The older the internet gets, the stronger fandoms become. Just searching for a video game title will take a person to artwork made by a fan. Sometimes this artwork can even be mistaken for the original game’s art! Now fan art is more than just creating artwork for fun’s sake. When fan art is posted online, it weaves in and out of its fandom. A user sees it on their social media feed, saves it to their computer, texts it to a friend, uses it as their wallpaper. The artwork has infinite potential and flows from person to person.
While fan art is a form of expressing the adoration of something made by another, it is also a decentralized community building activity. Through their creations, artists can connect to a community that loves the same topic they love. Just looking through a Tumblr tag or a DeviantArt search will reveal a trove of fun-loving Corvos from Dishonored, and inspirational Isabelles from Animal Crossing. These posted art pieces end up spreading and strengthening the fandoms’ communities through positive reinforcement, showing the mutual interests of others
Fan art is not limited to blogs and social networks. Within the last decade, fandoms began to publish “fan zines,” that unified the adoration that they all shared. These fan zines center around an artist, book, film, game or other topics to bring together different artists with the goal of creating a book full of content. Sometimes these magazines have written pieces about the topic, but most of the time they’re wordless and filled with pictures. Fan zines existed prior to this, but they began in a time before the internet existed and as an alternate form of fan journalism.
Fan zines aren’t just special because of their role in building a stronger fandom, but they also serve as an alternate medium to publish work due to their limited quantity. Readers can purchase some fan zines online, but many fan zines are physical magazines that they must preorder preordered. When preordering ends, that’s it. They can’t be purchased anymore! For example, if someone wanted a copy of the Final Fantasy XIV fan zine Idle-Shire they would be out of luck since the pre-orders ended back in the summer. Other times the organizer of a fan zine only distributes them at conventions that they go to. This occasionally happens when a game creator does not want fans selling their inspired work online, or if the creators decide to greatly limit the print.
There is something special to flipping through a fan zine. As social media feeds fill with content from billions of people around the world, each flip of a fan zine’s page means the end is closer. It isn’t an unpleasant feeling to know that there is only a limited amount of content; Instead, it’s calming. With every page an artist’s hard work and love for a topic is clear, so knowing there is only so much makes it easier to spend time appreciating the little details that would usually dance past a glance.
These fan zines are not just easy compilations of fan art. It takes time for the one, or a couple of individuals who are passionate about the topic, to create them. They take submissions, curate, edit and format the zine themselves to create a complete experience for their audience. The process can take anywhere from months up to a year or more.
In many cases, the artists are not paid for publishing their work in a fan zine. While many curators charge for the finished work, the money almost always goes toward the price of printing and distribution. There are some that charge larger amounts or crowdfund their finances, but these are anomalies.
There aren’t fan zines for every fandom out there. The creation of a fan zine isn’t determined by the size or type of media that the fandom is based around, there just needs to be a level of inspiration that it inspires. There are fan zines for Undertale, Overwatch, Splatoon, Fire Emblem, and Monster Hunter, but for fans of The Witcher or Tekken it may be a while before they receive the same treatment.
Despite there being many different fan zines, it is very difficult to find fan zines if a person is looking for them. Most of the time fan zines just pass by on Tumblr and Twitter, but if someone actually wants to find them, they can be elusive. This is the biggest detriment to the publications, but it is hard to predict what would happen if they were more easily accessible.
As more games are released and more fandoms arise, more fan zines will be created. Whether or not people who want them will know about them or be able to access them is another question, but their respective fandoms will benefit nonetheless. If artists continue to collaborate in visualizing Overwatch characters off duty and cute crabs hanging out out of passion, it is hard to say that anything could really be wrong.
Header Image created by Abdulla Al Muhairi. Used under the Creative Commons License. The web page canoe found here.