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Zooming into the world of comics, graphic novels and zines.




The National Library of Australia has recently focused on building its collection of contemporary Australian comics, graphic novels and zines. Collecting this material can be difficult, as it is often made in very small print runs, is of an ephemeral and disposable nature and lacks the usual imprint details (self-publishers can be a fey, shy and wily bunch).

The word 'zine' (pronounced 'zeen') is taken from 'magazine', although the former has little in common with the more prolific and commercial latter. Zines are small underground press publications. These amazing and variable creations come from individuals who usually self-publish with only the assistance of a personal computer and a photocopier. Some zines are produced by small independent presses that use production techniques ranging from basic to sophisticated. Zines can be about anything, although most are either personal, fictional or deal with social issues.

In Australia, comics, graphic novels and zines are generally not published by mainstream commercial publishers (although there are exceptions and interest from major commercial publishers is increasing). The Australian industry has some quality independent publishing houses, such as Gestalt and the newly established Black House Comics, that feature the work of Australian artists, including Skye Ogden and Christopher Sequeira. The industry in Australia is small and many creators have turned to overseas markets for work. Australians who have established successful international careers include Colin Wilson, Ashley Wood, Queenie Chan and Ben Templesmith, who are being published by major overseas publishers, such as DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, Marvel Publications and Tokyopop. Templesmith has even obtained movie deals for two of his titles.

In an effort to explore new ways of collecting zines, comics and graphic novels and to research the unique publishing cultures behind them, we have been visiting comic stores, bookshops, zine 'distros' (distribution centres or shops with racks of zines for sale) and fairs, including:

* The Braidwood Zine Fair, which was part of the Two Fires Festival of Arts and Activism.

* The Museum of Contemporary Art's (MCA) Zine Fair, which was comprised of over 50 stalls and was held in conjunction with the Sydney Writers' Festival. Many types of zines and zinesters were represented, from 'hot-off-the-press' new zines produced only a week before the fair to those crafted by well-respected zinesters like Vanessa Berry.

* Supanova Sydney, a pop-culture expo, where we met nationally and internationally established comic creators and graphic novelists, such as Marcelo Baez, Julie Ditrich, Jozef Szekeres and Nicola Scott. The Sydney visit was doubly productive as we were able to meet with staff from the State Library of New South Wales to discuss zines, zine collecting and how both libraries could work cooperatively to build zine collections.

The Library also uses online social networking tools to help raise the profile of legal deposit and to promote the role we have in the preservation of zines, comics and graphic novels. Some of the places we've posted contributions include:

* Fringe Librarian

* Hayase!

* OzComics

* Pulp Faction

* Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio, Australian Society of Authors, Facebook.

The National Library's project to identify and acquire contemporary graphic novels, comics and zines is building on our existing significant historic collections of comics and other graphic materials. Reaching out to creators and publishers will ensure that this material is well represented in the national collection. It will be a valuable resource for the future, providing an insight into the social and cultural issues of the time. If we do not actively collect it now, it will be lost forever.

Debbie Cox, Australian Deposit Marjorie Currie, Australian Serials
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Title Annotation:National Library of Australia
Author:Cox, Debbie; Currie, Marjorie
Publication:National Library of Australia Gateways
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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