Cut & Paste is a column highlighting zines and small press publications.
Who are magical girls? Magical girl tales often feature a teenage girl, supernatural transformation, and inevitable evolution towards superhero status—all in the name of defeating enemies that range from ordinary bullies to menacing villains who threaten humanity. These stories also allow their readers to travel in time in an unexpected way. Magical girls provide powerful female role models for kids by envisioning the power of transformation. And once we’ve grown up, these transformations are a cathartic re-imagining of past abuses or injustices—by casting one’s adult self as a magical girl, one can find redemption or a path towards peace with their past. The following zines and minicomics explore the possibilities and effects of this magical genre through nostalgia and creating new stories of their own.
Queer Sailor Moon Fanfiction Saved My Life
“It’s okay, you can laugh!” says a cartoon version of Lee P. on the first page of the zine. Lee P. describes fanfiction, a genre where fans create their own stories based on their favorite books, films, or television shows, as “low-hanging fruit” ripe for mockery, and hardly something serious enough to save a life. But Lee P. dedicates their luminous zine, Queer Sailor Moon Fanfiction Saved my Life, to “the lonely kid I was in 1997.” The thing is, many folks—particularly children of the '90s—can connect to this story. Fanfiction is often vital to the emotional lives of many young people, particularly young queer people who are looking for a sense of “queer normalcy.”
This zine tells the story of Lee growing up queer and dealing with difficult family circumstances through a series of essays, pictures, and excerpts of some of the online fanfiction that kept them sane. Lee is very conscientious of their audience as they tell their story, offering both compassion for readers who have experienced trauma and an awareness of their own privileges by exploring those themes in essays. A beautiful, vulnerable memoir piece explores Lee’s trauma, as well as their continuing survival. I highly recommend this zine to anyone who has also dealt with queer survival, or has used “embarrassing” things like fanfiction to make it through tough times.
Power Girls: 24Hr Pop Femme Zine
Power Girls explores and celebrates artist Kinoko Evans’ relationship with the powerful and magical girls that she grew up with in film and fiction. From Princess Allura to Sailor Moon to Matilda, Evans shows how various characters helped her see a positive version of her future self. She connected with girl characters that got dirty, got in fights, did kung fu, saved the universe, and piloted space ships. The magical girls Evans draws are a catalog of characters she found inspiring in a really fun, bold illustrations. Intertwined with the various archetypes of magical girls—including space adventurers, witches/crones, and fighters—is a cute fairy tale comic about a girl and her own magical transformation! It’s a delightful celebration of positive female role models.
Also worth noting: Evans has just released a minicomic, Magical Character Rabbit, which has a delightfully gender-neutral rabbit character channeling their own magical powers.
Power Girls: 24Hr Pop Femme Zine and Magical Character Rabbit are available through Kinoko Evans’ Etsy shop.
Witches Get Stitches
A “666 year old demon-slaying demon from the infinite verse” named Archvold is the magical girl at the center of this minicomic. Archvold leads a fairly ordinary life, if such a thing is possibly in the bizarre, metal netherworld of Graves’ imagination. In Witches Get Stitches, when Archvold is just trying to get her morning coffee, she must venture into a world that is a demon hellscape with demonic versions of ordinary sights like cafes and cell phones. In her world, doing ordinary things involves extraordinary feats of strength, cunning, and “sweet blak magic.” Graves’ art is intricate, spooky, and feels like a flyer for a cartoon monster punk show, influenced by both black metal and magical girl manga with a touch of goth. Many magical girl stories feature hyper-feminine characters in beautiful settings. Archvold’s adventures continue in Graves’ latest release, 666 Bistro.
Witches Get Stitches is available on witchthrone.com.
Magical Beatdown Vol. 1
Magical Beatdown is a breathtaking minicomic, both in its beauty and in its violence. Jenn Woodall’s story centers on an a schoolgirl who is threatened by a group of boys for taking up space and playing arcade games. The tale is told with dynamic illustrations and a gorgeous art that changes color palettes from blue-on-white to pink-on-white when the girl transforms into her magical alter ego. The magical version of the nameless protagonist is foul-mouthed, brutal, and engages her enemies with righteous fury. The wounded child in me who wanted pure vengeance for being bullied in middle school felt vindicated. The comic is unapologetically violent, which felt like an important message about claiming space as a woman along with a tribute to the magical girls of fighting games and manga.
There are more volumes of Magical Beatdown that follow this first issue, as well as a delightful little zine that Woodall made in collaboration with Chris Eng called How to Make a Magic Wand. Each page is a step-by-step instruction for a beautiful and deadly magic wand that is imbued with the power of the feminine and designed to wreak bloody vengeance on those who have wronged women. Actual murder optional; actual strength guaranteed.
The IDGAF Book of Spells
After reading all of these magical girl zines, you’ll be ready to try your own try out your own magic. Rebecca Artemisa’s The IDGAF Book of Spells is filled with charmingly illustrated spells that are all, as the back says, “Curandera approved!” Artemisa is not herself a curandera—a magical practitioner following the traditional Mexican path of medicine, prayer, and storytelling. However, Artemisa has been reconnecting to her heritage through exploring witchcraft, curandera, and bruja (witch) traditions.
The fruits of her labor are reflected in these spells, accompanied by illustrations that show off her gorgeous art style. Each is written like a recipe, with ingredients and procedures. The spells range from the tongue-in-cheek (“Conjuring the Ghost of Punk”) to quite serious (“Help for a Broken Heart”). Accessible to both experienced and casually interested magical folks, this spell book is a delightful avenue into self-care via magic.
The IDGAF Book of Spells is available on Rebecca Artemisa’s Etsy shop.