Furry fanzines, comics and furry history
With $40 that I sent to a collector, I dove into the interesting pool of furry fanzines. Anyone can publish furry art and comics online these days, but back when the Internet was more BBS than WWW, it seems like any artist who wanted to get their name out there did a fanzine. There are an incredible number of them, and that's why in my opinion it's impossible to list them all. I know some have tried and failed.
"Bestiary", "Scrap", "Karno's Klassics", "Furplay" and "PentMouse" are just a very small number of what was out there. The quality of the art ranges widely, and so far I've come across more than one comic that makes absolutely no sense at all. But those are exceptions; most of what I've seen has been quite good.
For the most part, furry fanzines were published with anywhere between 8 to 50 pages. They're a really interesting view of the early days of the fandom. One thing I noticed - the style of art hasn't changed that much. But what has definitely changed is how furry fans have viewed their fandom.
In terms of quality range, the best I've seen so far is the "Hey Neeters!" comic by Mike Sagara which plays out like a twisted sitcom. At the low end is Patrick Kelley's single issue of "Scrap", which has a space comic that is very hard to follow, let alone to understand. The super-small type makes matters worse. The rest of his furry art looks okay; I can only assume his art got better after 1994, when it was released.
Then there are unusual zines like "Centaurs Gatherum" by Ed Pegg Jr. which covers centaurs, of all things. Only having issue 25 to go on, there's very little information online, so it's really hard to know how long it ran, or even how many issues were printed.
I assume collectors have more zines, since I used to occasionally see them on Furbid. I was just lucky getting what I have on Facebook. But couldn't the people who collect them do an update on WikiFur? Even there, there's so little information, any more than you'd get from a Google search.
Take for example "Bestiary", and there is actually a Patreon page to make that magazine live. Not as a furry fanzine, but as an art magazine. Kind of like how FurScience made a video post called "Furloose", I can only assume those behind it have no knowledge that the title was used for a furry fanzine by Scott Alston. (I really love their furry take on the opening to "Footloose".)
It isn't like there's a source where you can find all the furry zines listed. I know Fred Patten included a list in one of the books he edited recently, "An Anthropomorphic Century", but even then, my understanding is that there are so many more out there.
I wish I could say these early furry fanzines are easy to find, but you really have to get lucky to find them, and at a fair price. I see numbers as high as $20 for a single issue, and at other times, the same issue being sold with several others for as little as $8 for a set of seven.
More than once, I have said there should be a single place where artists and fans alike can go to and check out furry history. Young artists want to see these; I've been contacted over the years by several of them who really want to see how furry art has evolved. It's not like they can go to some museum and study furry art. You should go to reference libraries, is something I have been repeatedly told by those who object to my efforts in saving something that could be gone in a couple of years. These places are not easy to find, nor to travel to. For example, the closest one near my address is more than 300 miles away.
For legal reasons I will not say what my efforts are, but if you want to donate to something who really wants to preserve them, feel free to contact me. But the real reason you can't find these zines online is because of copyright. Everyone wants to be careful of the artist's or writer's copyright which expires in 75 years from the date of publication, and the only way to legally share them is to actually have a copy of the original issue.
But they won't last that long. I admit my knowledge comes from my local library, but unless these fanzines were printed on acid-free paper, they could only last another 10 or 20 years before they turn into dust. Even the experts I have spoken with seriously doubt any of them will last 75 years. When this happens, we will lose a part of our history.
I dare you, go ahead and look anywhere you like and try to find any information on why - let alone how - the first furcons took place, or why they folded. It's impossible, and as time goes on, we will lose those people who were a part of those early days. I have been told on social media that some of those involved in the early furcons and fanzines are no longer alive. Since I can't verify this information, I won't say who was mentioned. Except those whom I've contacted like Kjartan Arnórsson who said to me on Fur Affinity, "I'm so old, I'm historic, huh? What the hell - go ahead."
Of those whom I've been able to contact, none of them has ever said no. Even they know this is history, and we are running out of time. Did you know the Vatican has been scanning historic documents before they disappear? Why can't we furries, critics and all, get together and search out anyone and everyone from those early days and share what knowledge they have, before it is gone.
That's a statement of fact: Unless we make an effort, we will lose our history.
[Editor's notes - Scattered information on furry publications can be found in a couple of places:
WikiFur - Category:Fanzines,
Anthropomorphic Arts and Education's anthropomorphic fandom repository catalog,
Lynx and Felyne32K's Incomplete Listing of Zoomorphic Publications (2002),
Captain Packrat's A Not Quite Complete, but None the Less, Very Thorough Furry Comic Book List (2005),
The Fred Patten collection on Science Fiction and Animation, at the Library of the University of California, Riverside.]