Cristian Castelo is a cartoonist operating out of Daly City, California. He has been self-publishing his series Wild for a couple of years now, which he has slung at comic festivals like Seattle Short Run, Comics Art LA/Brooklyn, and the Vancouver Art Book Fair. He also co-curates the annual comic anthology Freak with Miles MacDiarmid and Mara Ramirez. He has a small dog named Chicken and lives with his uncle.
How did you get interested in zines?
I took a course in college from Asuka Ohsawa that really opened myself up to the world of self-publishing. As someone interested in cartooning, I was hung up on the idea of becoming dependent on one source for publication. Obviously, there are times when you will need to or want to reach out to someone for larger publishing, but zine-making instilled a sense of DIY within me that freed me from this feeling of dependency.
What are your zines about?
I was self-publishing my series Wild, printing slowly off my funny inkjet printer. The story follows the titular character Wild as she embarks on her first year at Westhoff High School, home to the infamous Westhoff Roller Derby League.
I also co-curated a now bi-annual/annual comic anthology with my friends Mara Ramirez and Miles MacDiarmid, both incredible cartoonists. We look for cartoonists all over the world, with an emphasis on showcasing up-and-coming artists who we think deserve more recognition than they currently get. Though, I think that's what everyone's goal is with anthologies. Self-publishing in general!
What are some of your favorite zines and zine makers?
All of my friends are zine makers and zinesters, so it's hard to name just one. Under my desk, I have a huge stack of zines that I go through for inspiration every now and then. I'll just list some names in no specific order. I love whatever Tiny Splendor puts out. I love Meg and Aaron of Flossed Editions, who are both working artists and makers of beautiful artist books. I love the work of Lane Yates, Garrett Young, Michelle Kwon, Miles Macdiarmid, Mara Ramirez, Zach Hazard Vaupen, Ian Mackay, Cold Cube Press, Juli Majer, uhhhhhhh god there's so many. I could go on listing off my friends forever. Just look at everyone I follow on Instagram @elhotcheetah
Your zines are in our library collection for patrons to borrow. What do you think about that?
I'm very grateful for your carrying of my work! I hope whoever reads them enjoys them and either tells me they love it or holds the hate for the work deep in their hearts and protects my tender ears from the verbal lashing they wish to give me. Just kidding, but no, I am very grateful. It trips me out to find out my work has made it to the places it has, simply through word of mouth or friends passing it along to one another. That's zines, baby!
What do you think is the future of zines?
I think zine-making is an inherent part of being an artist and artists will constantly find a way to have their voice heard. I think what's trendy now is artist books, specifically printed through risograph (I am guilty), though I think that mainly affects a small crowd of consumers in their desires and what they look for at zine fests. There are constantly new cartoonists and small publishers coming out yearly, so be on the lookout. Operations like Strangers Magazine is working to put out the work of many new talents and their zines are amazing. Zines are beginning to go up in prestige and with the popularization of fancier quality printing methods, the essence of zines have been called into question. The debate goes on, but I think the essence is something easily understood and captured once you spend time with them.
Why are zines important?
Zines free us from the shackles of dependency and instill within us a sense of agency and control over our practice. Through being open to the world of self-publishing, I have become way more self-reliant, not only in comics but in life as well. You begin to work around limitations and conceptualize a path in which allows you the ability to control your avenues. If some endeavor may fail or fall through, you'll always have you!