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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Article 6 on the Small Press

Toronto Computes!, Dec 2002

We have been walking down a street in Toronto, likely Queen Street West, and are about to pass a small bar. Looking down at the ground we see an ad written in chalk for a zine fair going on inside. As we look up at the door a fellow dressed like Tom Baker comes out, his arms full of folded and stapled pieces of paper.

Shrugging, we wander inside. It takes a moment for our eyes to adjust to the dim light, and for our ears to adjust to the onslaught of some underground punk band rocking on the small stage in the back of the place. The front of the pub contains the bar proper, and several stools have beefy men and women sitting at them, regulars drinking already even though its only 10 am. They stare at us with open hostility as we encroach on what they views as their personal territory.

Quickly we slip past them to the back room where billiard tables have been pushed to the side and several rows of collapsible tables have been set up. Behind each sits one or two people with a collection of small press paraphernalia for sale.

Two men with Mohawks and ripped t-shirts have hung a black sheet bearing some sort of anti-establishment logo on the cinderblock wall and framed it with Christmas lights. Appearances aside, they turn out to be the nicest guys in the place. They are associated with the band and are selling CDs, shirts and drug gear.

Beyond them is the transgender table where men in bridal gowns and women in army fatigues sell several zines about being the ‘other’ in the big, bad city of Toronto. At one point, one of the men gets out in the aisle and dances for the rest.

Next comes a table pandering maps of hotels and celebrity homes with instructions on how to break into them. We look for a map of Moses Znaimer’s home, but to no avail.

Then there are the comix. These range from hardcore sex romps to serious political satire. I wonder why no one has combined the two. One of the comix features a devilish dog that speaks to me. I happen to have a couple issues of my own comic, ‘Anarchy Bunny’, and I enter into negations with the dog’s artist. When the haggling is over I have traded several of my comix for several of his. I try this on a guy from Montreal who is selling a comic taking an interesting spin on the phrase “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us” but he’s not biting. He literally needs the cash. If he doesn’t sell enough of his wares, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to afford to get back home. This could just be a line, but I buy two copies anyway.

At the next table we see the horror zines, covering books, film and music. A man in a tweed overcoat is holding a zine whose byline is ‘the zine of horror and the bizarre.’ “Bizarre,” says the man, “I’m from Somalia, I know bizarre.” He then launches into a long story about women and body piercings.

A frenzied looking young man then shoulders his way between us, bearing several zines made from recycled cereal boxes from the looks of it. His hair sticks up in several directions and he has a lazy eye. He scans the zines and comix we’re carrying then scurries off, bumping into a table where a clean cut man in a shirt and tie is selling his book of short stories. He has a velvet tablecloth and looks woefully out of place.

Beside him is an urn of free coffee, and clustered about it is a gaggle of wired zinesters babbling a million miles a minute about the future of the printed word in Canada. Some of them are crashing from their caffeine buzz and are passed out on orange plastic chairs.

A camera crew swings a spotlight in our face and we’re temporarily blinded. When our vision clears we see them interviewing the zine fair coordinator, who is wearing a shirt with a beer company’s logo prominently displayed. He’s also wearing one of those giant wallet chains, tattered penguin jeans (ala Dick van Dyke from ‘Bed knobs and Broomsticks’) and a necklace made of big wooden beads. Judging from the lines on his face he’s at least in his mid-thirties.

An older guy in a frayed sweater, with a greasy beard, tries to convince me to buy an old printing press with him. I politely tell him I’ll think about it.

About this time the clouds of cigarette smoke have proven to be too much and we wade back through the chaos as guys in alien masks offer us candy and raver-type grrrls suck on ring-lollies. We break out into the (relatively) cleaner air outside, our arms laden with many hours worth of reading pleasure. I am very interested in the zine with the scarlet sparkles used to frame a picture of Judy Garland from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Judy’s face has been painted white with black lipstick and red eyes.

Yes sir. You ain’t gonna find that at Chapters.

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