Portland Zine Symposium


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Portland Zine Symposium / Exhibitor Interviews  / PZS Exhibitor: Sam Szabo

PZS Exhibitor: Sam Szabo

We’ll be posting short interviews each day with the many exhibitors tabling at the 2016 Zine Symposium. Come meet all of these amazing zinesters, Saturday July 9th at Ambridge Event Center here in Portland, OR. Remember, there is only 1 day of tabling at this year’s Symposium. On Sunday July 10th, you’ll find us hosting a Skillshare day at the Independent Publishing Resource Center. Keep checking in with the site for additional exhibitor interviews, workshop and panel schedules, and fun events leading up to the Symposium.


Where do you live?

I’m from the Boston area, but I’ve been living in Portland for a few years now! Just moved into a dope artsy-house in the Woodstock area.

Share with us an image of you creating and/or your creative space. What is your zine-making process?


Because I just moved, my bedroom is all full of boxes and stuff, so I have less of a central creative space for drawing. The backyard, the bus, at work, coffee shops, wherever. I do my printing at the IPRC, which is one of the best creative spaces out there.

As far as process, it depends on the project. For a lot of my zines, I work as quickly as possible in order to ride the momentum of the idea. It’s also a good excuse to avoid having to edit. I’ll write and draw as quickly as I can, just scribbling with almost no planning beforehand. Anything to get the idea out of my head. I’ll edit and print using a similar process, in frantic marathons. Sometimes I’ll go months with no project and then bust out four or five zines out of nowhere.

For the Really Good (Or Really Complicated) Ideas, I will take a more measured approach. I’ll draw out a storyboard quickly, sit on it for a while, then eventually edit down the words. Once I’m feeling okay about it, I’ll start the penciling process, which tends to be the slowest step. Then inking, crosshatching, all the fun parts. I tend to watch a lot of schlock TV to numb myself through these final steps.

How do you keep inspired?

For me, the number one way to stay inspired is to think of writing and drawing as a practice and not just as tools that you use to make a product (the zine). Sometimes inspiration is there, sometimes it isn’t. It tends to come in cycles for me. But I’ve learned, in the last few years, that it’s crucial to keep yourself engaged in writing, drawing, and creating even when you feel uninspired or don’t know what the goal is. It’s how you keep the soil fertile. Doodling is always what gets me through periods of frustration and writer’s block.

If you could give your 16th year old teen self a zine, which one would it be?

I’d probably go with one of those mid-run issues of John Porcellino’s King-Cat Comics. I can’t remember the issue numbers, but I’m thinking of the ones where he writes about his adolescence – many of them were collected in the book “Perfect Example.” Porcellino’s zines were the first ones I saw that made me feel like I could make my own comics. He’s direct and unpretentious, and those are both qualities I value a lot. He isn’t all that “good” at drawing (y’know, by that narrow art-schooly definition) but he’s got this really finely honed, distilled style that works perfectly for the kind of art he sets out to make. Every zine feels really personal. It’s almost like each King-Cat exists in a vacuum, a flawless, self-contained representation of who he is and what he’s thinking at a given moment in time. And he does the whole thing without any kind of visual razzle dazzle or avant-garde mysteriousness. It feels like I could have made it. But I know that I couldn’t have. I guess that’s what I’m saying.

Specifically, I’m picking the “Perfect Example” stories because he breaks down his early depression struggles, and a lot of those generalized alienation feelings that come during adolescence, and he does it all through from this direct, but very detached adult perspective. It’s really sad, but probably validating to see for kids in similar situations – I didn’t read them till I was 20, but they really stuck with me.

What are you working on for this year’s Portland Zine Symposium? Share with us some photos of your new work!

I’m on my usual pre-festival grind. That means I’m scrambling to make five new zines at once, and I already know that I’m probably not going to finish any of them in time for the Symposium. I’ve got a collaborative zine with my friend Fuzzy Pause that’s been all drawn and ready to go for almost two years now. I’ve got a personal zine about gender and sexuality stuff, and the latest installment of “Momix,” my long-running series of comics about my mom, and I’ve got a space opera in the works, and some other silly ideas… To be honest, I’ll be lucky if even one of them gets to exist before the deadline.

I will, however, for sure have contributor copies of some anthologies that feature new work from me. There’s gonna be a new zine about Important Cats from Portland’s own Sound Grounds Wreckin Cru, and I’ve got a lil’ story in the latest ish of “My Pace,” from Rod and Cone Press. Plus I’ll be selling a half dozen newish comics that I’ve made since the last PZS! They’re all good. I promise.

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