Small Press Expo, an annual convention celebrating independent comics and zines, hosted a Saturday panel discussing the zine culture of the 1990s.
This past weekend, Small Press Expo held its 2022 convention in Bethesda, Maryland. The convention, founded in 1994, spotlights independent comics and zine creators throughout its weekend. After two years of virtual events, the convention returned to an in-person event, requiring both proof of vaccination and masks. The exhibitor hall was the highlight of the show, filled with hundreds of vendors and the opportunity to talk to creators. Saturday evening played host to the Ignatz Award ceremony, honoring achievements in various categories.
In addition to the exhibitor’s hall, the convention also hosted a series of panels and workshops throughout the weekend. Many of these panels provided fresh insight into the vast world of independent comics and the creators that have found their niche creating outside of the mainstream. “Reflecting on the 90s Zine Revolution” was a panel hosted on Saturday that provided insight into the height of zine culture.
The moderator and four panelists, Dr. Rachel Miller, Ariel Bordeaux, Megan Kelso, Tom Hart, and Jenny Zervakis, were creators who got started during the 1990s. The increased access to photocopying machines through places like Kinkos boosted zine production. During this time, many of the panelists spoke about their introduction to zines and how they allowed them to explore the world outside the traditional mainstream media. While some didn’t find the typical superhero comics inspiring, they were thrilled able to develop other ideas through zines.
In addition to the ease of creation provided by technical innovations and access, the other reason for the increase in zine creators was the community that formed around them. The panelists reflected on making new friends through the zines they created, whether through sharing zines or through collaboration. Zine creators often shared their work through the mail, and many zines of the time were filled with contacts and resources for zine creators to connect.
The discussion soon turned to the modern day of zines, which have become even more accessible due to the internet. The panelists also appreciated the ease of creating zine pages due to programs such as the Adobe Creative Suite. Though the internet has allowed for zines to be produced digitally, many still prefer the traditionally printed version. However, they acknowledged that the digital creation of a zine is typically cheaper in today’s age.
The quote that stood out to me most during the panel was during a discussion on the continued importance of zines. One of the panelists pointed out that zines are still a great way to disseminate information without a “gatekeeper.” As many media companies begin to monopolize and affect media creation, the independent nature of zine creation allows artists to maintain creative freedom.
All in all, “Reflecting on the 90s Zine Revolution” was both an enlightening reminiscence of the time as well as a valuable discussion about the importance of zines.
Author: Jessica Wolff
Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.
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