Faze fanzine

Disco Soldier Squashed My Lemur!

The Story of a Fanzine

I’d been producing my own fanzines for nearly three years by the autumn of 1995, but never to my satisfaction. There was always something wrong with each issue and when I scrapped my original title, `Top` that Spring and replaced it with an attempt at an artier zine entitled `Shades of Blue`, it was even worse!! I had to re-start three months working on in late summer.

The title `Faze` was a revelation - a few years later I noticed it was someone’s graffiti tag; if you were taking the train into London from the North, you’d still see it emblazoned on several walls along the last couple of miles before hitting Euston. However, I did think of it first! More than that though, it derives from the word fanzine - FAnZinE

Issue 1 was published in October 1995 and immediately hit a crisis; for some reason all my classified ads either didn’t arrive or were late so it was nearly the end of the year before many people bought it. Advertising was my least favourite aspect of zine work. One; it’s expensive, two; it’s marginalized and three; you try describing 40 odd pages accurately in 25 words! Anyway, I was quite pleased with the issue once it was done; the cover was primitive but a move away from the arty style ones I’d been doing.

`Faze` was intended as a Doctor Who zine first and foremost, but there would also be a healthy dose of other series. I was a big fan at the time of Babylon 5 and coverage of that was to continue in the new zine. Much more embarrassingly, it was Star Trek- Voyager that I chose as the centrepiece feature. I was buying the season 1 videos and hoping that the show would really break out and take the Trek universe into dynamic new places, but it never happened. So, the episode guide that starts in this issue was not repeated for future seasons.

 A regular feature of the zine would be a humour/skit section, variously called `Vworp Vworp` or `Gallifrey Gazelle`. This was the fun part and I would scribble manic bits and pieces on paper whenever they came into my head. Other times, increasingly drunken suggestions in the pub formed the basis of a spoof story. Once, I found a piece of paper with the words `Sausage Village` written on it- to this day I have no idea what all that would have been about! Boldly, I had 100 copies of issue 1 done and sold nearly all of them over the next 6 months. A flying start.

Anyone who’s done a zine will tell you issue 2 is often harder than no.1. You’re trying to alter the things you didn’t like about the debut, but often you over compensate. Issue 3 usually sets the course. My issue 2 focussed on Tom Baker after 20 years and had more old `Top` things like Martin Wiggins’ excellent `Romans` feature in it. In fact it was a bit of a Wiggins issue, as I also wrote a piece on Dazed and Confused, one of my favourite films and Wiley Wiggins was the improbable name of its star.  Talk Talk were the subject of the musical feature and there were a couple of articles about Malcolm Hulke’s contribution to Doctor Who.

In January 1996, I was preparing the third issue. `Faze` had arrived and established itself and I knew that, with a push, it could become even better. Little did I realise just what a push it would get. The announcement that there was to be a Doctor Who Telemovie with Paul McGann completely changed the next issue. Ever since I started editing zines in 1992, I had hoped for new Doctor Who to cover. Now, here it was! I started a diary for the ish, detailing the news and odd rumours as they happened. The rest of the issue wasn’t bad either – a history of the DWAS after 20 years, an interview with Andrew Davies (provided by Stephen O'Brien), an enthusiastic feature on Lois and Clark, a series I’d switched too after realising how crap Voyager was turning out and an article all about `Caves of Androzani`. The `team` was expanding too; Colin Brockhurst, whose `Circus` zine is recognised as one of the 90s’ best was a semi regular contributor, as were Tim Worthington, Martin Pollard and artist Martin O’Gorman. This and issue 4 were the only early ones to totally sell out, largely helped by the explosion of interest in the telemovie.

At a convention in April 1996 I was re-acquainted with Neil Hutchings, former CT editor with whom I’d worked on the DWAS exec in the 80s and he agreed to help too; he would later provide some stunning covers, removing the last weak link in the production – my cover for #4 consisted of a photo of McGann in costume glued onto a photo of the Totters Lane yard from `Unearthly Child`. Great idea, but if Neil had been around in time to do it properly, it would have looked much better. But the headline `the magic is back` reflected that, like a lot of fans, my enthusiasm had been rekindled a thousand fold. I am very proud of that issue, done on the hoof and out before most of the professional magazines had got their reviews ready, beating CT too!

Naturally, the TV Movie dominated the contents – there were three full reviews plus Neil’s account of being at the premiere, mine of going to a midnight opening for the video, a month by month look back at developments since `Survival` part 3 went out and other bits. There was also time for an in depth `Twin Peaks` analysis, a Morrissey retro and all the usual stuff. In some ways, this was the prefect issue and I probably never bettered it in terms of pure unadulterated enthusiasm. Great times!

By summer 96 I was busy on issue 5, buoyed by the high sales. Not wanting to stand still, the issue focussed on other topics, with just a bit on the telemovie. There was a big seaQuest DSV feature, Daniel O’Mahony’s epic look at all of the first half of Babylon 5, a tribute section to Jon Pertwee, which Neil produced and what people tell me is the best spoof news page with the story of Class 4G creating a cult around the image of Gary Gillatt plus the scoop on Patrick Troughton’s secret on set chip shop! Sometimes, I do wonder how my brain works.

Onto issue 6, out a year after the first and focussing on Third Rock From The Sun, a series I loved and always featured over the years. I wasn’t to know that it would be this sort of focussing on things I liked rather than stuff with wider appeal which would eventually be the undoing of the zine, but in those days, there was strong backing from other articles. Highlights were Neil’s self produced Panopticon feature, Dave Rolinson’s attack on the Trek franchise, more B5 from Daniel and an Ice Warriors section. !
For the next issue, I opted for a main theme; that of the Graham Williams era, which I dubbed `Doctor Who’s New Wave` for the cover, which Martin did some excellent original artwork for. There’s always plenty to say about this period of the show but there was something about the issue that didn’t really work for me. The fact I had to use people's submitted material as typed meant there was a myriad of fonts that looked untidy. I suppose though it did feel Graham Williamsy!
Much better, I felt, was issue 8. The central theme was the companions and this inspired Neil and I to spend a silly afternoon constructing a Companions game, a spoof on those old Annual games, for the centre pages. I also went to town on the Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet film, which I thought was awesome and even went back to junior school inspiration to create a genuine (i.e. not computer generated) collage, which I felt, reflected the maverick spirit of that movie.

Mid 1997 was probably the zine’s highpoint creatively. There were so many articles being sent in, I could pick and choose plus I had lots of ideas about areas of Doctor Who`, which had not been properly explored by other publications. The centrepiece of issue 9 was a feature about the 1985/6 cancellation crisis. Like many articles in the zines, I wrote this under a pseudonym. The reason was simply that it didn’t seem right to me to have my name all over the place. So, for those who don’t know Rick Marshall, Peter Oscroft, Paul Spencer and Leo Potts were all me! My piece tracing the development of the crisis is my favourite of the `factual` things I wrote and was backed by both Keith Topping and Tim Worthington examining particular aspects of the crisis. I've since updated that article and used it again. The issue was packed; Martin Pollard wrote about `OK Computer`, Greg Bartlem offered a behind the scenes look at a convention he’d hosted, there were a trio of articles covering the end of Lois and Clark`, a 10th anniversary Star Trek-Next Generation` retro feature plus fiction, The Pixies and lots more. Wow, I’d forgotten how good that issue was. 

Sales were still high at this point and issues frequently ran over the 40 pages supposed limit, but I didn’t mind. From issue 10 on, Neil took over designing the covers; which were brilliant. That issue was the first totally Doctor Who issue, simply because there was so much writing on the show available at that time. The main features were on the McCoy era, Tom Baker’s autobiography and Doctor Who comic strips. The latter feature was partly in response to DWM editor Gary Gillatt who had asked me why the zine never mentioned the comic strip they did. This format was never exactly my cup of tea but reading a whole batch of their recent strips gave me an appreciation of the form. While this issue was in preparation, Paul Cornell’s book `Licence Denied` was published which helped keep zines in the limelight (even if the book proved rather selective and didn’t mention `Faze`!).

1998 dawned and issue 11 took an unexpected detour after I saw, in quick succession James Cameron’s film Titanic and a stage version of Macbeth starring Pete Postelthwaite. Coverage of this plus articles on the future of books with the advent of Internet publishing plus a startling cover from Neil gave the issue a different atmosphere. The masthead logo changed to reflect this; the old `Mexican` one that Neil had knocked up randomly one day was replaced by the word Faze emerging in fog designed by Colin Brockhurst.

My favourite issue of the year was no.12, which gave what I felt was some much needed attention to Third Rock From The Sun and the wonderful Supergrass plus 2 articles on `The Green Death` and some reminiscences about the Blackpool gathering, a fan thing that you really had to be at to appreciate, but I tried to paint a picture. One of the features that became regular this year was `Pat & Co`, a spoof on the 2nd Doctor and his companions derived from yet another night in the pub – and a realisation that this bunch of characters was very silly indeed. The premise was that the second Doctor was always trying to get rid of his companions. Yes, Zamie. The other regular spoof was The UNIT Family which took the oft repeated idea that the early 70s regulars were like a family literally and had them all sharing a house together.

Onwards with issue 13 complete with a more austere cover done by me and stuff on Doomwatch, Dawson’s Creek and the band James. Variety was always the key to the zine! A couple of notable things about this ish were David Rolinson’s article on the series Common As Muck which was edited by Dave from his original epic piece. I was sorry to have to dilute it but there simply wasn’t room. I meanwhile wrote a very enthusiastic review of Invasion: Earth and became possibly the only person ever to do so!

The 35th anniversary of the show was the perfect excuse for another all Doctor Who issue, fronted by a stunning cover that Neil did after I gave him a very badly drawn idea of what I wanted. I hoped that the issue would capture the nature of the series so there were articles reminiscing about Saturday nights, Doctor’s debut stories, three on the lauded Hinchcliffe era plus looking at the show in the context of when it was broadcast. In particular, Matthew Kilburn and Tim W excelled themselves this issue. There was plenty of time for silliness too, with a mock encyclopaedia and skits from significant scenes in the series’ history.

Issue 15 included the first of two Tomorrow People features, more on Third Rock from the Sun, an Ice Warriors section (yes, OK, this may have been vaguely familiar!). Dave R did a great article explaining why Doctor Who was outdated – and this was a good thing and there was a look at Doctor Who websites. Don't forget websites were considered terrifically exciting and new in those days. Neil came up with a fun back cover after I gave him three photos – of a Monoid, a Mandrell and the Nucleus of the Swarm – and asked him to produce something silly. Well, they are silly monsters. 

By now it was early 1999 and issue 16 which turned out rather well, with Daniel O’Mahony returning to complete his epic look at the now concluded Babylon 5.  A newcomer to the zine was Richard Farrell who specialised in brilliant caricatures and added another dimension to things while the issue’s cover caused quite a stir as Neil and I reached new levels of surreal silliness by having Melkur riding a giant toy duck. No, it doesn’t mean anything!

Issue 17 had a `cleaner` look too and introduced Buffy The Vampire Slayer` -one of the first zines over here to mention it - as well as a variety of articles on Red Dwarf`, Freewheelers and Tim W’s excellent look at `Tomb of The Cybermen`. We even tried a serious cover with one of Buffy’s monsters enlarged and slightly distorted; it still looks fab. Issue 18 was dominated by a look back at Doctor Who fanzines (which was, in retrospect, rather too specialised) and the feedback on the Star Wars- The Phantom Menace`. Another debut, this time from Oliver Wake.

In October 1999, Faze had a website called, rather unsurprisingly, Faze Online. I had broached the idea of a site back in the summer and Bob Stanley offered to take it on. I’m not sure if there’s a connection but sales started to tail off at this point although the main factor was `Dreamwatch` going `high street` and dropping its classified ads, which had been my main advertising source. For a publication that once trumpeted how it had been made by fans for fans, it was a snub to the editors’ origins but, more importantly to me, a bit of a problem. The end of the decade proved to be a chance for all and sundry to conjure up millennial features but apart from the cover (which managed to feature lots of things not in the issue!) I confined this to a section at the back.

Into 2000 a year which saw sales falling despite what I felt were some of the best articles we ever did. I was also consciously moving away from the `amateur magazine` stance to try and get back to more fanzinesque values. No 20 is a particular favourite as we got away from the usual stuff to cover the likes of Gormenghast, Arctic Boosh, Harsh Realm, Tim Burton and Gangsters.
The 21st issue was more spiky than usual with lots of opinionated pieces and more Buffy reviews too while #22 was an attempt to focus on what we then called new Doctor Who, be it the books, audios etc plus pieces on Harry Potter- then just a book- Kiss and Chris Morris, most unlikely bedfellows. It is clear now that I was spreading the net far too wide and the average reader would find they didn’t know or like about half the things in each issue. Personal problems also meant a few errors crept into the issue, while it was becoming more difficult to write humorous pieces and harder to think of new ways of looking at Doctor Who.

Thus, issue 23 was very nearly the last one. With a sombre cover reflecting my favourite Doctor Who period and some disappointing articles (nobody’s fault- everyone’s time seemed short). It was the first time I’d had trouble filling all the pages. Late 2000 and early 2001 found me  toying with the idea of doing a second zine, for all the non telefantasy stuff and it very nearly happened. Variously called `Paper Bag` or `Graffiti` some of the stuff intended for it ended up in what became issue 24. Tim W’s Napster feature, my Almost Famous and Richard Linklater features would all have been the core of the other zine but putting them together with new Buffy and Angel reviews and a central Doctor Who section, which I had trouble getting decent contributions for did not really coalesce as a good issue of `Faze`.

By the time the issue was released in March 2001 a lot of my regular contributors were  finding other things to enthuse them and that was that. If you had told me then that within a year I would be editing another zine that would last for more than ten years and even end up changing its format, I would think you were a crazy person from the future with some fiendishly complex plan. But that’s another story. 

After fourteen and a half years we reformed in 2015 and came up with issue 25! The idea of doing a 20th anniversary issue was irresistable and proved to be an enjoyable challenge to produce something that retains the feel of the first 24 while also being of it's time. Having got used to just posting something on a blog when its written I'd forgotten what a discipline compiling a complete issue is. It ends up always being the same problem of that bit of space that needs filling or an article that's just a sentence or two too long!
I was grateful to several stalwarts of the zine who  contributed in particular Tim Worthington who both wrote and produced a mini mag about Doctor Who in 1964 - and all in the style of old Radio Times. Plus I've always wanted to have a mini-mag! Also Sean Alexander contributed an epic piece about some of the developments in tv, media, society and the world in the twenty years since issue 1 which made me realise how much had changed while Ollie Wake came up with something on the oldest surviving British television drama. Of course there was also some silliness as well! It was interesting to `go back` and do something in what by then was seen as old media but I'm glad I did.

P.S To finish this Page here's a couple of the Vworp Vworps we did back in the day. As the zine was printed in black and white this is the first time they've been seen in colour. You'll also note a few bits are falling off. This is real scissors n glue archive stuff you know!!

1 comment:

  1. Is it at all possible to purchase back issues either printed or in PDF format, please?