BERKELEY, Calif. – Excitement turned to disappointment this week as zinesters across the United States received a brand new issue of the seminal punk zine Cometbus which consisted almost entirely of perfume samples.
“The fuck is all this shit?” said local punk Scooby Wright, flipping through page upon page of scented advertisements. “Ralph Lauren Red, Cool Water, Botega Veneta… ugh. I can hardly follow Aaron [Cometbus]’s trenchant, real-life personal essays from page to page because this thing is, like, 95 percent advertisements.”
Critics say the critiques are not without merit, as previous issues of the zine measured around 75-100 pages with minimal advertisements which, when present, aesthetically mimicked the iconic black-and-white style of the zine. The most recent issue breaks with that tradition, with close to 250 pages, 200 of which are little more than thick, sweetly scented advertisements featuring damp men and women. According to several longtime readers, at least two of the jarring advertisements feature centaurs in what could only be described as “sensual positions.”
Mr. Cometbus declined to comment on the inclusion of the heavily branded content, drawing intense speculation as to why a fiercely DIY publication would now advertise bottles of Hermes Eau des Merveilles Elixir des Merveilles and leaving fans like Martha Gomez, owner of East Bay Communist Bookstore, reaching for an explanation. “This has to be a critique of consumer culture, right?” she asked. “Like, he’s showing us our vanity laden façade, or commenting on beauty standards. Christ, my fingers smell awful just from leafing through this. My eyes are burning.”
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Experts speculate this was a calculated move by Cometbus to introduce the decades-old zine to a younger audience. The new issues do appear to be very popular with the coveted “puberty-ravaged male teen” demographic, who have taken to stealing the cardboard samples and rubbing different scents over their greasy bodies, an indicator of early success.
Regardless of the new direction, Gomez’s bookstore reports brisk sales. “I hope people continue to buy them,” she said. “It looks like the samples might be leaking and eating through our shelving. Ever since they arrived, my store has smelled like a Dillards.”