Carta Monir Loves Her Risograph Machine and Her Friends

Excerpt from "I Must Be Doing Something Right" by Carta Monir

Carta Monir is known in the small press comics circles for her touching and personal comics, including 2018 Ignatz Award winner Lara Croft Was My Family. She’s also known in our hearts for being a warm and welcoming voice. So when she recently tweeted about the question she always wished an interviewer would ask her, we at WWAC took that wish fulfillment very seriously. And of course, it was also a great opportunity to chat with Carta about some of her work and projects that we really admire. So that’s exactly what we did!

I’d love to talk a little about Diskette Press! What made you decide to start your own limited edition press? And what are you hoping to accomplish with it? And what was the process like of bringing it from an idea into actual fruition?

If you’d asked me two years ago if I thought I was ever going to own a small press, I would have said “absolutely not.” I wasn’t planning on this! A local print shop I’d been using to print all my zines was getting rid of their old Risograph, and they called me! I didn’t even ask them to. They just thought, “She seems like the kind of person who might want this,” I guess. They wanted so little money for it, and mostly just wanted it out of their shop. I got some of my strongest friends to help me transport it (the machine itself weighs about 300 pounds), and just like that I had the potential to be a small press!

From there it’s just been a slow process of building up our ability to actually print things. I had to get some special equipment so that the machine could print from the computer, and then I also needed things like a good paper cutter, a folding machine, and so on. But we’re pretty legit now! I have an employee and everything. Carolyn hasn’t been that involved yet, because she’s been so busy with her deadlines, but I’m hoping she’ll take a more and more active co-editor role!

As far as what we hope to accomplish, I’m very interested in giving young, up-and-coming trans and gender nonconforming artists a platform. I’ve been publishing a lot of really cool work so far, and we have some really neat projects coming up too. It’s also my goal to get them paid. When I started making work for publishers I was horrified to get, like, 15% of the profits from every book sold. I don’t want to be like that. When I publish an artist, they keep the majority of the proceeds. I don’t mind not making a lot of money off of them. I want them to have a good experience and a chance to have their work seen by lots of people.

A way that I do hope to make some money is by acting as a small-scale commercial printer. If people want good-quality riso printing, I’m a great option. Our turnarounds are quick, our prices are reasonable, and our work is solid.

Diskette Press' risograph machine and printing setup

Following Diskette and your work, you’re obviously a Risograph enthusiast. What’s so special about the risograph machine for you?

Risograph printing has appealed to me ever since I saw my first riso zines. (I think they were Mickey Z‘s work, probably around 2012 or 2013? And the first fancy-looking riso zine I remember buying was Kris Mukai‘s Commuter.) If you’re not familiar with the process, Risograph is a kind of stencil printing, like screen printing or mimeographs. An image is scanned (like on a Xerox machine) or digitized from a computer, and then burned into a thermal master (which looks like wax paper—think of it as a one-time-use print screen). The drum, filled with liquid ink, rolls over paper, and leaves an impression. What’s great about riso printing is that it’s very fast. Basically, you can print as many pages as the drum can rotate per minute. My machine, the GR3770, can print up to 120 pages per minute! It’s very very fast. It sounds like a washing machine.

Something else I really love about riso printing is the way that it handles halftones. The machine makes its own halftones and handles gradients and lighter tones really well, so you end up with this kind of newsprint-style graininess that you can’t get anywhere else. The colors are all pretty translucent, and layer over one another beautifully. It’s incredible … I don’t know another way to get such high-quality, beautiful printing so cheaply or accessibly.

You’re very prolific when it comes to small and limited edition zines! What little things you’ve made feel particularly special to you?

Oh, thank you! I really love the Game Boy camera zines I’ve been making. I think it’s a really cool little medium for making highly personal work. They’ve been pretty short runs so far, but I’m hoping to collect them eventually. That’s one of the best things about owning the Risograph—I can just make things as experiments without needing to make it a whole production. My costs are up-front! I might as well mess around.

Carta Monir's gameboy zine, "Don't Touch Me", 2018

I want to specifically call out your selfie zine, I Must Be Doing Something Right, which I found really powerful. As a queer writer, I worry a lot about doing things that feel self-indulgent or that others will perceive as self-indulgent. It was honestly really inspiring and healing to see you doing something like the selfie zine, and realizing that you can do something for yourself and others will still relate and find value in it. You talk about confidence in this piece, and so my question is, how did you find the confidence to put something so personal like this out into the world?

So much of my work is hyper-personal. I guess in a way I’ve just gotten used to the idea that nothing is really off-limits. I always think, “If I’m going through these things, other people are too,” and that makes it a lot easier to write about. I talk about her a lot, but Phoebe Gloeckner was very inspirational to me when I was starting to make personal work. I often find myself thinking, “Well, if Phoebe could talk about these things, then I can talk about my own things.” I always think I can go further though! I’m always striving to be even more honest, even more candid.

An Excerpt from "I Must Be Doing Something Right" by Carta Monir

I love what you said earlier about raising up young trans and gender nonconforming voices! If there’s anyone reading that falls into that category and is interested in possibly doing a zine with Diskette Press, what’s the best way for them to chat with you about that?

They should email me! (cartamonir [at] gmail) I’m always very excited to see new work, and though I can’t make any promises about our ability to publish them, I’m more than happy to take a look and talk about what they’re making!

You’ve written about your friendships with other authors before; I’m particularly thinking about Carolyn Nowak and the foreword you wrote for Girl Town. How do these friendships allow you to bolster each other as creatives?

My friendships are everything! One of the most important things in my life is building friendships and, through my friendships, building community. If I didn’t have friends in the comics community I would be so sad! My friends and I all push each other to be better and make more interesting work. And they give me so much to look up to! How can you look at Sophia Foster-Dimino‘s work and not think, “Wow, there are SO many ways I can get better at comics!!”

Here comes the softball question, as promised! What comic do you wish you wrote? 😀  (This question is in response to this thread, which everyone should read!)

What can I say? I just think the “best friend prostate massage” yaoi manga cuts right to the heart of what makes comics a fun medium. There’s just so much you can do! You don’t have to stick to one genre; you don’t have to have good taste. You can just do fun, silly things, and draw some pretty boys having a nice time with each other. That’s the best.

Jameson Hampton

Jameson Hampton

Jamey is a non-binary adventurer from Buffalo, NY who wishes they were immortal so they’d have time to visit every coffee shop in the world. They write code, like plants, record podcasts, categorize zines and read tarot cards. Ask them about Star Wars or Vampire: the Masquerade if you dare.