Leaving Argentina and all my friends in the comics community was quite painful. I spent the past year getting to know exciting people, learning about their lives and reading works that they’ve spent time and energy creating. When I started going to events last April, I didn’t know anyone, but the crowd was friendly and eventually I had a network of acquaintances. I wouldn’t have traded this sense of community for anything in the world. But, wait, I did. I left Argentina for the United States.
I went to the Chicago Zine Fest this past weekend and realized that I am exactly where I was last year, but this time I’m in Chicago. Zinesters (or fanzineros) have an intricate, interwoven community that I know absolutely nothing about. At first glance, most people seem pretty friendly, but probably have relationships that began years ago when they were angsty teenagers, eager to write. Do I feel discouraged, starting from square one? I still have my researcher status because I’ve been working on a report for Viñetas Series comparing income sources for Argentine and American comics creators. I do honestly want to learn about how the Chicago comics scene works. My impressions so far are favorable. Unlike in Argentina, there is a large female presence. One reason given for this is that in mainstream media there is a lack of publishing by and about women. Self-publishing offers an opportunity to people not given a voice by conventional publishing companies. Along this note, there was also a large queer community. It’s quite different from the Argentine comics community.
I started by talking with people who have done exciting things in the Chicago zine scene. Anne Elizabeth Moore, a decades-long zine creator, academic, and former Fulbright recipient, participated in an interesting talk about gender, race, and sexuality in zine culture. I spoke with her afterwards about fanzine culture in Argentina in the 90’s and later bought her book about her Fulbright teaching Indonesian women how to create zines. Sarah Becan hosted one of the workshops I attended and presented about her experiences publishing a compilation of her zines through Kickstarter. Kikstarter is a “funding platform for creative projects.” Basically, you submit a proposal and random people on the Internet send you money if they like the project. It is an alternative way of self-publishing comics that otherwise would not be able to exist. In terms of my research, Kickstarter offers a new opportunity for artists seeking to be published.
Zine Fest came at a moment when I was greatly missing Argentina. Even though I don’t know anyone and have to start over, I’m glad there is something in Chicago I can look forward to and enjoy.