Who are you? Where are you based?
My name is Nicky, pronounced knee-key, and I’m currently based out of Denver, CO, after leaving Berkeley, CA because of the pandemic, and my pronouns are she/her. I’m a queer, Puerto Rican zinester and teacher!
What are zines to you?
Zines, to me, are a way to explore and experiment with narrative structure and form with no restraint. They’re also an excellent outlet for emotions and thoughts that sometimes can lead to bigger works or sit on their own.
What was your first encounter with zines?
Hmm…I think my first encounter with zines was probably at Pegasus Book Store in Downtown Berkeley; I saw zines but totally didn’t know what they were until later once I’d started the MFA in Comics program at CCA. All these zine fests and whatnot were happening around me while I lived in Oakland and Berkeley, but somehow I was ignorant to it until I entered this purely comic-centric space and learned what I was missing, ha!
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
I make a lot of autobio/memoir comics and comics poetry zines, vignettes that tend to fit together with an overarching theme. They usually focus on aspects of identity, like being queer and what that means, mental health, homesickness. My zines are becoming more bilingual as I work with Spanglish and bettering my Spanish, generally, to experiment with how I can create comics through what I feel to be a more figurative and emotionally impactful language. Every zine tends to be pretty different than the one before it because I really like experimenting with visual style and execution with each zine I make.
What inspires you to create zines?
God, what doesn’t inspire me to make zines?! A lot of times, it’s the present moment; like, the pandemic, oddly enough, has given me some interesting moments of thought that are becoming zines. I also look to the state of Puerto Rico and what’s happening there and how it affects family, as well as the history and culture of Puerto Rico, to find inspiration for my zines, whether it’s through content or visuals. A lot of the times, I think it all comes down to the day-to-day lived experience, whether I’ve seen something beautiful, had a great hang with some friends, just a really palpable moment, and memory can be enough for me to formulate a comic.
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
My favorite thing about zines is how unique they can be. I’ve seen some truly iconic zines; whether it be the paper, the colors, the printing method, the folding method, there’s just never one zine that looks exactly like another, even from the same artist. It really allows each zine you pick up to be its own immersive experience, and I really enjoy that aspect.
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
My first zine ever was made almost exactly 3 years ago, and it was a coloring book of Hawaiian shirts because I love them. It was supposed to be just that but ended up being a zine I used to fundraise for Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico, and I remember being so happy that I was able to make something that would have even a little impact on helping out the situation. It was a total headache to figure out printing since it was my first time ever printing a booklet, but it’s got a solid place in my heart out of all the zines I’ve made since then.
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
I think as I’ve focused more on comics poetry style zines, my process has really solidified. Typically, I start with some notes jotted down; those tend to be thoughts that I have that’ll stand out to me that I write down somewhere on my phone or on a sticky note. If it never gets written down, it’s never worth creating in my mind. Once it’s written, I thumb out the visuals, usually going page by page, breaking down the panels to the words. Even though a lot of my zines tend to be a single sentence or a few sentences, I try to decompress the moment/emotion I felt with that particular thought that’s become a bit of a poem. The thumbnailing usually happens on a random sketchbook page or a sticky note, and then I hop into Photoshop and go to town. Rarely, I’ll feel inspired to do it traditionally and ink some 9×12 pages to scan and format into a smaller zine, but digital tends to be the way to go for me. Color is usually an afterthought, which I admit is pretty terrible for someone who loves vivid color, but there are times where I see the zine in color before I even make it and then go with my gut. Printing, trimming, and binding is probably my favorite but simultaneously most hated part because I do so much troubleshooting, totally cathartic, though.
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
When people read my zines, I hope that they find some relatability, this feeling of not being alone, of being seen that I’ve definitely had when I’ve read others’ zines. I also want people to find some enjoyment and a little escapism through my comics, even if it’s a small moment to slip out of reality until you close the book.
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
That’s so hard! Right away, I think of Gaia Weise (gaiaw.xyz) and Eunsoo Jeong (@Koreangry). Gaia’s art is beautiful, and I really admire their mastery of line and color in their comics. Ever since I first saw a Koreangry comic, I’ve been in love with the unique format Eunsoo uses. As someone who studied animation in undergrad, it was so great to see an armature used to bring an interactive element to a comic. She also tackles so many interesting and educational topics and experiences that make the comics very accessible.
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
Don’t be afraid to make a zine! A zine can literally be about anything, and there are no hard and fast rules on things like size, words, images, etc. Having taught zine-making for adults and children of various ages, it’s important to remember that everyone has a story worth sharing and that creativity looks different for everyone, and that’s okay! Once you make that first zine, you’re a zinester, and at least one person, but likely more, are gonna pick it up and dig it.
Is there a zine website or resource you would recommend new zinesters to check out?
The EBABZ virtual zine library is a great resource for seeing diverse zines in terms of content and execution. I think it’s a good place to start if you want to explore zines to read and figure out how you want to endeavor to make your own
Nicky’s Social Media: Linktree
Interview conducted by Solansh M.
Pictures provided by Nicky R.