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Keen on zines: Baltimore artists launch new journals for niche markets

Marck Stanley, right, performs for Seltzer editor-in-chief Pete Cardamone, second from right, and others.
Marck Stanley, right, performs for Seltzer editor-in-chief Pete Cardamone, second from right, and others. - Steve Ruark
Street artist and Open Walls creator Gaia wanted to share his art and city travel experiences. Carrie Bird was captivated by 1,000 people at a Baltimore bike party. Johns Hopkins University student Peter Cardamone saw the need for more poetry and fiction. These ideas led to the birth of three Baltimore “zines.”

Short for “fanzine,” zines highlight topics outside of the mainstream, often in— gasp! —  hardcopy format.

“In many cases you're reading unfiltered thoughts, opinions, points of view,” says Benn Ray, owner of Hampden’s Atomic Books.

“So with some of the best zines, you feel connected to the person you're reading,” Ray says. Atomic Books sells 1,500 unique zines, which account for one-fifth of its profit, Ray says.

BmoreMedia provides a snapshot of three new Baltimore-based zines: Second Cities, CrankMania and Seltzer.

Name: Second Cities
Scope: street art and personal narratives related to new urbanism
Launched: January 2013
Creator: Gaia

When Miami art gallery Wynwood Walls decided to create a pop-up shop that displays literature from artists, it tapped Baltimore street artist Gaia. Best known for organizing mural exhibit Open Walls Baltimore in the Station North Arts & Entertainment District, Gaia had worked with Wynwood in the past after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art two years ago. 

“It’s sort of a five-year landmark for the work I’ve been doing in the streets,” Gaia says. “It was nice to take a pause of retrospection.”

Gaia took one month to create the zine while traveling through Indonesia and Thailand. He paid a Baltimore friend $200 to cover shipping fees, have the PDF pages collated and get them printed for next to nothing at MICA. Twenty copies went to Miami and 30 stayed with Gaia’s friends in Baltimore. Most readers download the zine for free on Mediafire. There have been 581 downloads in the month or so since it was posted, Gaia says.

Gaia named the zine Second Cities, in reference to cities that are considered secondary to cities like New York. It’s also a poetic description of a city’s pursuit for cultural capital. Second Cities includes photos of street art and personal narratives. Gaia describes how he put a lion with rabbit ears in wheat paste on the side of Cabrini Green, a rundown Chicago housing project, while dressed as a construction worker.

He hopes to create a second issue next year and collaborate with other artists to promote new urbanism. He describes this as “an after post-modernist movement that strives to make the city oriented towards the pedestrian, not the automobile.”

Name of zine: CrankMania
Scope: Baltimore cycling, brewing and city life
Launched: January 2013
Creators: Carrie Bird; Faith Bocian; Dan Breur

It should comes as no surprise that the founders of cycling magazine Carrie Bird, Faith Bocian and Dan Breur are all Baltimore City bike messengers who attend bike parties. They wanted to capture the life of cyclists and incorporate other interests, like brewing.

Bird, who goes by the name Carrie B, says designing the zine in November was a pain in the derriere.

“Nothing would fit at first. I was laying out all of these pieces, copying and pasting certain paragraphs up to ten times.”

The first issue features an interview with Ryan Boddy of brewers collective Baltibrew and an art spread of Carrie B demonstrating how to patch a bike tire. The editors pitched in to pay $100 to get 91 copies of their first issue printed at Copy Cat Printing in Baltimore. Breur hosted a zine launch party last month at his house.

The editors are organizing an alley-cat bike race and party to commemorate the second issue release March 30. Readers can pick remaining copies up for $2 at Red Emma’s, Race Pace Bicycles and Baltimore Bicycle Works. Bocian might launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money so they can print in color and add a website to complement the hard copy zine.

Name of zine: Seltzer
Scope: Literature and art
Launched: April 2012
Creators: Peter Cardamone; editor-in-chief; Michael Shattuck, managing/fiction editor

Students in the Johns Hopkins University writing program created Seltzer last year as an outlet for new literary voices. They liked the sound of zine, which to them implied a more focused scope than magazine or journal.

Seltzer’s six editors paid $200 out of pocket to purchase a two-year web-hosting subscription.

Now in its third issue, the site gets between 10 and 20 visitors a day. The editors received 200 poetry, eight nonfiction, three art and 60 fiction submissions for its last issue.

“We try not to be snooty. If we sit there and laugh or love it and think it could make someone’s day better, we put it out there,” Cardamone says.  

Seltzer also hosts an open-mic night the last Thursday of every month at the Midtown BBQ & Brew in Mount Vernon. Dubbed the Seltzer Speakeasy, the event has grown from 20 to 50 attendees on average.

Seltzer’s staff may bring their zine to print as an anthology or compilation of staff picks. Cardamone says he’s heard from other zines that this could cost anywhere from $200-$600 for 200 copies depending on whether they choose a glossy cover or stapled black and whites.

BmoreMedia writer and editor Jolene Carr is a graduate student at Towson University. She is originally from Syracuse, N.Y. 

Photographs by STEVE RUARK 

Click photos to read captions.
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