Many moons ago, as a teenager, I (briefly) worked at a magazine called The ZINE.
The ZINE was a glossy affair, with plenty of colour, record reviews, band interviews and all the other ephemera of an indie-leaning youth publication of the 1990s, but what made it stick out from other titles on the racks at WHSmith was that it was a magazine completely filled with reader contributions. Angsty poetry, angry letters, sad tales of abuse, enthusiastic opinion pieces – it was all in there.
Initially a self-published fanzine called Charlotte’s Mag which was launched in 1991, it was rebranded The ZINE in 1993 – the new name and the skimmed-over computer game section part of the conditions laid down by the money people who got on board promising nationwide distribution. It was to last ten issues in this form, with circulation (if I recall correctly) into six figures. Tell me that’s not impressive!
I think it is safe to say that it had a loyal readership, who in turn were also very often passionate contributors – writers, reviewers, photographers, even sub-editors and office dogsbodies. Yes, as well as reading this magazine, and then sending in our own stuff to it, many of us also descended on The ZINE‘s office, in a farmhouse in the Surrey countryside, eager to ensure each issue went out, keen to learn the ropes. For some it was to set them on the path of journalism and publishing, for others it was simply a case of stepping up to repay the mag for both listening to and speaking for us. I guess I fell between the two stools somewhere.
Anyway, perhaps best of all was the artwork. From full-on paintings down to biroed doodles on the backs of envelopes, The ZINE offered anyone who was prepared to have a crack the opportunity to be seen by others. Some of the cartoonists were phenomenal – like Joseph Champniss, with his Look-In-style indie band biopic strips, or Dr Adolf Steg, with his feverishly bizarre renderings of monster-like creatures; or the increasingly ubiquitous Alex Mason and Matt Saw, each with their own instantly recognisable style.
‘Where are they now?’, you may ask. Well, Champniss worked with Lee and Herring, and co-created the Some Of The Corpses Are Amusing comedy website. Dr Steg has a website. Mason and Saw? I don’t have a scooby – and damn them for their google-proof names!
One former ZINE artist in particular though is still around, still cartooning, and doing so rather successfully: the wonderfully talented Jamie Smart.
Yes, Jamie Smart – whose memo helped revitalise The Dandy, whose own rendition of Desperate Dan divides audiences (personally I love it), whose own creations like ‘Bear‘ bubble with imagination and creativity – had his first work published at the age of fourteen in The ZINE!
So sit back, relax and enjoy some very early work by Jamie Smart – taken from The ZINE issue 5, originally published with a cover date of December 1993/January 1994 (clicken to embiggen)…
NB: I did contact Jamie to check with him that these were indeed his cartoons, and also to ask if he minded if I blogged about them. Many thanks Mr Smart for giving me the green light!