Before the blog – zines from the 80s…

jat_archive.jpgPart of the stash of stuff I had shipped here last October included what’s left of my modest collection of zines from the late 80s –you know, those photocopied political rags, lit mags, artists books, chapbooks and collections of rants you’d sometimes find in music shops next to the magazine racks. Or cluttering the floor underneath the record bins. The proliferation of cheap copy shops fueled the “industry”, and by the late Reagan years self-publishing was nearly as common as blogs are today. Relatively speaking.

They all carried a price tag –oftentimes scribbled on with heavy black marker as an afterthought prompted by wishful thinking– but usually they were all labors of love, produced on kitchen tables and cluttered desks with scissors, tape, and glue, before they were secretly copied on the office copier when the boss wasn’t looking. At least my favorites were.

boingboing_2-small.jpgMost of you probably know about Boing Boing, but you may not know that its beginnings are firmly rooted in the now forgotten annals of zinedom –here’s a pic of #2. I can’t imagine that too many still exist, so it was nice to find this one stuffed into my humble filing archive, an old Jugoslav Airlines flight bag my mom once threatened to throw away.

sir_realist_3-small.jpgBesides Too Much Good Air (sorry, a copy didn’t make it across the Atlantic), a magazine a friend and I somehow kept alive for a couple of years in college, I had a short-lived zine of my own, Sir Realist, which I tried to market as an Utne Reader of the zine world, reprinting pieces and parts from other zines. Kind of like a blog, actually, except that it only lasted for three issues. And most copies walked out the few bookstores or record shops that agreed to give it shelf space without any sort of remuneration.

mallife_13-14-small.jpgOne of my favorites was something called Mallife, a work of art in and of itself. Scattered among its experimental absurdist fiction were multi-page hand-glued inserts and drawings colored by hand. Another that stood out was S(C)RAP #6 with its black sandpaper cover. These (and many others) were serious enough to actually acquire ISSN numbers.

Here are scans of a few. I’ll scan/upload some more if there’s enough interest. Anyone know what any of these publishers/writers are up to these days?











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Edited to add a few links of interest:

ZineWiki is an open-source encyclopedia devoted to zines and independent media. It covers the history, production, distribution and culture of the small press”; is an online directory with plenty of links; and

In an effort to find a permanent home for these and the thousands of others that were created, I just set up a flickr group — — where you can easily add images of zines you’ve either published or those you might have in your personal collections. Note that the flickr group will only be for zines that are no longer being published.


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  1. […] boingboing I found this blog post Before the blog – zines from the 80s…. The blogger has scans of zine covers from the late 1980s from his collection–a collection […]

  2. Trevor Blake says

    Every issue of my zine OVO, from 1987 to the present, is online for free at…

  3. Vanwall says

    I remember collating an SF zine on the floor of somebody’s apartment for a few years. I can’t seem to break loose permanently – I always browse the zines at Powell’s in Portland when I’m up there – it’s still an active proposition.

  4. John says

    Boing Boing as one of the first zines I ever got my grubby little paws on. Boing Boing, Factsheet Five, Cometbus… *sigh*

    The thing I miss the most about that era was the mailart. Every day I sent out self addressed envelopes full of stuff, and as a result had a constant stream of mail.

    Maybe it will all come back soon. 🙂

  5. Ummagumma says

    Man, I can’t believe they charged 3 bucks for that thing. I thought ‘zines were supposed to be cheap!

  6. […] um ótimo post com imagens de zines gringos dos anos 80. Muito boa a comparação dos zines com blogs em relação ao baixo custo e distribuição (na […]

  7. trying2matter says

    they aren’t that outdated yet, though supplanted by blogs of course you can still find these types of publications at Tower Records.

  8. […] Gallery of ’80s zines.  […]

  9. baroing says

    Sniff….factsheet five….sniff….

    Tell me you have a copy of Scam in there somewhere…

    Anyone remember Bummers and Gummers?

  10. joe says

    Here in Denver we have a zine library that has nearly 7,000 zines. You can check it out online at: Denver Zine Library

  11. Leo says

    Hm, I should see if I have any old copies of Beef lying around.

  12. […] Before the blog – zines from the 80s… [image]Part of the stash of stuff I had shipped here last October included what’s left of my modest collection of […] […]

  13. mydigest says

    I am glad that zines are remembered, preserved and praised. I had not realised. I associate them in my mind, as far as their ‘feel’ goes, with student rag publications; so-called underground newspapers of the 1960s, some of which evolved to successful mags; and even the first tabloid issues of Rolling Stone. Cy Quick at

  14. pirano says

    Hi all — thanks for stopping by. Remember, if you’ve got some old defunct zines of your own, or a collection of others lying around, check out the flickr site (7 members and growing!) and give them a permanent home.

  15. fade theory » zines

    […] Lawson at See Also… refers us to this great post: Before the blog – zines from the 80s…. There’s some speculation that blogs have replaced zines, but I disagree. Every city has a […]

  16. Francis Palazzolo says

    Thanks for your interest,

    In the eighties I published Alias News, a slew of zines from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, with titles such as Humanshit, God Fucking Mody Dick, Kinder & Gentler, Bullshit, Plaster Saint, American Shit, and Hype.

    Below is a news-site that covered my 2005 art show at the Proposition Gallery in Chelsea NYC. At the bottom of the picture in the lower right is a small green arrow. Click it. The following 5 or 6 pages cover the blog/zine aspect that you describe and as well a bit of what I’m doing now.


  17. Marty Weil says

    Great ephemera. These are exactly the types of documents I enjoy profiling. Wonderful stuff…

  18. yufen says

    It’s interesting to know about the history of these zines, Bob, and you’re building a “museum” for them. Nice. The publishing industry in Taiwan is a difficult business as it probably is elsewhere in the world. Many small publishers were merged by few big ones so that they could make a living. Many translators like me couldn’t make a living by doing translation. Very sad. But it is an inevitable trend. When I was in university, we had only newletter (a piece of paper every semester). When I was in France, I was lucky to get to know a guy who was running a campus magazine but it didn’t last long. But it’s a precious memory for him and his fellow friends. I like your comparison of these zines to today’s blogs. 🙂

  19. J.D. says

    The punk zine archive has a bunch of zines online:

  20. links for 2010-09-24

    […] Before the blog – zines from the 80s… « piran café (tags: desbus2010 zine blogzines) This entry was posted in Delicious. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « links for 2010-09-23 […]

  21. julian assange says

    keep in touched

  22. […] came the copy machine revolution (full disclosure, my first publications were in zines), and now, of course, ebooks threaten to […]

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