The term ‘Zine‘ refers to magazines or fanzines which are usually produced and circulated outside conventional modes: zines are often hand drawn, hand printed, and sold through personal networks. This leads to a sense of political community building, which has undergone a radical shift since the 90s, with the coming of the digital zines. Comic-zines have a long history of using the alternative mode of circulation as a tool of political resistance; very often, this resistance is against censorship and large-scale publication houses. I argue that the kind of politics that zines engage with are varied in nature and one of them is going against the prescribed aesthetics of multinational publication houses; by doing so, zines create an ‘anti-graphic novel‘ resistance.
What’s In a Zine: The term ‘zine’ as such means nothing beyond ‚magazines’: at best, to an informed reader of counterculture, it may come to be connotative of fanzines. Fanzines are usually self-published, non-commercial periodicals (Duncomb, 1997) which adopt existing genre literature into the format of graphic format, but are not limited to printed media. They can also belong to any genre, or fandom, and share in a dialogic space such as the one between women’s zines and the counterculture music scene (LeBlanc, 1999; Robinson, 2004). The subculture of mail-distributed American fanzines of the 1930s, for example, often consisted exclusively of engagement with commercial science fiction, such as The Comet (1930s) or Detour (1940s).
The zine scene is polymedial: different mediums such as paper based prints, personal recordings, amateur videography, photography, alternative pornographic digital visuals and videos can all coexist within one subsection of a zine scene (Greer, 2019). The assumption that zines are specifically just indie or self-published comics holds only in a given cultural context, such as this special issue on Graphic Novels and Zines: without the juxtaposition with the term Graphic Novel, zines can be just about any transmedial or polymedial material within a zine scene. This overview focuses only on the print media and my goal here is not historiographical: I merely present an outline of a broad general corpus of various groups of comic-zines.
A general agreement on zines, comics or otherwise, often assumes specific aesthetics, namely an adherence to the maladroit. There is a conscious removal of the professional, and a dalliance with the sketchy, the clumsy, and the amateurish. The key word is DIY (Jeppsen, 2012), which also determines the mode of circulation: it is a transaction that is based on a personal network, a sense of community and belonging. Zines, unlike artists‘ books, form „alternative avenues of communication“ (Zweig,1998). They can become agitprop, or at least clearly advocate an ideological position, belonging to one group or community. Communication was also established through international mail for certain zine scenes in the 60s and the 70s, such as in Brazil (Cadôr, 2017). Fanzines have a long political history in the west, that frequently comes into discussions of comics studies, such as the culmination of the printed zine scene in the United States in the 1980s, which was endorsed by the euphoria of the Underground Comix Movement, and fueled by the Anti-War, Anti Establishment protests (McMillian, 2011) and a chaotic aesthetics of the larger Left. Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, Alaine Kominsky Crumb and such celebrated figures of the Comix movement were also creators of zines. The Underground Comix zines had distinct stylistic features, and contrasted to fanzines. What they did, however, was a parody of popular comics under the Comics Code Authority and McCarthyism.
Parody is a significant feature of comic zines. In the context of colonial India, the English Punch became a much exploited point of reference in its multiple vernacular adaptations (Mitter, 1997; Mittler and Harder, 2013; Khanduri, 2014). Apart from the celebrated Oudh Punch or Hindi Punch, there were also regional and vernacular periodicals such Basantaka. While being often maladroit in its visual adaptation, the vitriolic humour of a magazine such as Basantaka was anti-Reformist and deeply misogynistic. The politics of zines are not inherently, historically, non-conservative. I myself as a fan/reader have been often seduced by its primary challenge to established styles of high art, as well as its detachment from gargantuan publication houses. The romanticisation of zines being thereby automatically dissensual is a gross generalisation. There coexists the pornotopia of Savita Bhabi and the feminist comics of the Kadak Collective within the broad zine scene of contemporary India. The role of zines in the contemporary political exigency is not determined by the format in itself: it is determined by the community.
I look at this centrality of the community in the zine scene as a possibility for the channels for subjectivization: it is why zines such as Bikini Kill, Sister Nobody or Dykes to Watch Out For assume a historically crucial role in feminist (in intersection with Punk) and queer movement in the 90s (Casado, 2011; Hunt, 2014; Molyneux, 2020). Zines occupy a zone of resistance that lend itself to powerful expressions of feminist, queer, Jewish, and other marginalised and oppressed identities. The confessional, the personal and the political create a language that is primarily an engagement with stereotypes, but also with ontological resistance.
Why Zines: Comics zines are anti-Graphic Novel. The printed zine scene in the contemporary times, in India and elsewhere, is marked by its running away from Graphic Novels. This brings us again to the question of distribution, and the community. The post millennial urban space of the Indie Comix Fest in Bangalore, Delhi, Kochi, Goa, Kolkata and such offer a direct trade between comic-creators and readers. If the comic fest and fairs, such as the London Radical Bookfair, offer a physical space and a potential for community building, a collective such as Gaysi offers a community. The former is largely a transaction in print based media, whereas the latter is opened up to a virtual, political community dedicated to comics and activism by and about Indian LGBTQA+ communities.
The turn to the digital and the virtual since the 90s has led to a different mode of communication and preservation. Printed zines are often artefacts of a personal collection: they are collectables, frequently going out of print and existing only in the possession of the archivist. An organization such as World Comic India, founded by Sharad Sharma, takes a political stance on commodification by creating monochrome, photocopied zines: their four frame comic can be endlessly photocopied, without having been bought, reveals Sharma in an interview with me at histinyoffice-archive at Mayur Vihar. Their archive and their office is the same: you have to arrive there to have access.
The internet changes the question of access: it is still a matter of having access to the networks which preserve scanned 1930s American SF zines; one needs to possess the knowledge that the British Library has a zine collection. These networks are still operational between people belonging to the community. The digital turn, however, problematises the binary between people and commodities, and by preserving zines through scanned, digital copies, create a possible exercise in writing the biography of the things. I mark this as a shift in the engagement with materiality in zines. This engagement is often also ridden with a nostalgic anxiety, an attachment to the artefact, and a reliance on stickiness. Not all online zine platforms are exclusively online: a platform such as Blue Jackal produces both digital and analogue zines. A number of their publications include hand drawn images, digitised and published online. Blue Jackal engages often in contemporary political narratives, such as Lokesh Khodke’s superhero comic on freeing political prisoners (2020). However, this curious duality between digitised and analogue publication also creates a political engagement with questions of object fetish, labour and materiality.
The political biography of zines, therefore, I argue isn’t linear; neither is the kind of politics that political zines engage in. Zines are not political in themselves, but their alternative mode of production, labour and circulation creates a possibility of resistance.
 Duncombe (1997) de?nes zines as “noncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish, and distribute by themselves.” This definition, however, excludes other medias that coexist in a Zine scene.
 What I call the maladroit aesthetics of zines exists in the political domain of resistance aesthetics, anarchism, the chaotic and the Guerilla. Sandra Jeppsen looks at the connection between anarchism and zines with regard to anarchist groups such as EVAH and the Green anarchist zines (Jeppsen, 2011). J C Greer discusses Karim Bey’s debut zine, Chaos (1985) which advocated an “ontological” brand of anarchism( Greer, 2019). These zines engage in a Guerilla warfare against mass media, adhering to a resistance aesthetics of the larger Left.
 Savita Bhabi is an Indian pornographic webcomic and has been the subject of pornographic studies and scholarship around pornotopia and popular media (Sreedhar Mini and Baishya, 2019; Ghosh, 2017).
‘[a]rt does not do politics by reaching the real. It does it by inventing fictions that challenge the existing distribution of the real and the fictional’ (Rancière, 2009, p. 49).
 Comics and graphic novels are not two genres- there is no fundamental difference between the two of them apart from the hierarchy created through the invention of an auratic currency. Emma Dawson Varughese in her 2017 text looks at the role of international publication houses in India in creating a niche readership of this refurbished genre called graphic novels in the post-millenial moment; however she refrains from commenting on her own position regarding the comics-Graphic Novel dispute. Unlike Vaughese, I perceive the term as a market invention to rebrand comics for an audience which is biased against the latter, and hence have political qualms with it. When conjoined in one sentence, I perceive the two terms, graphic novel and zine in a potential binary, rather than as allies.
 Igor Kopytoff writes in The Social Life of Things (eds. Arjun Appadurai), „ In contemporary Western thought, we take it more or less for granted that things - physical objects and rights to them - represent the natural universe of commodities. At the opposite pole we place people, who represent the natural universe of individuation and singularization. (Kopytoff, 1986)