A couple of weeks ago, I wandered through Bushwick Open Studios: the day was hot, and after spending some time walking through the halls and artists’ spaces at 1717 Troutman, I was glad to be back in the open air, where I was, perhaps, sweating a little less. A few steps outside of the building, I ran into a friend, who reminded me of the zine-related proceedings — the successor to Bushwick Open Pages, essentially — happening at Blonde Art Books a few blocks away. So I made my way over there, stopping to get some water at a bodega, bound for my Kryptonite-like weakness: a zine fair.
The gallery space was full of tables, and the event continued in the backyard. Despite the heat, the mood was good; gathered there were people selling everything from neatly assembled art zines to half-sized comics to theoretical and political works. Needless to say, I picked up some from each column.
The first issue of BF Bifocals lists itself as “a zine about alternative methods of education in New York City and beyond.” And that is indeed the case: the contents in this issue range from explorations of certain policies of the New York City public school system; rebuilding cars using skills learned online; and perspectives on Cooper Union’s enactment of tuition. It’s a cleanly-designed collection of writings that leans towards the political and academic — ranging from the topics discussed to the information provided on institutions of alternative education.
I also picked up the first two issues of Reptile Museum, a comic from writer/artist Cody Pickrodt, based almost entirely on the striking cover designs for both. The setting is an island sometime in the future. Parts of society have crumbled; others hold on to a kind of order. A man using the name Pants (two issues in, and there’s no explanation for this unlikely nickname) returns from wandering….somewhere. As he reconnects with the people he’s left behind, he reveals evidence of past trauma and more than a small amount of fighting ability. The tone (so far, at least) is an odd blend of melancholy near-future drama and grim action-adventure. There’s also a hallucinatory spread in the second issue that’s one of the creepiest things I’ve encountered on paper in a while.
The cover to the first issue of The Longest Commute Ever echoes the poster artwork of Pulp Fiction — which segues nicely into the introduction, which is the first time I’ve seen the name “Kelly Kapowski” in print in a very long while. There’s a running theme of discontent with the pop-culture-rooted idealism of our collective youth, as well as an evocation of the anxieties of turning 30. The whole thing abounds with self-deprecating humor (including one section that effectively updates Goofus & Gallant to the dating scene of today); there’s also an anthropomorphic koala, which is never really explained and is all the more effective for it. The comedic value of random koalas really can’t be quantified, nor should it.