Well, having covered this quickly a week or so back it was a real pleasure to have it pop through the door earlier this week. I’d talked back then of the difficulty I had with the very idea of this being a zine, and I stand by that, what’s inside the first of these quarterly Katzines might be described as “comics, writing and drawings by Katriona Chapman” but they’re comics for the most part, and very, very good ones at that. And the professionally handmade look of the comic is about as far as you can get from the old DIY idea of zines as you can get.
Inside, it reminds me somewhat of the autobiographical work of Katie Green, both in her excellent book Lighter Than My Shadow and her Green Bean comic, there’s that same style, the layout of panels and text, the same gentle, reflective tone used even when discussing matters that aren’t at all gentle or reflective. And perhaps most importantly, the same easy-going, very readable writing, no matter what the subject.
It’s all too easy to see Chapman’s work as lightweight, sweet, all pastoral and idyllic, her tight pencil work featuring very organic shapes and a fascination for the natural world certainly fits neatly into that idea of things. But she’s at pains to challenge that idea, the page “Some examples of things that people have got wrong about me” pointing out that she’s older than she seems, likes whiskey, gangster movies, isn’t Polish, and isn’t all that keen on Joni Mitchell. And throughout Katzine, the breadth of subjects Chapman covers is impressive, all beautifully drawn and delivered with a conversational style that makes reading both easy and enjoyable, and all definitely pointing out that there’s far more to Chapman and her work than simply “sweet“.
In here there’s everything from a celebration of local hardware shops to a couple of pages in praise of the ‘Never-never plant‘ and through to a longer piece, a travelogue, a return to a Canada she’s not visited for twenty-five years, childhood trips to an Aunt strong in her memories. It’s a comic with such variety that different readers will have different favourites, but mine has to be the wordless piece “it moved so fast“, two pages with Chapman and boyfriend Sergio out on their roof, looking up into a gorgeously detailed pencil grey and black sky to pick out the International Space Station.
It’s delicate, it’s simple, it’s gorgeous to read and manages, with just a few panels, to show the wonder of space (sometimes you simply don’t need Brian Cox talking over it!). And these two gorgeous pages lead into two related yet completely different pages, two info-packed pages of text and illustration on the ISS, informative, the change-up from the two more meditative pages an enjoyable thing to experience.
Amongst all this, Chapman’s unafraid to reveal a deeper side to herself, the autobiographer revealing themselves to the reader, whether it’s the insecurity over her work or a discussion of how she feels difficulty relating to her own gender at times. It’s not necessarily treated as a dark revelation, just another truth to tell, another thing to discuss in a comic full of moments, enjoyable, varied, and very readable. Indeed, sometimes the truth includes both serious and silly, the emotional range just as broad and real as you expect from real life. The piece ‘Fear, Love‘ does just that, the fear part all about her worries over the comic but the love part talks of the enjoyment Chapman takes from her theatre job, this introverted and quiet woman taking almost childish, delightful joy in the quiet moments at the back of the auditorium where she can slip invisibly through a room of a thousand people.
All in all, Katzine is everything I hoped for and more, a wide variety of fascinating, enjoyable comics, autobio done really well.
You can buy copies of Katzine, or even sign up for a subscription at the website.