Interview with Marissa Falco

The next Library Journal zine reviews column, due out on the internet in early September will review zines by people who came out of "retirement" to create a new zine after at least five years. For my 500 word introduction I interviewed each of the zine publishers reviewed. With only 500 words (and really that was probably too long), I couldn't include all of the great stuff each person had said. Therefore, I'm posting all of the interviews here. Second installment, Marissa Falco, whose 20th century zines and minicomics include |Nothing|, Citronella, and one of my personal favorite zines, Red-Hooded Sweatshirt (continued into the early 2000s). She's also made one-shots and contributed drawings to a million zines (including mine). Her current zine is Miss Sequential, which is up to issue 4.

1. What drew you back to print? What do you value about print/print culture?
Before we get to what drew me back to print, I should probably mention why I left. The final issue of my old zine, Red-Hooded Sweatshirt, was published in 2003, about two years after I finished college. At that point I was thinking about going back to school for graphic design, which I eventually did, which left no time for making zines. I was also kind of relieved to leave zines behind as Something I Did in College, because then there was no pressure. While I value what I learned at art school, possessing the knowledge of all those Art School Rules reinforced my uncertainty about working on zines again. It took me a while to figure out the balance of art school rules you keep in mind vs. those you throw away so you can get on with your life and make your art. What drew me back to print? The feeling that doing design for my day job wasn't creatively fulfilling, the encouragement from people who used to read my old zines telling me to make a new one, and finding old packages of Letraset in office supply shops.

(But I should also say that my view of print as a medium in general is pretty biased-- not only have I been into zines since I was 15, but I studied journalism in college and I've been working in publishing since I graduated. For me, print is a hobby as well as a paycheck.)

2. Do you have an online presence, as well? (blog, LiveJournal, Twitter, tumblr, flickr, etc.) If so, how does your zine content differ or overlap from what you publish online?
I do have an online presence. My blog is seldom updated, just because it isn't as fun or exciting to me as working on a zine. It feels impersonal and not especially comfortable. So I limit my posts to topics such as new projects, new issues of my zine, or appearances, but rarely anything else. The online outlet that is most true to my zine content is my Twitter account. I once described Twitter to a non-internet-user as "trading one-liners with your friends, with a character limit," and if you have read my zines you can probably see how that format appeals to me. My brain works in little pings of ideas, so it is a perfect way to record ideas and observations that may someday germinate into bigger ideas or new projects. But even if my tweets are just little entertaining/amusing nuggets, and even if I am the only one who thinks they are funny, that is also ok.

3. Do you know about Revenge of Print 2011? If so, did it/will it inspire you to make a zine this year?
I do, and I think it's a great idea. I currently have one zine in the works, another one I'm working on with a friend, and a few ideas for other zine projects I may or may not get to in the year 2011. I definitely would have made a new zine even if Revenge of Print never existed, but the idea of so many other people committing to publishing a zine this year, and knowing everyone else is at home working on their flats... it's pretty exciting. I look forward to reading the fruits of Revenge of Print 2011!

4. How many pen pals do you have? How many did you have when you published your previous zine?
I have a lot of pen pals now, but nowhere near the number I had when I published my old zines. In college no one had time to be pen pals, but in high school I probably wrote to 30+ people on a regular basis, including zine penpals and other non-zine penpals. This was before the internet was as all-powerful as it is now, so mail was the best (and most affordable) way to get in touch with faraway friends. These days it's maybe 10 people I write to regularly, and then the random people who write to me after they read my zine about mail (in which I encourage them to write, and I always try to write back).

5. Did you choose to start over with a new title? Why/why not?
Yes, I decided to start with a new title, Miss Sequential, as I felt that my old zine title, Red-Hooded Sweatshirt, was too much of a relic of my college years. Rather than create a new issue with readers' expectation of the content living up to the reputation of RHS, I decided to start fresh. After several years off, and several years of being a non-student, I wasn't sure what shape my new zine would take. It turns out that Miss Sequential reads like an extension of RHS-- cartoony and funny, but a little more thoughtful and a little less concerned with what people think.

6. Do you ever regret something you said/drew in an earlier zine? Enough to want it removed from any libraries that hold it? Have any general thoughts on zine libraries?
While I certainly wouldn't want anyone to read my journals from my teen and college years, my zine has always been carefully curated knowing that it was going to a broader audience. I am grateful for my foresight, as I know a lot of people who do not feel this way about their earlier work. While I do find certain elements of my earlier zines a little silly, I would never want them to be erased from my zine history: it's all part of who I am and what I have created.

I think zine libraries are a great idea, so much so that I've been happy to donate parts of my collection to zine libraries for safe keeping. I like the idea of preserving all this material for the future in an organized and professional way (I still find that zines are considered less serious than books, which is ridiculous, but I would hope that zine libraries make zines seem more legit to non-believers). I also like the idea of giving people access to zines that are long out of print, because they can be difficult to find otherwise. Just because a zine is old and copies are scarce doesn't mean that it's not important.