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Burn Collecting!

Three Zines by Al Burian

Reviewed by Chris Auman

Burn Collector #14 Al Burian

Burn Collector #14

Burn Collector #14 is a pocket-sized zine containing the further adventures of writer/artist and musician Al Burian. Al spent a few years in Chicago wandering the city, playing in bands, writing, drawing and just trying to survive on the fringe.

This issue has Burian confronting such day-to-day struggles as dealing with the Chicago Transit Authority—talk about a character builder. There are ruminations on cycling in a bike-hostile city and the appeal of street musicians and house shows over concerts in more traditional venues (bars, clubs, etc.). There’s also a treatise of sorts in the form of a rebuttal to "The Future of Comics", a 1997 article by artist Dan Clowes that appeared in his Eightball #8 comic.

Comics are a theme in BC#14, in fact. Burian's drawings appear throughout the issue. There are assorted sketches and one-panel strips as well as a parody of a Jack Chick religious tract that just gets flat-out weird by the end. A good read for riding the CTA, which is about to get a whole lot suckier with their new service cuts this February. Fuckin' CTA. [Microcosm Publishing]

Burn Collector #15 Al Burian

Burn Collector #15

Al Burian is back for another issue of Burn Collector. BC #15 finds Al living in Berlin. Like always, Al shares his thoughts and observations on life in his newly chosen city, but before that he needs to deal with a searing toothache that sends him immediately to the streets in search of a dentist. After an aborted first attempt at the dental office in the building he lives in, Al finds a caring, gentle soul who is willing to ease his pain. She of course disproves of Al's lack of preventive dental maintenance. Al returns later to plead poverty to the woman, who he hopes will fall in love with him and forgive his debt to her. Doesn't happen.

Also in this issue, Anne Elizabeth Moore contributes a piece, "When You Realize the Freedom" (title courtesy of a Hasselhoff lyric) on the selling of the Berlin Wall (more literally than figuratively). There’s an interview with fellow zine-maker and ex pat Liam Warfield on living in Berlin. Al also reviews various things like Berlin’s Tegel Airport, books on writing (Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King), people (Ronnie James Dio) as well as various records, squats and Germany’s May 1st holiday.

Always good to check in. No comics though? What's up with that, Al?


Apocalypse No!

No Apocalypse

Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness

You may know Al Burian as the guitarist for the Chicago, by way of Chapel Hill, post-hardcore band Milemarker, or that band’s offshoot, Challenger. Perhaps you know Al through his long-running perzine Burn Collector, or from his columns in zines Punk Planet and HeartattaCk. Maybe you’d recognize him from his long stint behind the counter of Quimby’s bookstore in Chicago. Or maybe you wouldn’t know him from any of these places.

Al lived in Chicago for the better part of aughts. Even though he made zines in this town and his bands played the local punk rock circuit, I don’t believe our paths ever crossed. Or maybe I wouldn’t have known it if they had. That’s actually the more likely scenario. Chicago is a big sprawled out mess sometimes and even in smaller underground circles, there’s a lot of separating space. At any rate, I did read Burn Collector and Punk Planet. I was also socially and politically aware during those years of regime change, hanging chads, and punk rock purity, which is why No Apocalypse sparked recognition and triggered a few twinges of nostalgia (thankfully, just a few).

The book is a collection of writings originally published between 2000 and 2007 in Punk Planet, Heartattack, and the short-lived Skeleton. The apocalyptic theme suggested by the title doesn’t really tie these pieces together, and the subtitle Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness hints at Gonzo journalism more than it delivers. In these columns Al ruminates on American cuisine, war, Y2K, gentrification, and dental dilemmas, but more generally, this collection illustrates the thinking of an itinerant creative type in the underground at the dawning of the 21st century. Nevertheless, No Apocalypse is a good read and a collection of stuff you can’t find anywhere else.

Al left Chicago in 2007 and eventually left the U.S. altogether. He has lived in Germany for the past decade where he continues to write and make comics. Al will be the main attraction at a free event at Quimby’s Bookstore tomorrow night where he will read selections from No Apocalypse. Al’s serial graphic novel Dean Street, made with German comic artist Oska Wald, will also be making its U.S. debut. [Microcosm Publishing]

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