christian angst

Cartooning In The Time Of Zines

Before the internet, there were zines.

Lots of zines.

Zines can be difficult to define. The word “zine” is a shortened form of the term fanzine, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Fanzines emerged as early as the 1930s among fans of science fiction. Zines also have roots in the informal, underground publications that focused on social and political activism in the ’60s. By the ’70s, zines were popular on the punk rock circuit. In the ’90s, the feminist punk scene propelled the medium and included such artists as Kathleen Hanna, who produced riot grrrl out of Olympia, Washington.  

A zine is most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published unique work of minority interest, usually reproduced via photocopier. A popular definition includes that circulation must be 5,000 or less, although in practice the significant majority are produced in editions of less than 1,000. Profit is not the primary intent of publication. There are so many types of zines: art and photography zines, literary zines, social and political zines, music zines, perzines (personal zines), travel zines, health zines, food zines.  And the list goes on and on. 

In the late 1980’s I began publishing a series of long poems based on my Midwestern Christian upbringing in a religious humor/satire magazine called The Wittenburg Door. After six years the editors felt that the series had run its course and encouraged me to find a way to change course while keeping my voice intact.

And Christian Angst was born.

During the genesis of the cartoon, the internet as we know it wasn’t a thing. I had amassed a sizable collection of Dover clip art books that were filled with cheesy artwork which was designed for use primarily in business newsletters or similar mimeographed church and school in-house publications. In addition, clipart programs for Windows such as Publisher’s Task Force and MasterClips were beginning to come into existence. My original idea was to turn the graphics back onto themselves by using them for the purpose they were never intended – to satirize and critique religion and societal norms. This was also during the outset of desktop publishing; access to graphics was limited and home scanners really hadn’t made it on the scene. Christian Angst was designed as a four-panel strip on Microsoft Windows using Adobe Pagemaker. I would write the copy and print each strip with the word balloons and then take everything down to the nearest Kinko’s Copies where I would then copy and resize each graphic on self-service photocopy machines until they fit the panels. Needless to say, I spent many hours and quarters on those machines.

The initial iterations of Christian Angst were meant solely as a project for The Wittenburg Door. Consequently, the themes were mostly religious in nature with a lot of jabs being thrown at fundamentalist sensibilities. In later years, as the internet and my access to technology increased, the strip evolved both thematically and graphically as did its audience. I went from photocopying and mailing strips with self-addressed stamped envelopes to copy and pasting while creating relationships with editors online and instantaneously being able to send them copies.

This website is a catalogued history of Christian Angst – what it was and continues to be – as well as a tribute to the history of zinedom and the power of individuality and the creative spirit that inhabits us all. May it continue to motivate us forward.

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