My Ten Favorite Contemporary Zines


Tags: Zines,

Editor’s Note: Jay Ruttenberg is the founder and editor of the New York-based comedy journal The Lowbrow Reader. Dubbed “an excellent and actually quite high-minded comedy magazine” by The Village Voice, the magazine was born in 2001 when Ruttenberg realized that there wasn’t a quality publication devoted to comedy. Since its first issue in 2001, Ruttenberg and a small team of very talented writers and illustrators have consistently surprised readers and critics alike with their articulate defense and admiration for what many have dismissed as dumb humor. Ruttenberg recently edited a book of selected writings and drawings from the first eight years of the journal called The Lowbrow Reader Reader, available now on Drag City. An everlasting supporter of zines and zine culture, Ruttenberg recently shared with us a list of his current favorites.    

Lowbrow cover  

Here is my personally biased, unapologetically subjective list of ten great contemporary zines. I applied both terms broadly: “Contemporary” extending to works that are still being published (however sporadically), even if their debut issue came out many moons ago; “zines” to describe independent print publications produced more for love than for profit.

Fashion Projects
I would be remiss if I neglected to point out that Fashion Projects is edited by Francesca Granata, who happens to be the more eye-catching half of my household. Likewise, I would be remiss if I failed to place said publication at the top of this list. Fashion Projects is a whip smart journal about arty fashion and fashiony art. On the surface, Francesca’s publication could not be more different from mine: Fashion Projects addresses Milanese designers and Parisian fashion critics, while the Lowbrow Reader features Adam Sandler idolatry and cartoons of people on toilets. Friends find it odd that both publications are produced in the same apartment. But to me, they are very similar. Both zines cover subjects that historically have been commercially vibrant yet critically disparaged. Nobody would mistake me for a fashionista, but through Francesca I have been introduced to some other noteworthy fashion zines, including Garmento and Vestoj. In any case, I enjoy everything about Fashion Projects except for the irritating fact that it is inordinately more popular than the Lowbrow Reader.

Henceforth, I proceed alphabetically….

The Baffler
The famed political journal was recently relaunched and uplifted from Chicago to Cambridge. It is very much a journal, but came from the zine world. I think a lot of people who now publish independent magazines got their initial kick in the rear from the Baffler’s original run. (I certainly did.) It was politically prescient and bred founding editor Tom Frank’s wonk-adored book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? To me, the Baffler is steeped in Chicago—you can smell the city just turning its pages. I am curious to see how the new editorship and New England headquarters will ultimately affect the publication.

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