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Zine Review: Portals



Perzine, Louisa Tsui,, price not listed


In a few short pages with a few short words, Louis Tsui walks you through a whole life; a whole life of emotions and events and the process of growing up. The front cover of Portals includes a series of images that are both symmetrical and diverse. Simple lines with black and grey colouring make this comic easily accessible.

Each scene or portal takes place across two pages with one page featuring an image and the other a thought. Tsui’s age at the time of the scene is placed in brackets underneath. The images are both deeply personal, in that they portray landmark events from the author’s life, and universally applicable, in that faces are obscured and bodies androgynous.

The comic is reminiscent of Julie Morstad’s work in that the characters are at once frail and immensely present. The story is written by and about them and, though they are small and at times dwarfed by their surroundings, those surroundings were created and maintained by the characters within.

This is a comic I would pick up and read at the park alone, then in a crowded party with a glass of wine in hand, then in the dark at the back of a movie theatre. Read it differently each time and it will speak to you in different voices. (CJ Blennerhassett)

Event Recap: Drunk Feminist Films Presents Fifty Shades of Grey



by Carissa Ainslie

“Fifty Shades of fucked up” is not just one way to describe the film Fifty Shades of Grey — it’s actually a line from the movie, which made it so easy for a bunch of feminists to destroy it on Wednesday night at the Revue Cinema in Toronto.

Drunk Feminist Films began as a web series that recorded its founders — Shaunna, Gillian, Amy and Steph — playing feminist themed drinking games that critiqued big Hollywood films. This time, they went public with a live screening of Fifty Shades of Grey that sold out the 200+ seat Revue in less than 24 hours.

The screening kicked off with an intro from the collective, who announced that they are officially partnering with Revue Theatre to make Drunk Feminist Films a bi-monthly occurrence.

They were followed by a “resident BDSM expert” — game designer/artist/writer/badass Soha Kareem (who also wrote our Issue 67 cover story on Twine, read it here!). Kareem gave the audience the low down on what a healthy BDSM relationship looks like (communication, checking in, aftercare!) and explained that this is a far cry from the relationship depicted in the film we were all about to watch. “I want to stress that the tactics in this film are downright abusive,” she said, to cheers from the audience. “If you meet someone like Christian Grey, run the fuck away!”

With that, the film began, and the hooting, hollering and tampon-swinging commenced. The behaviour encouraged by the hosts was the exact opposite of what is expected in the traditional theatre going experience – audience members talked back, groaned at the movie’s most cringe-worthy lines (and there are many, including the utterly excerable “Laters, baby”) and cheered (and swung tampons like lassos) when the film’s female protagonist Anastasia Steele showed agency.

The event program also contained a list of prompts for the audience to shout during certain moments of the film – for example, we yelled “Broformance” every time a man in the film committed a feat of strength to demonstrate his manliness, “My Hero” every time a male character “saved” Anastasia, and “Lip Slip” – denoting every time Anastasia bit her lip, touched her lip or chewed on a pencil.

Most importantly, we really appreciated the literature that accompanied the program, including a glossary that defined “BDSM” and “consent”, and the obvious care that was taken by Kareem and the organizers to stress: BDSM isn’t bad, or evil, or unhealthy. It’s the emotional abuse that surrounds Christian Grey’s interactions with Anastasia – the mind games, the lack of checking in, the lack of aftercare and support – that makes this movie an inaccurate – and harmful – depiction of a BDSM relationship.

The audience was told to live tweet their comments and communicate their disgust at what can only be described as the worst movie ever, and the event ended up trending third in Canada. The format of deconstructing films by a room full of feminists works, especially if a bit of booze is thrown in to loosen the tongue. Catch the next event when Drunk Feminist Films screens Bridesmaids on June 17th.

Zine Review: Wintering Prairie



Chapbook, Megan Kaminski, above/ground press,, $4


There’s a preparatory tone in the first page of this long poem that lends itself well to the images of wintering conjured by its title (wintering: to lodge, keep, or care for during the winter). “This poem will be a long one,” warns Megan Kaminski, “will widen will drift like snow.”

That drifting is accomplished in a literal sense through an absence of punctuation and capitalization, and symbolically via Kaminski’s subject matter. Movement permeates nearly every line in Wintering Prairie: “Long shadows and sun melt spread / across lawns across asphalt / neighborhood strip mall and shop.” If it weren’t for the occasional interjection that reads like a prayer — “I carry absence / I carry want / I carry body ache / on this bright day” — Wintering Prairie might be the print version of an episode of The Nature of Things; it glides across the landscape and zooms in on a particular scene for a few moments, before flying away again.

A few cringe-worthy misspellings of “arctic” (as “artic”) aside, Wintering Prairie is a slick and evocative read. It delivers on its promise to drift, but Kaminski’s reluctance to focus for very long on any singular sketch occasionally leads to large chunks of text blowing by with little absorption. It covers a lot of ground in a short time. (Scott Bryson)

5 Reasons to Subscribe to Broken Pencil!



5. If you are a practicing or former zinemaker, you already know this – it’s SO NICE to receive things in the mail. We are a nice thing that will come to you only four times a year! It’s like you get a lil’ present, every season.

4. We are the only magazine around that carries tons and tons of zine reviews every issue. If you want to keep on top of emerging writers, activists and artists, we are the mag that will help you do it. Seriously. Look at all these durn reviews we’ve published so far! We love zines and we will keep reading and reviewing as many as we can UNTIL WE DIE.

3. You’ll get to read features about people and movements that exist both within and outside zine culture. We’ve published great stories on queer zines, prison zines, and zines vs. high art, but we’ve also done stories on movements in other mediums, including recent pieces on the groundbreaking gaming software Twine, DIY horror and puppets. We do our best to be surprising and incisive in our explorations of underground culture in Canada and beyond.

2. It’s our 20th anniversary this year, so your next issue will be our super-stacked anniversary retrospective, where we’ll look at influential zinemakers and where they are now, pay tribute to Canada’s underground comix scene over the past 20 years and look back at Canzines past. Why not begin your subscription with a milestone?

1. By subscribing to Broken Pencil, you are not only supporting our magazine, but supporting independent creative culture as a whole. Our subscribers help us keep going and share the stories of people and movements that are not often noticed by mainstream media. You help us support these individuals and shine a light on their practices, which is something that’s really important to us. Your support is integral!

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Zine Review: Switchblade Queens


Litzine, Chapter 0, Chris Eng, illustrated by Kelsey Short,, $5


This zine is made up of 20 half-sized pages of fiction by Chris Eng, the Toronto-based author of punk romance novel Molotov Hearts, followed by eight pages of character drawings by Kelsey Short.

I liked the illustrations, but in the text the characters felt unrealistic and forced. All seven members of the Shield Maidens are tough, street fighting, Strong Female Characters™, and yet they snipe at each other in the worst Mean Girls sorts of ways.  Even sisters Harridan and Iggy seem to barely tolerate each other; the former is not above ordering another Maiden to punch her younger sister in the face repeatedly to appease rival Maledicta’s bruised ego. All of this made it hard to stay interested through the story’s complex fight scenes and it was often difficult to root for the Shield Maidens at all.

Of course characters don’t need to perfect and lovable for them to garner empathy; complicated, morally dubious anti-heroes can be some of the most compelling. But the Maidens don’t seem to care about each other very much, and as a result they don’t make it easy for readers to care, either.

Having said all that, I don’t think this story or the women in it are totally irredeemable — this is only the beginning of the series. One thing I did appreciate was that the Shield Maidens gang includes a trans/non-binary character who looks a little like Prince, and the others aren’t shy about making sure people know their preferred pronouns. Maybe with the subsequent chapters the characters get fleshed out further — and if they don’t wind up likeable as such, maybe they become easier to care about. (Mary Green)