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Buried Under Digital Garbage
Death and the Art of Archiving
I’m finally wrapping up a much anticipated project of mine, the digitizing, archiving and compiling of my first foray into self-publishing, The Grand Chingazo Trade. Okay, so when I started self-publishing my own comics I did so in the form of these xeroxed and hand-stapled zines under the title Chingazo. I thought it was a clever title so I ran with it, and over the span of seven years I put out nine different issues and sold them around at zine fests and comic conventions far and wide. By 2008 my stories were getting far too long for each issue, plus I was ready to devote myself to a more polished presentation of my comics. I took what I learned creating and laying out the zines and parlayed it into creating perfect bound books, and Screw Comics! was born.
And ever since I started the new flagship series I wanted to compile those Chingazo zines into one fat volume because I was not gonna reprint any of those issues any more. But this daunting project stayed on the backburner of my mind for a decade or so. I put out Screw after Screw until I found myself at the end of summer 2021, and Screw #4 had already gone to press. After wrestling with that creation for six years I settled into the more mindless tasks floating around the studio; perfecting the hardware, clearing the clutter, and archiving stuff so it could be put away for good. When you create stuff on the regular it’s extremely important to get it out of the way, either through selling it or giving it away, or archiving so it can be stored out sight. Too much old stuff floundering around can lead to stagnation mentally as you’re constantly reminded of old achievements or more likely than not, failures. A great way to archive something, especially comics or old zines, is to compile it into a fat volume of a book.
The thing that made this task particularly daunting, though, was that most of the earlier zines were made punk style; hand drawn, hand xeroxed and hand stapled; it would be years before any of my pages would pass through Photoshop for digital touch ups and handling. So that meant digging up the old original pages, making sure they were in order and scanning them one by one. The more recent issues did have a digital touch to them and it wasn’t hard to find those files. However, the problem with some of those files is that they traversed time, passing from hard drive to hard drive and there were some corruptions. A lot of pages I counted on were no longer usable or opening correctly. Part of the archiving task is to find work-arounds because it's imperative everything that needs to be is included in this collection. I’m not gonna go back and rework it later, this is it. Needless to say I found a way to fill in the gaps, nothing was lost in the process.
With this project coming to a finish I can finally close this tab in my mind. I feel a bit more free to look forward now that the past will be wrapped up in a perfect-bound cover. While I’ve always been a stickler for backing up and archiving work so it’s never really lost, my thinking of it was taken to a whole ‘nother level after learning about the Zappa Vault project. If you know me I’m a big Frank Zappa fan, and Zappa was a hoarder of his own work, which he had tons of. In the basement of his Laurel Canyon home he had a vault, a vast room with nothing but industrial shelves storing all types of audio and video tapes and films from all sorts of recording sessions, gigs, interviews and other performances. When Alex Winter (of Bill & Ted fame) approached the Zappa family about doing a definitive documentary, he set out on the vast mission of digitizing the entire Zappa Vault. Alex and the crew were successful in their endeavor, and every bit of tape and film that would be lost to the ravages of time in the coming years has been given new life as a digital file.
Digitizing everything is also a great way to de-clutter. Imagine packing up all of your documents, films and photos to one or two disks. They even make burnable Blu-ray disks that are designed to last up to 100 years when taken care of correctly (I have a few plus the burner, so check back in 100 years and I’ll let ya know how it worked). When the pandemic hit and all these stories of people young and old passing away came flooding in, my archiving perception shifted once again; what I preserve here and now is what will be left if/when I leave. So a part of me is thinking of it like I’m getting my affairs in order with all this archiving and filing. Even with my writing, these days I’m scripting all of my stories out like they’re instructions, complete with scene notes and directions. I may not have any real estate, but I’ll be damned if all this intellectual property goes to waste.
I can’t help but think of creative friends who passed away suddenly; Shane and Jerry. Who knows what stuff they had in the works or if they kept a journal chronicling their lives and stories. For all we know those works are still locked up tight either in their computer hard drives or cloud accounts, or both. But who can access them, and most of all who wants to? Who knows what you’ll find digging in the scattered archives of a creator, especially if it wasn't made accessible in the first place. And even if you're not a creative person, you will, too, leave something behind when you pass. Be sure to let somebody know how to get your passwords lest all your photos, videos and documents will be sealed up tight in your account when you’re gone. That and also to close your accounts. It just might make you cringe to see an ad for Wal-mart on Facebook and right next to it is a little reminder that the late great Aunt Gladys likes this. And if you have old VHS tapes or old family films, the time’s ticking to get those digitized before they turn to dust. While you’re at it it’s time to scan all those old family photos. When you’re done you can throw all those files on a disk, make copies, and voilà, instant family memories for everyone to keep.
My Uncle Steve passed away a year ago, and a few months ago I was helping my Aunt Lisa go through his digital archive. Luckily she has his passwords and I was able to access his computer and pick out the important video files. We were able to get those files together on a separate drive for viewing on the big screen and for sharing. There’s still more work to do but these pics and videos do help tremendously. So take control of your files! Back in the day when you departed we at least had photo prints and camcorder tapes left of you, but now with today’s internet and smartphone-powered landscape those pics and vids get trapped and locked in accounts no one can reach. Every once in a while plug your phone into a computer and drag your photos to a folder. In a journal/diary/sketchbook somewhere keep a note of your email passwords so we can get in if you happen to bounce from this plane. Your loved ones wanna blow up that slick pic of you all dressed up to go out, but if they can’t find it they’ll have to settle for that pic of you all sweaty at the BBQ, and it’s tiny so it’s gonna look pixelated. So archive your pics and vids.
The Big Book of Chingazo will be out next month, you can preorder it HERE and perhaps pick up other comics as well.