As beautiful as a serious, well-articulated zine can be, it can also do a great service by undercutting notions of what a “serious” publication should be. This first issue of How It Is is a hysterical lampoon of serious writing. The zine is ostensibly a manuscript about raccoons reviewed by an unnamed editor, whose handwritten comments and corrections take an increasingly exasperated tone as this anything-but-historically-accurate account wears on.
The authors’ far-fetched claims of the origins and essence of the raccoon weave an epic that fans of the garbage-munching carnivores may want to believe, but of course it’s too good to be true. In How It Is, raccoons rose from evolutionary obscurity, leaving crab hands behind to assume their tiny trash-clutching mitts. They go on to become the entertainment industry darlings of the Great Depression era, enjoying their mystique and the respect of the animal kingdom due to their masked faces. This is the unhinged narrative of the zine, but the real characters are the authors themselves. Page after page of “history” and equally preposterous illustrations sees them goading their editor into hysterics, actively thumbing their nose at a paid, serious assignment. At one point, commenting on sad, stick figure raccoons, the editor interjects, “This is unacceptable quality. Please use the budget you’ve been given to hire an illustrator.” Better illustrations follow — but of cats instead (which the authors insist are raccoons).
Essentially, the zine is a long-form joke, and Powell and Munro nail it from start to finish. The tone of the historical narrative is clever enough to keep you reading the fake facts, but the asides that accompany the illustrations are especially hilarious: “The most sensitive part of the raccoon is the ‘penis.’ This long sexual organ is unique to the raccoon and has fascinated scientists for generations.” I laughed out loud multiple times reading this. Highly, highly recommended. (Joshua Barton)