Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mini-comics are Not Zines. Discuss.

I was describing to someone recently the difference between a zine and a mini-comic and realized that many people, especially in the zine community, refer to mini-comics as zines. To me, the distinction is clear, but I’d be interested in hearing other opinions and, possibly, educating some. This is my take.

A zine is a self-published zine and a mini-comic is a self-published comic book. The difference between a zine and mini-comic is the difference between The New Yorker and The Amazing Spider-Man. Zines and mini-comics, like magazines and comic books, are two types of media. Mini-comics are not a genre of zines. And they are not comic zines. A comic zine would be a zine about comic books, such as Thwip!.

For some, the distinction might simply be semantics, but to others, myself included, it’s more. Would you want someone calling your zine something other than a zine? What if someone called it a chapbook? I know it’s not the end of the world, but I want to clarify that a mini-comic is not a zine. I realize some mini-comic publishers call their mini-comics zines, and that’s their call. If they call it a zine, then to them it’s a zine. But to a lot of us, our mini-comics, while related, are not zines. Nothing against zines, I enjoy zines, have friends who publish zines and consider myself a part of the zine community, but I consider what I do different than what zine publishers do.


P.S. About Comics is running a contest for idea about what to do with blank comic books. Click here for details. You could win $100 worth of really cool books or one of About Comics' titles. Seems like a really cool idea.


Ricko said...

Ah, but see, The New Yorker and The Amazing Spider-Man are both periodicals and, in a technical sense, magazines.

I think mini-comics reasonably fall under the "zines" umbrella. A lot of folks who are mainly zine people call them "comic zines". And there are certainly folks firmly entrenched in the zine world who make comics -- and they use the terminology they know / are comfortable with.

To me, a zine is basically a self-published publication but, generally speaking, semantics will trip you up when you try to think about it.

What about a publication that's half prose and half comics?

Josh Blair said...

I think it's like the square vs rectangle thing. Magazines are periodicals (as are comic books), but a periodical isn't always a magazine (as in the case of scholarly journals).

I agree that a zine is a self-published publication, but I think zines are self-published magazines whereas mini-comics are self-published comic books.

To answer your last question, it would really depend on the publication. I would call that a zine because half is dedicated to prose, so it's not presenting itself as a comic. It's presenting itself as a zine with comics. Just as a comic (mini or otherwise) can contain prose, editorial content, etc.

I agree that semantics will trip you up. I think it's something worthy of discussion and in my case, I prefer not to have Candy or Medicine presented as a zine because what I do and what zine makers do (although we employ similar methods) is different.

Ricko said...

"but I think zines are self-published magazines"

So aren't mini-comics self-published comic magazines?

"It's presenting itself as a zine with comics."

How do you know it's not presenting itself as a comic with some prose material? I guarantee you that the publisher's viewpoint would depend entirely upon which world they're rooted in. Which is really what makes the whole argument a bit moot; everything's relative.

To tell you the truth, I think trying to nail down terminology generally only serves to divide self-publishing (which is already plenty divided, unfortunately). I've been listening to (and participating in) terminology arguments for a long time and no good has ever come from them (except on a singular, personal level, of course).

I do understand where you're coming from though. Personally, I don't really care about the terms but it's fun to argue about it.

Josh Blair said...

"Personally, I don't really care about the terms but it's fun to argue about it."

I think we can agree on that.

Ricko said...


Colin Tedford said...

MAD Magazine.

Good Minnesotan said...

Josh, I agree with your line of thoughts on this one. I too love zines and comics but they are different things in my brain.

A few months ago a friend of mine was introducing my comic to a bunch of people as a zine and I had the urge to punch his lights out.