The Story of Extreme Zeen
BIRTH OF A PUBLICATION
THE STORY begins during my zine-making days in the early 2000s, when I lived in Center City in the hectic town of Philadelphia, walking through a labyrinth of narrow streets to a tiny, out-of-the-way copy shop run by an aging hippie-type guy. Tall and thin, with a graying ponytail and a slow vibe to him. Occasionally I’d run off copies of my then-zine, New Philistine, on the self-serve copier near the front window.
When I finished I’d give the man a roughly accurate count of how many sheets I’d copied, and he’d tell me a price off the top of his head, invariably lower than it should’ve been. Maybe because he had several zinesters as customers and appreciated what we were doing.
On this particular afternoon the proprietor motioned me toward the back room where he did larger print jobs. He showed me one of his art printers. He also revealed a few limited edition zines printed for a friend of his, and a special kind of paper made by a small specialty house in ______. (The name of a state.) I remembered the name of the little company.
“This is the best thickness and weight,” he explained. “Can print on both sides even with jobs that use a lot of ink, yet it’s light enough to use as pages in a zine. Very flexible, not stiff like standard photo paper. And look at those colors! They jump off the page. Synergy between ink, paper, and printer.”
With that comment he shook his head.
“Kids today have started making e-zines. E-zines! Zines on computer screens. Electronic dots. Turn off the screen and they vanish. Putting me out of business. They have their attributes, but they’ll never match this for quality. For artistic experience.”
We walked back to the front. I thanked him for the information and collected the sheets of my modest newsletter. Before I stepped outside I saw the man shuffling again to the back room, holding in his hand the specialty paper.
When I passed by the shop a couple months later, it’d closed.
The pandemic lockdown hit in March 2020, and as a retail job I’d lined up for myself fell through, I decided to put the extra time I had to use. To create, as I’d long planned to do, an upscale, high-quality version of a zine. A “zeen.”
I already had the right art printer, and with some difficulty located the specialty paper house located in ______. They stocked the perfect-weight paper for my project. I ordered it, as well as yellow paper of a particular weight I’d found to be also effective.
But what would the new “zeen” look like? What would it be called?
My graphic design skills were yet primitive, but I had two assets to compensate for that: a pair of spectacular images my wife Kathleen Marie Crane had rediscovered when rearranging boxes of memorabilia from her days as a punk model in downriver Detroit. One, an edgy photo of herself with platinum blonde hair. When developed, black dots had appeared around the edges of the large photograph, which gave it a decidedly otherworldly effect. That’d be the cover.
The other image was a watercolor she’d painted called “Lucy in the Sky,” inspired by the famous Beatles song. The painting was of a large blue psychedelic eye. We’d put a copy of that at the center of the zeen, so the pages fell open naturally to a view of the hypnotic image.
Copied on the specialty paper, the painting became truly spectacular.
We both wrote stories for the zeen (the plot for mine provided by KMC), and solicited work from several talented writers we’d worked with in the past– one of them Philadelphian Frank D. Walsh, best undiscovered poet on the planet.
What to name the issue?
We came up with Extreme Zeen, for extreme design.
The zeen, though a bit crude, contained stunning visual effects enabled by the analog artistic synthesis described to me years past. Extreme Zeen was the first of several New Pop Lit print zeens. With each one we learned more about design and art.
NOW we’ve released Extreme Zeen 2— culmination of that knowledge, containing a synthesis not just of image and medium, but of words and art. You need to order a copy to know what I’m talking about. Available at our POP SHOP.