Monday, May 22, 2006

LIFE: Memories of the small-press scene

Slowly, slowly, we're clearing up our lives for the big move. T-minus five months until we fly to New Zealand, and - urk! – just over three until we move out of our house! Our so-called "spare bedroom" has become a towering pile of junk, stacks of "yard sale material," "Goodwill material," "see if my parents want this" castaways and so forth. And most of this junk is mine – since Avril came herself from NZ to join some crazy American guy in '98, she didn't bring a ton of her own possessions. Most of the infinite stuff jamming our closets, shelves and corners is mine. And there's a lot of it, to either be stored, shipped or tossed out.

Just one closet in our small office became my focus this weekend. It's a tiny closet but packed to the gills with things I want to keep but rarely look at, dusted in spider webs and cat hair (Kudzu likes to sleep there). There's several boxes in there, and each of them contains years of my life. It's amazing how things and people that were once everyday presences to you suddenly end up in a box, and you've moved on.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingOne box is packed with self-published comics and newsletters from my years on the small-press comics scene from roughly 1992-1998. I put out my own silly comic "Amoeba Adventures" for years and made tons of friends in this mail-order scene, a pre-Internet kind of worldwide fanzine web. I still keep up with a few of my ol' small-press pals — the ultra-talented "crude Canuck" Jay Marcy, writer Troy Hickman, my old pal Will Pfeifer who's moved on to do some great work for DC Comics, for instance — but lots of these people have just vanished into the unknown. I still have their comics in my closet, many of them. I culled a few boxes worth of small press comics off to the recycling a few years back, but now I'm left with the ones I still want to keep. They're not like regular books, which I could always replace if I got rid of them. These are tiny handcrafted gems, most of them with print runs of just 100, 200 copies. Creators have moved on or done like me and just dropped out of the network, so I toss 'em, they're tossed. I try to weed a few more out, but it's tough.

I haven't drawn a comic since 1998, which is kind of depressing in some ways, but I've moved on to other things (bloggery for one), so it goes. I was part of small-press publishing clubs with great names like the United Fanzine Organization or Small Press Syndicate, and still have their well-thumbed newsletters. Reading through them I see all these names I haven't thought about in years, folks I used to send letters to (remember letters?) and have late-night cross-country phone calls with. Some I met in person, some I never did. Some have gone on to publish great comics professionally; some of them have just melted away. Some I feuded with over stupid silly geek stuff. One of the folks whose work is in my box came to my wedding; one died in a senseless crime one night in 1995. So I'm keeping the comics I like, or that remind me of old friends. "All-Steve Comics," who couldn't love a title like that? Will Pfeifer's "Violent Man"? "Yo-Yo The Dieting Clown," "Lady Spectra and Sparky," "Futuro Tierra," "Kari and the Pirates," "Electric Weenie," "Human Unit 12"! Stuff few folks outside the zine culture ever heard, but a lot of it even better than many "mainstream" comics. These aren't "mint" collector's item photocopied comics, but they're worth gold to me. Can't take 'em to New Zealand, so into storage they go.

See, if every box of my life gets memories going like this, I'm never going to get this house cleared by September! Going to be a long summer.

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