If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out there are many more magazines in the world than VICE. This series, "Ink Spots", is a helpful guide on which of those zines, pamphlets and publications you should be reading when you're not staring at ours.
Independent publishing in the UK is currently riding the crest of an ever-swelling wave. Comic fairs and zine conventions are on the rise, as are the number of artists making all the stuff sold at them. Because as much as web comics continue to produce a ton of phenomenal artists, a thirst for physical work by DIY storytellers means that a once stale UK publishing scene now feels reinvigorated; just look at the success of collectives like Breakdown Press, Self Made Hero and Nobrow.
One publication to stand out among this flurry of new printed produce is Double Dare Ya, the first release from One Beat Zines. Crowd-funded in September, it contains a collection of illustrated essays about the Riot Grrrl movement from a range of contributing writers and artists.
Comic artists Julia Scheele and Sarah Broadman head up One Beat, so I sat down with them to discuss the formation of the collective and the rise of independent publishing in the UK.
VICE: How did the formation of One Beat come about?
Sarah Broadman: We wanted to have an outlet that was fun. We knew, after putting together Double Dare Ya, that we wanted it to be a place where people who aren't on the comic scene could bring work. It can be difficult to get creative things out there; we just want to be a vehicle for people to do that.
Julia Scheele: At zine fairs, girls would ask me how you get started making zines and comics. I found myself trying to explain to them how I started, which was just to grab a pen and paper and put something shitty together.
So One Beat is a DIY comic distro as well as publisher?
Julia: Yeah. We want to encourage newcomers to the scene, help them put together a zine and then give them a way to distribute it through us.
Why do you think it's important for the voice of comics and zines to push artists that aren't as established?
Sarah: Because there are a lot of people out there who have great stuff and, for whatever reason, it's not happening.
Julia: Also, the comic scene is really thriving in the UK at the moment, but there isn't much political stuff around.
What's the selection process for submissions?
We're looking for work that we find interesting and challenging. We're quite open as to what we accept. That's one of the reasons we want to make zines – we don't want to just publish comics. Essays, articles, poetry – we're purely looking for stuff that we find interesting.
It's refreshing to see a desire for long-form writing again.
Sarah: One of the really nice things about the work in Double Dare Ya is that it portrays a lot of different ways of people expressing their thoughts about the same topic.
Julia: I was a little bit nervous about it because, sometimes, comic audiences can get annoyed. There's a mentality of questioning why so much writing is taking up space where there should be illustration.
Your manifesto states your passions as feminism, music and comics. Will these always be central in what you do?
Not everything that we take on needs to be political or about feminism explicitly. We're planning on doing a celebration zine for the new Sleater Kinney record in March. That will be the next anthology that we publish.
Sarah: We're not going to rule anything out. Although, obviously if you send something in saying "women are shit", we're not going to publish that.
There's a big surge in independent publishers in the UK. What does this mean for the voice of zine and comic artists?
Julia: With established publishing not doing very well, the things that are being published are quite safe choices. It's exciting that people can skip that step and publish their own material. That's the how the comic scene in the UK has grown. People ask me if zines are having a comeback, but they've never really gone away.
Sarah: I think you're totally right. Even if nobody wanted to talk about them any more, there would still be people photocopying down at the late shop with their pennies. That's never going to change, and it's always going to be a really important means of publication. It's no different from the pamphlet culture that you got in early modern England, with satirical cartoons about whoever was in power at the time.
It's an interesting time for politics and cartoonists. Can you see yourself publishing anything overtly confrontational, like Charlie Hebdo?
Sarah: We wouldn't be comfortable publishing anything satirical which contained images that are directly offensive to people of a certain faith. We would never publish anything that didn't fit in with our very much third-wave feminism views. I think freedom of speech is one thing, but I think there has to be sensitivities with the press. It's not about people being censored – some things are just not appropriate.
Going forward, are there any writers you'd like to work with on an anthology?
Julia: I would love to do more with Leigh Alexander. I really, really love her writing. I'm hoping to get some writing for the Sleater Kinney zine. I like Laura Snapes a lot as well.
Sarah: The people that I don't know are what I'm most excited about.
Why's that? Because they bring the most exciting stuff?
Yeah – you just don't know what you're going to get. One of the best things about social media is that we can get submissions from people completely disconnected to us who are doing amazing things. The great unknown can be really exciting.
Finally, what do you think is more powerful: imagery or word?
Imagery has the most immediately powerful reaction upon you, but, for me, often words can linger more.
Julia: As a comics artist, I have to say: both of them put together! I've always liked comics because you can combine the two to make something completely new.
You can buy One Beat comics and merch from the One Beat shop.
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