At a typical Anchorage Zine Fair, artists line tables with their prints and booklets while customers stop by to chat, flip through their work and squeeze through the crowded room to see the latest, loveliest and wildest local zines.
The in-person fair is on hold this year, but a crew of local artists are aiming to maintain that energy with an online event instead. Rather than a bustling one-night bazaar, this year’s Anchorage Zine Fair is a virtual, monthlong marketplace at anczine.com accompanied by arts events through January.
Zines are essentially DIY small-batch booklets that can include anything from hand-scrawled comics to professional photography. Anyone with an idea, ink and access to a copy machine can make them.
The offerings at this year’s Anchorage Zine Fair range from silly to surreal. There’s a title called “Punisier” – “What if Marvel’s Punisher lived in Frasier’s Seattle?” – and another that reimagines the movie “Speed” on Guy Fieri’s food truck. There’s a photographic exploration of Fairview trash cans, poetry inspired by summer smells and an Italian-language cookbook with recipes for “odd pizza.” There’s a booklet of Indigenous memes, photobooks of forests and clouds, and a pamphlet on climate justice. Zines generally range from $3 to $15 and every purchase comes with a 2021 lunar calendar.
“I see zine fairs as very much a place for a lot of different ideas, a lot of different backgrounds coming together,” said Jimmy Riordan, a local artist who helped organize this year’s fair. “They’re positive events that tend to bring together a lot of very different people.”
Riordan organized the 2020 zine fair alongside other print-based artists including Ryan Chernikoff, one of the people who helped start the first Anchorage Zine Fair in 2017, and collaborators at Tent City Press and art bookstore Bivy.
At a typical zine fair, organizers secure a venue, supply the tables and invite people to fill the space. But in a virtual format, they’ve had to connect creators and customers directly. Extra tasks this year include shipping, inventory, payouts and web design.
The online version maintains the immediacy and openness of a typical fair, though. Zines are priced cheaply, printed sparingly and can sell out quickly, and anyone can submit their homemade creations.
“It doesn’t really matter how much talent you have,” said Chernikoff. “If you’re creating, that’s a beautiful thing.”
Chernikoff has always envisioned the zine fair as an outlet for the “bedroom artist,” he said — the Anchorage residents who won’t compete for gallery space or coffeeshop walls but still have that creative drive.
“My pitch in the first zine fair was, ‘We just want to hear what you have to say. Express yourself, throw it in a zine, staple it together, and come and hang out,’ ” he said.
“All of a sudden everybody was slamming together zines. And this year, it’s the same thing.”
Since launching the website in early December, the organizers have added new artists each week. The simple submission process makes it easy to participate, Riordan said. The online format also expands the audience. “Strangely, a handful of people participating are from Columbus, Ohio,” he added.
The Anchorage Zine Fair has expanded its offerings beyond zines this year. There are planned Zoom events, including a reading of “smell poems” with local writer and zine fair contributor Candace Blas. Riordan has been orchestrating “pop-up drive-ins,” projecting old silent movies from the public domain onto the walls of Anchorage buildings, accompanied by soundtracks from local bands. The organizers plan to continue promoting events through the fair website into January.
“It’s grown from, at first, a replacement for the fair into something that is its own,” Riordan said of this year’s event.
Zines are famously counterculture, and some may balk at the idea of a commercial zine marketplace. The organizers say this year is just another evolution. Zines change constantly, and zine fairs can too.
“I love watching it turn into different things, different versions, based on what is necessary at the time or what is needed at the time,” said Chernikoff. “It’s always surprising and it’s always beautiful to watch.”
The Anchorage Zine Fair can be visited at anczine.com. The website will continue sales and promote events through January. Purchases can be picked up at Tent City Press (333 W. 4th Ave.), hand-delivered in Anchorage for $10, or sent by mail.