Comic custodians

Self-published books, magazines and fanzines have to put up with a measure of derogation. Whether A5 and photocopied or informally stapled together, they are often seen as throw-away items, barely worth the paper they’re printed on. But illustrator Craig John Barr and designer Matthew Walkerdine (both also self-publishing artists) have other ideas.

’Self-publishing needs to be valued and archived,’ says Barr. ’Just as with a regular library, you need a strong archive of self-published work, so in the future you can look at what people were saying without editorial control or censorship.’

Hoping to emulate the success of extensive US-based fanzine libraries, the two launched their own Salford Zine Library in January, inviting emerging and established self-publishing artists and illustrators to donate work.

Thanks to an overwhelming response, their collection is growing and includes work from Xeroxed ’zines with a DIY aesthetic to professionally printed, hardback tomes, artists’ books and poetry. It includes the intricately illustrated and items of humorous simplicity.

The library’s first exhibition, Stomach Pump, will show a collection of mimeographed and Xeroxed ’zines, publications and mix-tapes featuring fandom, letters and science fiction commentary dating back nearly 40 years.

Contributions from the likes of Mike Perry and comic book artist Jeffrey Brown clearly excite Barr and Walkerdine, but with an ambition to grow and take the library collection on tour, they are keen to emphasise they exercise no curatorship. ’We don’t wish to be arbiters of taste,’ they say.

Stomach Pump is at the Salford Zine Library, Islington Mill Gallery, Salford, Manchester M3, from 7-12 May

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