Andrew Belonsky

Alan Moore, 'Zines and Reinvigorating the Queer Underground

Filed By Andrew Belonsky | June 21, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Alan Moore, John Coulthart, media

It's not very often that I buy an actual, real-life publication. Sure, I shell out for a New York Times from time-to-time, and stock up on men's fashion mags like V Man when I have a few bucks. Other than that, though, the bulk of my reading, like the rest of the world, goes on online. A few days ago, however, I came across news that got me up from my desk, out in the real world and searching for some actual paper. The news? Comic book author Alan Moore, perhaps best known for penning Watchmen and V for Vendetta, had launched a 'zine. Yes, a 'zine - those little upstart magazines that slowly, sadly succumbed to virtual versions.


Though certainly Moore's involvement was enough to pique my interest in the new publication, Dodgem Logic, my initial interest came from this John Coulthart-designed cover of Dodgem's latest issue. In case you can't see, it's two men locking lips under the headline: "A Kiss Can Change the World." That was enough to get me up and out to find my very own copy. And, more notably, renew my faith in ink and paper's long-term relationship.

Sadly, Dodgem Logic's man-on-man issue isn't yet available in the states. I was, however able to snag a few of the earlier issues, including the premier, which Moore opens with a stirring, and extremely comprehensive, history of 'zines, pamphlets and other unconventional publishing forms. And, yes, he includes gay rags like the seminal lesbian magazine Vice Versa, and the Mattachine Society's eponymous Review. It's a brief mention in an otherwise lengthy rumination. Still, Moore reminded me of how essential print has been to the gay rights cause: from the 1950s on, gay magazines have led the way for gay and queer rights. Even after Stonewall and the rise of national publications, 'zines like Homocore and J.D.s kept the fringe dream alive. Dodgem Logic fits quite nicely into the queer agenda.

Dodgem Logic's gay-friendly from the very first page of the very first issue. Even before Moore's editorial - and a separate introduction - LGBT folks are in full focus. The magazine's inside cover celebrates "Great Hipsters in History." The inaugural entry is Emma Goldman, a Lithuanian writer who spent much of her career championing for progressive causes, like freedom of speech, prison reform and gay rights. Not many magazines put out by a straight man would be as inclusive. But that's the beauty of the underground: like queer movements, it's not beholden to the strict straight and narrow.

Moore's right on the money when, in his review of the movement, the writer points out that modern day gay rights never would have been had it not been for clandestine publications: "The first place anybody in the 1960s heard about black power, gay rights or women's liberation was within the pages of the undergrounds...." Though opinions and ideas proliferate on the Internet, subterranean magazines still provide a vital, although oft-forgotten, purpose.

"In the draughty, boarded-storefront landscape of the present day, when the most wild and radical 'sixties complaints regarding the environment, the government or the police have become commonplace," asserts Moore, "we seem particularly needful of the color, sexiness and energy the undergrounds once offered. With regular society and culture clearly coughing up blood, a counter culture or alternative society might be things we could use right about now." Luckily, there's no shortage of pure gay 'zines to be had: BUTT, of course, Straight to Hell, and the lady-loving Girls Like Us. Then there's Pinups, which currently features Guillermo Diaz from Weeds playing some records in the buff.

While certainly the World Wide Web's social, cultural and political importance cannot be understated - don't fire me, Internet! - it's crucial readers remember that although print may be dying, it's certainly not dead. Nor has it lost its progressive power. If only people would start to pay attention.

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Do you think blogs have become the new zines? Some of them are very professional looking and structured while others remain "free" and much more amateur in their presentations.

That's an interesting question. I wonder if blogs, however, are more easily co-opted by corporate and main-stream interests. The zines I read and knew about I principally learned of via word of mouth. And none of these had major advertisers. It almost felt as if it were a quiet, unknown "community" that the vast majority of other people didn't know even existed (let alone that there were such things as "zines"). The Internet seems more "open" - of course one can get lost in the billions of sites already out there, but nonetheless it seems more accessible to anyone finding it.

Andrew Sullivan last week, in another attempt to rewrite reality, wrote about how gay folks are so attracted to radicalism and underground activism that we've completely forgotten that going mainstream is important as well.

So, like, obviously these zines have a bigger readership than the Advocate.