In only four short years, Brian Baynes has built Bubbles Zine into a much loved and respected presence on the comics scene. And, y’know, it’s easy to see why the response has been so good and so quick. Bubbles is old school. Visually, yeah, but also in spirit. Each page reads like a tribute to the medium and the people who make it what it is: the artists, the letterers, retailers, fans, everyone. For comics people, it’s a blast of pure joy.
Since the 2023 subscriptions window for Bubbles is closing in about a week or so, it seemed like a good time to ask Brian a few questions and get his thoughts on the zine and state of comics.
How do you go about putting each issue of Bubbles together? What’s your process? Has the zine’s success changed how you tackle things?
I start working on each issue a little bit before the last one is finished. I want to stay contemporary, and I want to stay spontaneous. So I try not to fill up slots for interviews and such too far in advance, I never know what comics I’ll be obsessed with in a few months, and I want to have room to cover those. My process includes just reading a ton, writing a bunch, and researching all the time. Every issue takes me a few months of working on it all the time. As for the “success” – When I made Bubbles #1 I started off with just 30 copies, and I printed another 30 after those were out. I didn’t expect it to become what it is. And yet when I read that introduction I wrote in the beginning of that issue, I think it stays true now four years later. I wanted to bring a little spark of comic fanzine life back into comics, and just write about whatever my interests are. I’m proud that I’ve stayed true to myself. I cast my net pretty wide in comics, so it’s never hard for me to find more stuff I want to talk about.
Quality content aside, why do you think comics people have responded so well to the fanzine nature of Bubbles?
I think that comics is one of the last sub-cultures that love and appreciate the physical item. I’ve made punk zines for years before Bubbles, no one really read them, heck maybe they just sucked. But the comic readers had a real taste for Bubbles even with the first issue, which is far from my best one. To me the tactility of comics is one of the reasons I love them. Flipping through a comic or fanzine is such a unique experience that’s not replicated in other mediums. I’d guess that has something to do with it, people like reading an actual magazine rather than a blog. I want to think people want a break from screens. I don’t know, I’m thrilled that anyone reads the zine, it’s a blessing.
How would you describe the current state of the comics industry? Any emerging trends you’ve noticed?
I’d say it’s pretty good. I think there’s a ton of amazing artists going right now. In Bubbles #16 I’ll have the “Readers Best of 2022” lists, and it’s full of literally incredible work. It’s exciting all the different kinds of comics out right now, I always tell my non-comic reading friends that there’s a comic out there that they’d like. And every month it becomes more true. As far as trends, well there’s certainly a taste for manga that continues to build. Some of the best stuff coming out right now is newly translated work from decades ago. Not really sure what other insight I have, but definitely tons of great books out right now. It’s a good time to buy some comics.
You’ve got ’til March 15th to grab a 2023 subscription to Bubbles. For that, back issues, and more, head over to the Bubbles Zine site.