Here’s a review I wrote of the first issue of “The Paper Plane” zine for NewsExaminer.net (it’s another Austin Sweetwater joint).
“We’re not a regular zine, we’re a cool zine.”
I came across that sentence as I read the introduction to the first issue of “The Paper Plane” zine. Reading those words made me regret spending the $6 to pick up a copy at Lawn Gnome Publishing. I have an aversion to anything that labels itself “cool”. Usually when something or someone declares themselves to be cool, that is a huge blinking neon warning sign that they are anything but. Cool shows, it doesn’t tell. Cool is something that is so readily apparent that it needs no introductions, no declarations, no validation. If you’re going to call yourself cool, you better be so cool you’d give The Fonz frostbite. But I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, so I read on to check the veracity of that statement. Was “The Paper Plane” a cool zine?
The answer is a resounding YES.
As debuts go, this will be a hard one to top. The level of craft and detail that went into this zine is truly impressive. The binding is tight, the paper stock is thick and durable; this feels more like an honest to God magazine than a zine. The layouts inside are diverse, juxtaposing art and text in different ways on each page. Just looking at “The Paper Plane” as a physical object (ignoring its artistic merits) confounds me: I can’t imagine how much it must have cost to have printed these things. On the basis of design alone, “The Paper Plane” soars far above the heads of other local zines.
But to be fair: I’m not that familiar with local zines. I’ve only been living in the Valley for six months since I moved here from Maui; most of the zines I’ve seen have been quick and dirty copy-shop staple-jobs. Not that that’s a bad thing: a lot of great zines have been made on less-than-a-shoestring budgets (hell, I made all six issues of my “Guns, Girls & Gipper” zine hunched over a copier at Kinko’s).
A lot of people don’t know this, but Maui has a GREAT zine scene. There’s a lot of folks there who’ve been putting together excellent zines for years: seminal publications like “Surf Wax Apocalypse”, “Puka Punks”, “Nude Beach A-Go-Go” and “Charlie Don’t Surf, He GRINDS” (written by Kahuna Kali, the Cometbus of the Maui zine scene). But none of those zines, as rad as they are, look half as good as “The Paper Plane” does. So maybe that’s why I can’t get over how good this thing looks: I’ve never SEEN a zine before that looked like this.
I’ve think I’ve digressed and gushed enough about the quality of the packaging. The important question: do the contents of the zine live up to its presentation?“Sure”, the monkey says, “the skin is a nice bright yellow… but how’s the banana taste?” It tastes pretty dang good, Mr. Monkey.
“The Paper Plane” features haikus, a brief travelogue of visiting Vietnam, a super short review of the comic series “Rat Queens”, comic strips, an illustrated step-by-step guide to doing the Paper Plane dance (it involves a lot of air-folding), a playlist (complete with a double-sided jewel case insert that you can cut out of the zine), pictures of Lionel Ritchie and all sorts of other randomness.
Most of the pieces are fairly short, so if you have the memory and attention span of Guy Pearce in “Memento” you should be fine. And with the wide range of subject material and styles contained in the zine, you don’t have to be worried about getting burnt out on too much of one thing (“Ah, cr*p, another poem?!”).
I think what I enjoyed the most about “The Paper Plane” is how well it strikes a balance between being twee and bawdy. It’s the kind of zine that offers tips on the best booze to drink while eating Captain Crunch. It casts a skeptical eye on being a grown-up (while looking like it was made by grown-ups). It does something that a lot of art fails to do: it manages to embody youth and positivity without being alienating (“this isn’t for you, old people!”) or irritating (“Jesus, how can you people be so up-up-up all the time? Do y’all just sit around snorting pixie sticks out of your belly buttons?”). The highest compliment I can pay this zine is that it reads the way a Beat Happening song sounds.
I’ve re-read it a few times since then, trying to use a more critical eye and find some kind of fault. I’m not one for hyperbole, and I don’t think something should get two thumbs up/four stars/A+ unless it’s the best of the best. While I wouldn’t say “The Paper Plane” is the best of the best, I have yet to find anything in it that takes me out of the experience of reading it.
It is well worth buying a boarding pass to get on this flight.