Shelley Bassett



A few zines from my ever-growing collection

What is a Zine?

June 29, 2018

What is a zine? They can relay a variety of ideas; political, personal or pop culture. Here's why I love zines.

I love zines. I have an ever-growing collection, and regularly pick up more when I see one I like. But what is a zine? And why have they had such an impact on me?

A zine is just a short magazine (hence the name). They are most often self-published, and focus on only one idea. Traditionally, a zine is photocopied, because this cheap way to self produce an idea. They stem from a pre-internet era, going back to the 1940’s. To share an idea, it needed to first be recorded on paper. Similar ideas were collated and collected into one publication for easy access, and the zine was born.

Now days, zines span all sorts of topics and can even be professionally or semi-professionally produced. It’s not uncommon to visit a fair or convention and see illustrators, writers or activists selling zines with their other wares. It’s an easy way to make tangible product, and affords the creator the freedom to continuously try new things. They also have the advantage of being cheap, making the art form accessible to the masses.

My very first zine, "The Grand Adventure"

My very first zine, “The Grand Adventure”

My love of zines started a few years ago, when I made a single page zine as a project while on holidays. The Grand Adventure was only a simple story, but it gave me a way to produce a short comic quickly and easily. From that small discover, I began to grow my collection, and now I’ll happily pick one up from any artist I come across. I love the short-form aesthetic so much I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to it.

What is a Zine?

There are many different types of zine. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common types.

Political Zines

Less common now, political zines were once a way to make a statement about what was happening in the political landscape. These publications are now a way to identify cultural views in times of political turmoil. Given the recent rise in popularity for the humble zine, they may well become a cultural touch point again.

Illustration, Graphical or Mini-Comics

A mini-comic is just that, a mini comic. It still aims to tell a story with the graphics, using direct speech over traditional narrative, but is much shorter than a traditional comic or graphic novel. These are probably my favourite forms of zine. They’re a way for artists to show a quick snapshot of their work, or to tell a short story without writing a full novel. Some tell stories or have a theme to the images, but often they’re just a collection of illustrations or photographs.

A few zines from my ever-growing collection

A few zines from my ever-growing collection


This is one of the most common iterations of zines. A fan-zine is a publication dedicated to a piece of pop culture. Be it a celebrity, movie, band or tv show, a fan-zine aims to celebrate every aspect of the art. They are used as reviews, commentaries or critiques, and burst into popularity with science fiction television.

Literary or poetic

It’s easier to explore written ideas in a short form. Instead of focusing on fleshing out a complete narrative, a short story or article is often enough. Because of the self published short-form that a zine offers, this is another popular type of publication.