True to its name, the zine Dragon Trainer High School assembles submissions from around the internet all about high school life—at a high school for dragons and teenage dragon riders. The objective was to build a fantasy world with their audience made up of original comics, poems, illustrations, and stories, with the end result taking shape as a zany project based around the fans of its creator, Houston-based comedy collective MicroSatan. It's absurd, bizarre, and a little bit rough, but that's sort of the point.
“I've always liked throwing creativity at a problem before I throw money at it," says Connor Clifton, a member of MicroSatan. "That, to me, is the true spirit of DIY. That, and doing it yourself. It's hard to look at something you've designed, built and perfected on your own and not feel a sense of pride.”
Clifton is set to present at this year's Zine Fest Houston, slated for this Saturday, Nov. 11, at Lawndale Art Center. It's the place where Clifton first presented his work, and after he presents this year—in a session titled "Zine Distros in the Digital Age: Releasing Your Work via Blockchain"—it will be the sixth time he has tabled the event. With 100-plus vendors and more than a 1,000 expected visitors, the festival as a whole will address the idea of a cyber future, an aesthetic that came of age in the heyday of zines and early PCs, back in the '90s. The level of support and acceptance is something that keep Clifton coming back. “The first time I made a zine, my motivation was just to make one so that I could say that I did and, yes, it was awful," he says. "But, I did it! Before going to Zine Fest, I didn't know that there was a community behind it. I always loved being a creative type, but the festival showed me that I could make a lot of friends while I was at it.”
Clifton recognizes the importance of this community to his art and comedy; for Clifton, it’s a community which understands what he calls “the hustle of self-publishing.” While MicroSatan produces zines, they also perform sketch comedy and improv, and Clifton says when he performs in and runs shows, he aims to emulate the warm and welcoming environment that is so pervasive at Zine Fest Houston.
“I consider zines to be the most important creative work I have ever done,” Clifton says, namely because he believes they are deeply personal passion projects for each individual creator. “Zines are personal and once they are put out into the world, that's it. Your photo collage about going to Paris, your guide to succulents and herbs, your thoughts on politics are out there for everyone to see.”
Zine Fest Houston. Saturday, Nov. 11. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main St. More info at zinefesthouston.org.