I've made zines in one form or another with my friends since high school. Actually, in the beginning, I had no clue there was a name for them. It started when I thought to collect my poems and art, make photocopies, and hand 'em out to other kids. I was shy, but somehow came up with the idea of including the work of other students around me. I don't know what compelled me to do it. I called it "A Collection" and gave copies out to anyone who'd take them. We made a follow-up and I also started making little poetry books. As time passed, a few of us became interested in punk rock (and underground subcultures in general). Living in Pell City, AL in the early 90's, it was difficult to find anything music-related that wasn't country or gospel or bad pop. Evangelist/bullshitter Billy Mayo had come to town earlier and told everyone at churches AND schools that all rock 'n' roll was Satanic. He sold a lot of t-shirts and cassettes. We, of course, were undeterred. Being inquisitive angst-ridden trouble-makers, we researched and found a couple of history-of-popular-music type books in the school library. We were always so frustrated because they were considered reference books and you weren't allowed to check those out. The books featured chapters on punk rock (and/or New Wave), with images of the classics "Punk" magazine and "Sniffin' Glue" typically given a page to share. "Punk" being a relatively more "legitimate" magazine aside, these images were massively influential to our bored teenage minds. Somebody had used our no-budget aesthetic to create music papers...fifteen years before us and they did it way better!! Soon, we'd lay our hands on "MAXIMUMROCKNROLL" and "Punk Planet". While newsprint was a little out of our reach, the influence was undeniable. Especially the reviews found within. Around that time, my friend Ivan came across a book that had been donated to a mission with part of the cover cut off. The book in question was Mike Gunderloy's and Cari Goldberg Janice's "The World of Zines". A now-out-of-print guide to zines and zine culture, it is a terrific introduction for novices and an inspiring read for anyone. If ya ever come across a copy, grab it up! Of course, most of the zines featured are long gone, but it's still an entertaining and enlightening read.
At the same time we were discovering punk, so too, unfortunately, was the principal of our school. Known as the "cool" principal because he liked the metalheads, Mr. Gilbert had, up to that point, been considered a tough-but-fair-but-sometimes-fun-anyway administrator. He even let the local rock band, Chew Toy, play at a school assembly. That quickly changed when said metalheads began cropping their hair, wearing dog chains around their necks, and writing on their clothes. Along with a few teachers, he was even scared of Grunge music and fashion! That led to crazy incidents like popular kids being sent to the principal’s office for wearing untucked flannel shirts. It sucked but it actually kinda bonded a lotta different social circles. We were all constantly being fussed at but I guess things came to a head with two incidents. One came the week of Homecoming. The school, like many, celebrated with different days that students were encouraged to dress up for a particular theme. On "Rock Star" day, everyone dressed up as...you guessed it...rock stars. My younger brother, Drew, who was an "A" student (and would later feature on the cover of the first issue of "GAD!"), dressed up as Johnny Rotten. I happened to be heading to the restroom the same time Gilbert was ushering Drew in and forcing him to wash the Halloween spray-on orange color out of his hair. I confronted the principal and he calmly stated to me that Drew's hair was a distraction. I calmly stated that the entire week was a distraction. I spent the rest of that day fuming, surrounded by kids dressed as members of KISS in full make-up and even seeing one being patted on the shoulder by the principal. The other incident had more serious consequences, but I'll wait and tell that tale another day. It doesn't directly involve me and I'd hate to get any details wrong. At any rate, Ivan and I were pissed at the things going on around us, so we thought, "Why not make a zine about about how crappy things are at the school along with some stuff about music?". Like I had before, we went to anybody who wanted to write and let them do it. We would censor any swearing so that if the school complained, they wouldn't have that for leverage when trying to punish us. We were big Ramones fans (still are), so we named the zine "Teenage Lobotomy". The fact that I'd been picked-on by faculty for having those two words on the back of my jacket was completely coincidental. "TL" had comics and art and articles typed on a rickety typewriter. Some folks used their real names. Others, like the son of a teacher, used a pen name. "Teenage Lobotomy" was black and white photocopied, stapled together, with colored paper for the covers. It was fun and a lotta kids thought it was cool. For me today, the issue walks the line between cute and embarrassing, but I'm still proud of it. A few weeks later, we graduated. At the end of the last day of class, Mr. Gilbert stopped us just outside the school "So I hear you boys made a magazine." Ivan said "Yep", and we kept walking. I reckon he saw the cartoon Ivan had drawn of him. - Adam Harmless