Broken Pencil’s 15 Year Timeline

1995: Hal Niedzviecki and Hilary Clark drink several pitchers of beer at the now defunct Beverly Tavern.

Hal: We should start a magazine!

Hilary: Hell yeah!

The first issue is released in the fall, complete with preface on how to use the magazine to order zines. Also: The Lucien Bouchard Flesh Eating Zombie Doll with Removable Leg! We print 1500 and get orders for a solid 200 copies. Moldering boxes of issue #1 still reside in various basements around Toronto.


1996: Issues #2 and #3! Long time web master Derek Winkler joins the team, starting the BP website and penning the feature “Ready to Catch You Should You Fall: Anarchy & Patrimony on the Net.”

The first Canzine festival of zines and underground culture is held at the Spadina Hotel. The Spadina Hotel closes one month later.

We continue to use the equipment at the University of Toronto’s student newspaper The Varsity to layout the magazine. (Without ever asking, of course.) Layout usually starts around 2am on a Monday and continues until late afternoon the next day when the student journalists start wandering in.


1997: It’s the heyday of indie as we used to know it! Issue #4 reviews classics like Skull Geek Bible, Sunburn, and This is the Salivation Army.

Issue #5 is the much sought after Malaise Issue: “Best of the Depressed!”

Ken Sparling becomes fiction editor of Broken Pencil and runs a story by Derek McCormack.

Canzine moves to Symptom Hall. Symptom Hall closes down a few days after the fest.


1998: Marc Bell does the cover of issue #6: A toothbrush and a tooth making a zine called “Decaying Society.”

Our first and only music issue released, complete with a flexi disc record featuring Fell Gang, Mean Red Spiders, The Rust Brothers and Parts Unknown. It costs more to get the box of flex-discs across the border than it does to buy the damn things.

Billy Mavreas’ punk beaver makes its first appearance (uncredited over-use to come shortly after).

Canzine moves to Club Shanghai. Club Shanghai closes the next year.


1999: Hilary Clark decamps from the magazine. She goes to New York to get a Master’s Degree and better herself.

Jonathan Goldstein, our first columnist, starts a column about himself.


2000: The world doesn’t end so we start putting out the magazine three times per year.

After five years, 10 issues, and four applications, we get our first grant. Thanks, Ontario Arts Council!

Hey, it’s our 10th issue. It’s 100 pages long. We hold a zine-art gallery show in celebration.

Issue #12 asks: Are Zines Dead? (The question becomes a recurring obsession in the magazine.)


2001: Emily Schultz takes over as editor. She immediately installs her boyfriend (now husband), Brian Joseph Davis as a regular contributor and the mag’s ad salesman.

The now classic Backyard Wrestling issue! Hal, the world’s cheapest publisher, reluctantly springs for a FULL-COLOUR COVER!

Current business manager Tara Gordon Flint joins the magazine. She introduces the spread-sheet into our operational structure.

2002: Heather O’Neill takes over Jonathan Goldstein’s column, which is still called “Goldstein on Goldstein” and is still about Goldstein.

Despite Hal’s protests, full-colour covers become the norm. Apparently they are preferred by readers.

Issue #20 is published. Indie creators pay tribute to the pioneers of Independent culture. A human being over 30 appears on a Broken Pencil cover for the first time.


2003: Readers around the world enjoy excerpts from the underground press like “Just me and My Urine Jug”

We do a special comics issue featuring an original cover by Dave Cooper.


2004: A second Broken Pencil obsession emerges out of the ashes of the “are zines dead” discussion. “Is There Life After Hip?” asks Ryan Bigge in issue #24. Soul wringing essays on topic continue till the present day.


2005: Anna Bowness takes the reins as editor.

We have a centerfold of “Indie Tiger” Steven Kado in our “Boy” issue.

Broken Pencil gets an office roughly the size of a walk-in closet. Every available surface gets covered in empties, yet-to-be-reviewed zines, and short story submissions by aspiring romance writers from Nebraska.

Hey, it’s the 10-year anniversary of Broken Pencil! Performance artist Shannon Cochrane leads us in a poignant exercise involving ripping pages out of issue #1. Lucky we still have plenty of ’em!

The world’s cheapest publisher reluctantly agrees to stop using the cheapest possible paper and start printing Broken Pencil on the second cheapest option.


2006: Due to popular demand and/or some kind of masochistic insanity Broken Pencil starts coming out four times a year.

It’s the first ever Canzine West! Vancouver loves zines!

After 11 years and 31 issues, BP’s designer John Hodgins moves to Montreal. Now who will Hal leave obscenity laced messages for at 8 o’clock in the morning?

Current editor Lindsay Gibb takes the helm. She immediately installs her husband’s comic in the magazine (see Mr. Monitor) and makes him one of our go-to illustrators.


2007: To celebrate the Games issue (#34) we hold a murder mystery party. Turns out Yves, the super 8 filmmaker, is the killer.

Our cover incites an accusation that we advocate violence against women. We don’t.

Broken Pencil inaugurates our first ever fiction contest: The Indie Writers Deathmatch.

We hold a Canzine East in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


2008: The second annual Indie Writers’ Deathmatch gets hacked. A story goes from 15 votes to 15 million. In a dramatic move, the judges accept the results since, well, anything goes in Deathmatch.

Broken Pencil re-organizes. We stop running theme issues and do away with distinct sections in the magazine for music, film and ezines.

We release our first Summer Do-It-Yourself issue.

Long time BP essayist Ryan Bigge is nominated for a National Magazine Award for his article “Independent Culture in the Google Era” (issue #38)


2009: The first ever Broken Pencil book comes out! It’s Can’tLit: Fearless Fiction from Broken Pencil Magazine (ECW Press). It’s an anthology of the best stories we’ve published over the years.

We redesign our website for the 4th time since 1996. Almost everything BP has ever run is now online and available to read and search. Go for it kids.

We hold the Canzine Olympics at the Gladstone Hotel.


2010: After a couple of years hiatus, we stage a triumphant return to Vancouver. Canzine West returns!

We start selling an electronic edition of the magazine for a buck less than the print copy.

The summer DIY issue features the building of the Halbot. The robotic takeover of Broken Pencil begins.