Despite hard times for the print publishing industry these last few years, the creativity and resourcefulness of artists, writers and photographers is as strong as ever. Zine culture, which originated in the ‘70s and saw a resurgence in the mid-’80s, is very much alive and well today.
Zines have always been a unique blend of art and commerce. While they utilize the format of commercial print publications, zines often contain no advertisements, and the content is frequently too risqué for newsstands. And unlike mass-produced magazines, zines are collectors’ items, keepsakes that are held onto and cherished for their intrinsic artistic value.
The past decade has seen an exciting resurgence in the number of gay and queer zines, many of which have broken down barriers—not only with regard to what is often counterculture and subversive art or photography, but also in their transition from underground artform to a mainstream vehicle of communication to the LGBT community.
Below I spotlight 14 zines (in no particular order) that are not only of interest to the LGBT community but are also prime examples of the artform’s daring ingenuity.
Straight to Hell
First published in 1973, S.T.H.—also known as The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts and various other titular hilarities—is the oldest gay zine still in existence and has seen multiple editors through the years. It specializes in raunchy pics and reader-penned sex stories, often detailing authors’ most spectacular sexual exploits. These autobiographical accounts, full of explicit detail, are a collective ‘fuck you’ to sexual repression and censorship. In the world of S.T.H., the male homosexual lifestyle is the universal experience, not relegated to being the tawdry ‘other.’ straight-to-hell.net
BUTT is the perfect example of what began as an underground zine and later became a commercial phenomenon, influencing countless other gay and queer publications along the way. BUTT is unfortunately no longer a print publication, though its sensibility—a fun mix of arty and sleazy on trademark pink paper—carries on at buttmagazine.com, a blog that also includes a social networking component, appropriately dubbed Club Butt.
They Shoot Homos Don’t They?
This ‘hetero-friendly’ periodical is design-heavy and meticulously laid out, featuring the artistic output and writings of various individuals in each issue. They Shoot Homos Don’t They? issues contain a central theme, such as “The Positive Issue” and “Gay Power.”
This quarterly pictorial celebrates the nude bodies of three guys in each issue, alongside interviews and a bevy of editorial interesting to gay men. “Handbook Dick,” a section found in each issue, presents images sent in by readers. handbookmen.com
This streamlined, gorgeously designed magazine comes from Spain, published by the artistic team Paco y Manolo since 2006. The Spanish-language zine consists mostly of photographs of European men—identified solely by their first names—in various states of undress. pacoymanolo.com
New York resident Christopher Schulz is the creator of this black-and-white photography-centric zine, each issue of which contains portraits of a singular model. Readers are able to disassemble the issue’s pages and reassemble them into an oversized poster. Pinups centerfolds are not the plucked and waxed models of traditional gay media, but men who are comfortable with showcasing their nude bodies to the world. pinupsmag.com
Anal has become somewhat of a brand in its native Mexico, thanks to its blog and publication-sponsored events. This zine features the work of various erotic photographers, artists and writers, with text in both Spanish and English. Past issues have featured fun components like erotic coloring book pages and paper dolls. anal-magazine.com
Created by photographer Jeremy Lucido after years of working in the gay porn industry, Starrfucker is a mish-mash of erotic art and photography along with the occasional interview. Many contributors to Lucido’s black-and-white mag are local to the L.A. area. The upcoming seventh issue (“The Beefcake Issue”) will feature up-and-coming model and porn sensation Benjamin Godfre. starrfuckermagazine.com
This “L.A.-based queer zine with beard appeal” is independently published in the hills of Silver Lake and aims to give a voice to the unheard. JIMMY is largely photography-driven but also features various contributors’ poetry, prose and fine art—all through the lens of an East Side aesthetic. jimmythezine.com
prvtdncr & bodega vendetta
Artists prvtdncr and bodega vendetta have been collaborating since 2005, and together they produce printed zines as a means to dispense their work, best described as colorful and cheeky collage-style art. The sewn-together zines—with titles like “Gay Teeth” and “Homosexual Robot”—are made in editions of 50 and available at printedmatter.org.
This quarterly art-smut zine was begun in 2010 by London editorial photographer Adrian Lourie. Inspired by BUTT magazine, meat features unretouched pinup images of regular guys in their own clothes—and out of them—celebrating the diversity of ordinary men, particularly those of the British variety. meatzine.com
Straight L.A.-based artist Villacin produces zines that collect his illustrations of various subcultures and couple them with an absurdist sense of humor. In one zine, “Monstrous Manual of Genital Afflictions,” Villacin presents sexually transmitted diseases as a folio of Dungeons & Dragons-esque monsters. adamvillacin.com
Independently published and distributed out of Brooklyn, Original Plumbing is a quarterly zine documenting the sexuality and culture of FTM trans guys. The true diversity of this segment of the LGBT community is portrayed through photographs, personal narratives and interviews. originalplumbing.com
L.A.-based Justin Jorgensen created this “magazine of the exceptional personal experience” as a collection of true stories, told by the individuals who experienced them. Stark honesty and unique subject matter characterize the nonfiction here. You’ll find no fiction, poetry, commentary or critique. As the zine’s name implies, it’s “just the facts.” copdad.com
In addition to these zines’ own websites, many of these—and countless others—can be found and purchased at PrintedMatter.org, the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of artists’ publications. In the L.A. area, some of these zines can be purchased at Antebellum Gallery (1643 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.), Bookmarc (8407 Melrose Pl., L.A.), Family (436 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.) and Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz).