Button-Zines and More: Chicago’s Zine Fest

Chicgo Zine Fest Corinne Mucha

It’s about zines. It’s an independent event. It’s like an indie convention. It’s about accessibility. And art. And sharing. It’s free. It’s about small presses and independent publishers. It’s about DIY. And community. And it’s really super cool. Chicago Zine Fest was started in 2010, took place at Columbia College and Quimby’s Bookstore, and has been growing and growing since.

The event started Friday night with some super cool sounding stuff. There was a panel about Zines as a craft (with Julia Eff (Every Thug is a Lady), Jonas (Cheer the Eff Up, The Greatest Most Traveling Circus!), and Ocean Capewell (High on Burning Photographs). Moderated by Jenna Freedman (Lower East Side Librarian).) And there was a Youth Reading, and Readers: Annie Mok (Worst Behavior), Celia Pérez (I Dreamed I Was Assertive, Ofrenda: A Zine Anthology), H. Melt (Second to None: Queer and Trans Chicago Voices, Straight Talk, SIRvival in the Second City: Transqueer Chicago Poems), Martha Grover (Somnambulist), Matt Davis (Perfectly Acceptable Press), and Mimi Thi Nguyen (Slander, Pander Mafia). Lovely poster art by Corinne Mucha.

But I am old (in actions), and too tired after work on Fridays to do anything but go to Temple and then go to bed.

So, my fantastic Zine Fest experience did not start until Saturday, and I am told that missing out on Friday’s scheduling was a HUGE MISTAKE. (You can see all the goings-on I missed on their Twitter and their Instagram.) Next year, next year I will be better.

Arrival – In Which I Was Overwhelmed By a Mural

Chicago Zine Fest Al Rosenberg
A thing of beauty. The mural reads, “The Plumber Protects the Health of the Nation.”

The Saturday events took place at Plumber’s Union Hall, which is very close to the daycare I used to work at. Luckily, the daycare is not open on Saturdays so I didn’t have to wear a disguise to avoid endless awkward interactions.

It’s a three story space, and CZF utilized all the rooms well. Registration was by the entrance; there was a Reading Room and a Workshop room on the ground floor. Gender neutral bathrooms were available. The second floor had all of the exhibitor tables and there were MANY. And on the wall of the staircase connecting the floors was this AWESOME MURAL ABOUT PLUMBERS. The third floor was home to the bake sale, the pour over coffee stand, the button-zine making table, and the free photo booth.

A couple different food trucks showed up throughout the day, and I have to say, next year a vegan food truck should camp out. They would have made a killing.

Workshops – In Which I Spent Forever Making a Button Zine, Learned About International Comics, Missed Out on Some Cool Stuff, and Made Some Poetry

Italian and European Comics Culture
“The International School of Comics in conjunction with Italian artists and creators Marco Cosentino and Annalisa Vicari bring Chicago Italian And European Comics Culture! A discussion of the international comics scene followed by a hands on illustration session in the style of the masters: Moebius, Enki Bilal, Ugo Pratt, Paolo Serpieri, and so on!”

This was a pretty cool talk for a couple reasons. First, somehow I did not know about the International School of Comics in Chicago until now. Or, I knew and forgot, but now I really know and I’m super excited about it. There are a lot of women in the leadership! Marco Cosentino told us all about the difference between American, Japanese, and European mainstream comics. Growing up an utter nerd I definitely already knew the difference between American and Japanese comics. In America you get a bit of subtlety in the emotion and action, fairly realistic bodies (unless you’re a female superhero). Japanese comics dramatize emotions, enlarge features like the eyes, and use a lot of symbolism on the page (like nosebleeds for arousal).

However, I didn’t know much about European comics and what Cosentino had to say was very interesting. One of his examples was this: in a fight scene in American comics you would see the punches land, the damage done to the other body, the close-ups of the fighters faces. In European comics you would see the destruction done to the room around them as symbolic of the damage done to the fighters, you might see the fight through a keyhole, or from many stories above the fighters. There are a lot of details filling the page, and less focus on the action. This is, perhaps, why superhero comics have never been popular in Europe.

We concluded the workshop by trying our hand at drawing the three different kinds of storyboards.

Chicago Zine Fest Al RosenbergMake a Button Zine
Create your very own button zine with Busy Beaver Button Co.! You bring your creativity and drawing skills and we’ll provide all the materials to make a 4-page 4.25×5.5-inch zine with an attached pin-back button. This all-ages workshop is a drop-in event, as long as supplies last. Led by Busy Beaver’s Denise Gibson.

Well, Folks, I thought I would just stop by the table, check it out for a second. Instead I spent a very long time making a zine all about what happiness means to me, “Happiness is a Cup of Tea.” I completed this project with a tiny button decorated with a tea cup. Too cute.

There were people of all ages at this station and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

Bad Bitches
Bad Bitches is a workshop facilitated discussion with a group of QTPOC/WOC folks about resisting assimilation into white radical culture and honoring our intense survival skills. Facilitated by Nyky Gomez, Ari Perezdiez, and Mimi Thi Nguyen.

I did not make it to the awesome workshop. A lot of time passed while I was making my button zine. I felt like I was only sitting there for a few minutes, but apparently the task took me all of the workshop and part of the next. However, I asked a few fest goers about Bad Bitches and heard it was all it promised and more. Linda T. told me, “We talked about such important work. You can really start to lose a sense of who you are in activism of any kind. Like, you become part of this group and losing your identity is totally possible. You have to fight to make your mark as a person of color, as a trans person, not just a faceless, contextless individual in a group. That’s what it means to be a bad bitch.”

Chicago Zine Fest Al Rosenberg
This is about a fourth of the exhibition floor, and when it was less busy than basically the rest of the day.

Horrormones: Performing Coming-of-Age Comics with the Teen Creative Agency
Share, illustrate, and perform true-life coming-of-age stories at Horrormones, an all-ages workshop led by the Teen Creative Agency from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Lyra Hill, the creator of Brain Frame. Join us for a strange and hilarious experiment in a judgment-free zone.

I missed this one too! But Starshine, who gave me an awesome zine about the zodiac, told me that it was “super cathartic and just immense fun.”

Chicago Zine Fest Al RosenbergErasing Oppression with Erasure Poetry
So much of the existing literary canon is built on the erasure of marginalized voices and experiences. In this hands-on workshop and discussion we will use the Erasure technique to create our own new literary canon that breaks away from privileged and oppressive narratives… Facilitated by Danielle Susi of School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

This was a simple idea, but so much fun! The idea behind erasure poetry is that you black (or in my case, red) out the words you don’t want. Led by Danielle Susi, I made two poems out of some socialist texts. The first was a poem about Jesus, the second a poem for my pen pal who just went through a break-up.

I’m no poet and they both came out bad, but the experience of making them was tremendous fun. I think I may even go buy a cheap book to do this at home.

Afterward – But Wait, There’s More!

Chicago Zine Fest wraps up with not the last exhibitors shuffling out the doors of Plumber’s Union Hall, but with a party at International School of Comics. From the Facebook event page, “The Dance. Get up and move to a DJ mix provided courtesy of CZF organizers from responses we heard from the community…. The Draw. CZF organizer Alex Nall brings his signature Saturday Night Drink N Draw activities to the crowd. Join in on a collective jam comic or bring your own work and have a good time.”

I had ballet tickets (see earlier comment about how old and tired I am).

I bought so many super cool zines, and got so many free ones. I chatted with some creators doing amazing work, and was inspired by everything available. Already I’m looking forward to next year’s event (and possibly bringing a few zines of my own).

Al Rosenberg

Al Rosenberg

Gay weirdo. Talk to her about tiny games, big books, trash, and all things illness.