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Meet Your Zine Maker #54: The Carbon Based Mistake // Marc Calvary

April 11, 2012

The Carbon Based Mistake (a.k.a. Marc Calvary) has been publishing since 1991. The time before that was spent considering whether or not to be an astronaut or an artist… or maybe a part-time billionaire… but in the end photo-copies won out.  TCBM currently takes the form of zines, photography, writing, blasphemy, design, and the joys of printing.


You’ve been making zines since the early ’90s.  How has your own work evolved?

I started by taking the Sunday Funnies and using white out to cover up selected word balloons to make icons from my childhood tell filthy stories. I’d photocopy them and send them to my older sister. That led to being a part of an underground school newspaper that existed really only to infuriate the administrative body. And that led me to more traditional zines. We threw them together badly, and the content was hodge-podge… try to avoid bad poetry in a contributor-based high school zine and it will sneak its way in there somewhere while you sleep.

After that I stopped doing contributor-based zines and tried to focus on what I ended up considering a type of printed gallery show using design to tell stories. I should have been born a cartoonist, but I wasn’t, so I compensate for it in any way I can to get my point across.


How does your work stand out?

I like using different types of binding. I like adding lots of extras. I use photography and manipulated drawings. Each project is a stand-alone piece. I don’t really have any association with a self-publishing world, but I do notice more people caring about it than ever before. I work on projects first and foremost for myself and then secretly hope someone else might like them… hopefully inspiring them to make something better.

Let’s talk about carbon based delights.  What are some of your favorite places to eat/drink, in Woodside or elsewhere?

My girlfriend and I lucked out and moved practically next door to our favorite restaurant in Queens, “La Flor”. Great tacos and the mole enchiladas are amazing. I’m half Mexican, and although I speak no Spanish, I am fluent in Mexican food. They sell gift certificates if you are feeling generous towards me. 


Your latest zine “Paltry Pamphlets” is a series of self-help guides, one of which is about “how to stop making art so you can save yourself from a life of misery”.  Do you really think your days would be rosier without your creative impulses?

Two Answers:
1) Yes, of course it would be. To quote from the zine you mentioned: “Be normal for once in your pathetic life: There should be a warning at the entrance of every museum in the world: “ART CAUSES DOUBT AND MENTAL DISORDERS, AND MAY COMPLICATE EVERYTHING.” Just think how happy you’d be to just walk away from this obsession. You could fit in with everyone again. Your parents wouldn’t be ashamed. You could stop making those awful zines that nobody reads. Imagine getting a decent night’s sleep. Everything has already been done, what are you trying to prove?”
2) No, of course not. The only truly depressing times in my life are always accompanied by a lack of production. As soon as I get back to work I begin to feel good again. Art is an addiction and it is what I believe to be the only true accomplishment in life. I just don’t think making zines with that theme is funny.


The packaging of your zine The Noise Between Stations mimics the design of a library loaner copy.  Do you have a favorite library in the city, or a library story of elsewhere?

My favorite library will always be the library in my first home town (I have 3 home towns, long story) where I met a librarian who encouraged my reading habits and was the first constant reader I was influenced by. It’s where I hid out during lunch to avoid having to socialize or get into fights. Libraries have always been there to save me in one way or another.
What are you excited to see or find at the Brooklyn Zine Fest 2012 on April 15th?

I haven’t been able to find that mythological artist collective of like minded people I keep hearing exists. I’m thinking we keep a separate sleep schedule or something, because I get close, but never catch anything. I’m hoping to meet others who think about art in the same way I do, and although I tend to stay away from collaborative projects I’d like to try it again in New York. I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and stealing lots of new techniques. So, you know, I’m looking forward to selfish things…


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