12.03.2011

Superman: First Son of Fanzines

One of my favorite zines from the last few years is one that was published in the winter of 2008 called My Time Annihilator: A Brief History of 1930's Science Fiction Fanzines. As a not-so-closet history geek, it was the kind of zine that made me wish that I had been the editor responsible for its creation. In addition to its cool antiquarian vibe, My Time Annihilator was super informative. In fact, it was by way of its pages that I came to discover that a large part of the modern zine-making tradition is steeped in fanzines that were published by science fiction fanatics in the 1930s.

While doing some seemingly unrelated reading on the interwebs a year or so ago, I had another chance to discover something else that really surprised me. When they were just high school students, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, were also a part of that 1930s fanzine movement. Even more surprisingly, I also learned that the foundation for the Man of Steel was laid not in a comic book, but in the pages of their 1933 fanzine Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization.

During that chance discovery, I also came to learn that the early Superman stuff produced by Siegel and Shuster a few years before their character's first appearance in Action Comics #1 were no longer under copyright. (Wha-wha?) This included not only the short story "The Reign of the Superman," but a series of twenty-four Superman comic strips that the writer/artist duo had spent a few unsuccessful years pitching to unreceptive newspaper editors.

As I pored over the preliminary Superman material that I had found online (in digitized pdf form), the first thing I thought was how cool it would be to see that vintage stuff on paper. That is, if only someone would take the time to clean-up and reformat it for publication. I certainly had no intention of taking up the challenge myself, but somewhere along the way (circa about a week ago), I decided to give it a shot. Superman: First Son of Fanzines is the swell-looking end result.



And so, in honor of the last son of Krypton's largely unknown underground lineage, Superman: First Son of Fanzines returns this iconic character to his humble fanzine roots. Contained within is a smaller reproduction of the "The Reign of the Superman" story which shows the famously named title character in his original incarnation––as a bald bad guy (yes, bad guy) with even stronger telepathic power than that other guy who would establish the X-Men three decades later. Also contained are the twenty-four early comic strips that would pave the way to Superman's first appearance in the June 1938 edition of Action Comics #1.

It has been a great big thrill for me to find myself archiving a mostly discarded portion of Superman's history, even if only in a small way. Yet it was from the primordial pages of a fanzine that one of America's most popular fictional characters evolved, and I considered it something of a responsibility to preserve its legacy in the pages of Superman: First Son of Fanzines.

St. Paco


Click to enlarge

Nick Cage’s Action Comics #1 fetches $2.16M

A near-mint copy of Action Comics #1 owned by actor Nicolas Cage sold at auction tonight for a record $2.16 million.

Graded at 9.0, the rare 1938 comic easily surpassed the previous record of $1.5 million set in March 2010 for the same issue, featuring the first appearance of Superman.

That copy was graded slightly lower, at 8.5. Vincent Zurzolo, chief operating officer of ComicConnect/Metropolis Collectibles, told Comic Riffs that the issue that sold this evening — bidding closed at 7:25 p.m. ET — is the best copy of Action Comics he’s ever seen.

“The buyer was extremely excited about the prospect of bidding on this,” he said. “I think he had an adrenalin rush for the last two hours.”

The comic was stolen from Cage’s Los Angeles home in 2000, and discovered in April by an unidentified man who claims to have bought the contents of an abandoned San Fernando Valley, California, storage locker. Although Zurzolo wouldn’t reveal the comic’s previous owner, he did confirm that his company played a role in its recovery.

About 100 copies of Action Comics #1 are believed to exist, but only a handful of those are in good condition.

Source: Robot 6

11.19.2011

Peeled, Pasted & Posted, Nov 26th - Dec 20th


Thirty Fingers of Death (Vinyl Killah Remix)
Digital Mash-Up Sticker on 12" Vinyl
St. Paco, 2011

If you're in San Jose (or within drivin' distance), you are cordially invited to the Peeled, Pasted & Posted sticker and street art show at the Gift 2 Gab Gallery. This is an event dedicated specifically to the adhesive arts, featuring works by more than 100 bombers, slap-taggers and street artists from across the globe. And, as you can see from the photo posted above, the mighty St. Paco will also have a piece hanging amongst the gallery's senses-shattering offerings. In addition to some fantastic art, you can bet that there will also be massive amounts of stickers on hand for trading (including some of my own), so do remember to bring along your black book...as well as your checkbook.


Peeled, Pasted & Posted
A Sticky Situations Art Show
Opening Reception – November 25th, 6PM to Midnight
Show Runs from November 26th – December 20th

Gift 2 Gab Gallery
190 Martha St. Studio D
San Jose, CA 95112

For more information, check out Gift 2 Gab wall on Facebook.


11.09.2011

Shibuya or Bust (Attn : Library)


If you're in Tokyo (or within driving distance), The Kosmos Lane Gallery cordially invites you to attened ATTN : LIBRARY, a Booklet Library exhibition at Kosmos Lane Gallery in Shibuya (Tokyo, Japan). This extremely limited event runs from November 8th to the 13th, and features 300+ art related, small-press publications and zines contributed to the Booklet Library in 2011 by 200+ artists/authors, from 16 countries. Copies of Kung Fu Grip! #3B, #4 & #5 are on hand for the show, so be sure to check 'em out! For more information on this as well as other pop-up shows and events in Tokyo, visit the Booklet Zine Library website.

ATTN: LIBRARY
Kosmos Lane Gallery
2–29-6-1F Uehara,
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan 〒151‑0064
November 8th - 13th, 2011

11.08.2011

Heavy D - Final Bow


Through the years, I have managed to keep hold of only two two ticket stubs from my early days as a hip-hop junkie: Eric B & Rakim headlining at the Chicago Amphitheater in 1990, and Dana Dane co-headlining with Heavy D at the historic Regal Theater in 1988. As might be expected, each of these little mementos carries with them a sizable memory. Especially the latter.

Heavy D would effortlessly live up to his growing reputation as a consummate showman that night in March of '88: he powered through rhymes with style, leapt in and out of dance routines with finesse, and delivered roses like a plus-sized pimp during the Al B. Sure chorused "Don't You know." The Overweight Lover was in the house that night, showing fans what it really meant to be large and in charge.

Years before other emcee heavyweights like Fat Joe, Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun or Rick Ross would come to play the role of "big papa," there was Heavy D. He was the first rapper to throw his weight around not as a goofy gimmick (a la The Fat Boys), but to show-and-prove that bigger could also be better. He was one of the best to ever rock a mic, and his place in the pantheon of hip-hop greats is remembered.

Dwight Arrington Myers (aka Heavy D)
May 24, 1967 – November 8, 2011




Download: Mr. Cee's Heavy D Tribute Mix (Courtesy of the HOT 97 “Throwback at Noon” and Strawberryblunt.com)

11.07.2011

Smokin' Joe Frazier - Exit the Champion



Joseph William Frazier
January 12, 1944 – November 7, 2011

There's a saying that goes, "to be the best you gotta beat the best." In 1971, Smokin' Joe Frazier shocked the boxing world by handing Muhammad Ali his first loss in the ring. In the process, Frazier would become a heavyweight champion, as well as the much-heralded other half of one of boxing's most memorable rivalries. Thanks, Champ.

11.04.2011

Kiyoshi Nakazawa - Drunken Master



When I read over my interview with Dadá Mini before posting it to the web some weeks back, I winced when I got the question where Coco Muro asked for the names of some of the publications that were amongst my favorites. Though I remembered to give Giant Robot and some others a shout, I completely spaced on Kiyoshi Nakazawa's Drunken Master zine. It sucked too, because I know Kiyoshi and DM is really one of my favorite zines.

Well, to add insult to injury, Kiyoshi was interviewed last month by one of the guys at the Ain't It Cool News website. And when that intrepid interviewer asked Kiyoshi to name some of the zines that he enjoys, did Kiyoshi have the class to remember to mention Kung Fu Grip! amongst his favorites? Yep, he sure did.

As if I wasn't already beatin' myself up enough for forgetting to give Drunken Master a shout, I really started to feel bad when I considered the fact that Your Kung Fu Sucks! (the newish name of this blog) was directly inspired by Kiyoshi. I don't even know if he's aware that I bit/borrowed the slogan that he used on a t-shirt some years back. But, as the great Pablo Picasso once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal."

Truthfully, for the first five or so minutes after re-naming the blog, I actually didn't remember that Kiyoshi had used it as a t-shirt slogan. But this is my chance to give credit where credit is due. B'sides, we all know that great minds do think alike, right?

Anyway, check out the interview, by visiting Ain't It Cool News. And if you decide that cha wanna add Drunken Master zine to your reading pile, visit Kiyoshi's Etsy shop and order copies of #11 and #12. (And check out my half-page ad in issue #12, which came out in time for the San Diego Comic Con this past July.)

I should prolly mention that after you read those two issues, you're gonna wanna order the others that are still available...whenever he remembers to update his stock, that is. And be warned, 'cuz Kiyoshi Nakazawa's kung-fu does NOT suck. In fact, the guy's a master.

10.25.2011

Reason #457 to go to Japan...



"Black lifestyle!" (See video)

One more...because Sumayyah Said So



...because Sumayyah Said So

Free / digest-size/ 30pgs
PDF download available here

Like many zine enthusiasts, I treasure the tactile familiarity of printed words on hand-folded paper. Still, I was mildly intrigued when I noticed an offer to download a free pdf version of Sumayyah Talibah's zine ...because Sumayyah Said So on my last visit to the We Make Zines website. Talibah is an admirer of the sci-fi and fantasy author Octavia Butler, and she mentions her yen to follow in the author's footsteps on the title page. Now, having just reread Butler's Wildseed less than two weeks ago, I couldn’t help but see a hint of serendipity in that mentioning, and took it as a good omen of what was to come. ...because Sumayyah Said So plays host to four of Talibah's thoughtful and well-worded poems: "Why I Write," "Annoyance," "Because Poems," and "The End of Everything." The zine also features the 8-page fantasy work, "Devour." As good as her poems are–and they are very good inded–I found "Devour," a thinly veiled homage to Butler, to be such an excellent work that after reading the final paragraph, my head shook from right to left in amazement. And after fully absorbing the poeticism of the final sentence, my first thought was that I had probably never read a better piece of fantasy writing in any zine. If I had any criticism of the work, it would be in the form of a lament that ...because Sumayyah Said So wasn't actually 48 pages, which could have allowed for more of Talibah's fantasy writing–because one piece was simply not enough. Encore.

10.19.2011

Rarely Written Zine Reviews - Episode II

True confession.

The majority of the following zine reviews were actually written over the end of June and the first week of July. Somewhere between a nasty bout of writer's block and finally gettin' my mojo back, I remembered that I had forgotten to post 'em. Since nobody has been waiting' around to read what I thought of their zines, the fact that I'm posting these much later than originally planned is no great travesty. But I do still feel a smidgen of guilt that these didn't hit the web much sooner. So I ask that you please pardon my lateness, even though you didn't know that I am tardy.

St. Paco, Your Kung Fu Sucks

___________________________



9 and a Half Left #10*
$5 / digest-size / 44pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

"The great thing about Charles Bukowski is that he's inspired a whole generation of bums, drunks and otherwise borderline personalities to fancy themselves as writers. I'm glad I'm not an editor reading these miscreant poems. I get enough of your shit in the hours of the early morning." This amusing quote from page 16 of Mike Rodemann's 9 and a Half Left reminds me that I've yet not yet read a single page of Bukowski. [Hears collective gasp from people who ride the man's jock like the last train to Paris.] I don't know if Rodemann is a fan of Bukowski, or even if he fancies himself as a writer. But the guy is a zine-maker, and that makes him a writer by default. In this issue of 9 and a Half Left, Rodemann offers confessions on the difficulty of tobacco addiction and a moving glimpse into the strained relationship that Mike had with his father before his passing–a man that he justifiably feared as much as loved. The zines also contains lots of other bits of real life stuff that we deal with, both good and bad.

Note: 9 and a Half Left #10 published in 2005, but reviewed because it was a recent purchase.



Blackguard #3: The Crime Issue
$5 / digest-size / 44pgs
Available direct from the publisher

Soon after the first issue of Blackguard began invading mailboxes across the globe, I saw so many gushing reviews that I was tempted to not write one of my own–perhaps out of fear of just sounding like a parrot. But :::squawk::: toss me a saltine and call me Polly, 'cause this is one cool zine. Edited by Stuart Stratu, Blackguard features twenty-something pages of comic strips by an international alliance of some of the most sick-n-twisted cartoonists you've probably never heard of––and another twenty pages of mini-comic and zine reviews. In addition to all that, this issue also features two theme specific short stories. Oh, Blackguard #3 is the "crime" issue, so sick-n-twistedness is mandatory when you're creating comix about a "nazi super-zombie monkey sleeper agent," True Crime trading card "lovers," John Dilliger, the wannabe nightclub singer and killer Kenneth Neu, Walt Disney and the Hamburglar. Yes, there's actually even more to this 44-page crime spree, and it's pretty damned good at being bad.



Blue Okoye #1: No More Flared Jeans
$1 / digest-size / 24pgs
Available at Quimby's Books

Blue Okoye is a zine that I bought mainly based on an interior illustration that was used in Narcolepsy Press Review #6. Unfortunately, though, only the covers (front & back) and two interior pages of this publication have illustrations. Thus, after reading Blue Okoye, I kinda' found myself wishin' that there had been more drawings and less text. The writing is quirky and odd with glimpses of serious humor and originality, but it didn't engage me–not like the image on the back cover of a helmet wearing brother getting his temples kicked in by a turban wearing dwarf. Who is he? Where is he from? What is his purpose? The answers to these questions only come out in an abstract sorta way near the end. But the zine only costs a buck and it is more than obvious that a respectable amount of time and effort went into producing it. And while I can't heartily recommend Blue Okoye #1, I can honestly say that I am glad to have it in my permanent zine collection. I also look forward to seeing what Mr. Okoye does with the next issue.



Booty #23 & 24
$2 / 16pgs
Available at Atomic Books

I've been semi-familiar with Anne Thalheimer from the reviews she writes for Xerography Debt, but somehow never made the connection to the Booty mini-comics she also does. I had also never read Booty, but recalled seeing several decent reviews over the years. The latest reviews for issues #23 & #24 that I read in the last issue of Zine World piqued my curiosity, so I prepared an envelope and mailed off my order. A few days later, Anne broke me off some booty. [Ahem] Booty mini-comics, that is. And I pretty much got what the reviews had set me up to expect: some really quirky, thoughtful and entertaining mini-comics. Comics that I can't easily compare to anything else, but the scratchy illustrations kinda' make me think of the old Cathy newspaper strip. Anne's warm writing offers engagingly personal perspectives on work, life goals, relationships, wintertime, pets, road trips, growing up, the joys of eating breakfast for dinner (or dessert for breakfast), and that butt-kickin' spectator sport known as roller derby. These issues also reveal that Anne has an unabashed love of comic books, which (to paraphrase one of the panels in issue #24) kind of fucking rocks.



Fish With Legs #13
$1 / digest-size / 24pgs
Available direct from the publisher

The 13th issue of Eric Lyden's Fish With Legs contains page after page of random, laugh-out-loud funny perspectives like the two that I've sampled below:

"One of my karate teachers was an older guy (I was maybe 10 years old, so he was maybe 40 at the oldest) who had a black belt so I just figured he was a bad ass. Then a few weeks later I went to the movies and this bad ass, black belt karate instructor was the guy standing outside the theater checking and tearing tickets. I was one of maybe 50 kids he dealt with and I was quiet so he didn't recognize me, but I recognized him and the notion that a guy who could be such a bad ass in one area of life while being a working stiff with a menial job in another area life was pretty depressing to me. If being able to use nunchucks properly isn't enough to guarantee respect wherever you go then what hope do the rest of us have?"

"Devout atheists are just as annoying as devout bible thumpers. When gathered in large groups the Bible thumpers will certainly cause more damage, but if I'm at a party and a Bible thumper is in one corner and a loud mouthed atheist is in another corner I'm going to find a separate third corner to avoid both of these pests. Some atheists sure seem to devote a lot of energy to something they don't believe in."

AMEN.



Grunted Warning #7
$1 / digest-size / 12pgs
Available direct from the publisher

Fortunately, I've never been the kind of monarch that requires reading material while sitting atop my castle's porcelain throne. But if I was one of those unfortunate souls whose lower intestines tend to fake the funk, Stuart Stratu's Grunted Warning would probably be my read of choice; I could be wrong, but the title even seems to smack of cheeky bathroom humor. Anyway, this 12-page rag offers an oddball assortment of creepy clippings that the editor has eviscerated from various newspapers, magazines and even toy packaging! Like a serial slasher-in-training, he even lays it out cut-n-paste style. Cree-py. This zine is also reasonably priced at a buck per copy. So, I really recommend that you write Stuart to see which back issues are still available, because I can't help but think that a stack of five or six issues of Grunted Warning is the perfect thing to have in throne rooms across the land.



Nostromo #1
$3 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

Not a lot that I can say about Nostromo. The first issue of this zine offers roughly twenty pages of sci-fi and post-cyberpunk related geek speak, tapped out on an old metal typewriter located on an organic vegetable farm somewhere in rural Virginia. Subjects include a consideration of the impact of technology on human behavior as examined against the fictional backdrops of Star Trek and Star Wars, experiences with the role-playing (RPG) war games of Gamesworkshop, "reactions and reconsiderations" of Isacc Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, and a brief explanation of the genesis of Nostromo. I enjoyed every page of this zine, and am now kinda' ticked off that there there isn't yet a second issue that I can order. 'Nuff said?



Shotgun Seamstress #1*
$3 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

Shotgun Seamstress is described on its opening page as "a zine by and for black punks" and it is probably the most fitting description. That being said, this really isn't for the average zine reader. I myself have never been into punk, but I can easily relate to the issues addressed by an editor who grew up often being the sole black person in a "sea of white kids" at punk music gatherings. Again, not being into punk it was actually the chalky Jean-Michel Basquiat art remixed on the cover that attracted me to this zine, but inside I found some interesting pieces on the late Toni Young (a pioneering bassist in DC's hardcore scene in the early 1980s) and the documentary Afropunk: The Rock and Roll Nigger (whose sub-heading re-appropriates the controversial title of a Patti Smith song). Other features include interviews with punk dancer Brontez, zine-maker Adee-licious, and an excerpt from Adee's Finger on the Trigger zine.

*Shotgun Seamstress #1 was published in 2006, but reviewed because it was a recent purchase.



Refugee
$1 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at Microcosm Publishing

I actually don't remember when I purchase this copy of Refugee by Suze B., but it was probably well more than a year ago. It was misplaced somehow, and when I found it again recently I realized that the zine still needed to be read. Because I decided to write some zine reviews, it worked out perfectly. Refugee documents the author's 2004 trip to Burma, where she spent four months working with the women involved with Burma's pro-democracy movement. This zine is dense with information, pictures and varying typefaces, including handwritten text, which keeps it all visually stimulating and interesting. It's so dense that I actually haven't even finished reading it, but still felt compelled write this review now because Refugee represents one of the things that I like most about zines. Information like that found in this zine so often gets lost in 400+ page scholarly tomes that only students will read. But with only 36 pages, a zine like Refugee provides an accessible and affordable snapshot of the culture, politics and social and economic challenges faced by a people in another part of the world–and the things they do to survive.



Slice Harvester #1*
$3 / digest-size / 36pgs
Available at the Slice Harvester website

This food oriented zine was baked up by a self-described pizza expert named Colin. His goal is to write reviews of pizza slices eaten at "every single pizzeria above 110th street in Manhattan– barring the Marble Hill section," which Colin sez' he thought was part of the Bronx. Inside there are a good twenty mouth-watering reviews, many of which are brutal and hi-lar-i-ous. One of my favorites was written about a joint called Ernesto Pizza. Here, Colin details even the minutes before he and his 'dinner date' entered the place, and how "the pizzamen were standing in the doorway staring us down with the worst stink eye, trying to draw us into their pizzeria with their tractor beams of loathing and superiority." Slice Harvester is funny, well-worded, heavily opinionated and deeply passionate about its subject. And with me having grown up in the great pizza city of Chicago, the pie is something that I also take seriously. So, I wanna to take a second to say to the editor that I would put Chi-town pizza up against New York pizza any dia de la semana. Our Sicilian slices are so cheesy, so meaty, and so saucy that 'cha need a fork & knife to get through 'em, capice? Anyway, what I really wanna say is that I know good zines like I know good pizza and–no disrespect to our sacred Sinatra song–but Slice Harvester is my kinda' zine.

*After this review was written a copy of Slice Harvester #4 arrived in my mailbox. This clearly suggests that Colin is still eating his way across Manhattan.



Video Tonfa/Feedback #7 (Split)
$5 / digest-size / 44pgs
Available at Quimby's

Due to the enthusiastic stamp of approval received in Zine World #30, I felt the Video Tonfa/Feedback #7 split was a sure bet. So, I added it to the list of zines in the last order I placed with Microcosm and – not surprisingly – that sure bet paid off handsomely. John Issacson's Feedback #7 comprises the first half of this zine and features some fun reviews from what seem to be concerts in and around the Portland area. The cool thing about the reviews is that they're formatted as four-panel comic strips, and Isaacson does not draw the "Marvel way." His illustrations are scratchy, but dynamic and pleasing to the eye. Adding to the overall aesthetic, the facing pages of many of the strips show the concert promo flyers, which gives a cool sense of context. Video Tonfa anchors the back half of this split, and features, um... 'written while under the influence' movie reviews, accompanied by rough illustrations of the DVD and VHS covers. My favorite review is of the 1979 blaxploitation film Petey Wheatstraw. I actually consider that flick to be the least enjoyable of all of Rudy Ray Moore's (aka Dolemite) movies, but I do like knowing that somebody in the world enjoys this flick so much that he "could have, and will again watch this movie twice in a row." Other films reviewed include the John Belushi & Dan Ackroyd film Neighbors, Dead Zone, District 9, Phantasm II, The Convent, Buckaroo Bonzai and Critters 4. By the way, I also learned some cool Buckaroo Bonzai related trivia and that Angela Bassett co-starred in Critters 4. Normally, you'd have to pay me or roofie me to sit through a flick like Critters, but I would suffer through nearly any indignity for Angela. So I foresee some personal suffering thanks to the Video Tonfa/Feedback #7 split. A very cool zine.

10.10.2011

Syndicated Zine Reviews: KFG5


Kung Fu Grip! #5


KFG is a beautifully put together zine. It’s the kind of zine that, after having read it, I keep thumbing through it to admire just how fucking cool it looks. With the aesthetic of a 1970’s era comic book/martial arts magazine, Kung Fu Grip #5 explores a wide variety of subjects ranging from graffiti artists (Shiro), Jamaican recording artist and comic book enthusiast Lee Perry, and the link between giant Buddha statues, Shinto deities, and popular Japanese television superhero shows like Ultraman. Paco D. Taylor appears to be a true aficionado of 70’s pop culture, art and style, and he brings that passion to life in the modern world with this zine. The subject matter is interesting and engaged, never feeling pretentious or out of place, and the layout is flawless.

Randy Spaghetti, Syndicated Zine Reviews

10.07.2011

Lost in Translation

Just so'z you know, I did my best to properly translate the introduction to the Dadá Mini interview which follows this post. But it probably won't sound as poetic or fluent as it would in its native tongue. Anybody who knows even a little about the Spanish language knows how it can take drastic changes from one country to another. For example, a word like "pendejo" (which was used in the intro) is an extreme vulgarity in Puerto Rico, a mild insult in Mexico, and a largely innocuous term in Argentina, where its used to suggest childhood, or a brat. This was the challenge I faced while translating the introduction, written in Spanish as it is spoken in Argentina. The actual interview, however, was much easier–since it was originally done in English. Jajaja ("Hahaha" in Spanish)

My Dadá Mini Interview


Paco D. Taylor
The street fighter that stalks the photocopiers
Section D / Text by Nica & Coco Muro
Dadá Mini Magazine

Paco D. Taylor would much rather talk about art, music or movies, than himself; the things he wants you to know about him are reflected in his work.

The creator and editor of Kung Fu Grip! zine was born in 1969 and raised in Chicago. From childhood he was deeply involved in hip hop culture, writing rhymes and experimenting with graffiti. At 26 he moved to Arizona to study graphic design and immediately after graduating got a job as a designer for a magazine. After two or three years of that, he soon realized that working as an artist in a corporate environment was not for him, and has since worked primarily in call centers, earning enough money to pay the bills and to buy cigars, comic books and Chinese food. While the day job has nothing to do with his passions, it does allow him unlimited access to photocopiers, as well as free time to write articles and browse the Internet.

His zines are small, independently produced publications in the photocopied format. Throughout its 56 black and white pages, Kung Fu Grip! zine is a resume of his work in the form of a fanzine, full of graphic design, collage and illustrations–and all of which emanates from Paco's creative universe.

The terms "street fight" and "exquisite randomness" could be used to describe the work; something like an out-and-out street fight with exquisitely random improvisation.

The D. between Paco and Taylor remains a mystery.



What were your projects or dreams as a boy, who did you admire the most?

When I was a kid I sketched a lot and imagined that when I grew up I would be a professional artist with paintings hanging in various galleries. I also imagined myself as an animator and a comic book illustrator. Back then, two of the people who I admired most were Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee. I can also remember a time when looked up to Charles Schultz, the creator of Snoopy and Charlie Brown.


What are Mr Paco´s favourite activities nowadays?

A lot of my time is spent doing research on the Internet for various projects, some of which have been made and others that are still very much in the planning stages. I collect photographs from old history books and anthropology books, listen to music almost endlessly, study Tai Chi, watch movies, collect old comic books, practice my writing and make zines.


Why produce something you`re not sure for whom it is or how it will be received? What for?

Honestly, the things that I produce are made for myself. They are creative and tangible expressions of who I am, what has influenced me, and what inspires me. It is only after satisfying the innate need for creative expression that I then find myself hoping that someone else will also see something that they can appreciate in the work, and that it will inform, inspire or entertain.


Why do you prefer the street as a communication channel instead of Internet?

The street has the advantage of being an immediate channel for creative communication, but it is often very impersonal. I have tremendous respect for the Internet, because it allows me to reach a broader audience beyond the shores of America. Because of the Internet, I am able to send my work to people in Argentina, Mexico, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Israel, the UK, Australia, and other places.


Please describe in ten words what a fanzine is. Why not a magazine…?

Zines are cheaply made publications usually produced on a photocopier. I make zines because standard magazines are fairly expensive to make in America, and usually require advertisers to support them–as well as shelf space in stores from which to sell them. All that it takes to make zines is the passion to produce content, and access to a photocopier.


Considering both your zines and designs which do you think is Mr Paco`s trademark?

Black & white imagery has clearly become one of my trademarks, followed by the use of text, no matter what language the text communicates: English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian or Hebrew. It is all visually interesting to me. Found, borrowed and stolen images is another common theme in my works.


Why do you choose only one color and a disposable format to talk about the city and its codes?

In the beginning, designing with black and white was done for practical reasons, the first of which being that it was inexpensive to reproduce. But I immediately made it a goal of mine to make the best designs that I could produce in such a cheaply made manner. Among various groups in the United States, zines can be viewed negatively because they are not made on a real printing press, so it has always been important to me to make things that are not only visually interesting, but intellectually stimulating.


Which is your favourite magazine? Would you edit it and have the courage to say what we editors can't? What do you read and watch?

My favorite magazine is Giant Robot, an Asian arts and pop culture magazine based in Los Angeles, California. If I was the editor of Giant Robot, though, I don’t know that I would have the courage to say some of the things that I do in my zines. Zines are often deeply personal in nature, and when you have a large audience, and advertisers who purchase page space, there are many more considerations that have to be made.

Some of my favorite zines are Samurai Dreams, which is a movie review zine, Xerography Debt and Zine World, which both provide reviews of many of the zines being made today. I’m also a fan of the street art zine, Very Nearly Almost, which comes out of the UK.


Kung-Fu is a Chinese expression for "a well done job", what is all this street fight about?

To quote a line from a Gordon Liu movie: “It’s a secret! Never teach the Wu-Tang!”


Would it be the same for you to be a freestyle wrestler, Hugh Hefner or a ball boy at Wimbledon? If you could choose who you want to be, would you accept to be yourself or someone different?

I think that I could handle being an African-American Sumo wrestler in Japan who wears a lucha mask, like the image in a sticker that I designed. By day I would wrestle to protect my champion belt, but by night I would write haiku poetry like Basho and love poems like Pablo Neruda. I would be so popular in Asia and South America that I would have as many women as Hugh Hefner.

Other than that, I would just like to be myself–but with a lot more money, and publishing contract.


Your work proposes a random journey through the streets of a hidden city, a crazy trip. Where did this idea come from? What message do you want to convey with your collages and all the information you gather and share?

One of the great things about collage is that it allows you to communicate multiple layers of meaning. The thing that drew me into the study of graphic design when I was in school is that it is a multi-layered form of communication that often involves the integration of words and pictures–which is something that I had been experimenting with through collage. As random as collage can be, though, I have always sought a unifying theme, which is often color.

Taking those principles even further, zine making allows me to communicate so much more, on a variety of subjects. At the same time, I still challenge myself to tie it all together with unifying themes. The zine Octopussy is my most recent example of that.


How do you get along with independent magazines? What can you tell us about other producers like you? Who are they?

I have been making zines for more than ten years now, but I have only interacted with a few zine makers. Those who I have met in person have been friendly and supportive. Like me, they are passionate about what they produce, which immediately makes us comrades in the creative struggle, so to speak.


Which are your dearest projects, which of them excites you the most?

Kung Fu Grip! zine is my first love, but I feel that two of the best things that I’ve ever made are In His Image zine, and an article that I wrote on the negritos of Southeast Asia that was published in Giant Robot magazine earlier this year.


Tell us one amusing anecdote related with one work of yours.

Making zines is a good way to pick up women. But I can’t give any more details than that.


What happens when you run out of paper? What do you do?

Sometimes I buy more paper. Sometimes I steal more paper.


For designers and publishers time is an issue. It never seems to be enough, what do you think about that?

Fortunately, none of my publications follow anything resembling a real schedule. I produce as the inspiration comes. Still, I never seem to have enough time to make all of the things that I have in my head.


Who do you look up to?

I look up to children, and those adults who remember their inner child.


As you lived in the streets, is there a story you want to tell that has not yet been written?

There is one graffiti related story that is on an old SyQuest computer disc from back when I was in design school. I would love to publish that, but I haven’t found a way to get the story off the disc it's on. Nobody has SyQuest drives anymore.


Name three objects indispensable for you.

Computer, printer and paper.


Name three websites worth mentioning.

www.wemakezines.com
www.giantrobot.com
www.fecalface.com

9.21.2011

Shaolin Break Dancing

Rock Steady Crew members Mr. Wiggles and Ken Swift have often pointed out that the spinning moves of breaking were inspired by movements gleaned from martial arts flicks. Jackie Chan is one screen fighter who has been specifically cited by Wiggles, and I have seen at least two Jackie flicks that seem to insinuate the foundation of the move known as the "continuous" backspin.


Rock Steady Crew

Crazy Legs, an early member of Rock Steady, is often documented as the 3rd major contributor to the development of the floor move that we know today as the backspin. But the first b-boys that history records as employing the move were Jojo (who founded Rock Steady in 1977), followed by another guy named Mongo.

Crazy Legs, who joined Jojo's crew a year later, took the backspin further by extending it into the continuous spin, which is much more popularly known today as the "windmill."

Interestingly, Jackie Chan's Drunken Master was released to theaters in 1978, the same year that Legs joined Rock Steady. This has made me think that it may be plausible that the move that led to the continuous was adapted from Jackie's star-turning final battle in Drunken Master.

Or maybe it was his final fight from Snake in Eagle's Claw (1978)...or Fearless Hyena (1979).

The Eight Immortals

As an aside, I think it's also worth noting that the film's "8 Drunken Gods" fighting styles were based on the Eight Immortals of Buddhism-infused Taoism. But I point this out only because a buddy of mine rags on religion endlessly, and I can't help but be amused at the irony: The footprint of religion can be found on nearly everything he loves, including martial arts and ostensibly even breaking–by less than six degrees of separation.

Anyway, as a Martial Arts Movie-Watching Grand Master™, I've studied well over one hundred martial arts flicks. This rambling post has now actually got me thinkin' that if I put my highly disciplined mind to it, I could probably come up with five or six kung-fu movies that show the fighting moves upon which several b-boy floor moves are based.

But this thought could also be a sign that I'm severely sleep deprived.


Still, one film that quickly comes to mind is Holy Robe of Shaolin. I readily acknowledge that this film was released in 1985, when the spinning floor moves of breaking were already firmly established. But it still offers an exceptional example of what I like to think of as the "Shaolin backspin." (See below)


Holy Robe of Shaolin

Unfortunately, the YouTube poster has embedding disabled, hence only a sad screen capture. But the full clip (which you can see here) is just over a minute long, and features several quick displays of the famous fighting styles for which the Buddhist monks of the Shaolin Temple are known.

"Buddha's name be praised." – Shaolin and Wu Tang (1981)

9.11.2011

KFG4 Reviewed by Broken Pencil



Kung Fu Grip!
Perzine, issue #4: Things In Life, St. Paco, 7730 East Broadway #925, Tucson, Arizona, 85710, USA, kungfugripzine.com, $2
With a title like Kung Fu Grip! and plenty of cheesy vintage comic book ads, I was expecting to find a zine mocking '70s culture. Instead I got a tremendously thoughtful, introspective, intelligent, well-written zine. This zine made my day.
In the intro, Paco discusses the time lapse between issues three and four, how he lost his job and has struggled to get published in other mediums and the passing of his father. The latter is just mentioned briefly but, as you read on, you can feel its influence ripple through the pages.
Included in this issue is an article Paco wrote about the historical treatment and presentation of Negritos (Asia's "little blacks") that originally appeared in Giant Robot and an extended piece in which he writes about his final months with his father and the influence his parent had on his life. "I told myself that I wasn't going to eulogize my father," he writes, but once he realizes he is doing just that, he doesn't shy away. What he ends up creating is a beautiful tribute. " I have experienced nothing as rewarding as having the chance to help my father as best I could during the time when he needed me most. If I never accomplish anything else worth writing about, I know that I accomplished that," he says. Ironically it is something worth writing about and provides a moment all too rare when we're reminded of the power words can have and the perfect simplicity of the medium of zines to convey those messages.
Harley R. Pageot
Broken Pencil Magazine (Canada)

9.07.2011

Densha Otoko (Train Man)

Thumbing through an old copy of The Source (August 1993), a photo at the top of the "Graf Flix" page leaped out at me. The picture shows a train that was painted by my San Diego buddy, Sake. When the flick was published I didn't know Sake, but had seen his work in The Source and a few other mags, including Phase 2’s I.G. Times, I believe.



Click to enlarge

Anyway, 13 or so years later I ended up meeting Sake and doing an art show in San Diego with him and our mutual homies Mikey and my Joey, who were both part of the crew that introduced us. I didn't know what to expect of the show and really didn't put my best foot forward with the paintings that I did. But Sake, Mikey and Joey picked up my artistic slack.

Now, what really gets me at the moment is that it didn't occur to me until now that I had actually come to know Sake's work from this photo when it was published all those years ago. Pretty amazing.

Another noteworthy item on the magazine page itself is the photo of the blue & pink "Hyero" piece. It was painted by the now legendary Mike Giant. I first encountered Giant's work when he and his crew came through Chicago in '92, and left some beastly graff in our version of the Hall of Fame (see previous post). If memory serves, some guys I knew from the Ice Pack Crew showed him where it was, and he gives them a shout out on this page, too.



Click to enlarge

Looking at Sake's photo once again, I notice that he dedicated the freight piece to his then-girlfriend-and-now-wife Chyna. But he also gave a shout out to Giant in the short list on the right side of his piece. I don't know if it's actually Mike or another Giant, so I'll have to check with him. (Or Sake could just read this post and drop me a note in Google Reader, since we see each other's online shares.)

Giant circa 1992, Chicago





18th Street Hall of Fame, Chicago

9.02.2011

Archive #7: Battalia

When I wasn't even looking for it, I found a hard copy version of a logo I designed back in '95 for a comic book character that I was roughing out then named Battalia (bat-al-ee-yah). I can't remember the last time I actually looked at it. I was fairly certain that the image was saved to a floppy disk stored on a shelf, but who has a floppy drive anymore?

After rediscovering the logo, I was promptly saddled with the grand idea of finally collecting the synopsis and a short story that I wrote back then with the half-dozen Battalia sketches that were made into a little booklet known in the comic book industry an ashcan.

Click image to enlarge

Unfortunately, though, reality quickly set in and I found myself mentally wrestling against putting so much effort into a 15-year-old idea that I had no real plans to use. Battalia was a product of another time, and a phase that I was going through at that time.

When Battalia was created, I was a student trying to find my creative path. Her creation didn't even have anything to do with the instruction I was receiving at that time, but grew out of the interactions that I was having with other artist friends, both in and around that environment.

She represented a possible way for me to synthesize where I was creatively–a chance to fuse my appreciation for science fiction, animation, comics, art deco, art nouveau and the new design world that was opening up to me as a student. Battalia was a really good idea, but maybe she was nothing more than that.

Click image to enlarge
Had I much more skill (and patience) as an illustrator, it's possible that the project would have gone a lot further. Despite my limitations, I find that I am still quite happy with the images that I managed to get down onto paper. And for the ideas that she gave me the opportunity to channel, the beautiful Battalia still means a great deal to me. Maybe she and I will meet again before the year I set her adventures in: 2039.

Click image to enlarge

8.20.2011

Graphic Design 102: "It's Like That"



My homeboy DJ Darrell D (of the previously mentioned Jamille Records) recently asked me to do some design work for his label. The first job was a fold-out cover for the special edition version of Two-Tone's "Time to Rhyme/Jazz It Up" 7-inch vinyl record; the full piece folds out to a 22" x 14.5" poster. And the second job was for a Jamille Records promo sticker.

As you can see, the record cover (above) features a vintage photograph of the Two-Tone crew taken with one of those cheap, portable camera's that most of us had back in the day. The duo never really had a logo, so I roughed out a few designs and went with the one that I thought best reflected a crew named "Two-Tone."

The fold-out poster concept was based on something that Darrell sent me which was originally used by a UK pop duo–who shall not be named. All I will say is that it was not Wham. Since I was basically working off of a previous work, I was able to take some shortcuts on the front, hence the clip art-style images in two frames.


The dollar sign in the bottom frame was inspired by the large gold charm dangling from the chain of D.E. Fresh. Continuing with the gold theme, I added gold lightning bolts to the radio antenna. The name of the crew was also added to the cassette, but I decided that a blank tape worked best.

The front side has six sections that measure out to 7.25" x 7.25" squares, and it was a bit of a challenge initially to get the layout balanced for the actual folding. When I printed a miniature proof version, though, it came out perfectly–and that's mainly because I am a genius on the DL.

With the exception of the front and back covers, the secondary point of a production like this is the poster itself. As you can see below, another vintage Two-Tone photograph was used here, but the final version has the name of the crew in gold near the bottom right corner.


With the much bigger job out of the way, I moved on to the sticker designs. I actually wound up designing five of 'em, but I'm only posting the two primary stickers here.



As is the case with many DJs, Run-D.M.C.'s Jam Master Jay means a lot to Darrell D. Because my client is also a friend, I know that Fat Albert is his all-time favorite cartoon character. So, I went with an idea that incorporates those elements, remixed with the Def Jam Records logo. (The black bar at the bottom hints at the Run-D.M.C. logo.)

Who wudda' thunk that Fat Albert would look so fresh in a fedora? ME, that's who.

Taking the previous sticker design one step backward, it was only natural to try something using the actual Run-D.M.C. logo. Yes, I know that there have been countless permutations of this "remix" over the years, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from doing one to see how it would look.



When the layout was done, I thought that the "Jam Rec" abbreviation worked out perfectly and went ahead with it as my secondary design. D actually loved it when he saw it, and I was glad that I didn't let the fact that it's already been done deter me from what I thought spoke to Darrell D as a hardcore fan of Jam Master Jay and the Hollis Crew.