The idea of creating a zine didn’t hit me right away.
As I first began making comics, I tried pressuring myself into posting a webcomic. I figured it was the most comfortable and quickest way to see if what I made had an audience. But I quickly drew myself into a corner.
With a rigid schedule—that got interrupted by work, the newsletter—and then using social media to promote it, I quickly lost track of where I thought the story was going. I also felt glued to a screen.
I tried making a long 32-page comic entirely offline.
Didn’t show anyone what I was doing while working on it, and then posted it online. Then I made another, shorter one. The comics got some kind comments, and quite a few eyes on them, but I felt empty afterwards. All that time spent on something that’s only on a screen? That didn’t feel good. I had plenty of drawings—but they were just line drawings, black and white. And they weren’t collected properly. I wanted to sit with them, not scroll through them. I wanted coloured pages.
Making a real comic, though…could I do that?
I’m not a girl, LGBT, coloured, I don’t draw typical superheroes, don’t have any issues or diagnoses (that I am aware of). I’m a middle-aged white North American male expat in Scandinavia. I can think of one good production based on that profile: “Welcome to Sweden.” It was fun! But we don’t need more of that.
I think having some insecurity about making a real comic made me assume that a magazine was the proper format to get started on.
I mocked up Hooky as a traditional sort of magazine: pages filled with placeholders for my comics, interviews with—and comics of other comics artists, profiles of painters, long-form reviews of documentaries about Jazz musicians. I had tips and tricks for working in a studio as a freelancer, ads for bicycles I thought I might refurbish and sell…
You get the idea: it had everything under the sun. Lots of ideas based on other people or things—I didn’t see much of myself in the pages.
I was so busy doing all the bait-work that I never got around to the stuff I wanted to be pushing—the comics.
It was a fun project idea—design-wise—but it seemed like a lot of added work for myself. Organizing interviews, writing interesting articles and illustrating them, it looked like I had traded online work for work that wouldn’t really have anything to do with what I wanted to do: make comics of my little stories. It seemed to me I would eventually have to recruit others to bring in content if I was to go that route.
After spitballing the idea of Hooky with my sister, Chrissie, I think she goaded me into asking myself,
“Why wasn’t I just making a book of my own comics?”
I don’t think I was ready.
I did not have many comics under my belt, and it was unsure footing for me. Hiding behind other artists felt comfier.
Comfy sounds lovely.
But here’s the thing about being creative and comfy.
“Comfy” is sitting on the sofa watching “Friends.”
“Comfy” is passive. It’s entertaining, but someone else has done the work to entertain you.
“Comfy” means you aren’t trying.
You certainly aren’t entertaining.
I decided to up the stakes for myself.
I put more of my stuff on the pages. No more hiding. It’s filled with my comics and writing. The reviews got pared down to tweet-like mentions, gone are the ads, and I dropped the idea of interviews.
What I ended up with looked like a zine.
Zines appeal to me because, unlike social media, they are slow and thoughtful and permanent—and analog.
When I relax, I want some paper in my hands. I love magazines, old comic books. I enjoy reading some pages— a whole story, or article— and then returning to the same binding again and again to read some other little thing. A real hodge-podge. I like that.
Zines are also personal. One person made it, from one point of view.
John Porcellino is a big influence. His zines —King Cat—are still going after some 78 issues. He’s been making them since 1989. King Cat is black and white, stapled, contains diary-like comics, longer writings, painstaking lists of things he likes, very local news, poetry. Personal stuff. It’s great. Wildlife, too. Optic Nerve by Adrian Tomine and Eightball by Daniel Clowes were also inspirations. Man, can they draw!
I researched other zines. I subscribed to Zine-O-Matic to get a lay of the land, but those zines seemed obscure, messy, vague, and seemed like they were an inside joke. If there was a joke.
Maybe they were just too artsy-fartsy for me. I wanted something more accessible.
Then I saw Klaus Magazine by Richard Short.
Now we’re talking. Comics, in Magazine format. Pretty much. I mean, it’s in the name, right? Magazine.
I thought I could maybe do that. I just had to convince myself.
I used to blog about stuff I like, thoughts, other artists, ideas.
Now I journal. I use DayOne nearly daily. I often write more than one entry per day. Same stuff in there. But it’s still on screen. Nobody but me ever sees it. That may be just as well, but I feel some of the stuff is worth putting into something I can pick up and leaf through. Much like making a photo album. When was the last time you made a real photo album?
Besides, what is art without an audience? It’s like the tree that falls in the empty forest. If no one hears it, did it really happen? Is it really… a tree?
I thought I could do what John does but in my own way.
I’d make a zine. More specifically: I’d make a Fancy Zine.
I cut out the fake ads. (Who am I kidding? When and where am I going to refurbish bicycles? Come on, Luke! )
I wrote about stuff I think about, and I sprinkled my comics all over the place. I figured my drawing is pretty accessible. I don’t need to piggyback on other content to get you to look at it.
The topical stuff became a series of short reviews—sort of “notes to self” about things that had caught my interest during the making of the comic—and they were given some pages: “The Speakwell.”
I added a Table of Contents.
Boom. It looked like a magazine, but it wasn’t one.
It was a polished zine: A Fancy Zine.
With the idea about content fixed, all I had to do was plug along, make my comics, fill the pages and get it printed.
Making Hooky a traditionally photocopied and stapled zine would have been a good idea, certainly easier if I could have found a “Kinko’s” in Stockholm that wouldn’t ruin me financially. I thought about buying a printer, ink and paper, calculated postage to send them abroad—and quickly decided the whole project would be more of a burden than a quirky hobby.
Self Publishing was the way to go.
Very little money up front. There is a setup fee, ISBNs in Sweden are free, and ordering a proof copy is a good idea. Distribution is built in.
Having used Amazon’s CreateSpace to make my kids book, Wood Cake, I basically knew the ropes of how to go about it. I also knew the reaction of bookstore owners to Amazon. Not good. Not friendly at all.
I read online about another service, IngramSpark, who did not seem hated by everyone in the book industry and who actually distributed to small bookshops and retailers everywhere.
Using IngramSpark, I find they are better at helping you with getting your metadata, descriptions and marketing in order, shipping is cheap, shipping times short, and the whole process is fast and painless. The print quality is just as good, if not better than Amazon. So far, I’m super happy with them.
Hooky still pops up on Amazon, but I don’t have to peddle my wares through them.
There you have it: Hooky Comics Magazine. A fancy zine featuring my comics, thoughts and concise casual reviews.
I think I’ll keep making them for a good long while, even if it is for an audience of 1.
Although, I do hope you will join me;)
Oh right! The Quiet Launch! I should explain that bit…
Launching Hooky into the world, I figured any sort of major effort on my part wouldn’t get heard anyway, so I’d make it easy on myself.
I made a little trailer for it, and then started posting screenshots online. I also sent copies to Andy Miller and Tor Freeman, because they inspired me to make the thing in the first place. Andy with his words and enthusiasm in his Creative Peptalk Podcast, and Tor with her amazing comics, “Welcome to Oddleigh”. They were very kind to write back some nice words. Andy did a little Instagram Story thingy, which was cool.
Also, I sent a copy to “It’s Nice That” and “Stack Magazines” – but I haven’t heard back from them:) Still. 2 out of 4 ain’t bad!
I’ll keep making Hooky No.2 and keep posting doodles and snapshots and see what happens. Mostly, I’m just enjoying having the project to do!
Getting to the post office to send off sold zines is also fun!