ReSearch second volume of “Incredibly Strange Records”, Top 10 playlists from local record shops + radio stations, as well as the obligatory record reviews and celebrity interviews [how’s this for an assortment: Les Dudek, Marshall Crenshaw, and Trent Reznor!]. A full-page directory of more than 150 venues in the Tampa – St. Pete – Clearwater region and a three-month calendar of events should keep anyone from having too much idle time on their hands, and just reading this from cover to cover before the next one comes out should take care of the rest. [PO Box 17678 • Clearwater FL 34622-0678 • Free]
Glut [A Jersey Beat publication]
#3 – Fall/Winter 1994
Call it a labor of love – as if the NJ indie vinyl critic behind this didn’t have enough to keep him busy with the Jersey Beat ‘zine. The title of this scene-smart spinoff says it all – apparently up his earlobes in wax, Testa and a few of his pals stricken with the same affliction have devoted an entire publication to the mighty 7″. Acknowledging the record labels that planted the seeds of the vinyl revolution as well as the product itself, Testa includes feature interviews with heads of labels and bands alike. This time around he chats about the biz with Slim Moon of Kill Rock Stars records [home of Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, and the Wordcore spoken word series], and includes a tour diary of Boston band Sinkhole – but the rest of the ‘zine is nothing but 7″ reviews.
For the most part, the opinions expressed are explicit enough for fans and non-fans alike to relate to, generally pretty passionate and surprisingly brief [a talent I’ve yet to master]. Occasionally however, I find myself tripping over the phraseology of “college rock” [huh?] or “alternative” [in the 90s? – alternative to what?], and the ever-popular other-band comparisons, which in my opinion never work and suggest a lack of imagination. This aside, Glut is one potent dose of what’s going on these days, with no apparent restrictions on genre, so anyone should be able to find at least one good reason to shell out for a single in the near future. Bonus points for the Jellito Biafra / Tina Yohannon cartoon and the best live photos I’ve seen in almost any DIY publication – the Bikini Kill pics alone are worth the cover price. [418 Gregory Ave • Weehawken NJ 07087 • $2.00]
Since there are so many ‘zines devoted to the art of making some people’s favorite underground rock bands into larger-than-life characterizations of adolescents’ moping fantasies, I’m naturally endeared to anyone who can pimp the scene itself without really giving too much credit to those in the limelight. NYC loyalist Bill Florio definitely has this attitudinal thing going on which makes it sound like it’s a lot more fun to be the editor of an underground ‘zine than to be one the featured celebrities being talked about [actually, it is…]. When he gets an opportunity to interview punk rock hotshots New Bomb Turks he seems to kind of purposely fuck up the interview itself, giving the band the opportunity to let it fall to the ground without even trying to make themselves look good. [Resting on our laurels already, boys?] Up next is a well-aimed potshot at Spitboy, for being one of those often-talked about “girl bands” that are given more credit for their gender than for any recognizable talent [I haven’t heard Spitboy yet, but the general point itself is well taken].
There are a couple of “real” band interviews, with Chimpanzees and Sticks and Stones, both toting some snazzy live shots by punk photo-goddess Justine DeMetrick, and there are lots of letters to Bill scattered throughout this thing, which give you some insight as to what we ‘zine editors have to put up with in order to maintain our dignity. A few record reviews, a few of which actually seem to have received a second listen, and are probably in the used bins by now. There’s a juicy expose on the Mafia-run recycling industry in NYC, and a load of Conan O’Brien’s mail, but my favorite feature as a recent immigrant to Florida was the scrapbook layout of Bill’s Florida vacation – nice to hear someone not bitch about the place for a change.
The backstage antics at the Bikini Kill show provided for a pretty entertaining review, whether you like the band or not – at least I felt that his remarks about the band were not biased, or based on what his friends think of them. The same applies to The Gamp’s biting satirical wit as he provides Michael Stipe with an open list of topics/subject matter that is not to be desecrated by ending up in a R.E.M. song lyric – absolute brilliance, in my opinion. I can’t wait to see the next issue, assuming some fanatic doesn’t hunt Mr. Florio down with a similar list of things not to write about next time. [c/o Bill Florio • PO Box 1014 50¢ • Yonkers NY 10704-1014]
Picked this up en route to my new digs in Tampa, + I must say I was surprised to find such a strong vote for industrial noise culture in the homeland of Elvis. It’s not-too-big but not-too-small either, making the best use of the space it has with six pages of rather diverse record reviews, and the rest with interviews featuring Godflesh, Thinking Fellers Union Local #282, God, and SF band Mandible Chatter. There’s also a short but to the point ‘zine review column and (surprisingly enough for a tabloid publication) there aren’t many ads, though I’d guess just about enough to float a run of this enthusiastic fan-type-zine. There are only a handful of people credited with the end result, but one gets the impression that they are a dedicated bunch – either steeped in the sounds they cover or willing to listen somewhat objectively to new directions. There is evidently a spinoff label – Manifold Records – with one CD release to its credit as of this writing, and mention of at least one Memphis radio show that is undoubtedly linked to this general area of interest. Should destroy a lot of stereotypes about the cultural overview generally associated with that part of the US. I hope this sticks around and has a chance to develop a bit in terms of coverage and feature articles, since they’re obviously into the labour of love and not chasing a quick buck. Smart bunch. [PO Box 12266 • Memphis, TN 38182 • Free]
Jam Entertainment News
This is about as close as I generally care to get to the mainstream, but as far as getting my feet wet goes, it’s painless enough and ultimately informative. It’s got record and concert reviews of any genre you care to name [Who’d’ve guessed there’d be a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute LP? Not me]. This issue featured interviews with Aerosmith and Killing Joke, although the cover story is about a guy named Riff West [a former member of Molly Hatchet], who is responsible for the 1994 “Animal Magnetism” release to benefit animal organizations PETA and PAWS.
The record reviews are fair enough, considering that I did pick this up in one of those mall-type record stores, and to some extent that mindset is going to be reflected in publications such as these; but I must comment on the lack of insight one writer displayed when reviewing the posthumous Nirvana release, “Unplugged In New York”. Referring to that release as the band’s swan song seems somewhat off the mark, as their last official album was the pyscho-deviant smash hit of the year, “In Utero”. Had it not been for the tragic suicide of vocalist Kurt Cobain, the “Unplugged” session could have easily sat around until record sales slumped, since nearly everyone and their mom has already videotaped the MTV broadcast, the LP’s two “bonus” cuts notwithstanding. The reviewer was evidently labouring under the impression that this performance was to be critiqued in the same manner as an official release – face it, “Unplugged” was a concert, with all the rough edges and variables that most performances are bound to have. This may seem like a moot point, but the journalists of rock culture need to be consistent with the standards of the form itself, and not take on big [or defenseless] game just for the sake of having done it.
Nitpicking aside, this seems like a good example of a possible link between mainstream pop culture and the underground’s “alternative” [does that even mean anything anymore?] rock scene. [PO Box 1867 • Pinellas Park FL 34664 • Free]
#7 – Fall 1994
One of the classiest publications on the face of the earth; chock-full of tongue-in-cheek urbane wit and sublime illustrations – courtesy of Big Chief string-bender Mike Dancey and an assortment of pals. My hat goes off to the clever mind who hit the nail on the head when they listed Funkadelic as the top-ranking LP to accompany the fine art of fornication [“…if you can’t get busy then, you never will…”]. this issue boasts an amazing in-depth feature interview with The Last Poets – appropriately titled, “Not Scared of Revolution”, as well as a prison chat with ’70s cult figure Rainbowhead. The Motorbooty staff leave no rolling stone un-turned in their quest for double-edged humor, deftly illustrated in articles like “The Bank of Coolness and Credibility International”, and “The New Rock’s 7 Hottest Franchisers” [Thurston Moore and Ian MacKaye are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank at that one]. Bonus points for the essay on “Rock Lit”, which includes a comprehensive overview of notable rock’n roll authors such as Pete Townshend, Steven Tunney [of Dogbowl], and Jimmy Buffet [!]. Speaking of influential expressionism, the crew definitely had their research down when they decided to interview former Red Transistor / Rudolph Grey alumni Von Lmo, coming to you directly from the future, filling in a lot of gaps along the way. Motorbooty is the kind of magazine you read in repeated doses, and it’ll never tickle you the same way twice. Visually stimulating and psychologically disorienting, this is the primer for Mind Expansion 101. You’ll laugh until it hurts, but you will definitely be back for more. [PO Box 02007 • Detroit MI 48202 • $3.50]
No. 3 – Nov/Dec 1994
A collective effort from a group of Alabama artists of various mediums, working to provide a broad forum of what art may be and where it might come from. This graceful full-size non-glossy magazine format serves the purpose well, downscale enough to put it within the reach of everyday people like you and me, yet provocative enough to give food for thought, long after the moment has passed. Although sub-headed “a literary arts magazine”, I’m sure most people would agree that one of the most powerful and immediate impressions in this particular issue are the luscious underwater photographs by Kansas [MS] native Christine Hope, in the feature titled “Water Angels”.
Included are features on Th·myris – Atlanta’s own contemporary chamber music ensemble; AL performance artist Jess Marie Walker; and pianist Jay Gottlieb. The remaining contributions to this issue are an insightful metaphorical mission statement on behalf of the artist-as-heretic, an introspective (if not somewhat chilling) short story suggesting the existential and the mundane in a simple household chore, and (saving the best for last) a pair of poetic vignettes from writer Georgette Norman, whose 1993 book From These Roots I will certainly want to add to my collection. The two pieces here merely scratch the surface of an African-American woman who understands very well who and what and where she is, never bothering with the uselessness of why – what sensible answer could there possibly be? Overall, this is one of the more intriguing publications of this sort to catch my eyes in some time, and I hope to see it progress without selling itself short, like so many have before it. [1508 13TH Pl S • Birmingham AL 35205 • Free (in Atlanta + Birmingham) • Subs: $6.00/yr]
An unapologetic promo for Atlantic recording artists, which reminded me what a blurred line exists between major labels and indies these days. Still, there’s a big difference between the attitudes of each camp, as evidenced by the press-kit-ready journalistic style of this somewhat lite-rock publication. Excuse my ignorance, I guess – but I swear I have never personally suspected Bad Religion of being a punk rock band, for instance. Likewise, I hardly feel that a grassroots artist like Daniel Johnston requires any validation from established mainstream crossover icons like Kurt Cobain or the Butthole Surfers. I’ll chalk that up to the fact that basically everything in these pages is basically promotional fodder for critics’ circles where name-dropping is considered sport. At least the editors themselves have a sense of humor about their propensity for sadistic typesetting, and are fairly non-plussed about the negative response from scenic purists. Frankly, it’s not worth that kind of brow-beating, since it is at least on some levels an open door between disenfranchised youth culture, and the – er …franchised version. Proceed with caution – look both ways, if you know what I mean. [Atlantic Records • 75 Rockefeller Plaza • Rm 318 • Free • NY NY 10019]
#10 – Dec. ’94/Jan. ’95
Boy, when the editorial staff at Stay Free! take on a theme, they take it all the way. Not being content to simply share the seemingly incongruous topics of “sex + food”, this happy-go-lucky bunch of boys + girls from Chapel Hill go so far as to point out the commonalities between the two. This provides for some eye-catching layout, to say nothing of some very – ummm …stimulating conversational ice-breakers. Without any beating around the proverbial bush [hah – I’ll bet] we are presented with a mouth-watering assortment of innuendo-laden “Vocabulary Builders”, reacquainting our palates and imaginations with the origins of certain terms of endearment like “cherry”, “fish”, “honey”, “meat”, “cheesecake” and more. Hungry yet? Read on, the fun’s just beginning. “The Taste Below The Waist” is an enlightening sociological survey on the taste sensations of semen + vaginal secretions, raising the question of why there aren’t more popular names for the secretions of females at this point in time.
There seems to be a core group of female staff members on duty at all times referred to as “Clampettes” [the connotations are frightening], who have some rather insightful views on just about any topic one might care to discuss, a couple of which are the diet-inducing capabilities of computer sex, the direct correlation between a disillusioning election year and the loss of one woman’s virginity, the dangers of matchmaking [beware of guys in bands], the horrors of faux menstruation and tampon applicators, and my personal favorite – the rage of one woman as she learns that many Americans will undoubtedly flunk the game show question : “Name something you do only with your right hand”.
For the hard-core food researcher in you, read with no small amount of mirth the account of Sylvester Graham, anti-masturbation crusader and namesake of the graham cracker; who along with the historically celebrated figure Dr. John Harvey Kellogg – and his more well-known brother, William – utilized crossover tactics of dietary morality that would make Jesse Helms glow with pride. Definitely good breakfast reading material.
The rest of this issue also includes an interview with the Pillsbury Doughboy, as well as Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 [who do talk about sandwiches a bit]. There’s a brief area music overview, diverse record reviews [from Loretta Lynn to Dog Faced Hermans], a hilarious + well-written account from the judges’ seat at a local battle of the bands, and a couple of articles on the ambiguous topic of starting one’s own country, including a feature on such a place called Oceania, and an interview with Mike Oliver, founder of a now-defunct country called Minerva. As a novice to the subject, I’m not clear on just how established all this business really is, but it’s definitely worth some further research, especially for those of you with Libertarian leanings. Come to think of it, the same could be said for Stay Free! as a whole. It indeed lives up to its name, championing free thought and free speech with no apologies to anyone and a little something for everyone. If that sounds like your bag, jump in! I’m sure they’d be glad to have you – for dinner, more than likely. [PO Box 702 • Chapel Hill, NC 27514 • $6.00/4 issues]
#10 – 1994
Picked up this freebie at the Alternative Record Store in Tampa, and noted that it is distributed by Caroline, and features several Caroline ads as well. Hence, it’s a safe bet that it’s not so much a bona fide ‘zine as a promotional vehicle on some level. Be that as it may, there is a decent up-to-date interview w/ legendary MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer which thankfully focuses on the politics of social revolution as much as the heroic posturings of the rock & roll industry. The Other features don’t fare quite as well: interviews with the Denison/Kimball Trio and Idaho are embarrassingly sophomoric in their approach – stemming from the “this rules / this sucks” school of pop journalism. Sorry, but that sort of thing only serves to propagate a clique-oriented barometer of artistic credibility, in my opinion. On the other hand, the four scant pages of record reviews are presented with a bit more insight for even the most culturally unenlightened of readers – thanks to a “positive”-only review policy [basically not a bad idea, although a well-written “negative” review can be constructive in its own way.] The main beef I have with Swill is its overall music-scene smugness, which does little to encourage a community spirit within the so-called “alternative” crowd. Then again, it should provide more teens with an incentive to hit up mom and dad for a bigger record-buying allowance; likewise stoking the egos of an even snottier breed of rebels without a cause. [114 W 26TH St – 11TH Fl • NY NY 10001 • Free]
Yet another punk publication that slams you in the face with information instead of simply laying it out for you to examine on yr own. Case in point: the first thing you see [assuming you make it past the tacky drug glorification cover art] are two pieces of “found” art / literature – one a reprinted sticker bearing the overstated manifesto “fukshitup”, the other a dubious commentary equating Christianity with addiction [“Avoid all sin (Hate your own guts)”]. What an easy target for any punk “collective” as this is supposed to be the result of.
There is a sort of editorial column which demands “Read This!” – in fact much of the writing in this publication demands you listen or else [not too much like a dictatorship here, are we?], which spills the beans about this whole “collective” business in general. If it’s always supposed to represent the community, then why does it keep getting broken down until only a specific interest group is represented? In this case, that group is “real” punk rockers – and they’re cooler than you, in case you were wondering. You’re either a slacker if you don’t contribute [peer pressure makes a big comeback, along with good old-fashioned name-calling], or you’re a “Nazi Asshole” if you disagree with the collective agenda [Holy Orwell! Isn’t this a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black?]. After being greeted thusly within the first two pages, it’s a wonder I bothered to go any further, but I still feel a small obligation to delve beneath the surface of other people’s expression. It’s along the lines of my own publishing philosophy, which doesn’t assume anything about the people who might read what I write, for example. I’m not willing to risk alienating a potential friend or ally before we’ve even exchanged ideas – once you’ve done that in the small press world you’re just wasting paper, and this is our most valuable resource for talking to one another.
An essay titled “Quit Whining And Get Off Your Ass, Punk!” makes it a little clearer what this bunch are so upset about, and it’s something I’ve already been subjected to as a newcomer to the FL music scene. It seems there are a lot of folks in these parts who constantly complain about how bad the clubs are, how bad the bands are, how bad the radio is, etc. On this point at least I’d have to agree with the writer of this article before listening to a lot of crybabies who don’t like anything at all. It sure is easy to complain, isn’t it? Easier than doing anything else, in fact. As a veteran of the old school of punk culture [watching one scene form from the roots up in Mpls. over two decades ago], I’ve certainly had my fill of whiners who can’t stand what anyone else is doing but offer no viable alternatives themselves – other to become yet another obstacle. Did you catch that word back there – “alternative”? That actually used to have a definition, for the record. It meant something else.
Something else is what you’ll find in the Unsophisticate, all right. Aimed at the heart of a punk audience, it’s got the obligatory band interviews [Steel Pole Bath Tub, Peepole, Samiam, Thinking Fellers Union Local #282, and even Tesco Vee], a short feature on “Japanoise” bands like the Boredoms, Zeni Geva, Ruins, and the like], a topical piece on the importance of Public Enemy, and an essay on jazz music from Bessie Smith to John Zorn. Scattered throughout these pages are original poems, cartoons [including a reproduction of Peter Kuper’s famous poster outlining the “obscenity” trial of FL artist Mike Diana], kitsch art, [trading cards of the ’70s + ’80s film personalities, for instance], and a few short stories – one about a couple of drunk girls pissing off the roof of a NY penthouse, and another about a girl who likes to rob gas stations with her big gun and then hands out her beeper number to titillate her victims. Overall, not a bad assortment of ideas / expression / information. I still maintain however, that if you really want to preach to the unconverted, use honey – not battery acid. If what you have to offer has any substance at all, you won’t lose anyone who was with you in the beginning by toning down your method of attack. Waiting for number two… [PO Box 3902 • St Petersburg FL 33731 • Free]
circa 1990 – 91
Oct 1990 – Oct 1991
By Steve Gerber, J.J. Birch, Tony DeZuniga, Vincent Giarrano
Hero: A mythological or legendary figure of great strength or ability / a man admired for his achievements and qualities / the chief male character in a literary or dramatic work
When the world begets too many fools, nature always begets a foolkiller.
Actions have consequences.
A true story: When I was about 18, a friend and I once attempted to stop a street pimp from beating the shit out of one of his “ladies”; instead of gratitude, she attacked us verbally and physically, suggesting that we should mind our own business. We thought we were saving her life; turns out she’s crazy about the numbskull, believing she actually deserved the beating he was giving her. Sixteen years later I’m viewing a similar situation in an issue of Foolkiller, one of the most bizarre comic series I’ve yet to see from the Marvel Comics Group – and without a doubt one of the very best. I grew up with [then abandoned] the superhero genre of comic art, forsaking it for music of all things; but the chance to visit one of my friends and peruse his latest haul from the local comic shops was still my idea of a good time.
Time has weakened the impact of the supernatural, however. I longed for something more tangible. My imagination was no longer receptive to do-gooders from other worlds whose ideals were untarnished and could cheat fate for a living. I’ve seen many fine examples of illustrating and scriptwriting in some of the more cutting edge alternative comics, but Foolkiller takes the prize. Delving into the irrationality that most of us in our everyday existence refer to as life, this series proves that truth is indeed stranger than fiction – and creates a fiction that is entirely believable. When this reversal of perceptions occurs, morality as we know it turns inside out and all value systems are confined to the arms reach of their immediate environment. In short, every man for themself, especially if you have a cause to champion. Noble deeds appear criminal; evil becomes a characteristic trait of success. Logic is dependent on options, and survival of the fittest becomes principle.
You probably think I’m still talking about fiction, right? Remember witch trials? The accused was submerged under water, and if they drowned were believed to be innocent – too bad they died in the process. Another popular judicial favorite has always been vigilante groups. Inadvertently condoned by many governments, through over-empowerment of clandestine agencies, not excluding militia or police. One group of pretentious self-appointed bullies looks the same as another – remember, there’s safety in numbers. Just take a look around your own neighborhood – you know what I’m talking about.
Challenging virtually every standard of comic book hero-ism, Foolkiller presents a new kind of anti-hero that is more terrifying than any of the genres super-powered high-tech crimefighters could ever hope to be. The central figure in the series is an ordinary working class individual who has fallen from the grace of his previous executive lifestyle and winds up flipping burgers for a living. He faces loneliness, unpaid bills, and is nagged to no end by self-doubt. Inspired by a mental patient whose former occupation was that of a Foolkiller as well, one Kurt Gerhardt embarks on a mission that could almost be considered foolhardy in itself – by Gerhardt himself as well as anyone else. By all rights he is a sub-average casualty of the Great American Dream, yet his mission makes him one of the most dangerous figures in comic-dom, if only because his presence is so frustratingly believable.
As is usually the case with comic hero types, once the Foolkiller makes his presence felt, the community he is pledged to save considers him their enemy. There is a tricky logic at work here: Gerhardt feels as though he must remove these fools from society, as though he might restore the delicate balance of nature and poetry, yet his social conditioning is essentially the same as theirs. He studies them. At times it becomes clear that he feels dangerously close to them. He understands them. In one episode, after he has annihilated a houseful of drug dealers, he fantasizes a violent suicide; he feels remorse for having killed a child who stabbed him because it was not a painless death. Foolkiller is clearly driven to his dirty work, yet at the same is filled with remorse for his actions. In the mocking reality that surrounds him, the media pegs him as a hero when his victims are druglords, gang members, and rapists; when he graduates to respected [though corrupt] public officials, he is branded a psychopath, like his predecessor. The stark violence of the murders he commits and his unapologetic stance in the public eye make him appear to be a threat to the security of those he has chosen to ultimately serve. A paradox? You bet it is.
Absent from the Foolkiller series is any apparent modus operandi which we are often accustomed to seeing in our dramas. His actions are so widely misinterpreted they appear to be arbitrary and without reason. He is the ultimate champion of freedom, yet his own community feels their freedom is at risk as long as he exists. As readers, we witness countless brutal executions meted out: to the drunken husband who beats his family and throws a dog from a moving car, drug runners who do business over an unattended infant on a coffee table, a gang of youths who beat bicyclists with their own dismantled bike parts, a prostitute who disregards the fact the fact she is HIV-positive, a respected official who evicts tenants from low-cost housing so he can build condominiums in their place, and yes – even policemen who try to apprehend him. Given the context for each circumstance, readers might find it difficult to not applaud the Foolkiller’s actions, were it not for the brink of self-reproach he dangles himself from throughout the entire series. Clearly a man of conscience, guided by a belief that supersedes social ruling – isn’t that what we have learned to call a sociopath? Which side are we on, ultimately?
Foolkiller is a thought-provoking – albeit very disturbing – series that questions many of our commonly held beliefs about good and evil, forcing us to question in each episode where we draw the line between blind acceptance and intolerance. Transcending pathology as well as existentialism, it reminds us that you cant really change the world, yet it remains one of mankind’s greatest ambitions to try and reverse the direction we have been heading in for centuries. By subjecting so many of our own basic values to such scrutiny, we are given ample opportunity to think twice about our own rationalizations, as well as the chance to avoid doing anything …foolish. [Marvel Comics, 387 Park Avenue South, NYC, NY 10016]
© J.Free / The New Puritan ReView; 1986; 2022