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Cherry Bomb Comics:
Zine Shop & Library


An interview with
Melissa and Tui

from Auckland, New Zealand

by Elke Zobl and Haydeé Jiménez

May 2007


 

" Girls, make comix!"
-Melissa, Cherrybomb Comics

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Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?
Tui: I'm 27, from Rotorua, a small town in NZ, now living in Auckland, the largest city in NZ, population 1 million.
Melissa: I'm also 27, born, bred and still here in Auckland!


What do you do besides your comic/zine shop?

Tui: Full-time mother to 7-month old Lola! Thinking about getting into alternative eco-friendly funerals.
Melissa: I work as a librarian in a youth library, and do a grrrl-friendly radio show called Pony 4 Honey.


You also make zines! Can you tell us a bit about that?

Tui: I have made three zines: Scratch and Sniff which featured comics, vegan recipes and random stuff; Sphagnum Girl - Eco-superhero comic; Para Ser de la Tierra, a perzine about my travels in Latin American, and the Revolutionary Women Stencil-Book, a zine of black-and-white images and bios of revolutionary women in history.
Melissa: I make collaborative zines with some friends of mine called the “Ladies Underground Media Collective and Terrorist Society”, which came out of a feminist activism group we were involved with, and have made one zine of my own called “Adventures Close to Home”, which is a fanzine about the Slits.


Please tell our readers about Cherry Bomb Comics? How long have you been running the shop and library?

Tui: We founded the shop in 2004 when we mutually came up with the idea of a feminist comic book store and serendipitously one week later found a shop/house that we then moved into and set up shop, which doubles as our living room after hours. In July we will have our 3 rd birthday!
Melissa: Almost all of our comics , graphic novels and zines are made by women, and we have a free reading library in the shop with a lot of stuff kindly donated by our friends, plus a space where people can make zines using donated typewriters, photocopier etc.

Why did you decide to start a comic/zine shop and library?

Tui: We both felt that there was heaps of amazing work out there that wasn't being sold in mainstream comics shops or bookstores and we wanted to provide a space for it.
Melissa: We especially wanted to focus on stuff made by women, as female comix creators are under represented in the the mainstream and alternative comics world. It was also a good way to create the kind of environment that we enjoy being in: i.e. surrounded by comics and zines, art and stuff made by women, grrrl music, the punk/DIY aesthetic and it gave us the opportunity to forge a community of like-minded people using the shop as a central meeting place.


What kind of zines do you distribute? Do they cover specific topics?

Melissa: The zines we sell cover a wide range of topics that suit the shop – anarcha-feminism, women's sexual heath, queer politics, bike culture, poetry, punk, comics etc though I guess personal zines seem to be the most common zine we sell. I personally love fanzines about music and pop culture. Our aim is to first and foremost support New Zealand female zine makers, but we have tons of zines from the US, Australia and the UK as well.
Tui: The categories we have are Fiction/Stories, Queer, Goth/Fantasy/SciFi, Automythography, Political/DIY/Info.

What kind of responses do you get from your customers and library guests?
Melissa: People either seem intrigued as they haven't really encountered this kind of culture before, or else they are totally glad because what we do is exactly up their alley but there isn't too much of it onhand in Auckland.
Tui: We get some clueless people too who expect X-Men etc, and ask “What kind of a shop is this?”


What do you hope to accomplish by distributing these comics/ zines?
Melissa: To inspire women and girls to make stuff and be creative and DIY, and therefore feel powerful. To bring women making comics to the fore and have their talents recognised and enjoyed by mainstream and alternative communities.
Tui: Also to have fun and read lots!

How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?
Melissa: I didn't hugely get into zine culture until I was about 20, when I was involved in organising a women's music festival. My introduction to zines coincided with my musical tastes changing as I became excited about riot grrrl and feminism etc.
Tui: I got interested in them through writing poetry and thinking about publishing and what that means... Then I encountered a stall by Moonrocket (a web-based – now defunct - zine distro in Auckland) and bought a few zines and discovered it that way.

What does the zine scene look like in Auckland?
Melissa: At this point I think we are the only store that sells zines, but there have been a couple of Zine Festivals in Auckland called Small Print, and the semi-regular alternative craft fair, Craftwerk always has people running stalls to sell their zines, so quite a few people are making them.
Tui: There was a punk shop called Misfit Theatre that had a huge zine library, but it closed down a couple of years ago and we inherited some of their collection for our library.

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
Melissa: Personally, I like the photocopying!!! And the typewriting!!! I find planning the zine out (is it called pagination or something fancy?), very tricky as I am terrible at thinking spatially!
Tui: I love the long-stapler! Though once I sewed a whole lot of zines on the sewing machine which was cool too. There is something pretty satisfying about the binding process, when it finally comes together as a little book...


What do you think about zine-making today?

Tui: Zines are a really important forum for people to express stuff that is too extreme or non-commercial to be published any other way. They are often dismissed or treated like a quirky commodity by the mainstream, but I think they [are] still just as important freedom of speech as red journals printed in the 1800s on illegal printing presses.
Melissa: Yeah, I agree, and related to Tui's point there seems to be a bit of a push in New Zealand to start up zine collections at public libraries (Wellington Public Library is starting one up as we speak), and I think that's pretty important, as it can sometimes be difficult to find much “controversial” information in the conventional books that public libraries traditionally stock. How easy would it be for a teenager to find out about personal experiences of herbal abortions, or for girls interested in skateboarding to find material devoted to that very subject? Probably very easy if there is a zine section in the library!

Which role does Internet play for you?
Melissa: it makes it heaps quicker to find out about international zines and distros which is really cool (especially if you are running a store!), and provides a fairly foolproof way to keep in touch with other zinesters. Sadly this is often to the detriment of non-foolproof snail mail, which is a lot prettier and longer lasting! I am definitely guilty of choosing email every time! I think perhaps as a New Zealander the internet is particularly helpful though, as internationally people can find out what's going on here a lot easier, and vice versa. Plus, the internet is invaluable for research and pictures. All in all, I think zines and the internet are good friends!
Tui: The internet can also be a pretty great resource for researching zine content, long live the wikipedia! As far as Cherry Bomb is concerned, it wouldn't have been possible to have the range of obscure stuff that we have without the internet.

What are some zines you have read lately that you would recommend to someone learning about the zine-making/reading world?
Tui: My all-time favourites are “It's the Queer Revolutionary Disco” by Australian Farida Iqbal, which is really outrageous and political with heaps of cool drawings. Also I read “Mamaphiles” which is a collaborative one from the US with a whole lot of birth stories which was really poignant and real, and had such wildly different experiences and writing styles, I couldn't put it down. A NZ one that I really like is “Mellow Yellow” which is a zine compiled by Hannah Ho, a chinese NZ-er and radical activist type, that deals with heaps of stuff to do with ethnic identity, migration, racism and gender-ambiguity.
Melissa: One of my favourite zines that I've read over and over is called “Ladylike” which was made by a NZ woman who also used to play in bands and ran the Misfit Theatre zine library Tui mentioned earlier. I like zines that are about a bunch of different stuff, kind of magazine style, and this one in particular is written from the perspective of a feminist girl punk who was obsessed with zines and other stuff that I love too!

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?
Tui: Do it! Surrender to that beautiful strange urge... Then send Cherry Bomb Comics a sample!
Melissa: Don't think too much about what people may or may not think about your zine. Do it for yourself and the rest will follow. Otherwise it'll take ages to finish!

Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you?
Tui: Yes and no. Increasing numbers of zinesters come into Cherry Bomb which is really cool, and we are starting up a zinester/mix-tape night at the shop. Though for me personally, zine-making and reading is quite a solitary process too.
Melissa: I think I do. I mean, pretty much all my friends know what zines are and read them, even if they don't make them and I tend to take that for granted until I read some article which makes out like it's this new thing, or meet someone who's like “Zyne? Zeen? Huh?”, and then I realise it is a community of sorts, with a kind of not-so-secret code. I like to be surrounded by people who are into zines and stuff I like, it makes me feel safe and happy! Even though zine culture isn't massive in Auckland at the moment, the fact that it's a small city means people who make zines have often read each others, and it's cool when people are known for their zines - it's something everyone can achieve. For me zines are all about community (albeit an often quiet, in-their-own-bedrooms kind of community): people share information and feel connected and realise they aren't alone with their freakish hobbies and obsessions!

Do you consider yourself as feminist?

Tui: Of course. I believe in equality for all genders! Only in the last generation or so has there been some sort of equality for men and women on paper (in law), let alone in the mentality of our culture which has undergone hundreds of years of patriarchy! It takes more that 30 years to change the way people think!
Melissa: Yep!

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist/…)?
Melissa: I feel that I live a bit of a split life, because in the community that I work in, there are huge and obvious problems like poverty, domestic violence, poor health and education, and I sometimes feel overwhelmed facing that everyday. It's sometimes hard to reconcile that with my personal life, which is comparatively very privileged and lucky, surrounded as I am by my feminist and queer friends and living behind our feminist comic book shop in the middle of town. I guess as a result of that one of the things that bugs me is the underlying stuff that goes on within the supposedly more radical community that I live in, and in the indie music scene, for example the underlying racism and classism. And body-sizesim too! It's one of those weird things where there is so much terrible stuff “out there” that we need to fight against, and no one wants to tear apart their own community by infighting, but often there are internal issues that need to be dealt with at the same time. Sometimes I feel that assumptions are made in this scene that don't really fit my reality, and I'm sure there are plenty of others like me, who don't want to be accused of holding it all back by “complaining”. But nobody's free til we're all free!





What do you think about feminism today? How would you explain what feminism is to someone who has no idea what it is?
Melissa: I would probably say that one of the most important things to remember is there is no “one” feminism, and that while the basic point is that women have the same rights as men, ideas what those rights are, and which are most important probably differs from woman to woman. I think that to be a feminist is vital, to feel that you are worth fighting for as are other women in your life. Feminism is about providing options and the economic and emotional strength to make use of those options. It's about no more homophobia and racism!
Tui: There has been a big backlash against feminism. A lot of us who were raised on the “girls can do anything” maxim of the 1980s really believe that it is over and everyone is equal now. However I think most women still hold internalized patriarchy, from things like being afraid to walk in the streets at night to allowing men to step in and take over whenever you appear to be failing at plugging in your guitar amp...

What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?
Tui: “Grrrl-friendy” is kind of a weird term for me, as grrrl to me means someone who is fighting back, a dissident... All our structures and technologies are so overwhelming patriarchal and capitalist that it would take complete upheaval and re-working of society to really change how non-rich-white-men fare, rather than the implementation of political policies. I am too cynical to believe in some kind of anarchist utopia though! I think people are all different and all fallible. A matriarchy in which everyone communicated telepathically and rode bicycles would be nice...!
Melissa: Yeah, as soon as I thought of a grrrl-friendly society I thought of a land where girls listened to the Frumpies all day, watched Sadie Benning movies and rode their bikes around at night drinking beer – sigh, my perfect world!! But, if we are talking about a total feminist/queer utopia, like Tui says it'd take a total overhaul of societal assumptions...In terms of being a youth librarian I'd like us to stop talking about how boys are apparantely falling behind in reading due to feminism, for educators etc to realise it's not feminism's fault, but rather patriarchal society which teaches boys that reading is sissy and girls are dumb, and makes girls and women feel guilty about everything!!


What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you like to share them?
Melissa: I would like Cherry Bomb's zine-making space to rival that of the Independent Publishing Resource Centre in Portland!! And I'd like to eventually put out Adventures Close to Home #2, and start up a grrrl-friendly radio station with my friends.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Melissa: grrrlzines.net is awesome, and was one of my inspiring forces! Girls, make comix! Visit Cherry Bomb!


Thanks for taking the interview, Melissa and Tui!

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The Cherry Bomb Comics store & library



info:


Cherry Bomb Comics
41 New North Road
Eden Terrace
Auckland
Phone: (09) 374-4504


info [AT] cherrybombcomics.co.nz

Opening hours:
Wednesday-Friday 11am-6pm
Saturday 11am-4pm


"Cherry Bomb is always on the look out for comics, zines, art, accessories, clothing, music etc particularly (though not exclusively) made by women. We will sell these for you on consignment. So drop some samples in to the shop, or send it to the above address."

http://www.cherrybombcomics.co.nz/


 


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