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Meet Your Zine Maker #26: Jeremy Jusay

January 25, 2012

Jeremy Jusay’s foray into zines in the mid-1990s led to his first kiss, a nervous breakdown, and a radical career change.  His poetry/comics anthology zine Karass (inspired by the works of Kurt Vonnegut) featured illustrated stories about young people living in New York City, and brought him to the attention of Augenblick Studios, where he has been working ever since.

Jeremy’s background designs and storyboards have been used in shows such as MTV’s Wonder Showzen, Adult Swim’s Superjail, and Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans, and his illustrations have been featured in the Criterion-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties Film Festival as well as several issues of the film zine I Love Bad Movies. His comics can be found in anthologies such as Number Foundation, Royal Flush, and Bloody Pulp Magazine.


Your ongoing publication Karass was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut (the title comes from his novel Cat’s Cradle). Issue #6 includes the letter Vonnegut himself sent to you in response to the zine. He wrote: “I am tickled pink that there is now, thanks to you, a humane and lively publication named Karass.” Can you tell us more about this exchange?

This all happened around 1994. I think it was in response to sending him a copy of Karass by mail. He actually sent me two identical letters (I assumed he had forgotten he had already written me), which is like winning the lotto twice for a Vonnegut fan.

The first thing I noticed when I retrieved the first letter from my mailbox was that the return address was nothing but a huge asterisk drawn in sharpie. Of course, I tore into the envelope excitedly and after reading it felt a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction that one of my biggest literary heroes appreciated my zine. For many years after I would write letters to people only in sharpie.


Read anything great recently?

I’m reading the Vonnegut biography So It Goes by Charles J. Shields, and it’s bringing back a lot of memories of reading his books. I also learned that he was a failed engineer, as I was, and that has strengthened my adoration for the man.

You’ve been making zines since 1994. What changes have you noticed in the zine scene and why have you stuck with it through the years?

Well, zines were really hot until about 1996-97 when the Internet came onto the scene. That closely coincides with my zine output, as I had put out 8 issues from 1994-95, then only 1 in 1996, then the last one in 2006. I stopped churning them out mainly due to going to art school, then working a full-time job, then being in a relationship. By the time #10 came out after a decade-long gap, the zine community I remembered was no longer around.

Blogs were big at that point and seen as an electronic alternative to paper zines, but they just didn’t have the same charm in my opinion. Meeting Kseniya Yarosh, who was putting out good old-fashioned xeroxed zines after having been essentially raised on the Internet, was immensely refreshing. A few years later things seemed to be picking up as zine festivals started to pop up around Brooklyn, and I am pleased to finally be a part of one with this festival.


Tell us about the inspiration for your other collaborative project, Bloody Pulp Magazine.

Bloody Pulp Magazine was a collaborative anthology between myself and two guys I went to art school with, Leigh Walls and Glenn Urieta. It was something we had always talked about doing, and was inspired by EC Comics from the 50s such as Tales From the Crypt and Frontline Combat (which I had been exposed to while working on the MTV2 show Wonder Showzen for Augenblick Studios) and the recent Tarantino/Rodriguez flick Grindhouse.

For me, it was a huge departure from my normal comics work which tended to be more personal and autobiographical. It was liberating to do a WWII comic with action and guns and little to no twee sensibility. It was also nice to finally see something published by Leigh and Glenn as they were possibly the most talented cartoonists at SVA who ended up never working in comics.


Despite your long history of zine-making, this is your first time tabling at a zine event. What’s taken you so long?

Well, I did co-table with Kseniya Yarosh of I Love Bad Movies in 2009, but I guess that doesn’t count as I didn’t sell any of my own zines. In the ’90s it was enough for me to spread the word about Karass through advertising and reviews in punk and riot grrl zines, flooding NYC with xeroxed flyers, and selling to bookstores and comic shops by consignment.

But now it seems to me the most effective way to get to an audience is to sell directly to them, as opposed to making little promo cards and dropping them off at cafes hoping that someone would write for a copy. Plus, I need to unload all these unsold zines that are just taking up space in my apartment.


“Meet Your Zine Maker:” Q&A with Brooklyn Zine Fest exhibitors.

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