Not all great magazines last forever. At the end of our latest podcast we mentioned Manzine, and it was so enjoyable looking back at the mag I wanted to share some images and further thoughts about it here. Welcome to the new Back Issue slot…
Published between 2008 and 2011, Manzine grew from the frustration felt by a group of men working on men’s magazines. Writer Kevin Braddock conceived the idea and (perfect) name and roped in friends Pete Lyle, Mark Hooper and designer Warren Jackson launched their publication as a zine with the mission to parody men’s magazines. An easy target, but they attacked with such verve that Manzine still stands up in its own right today.
Manzine had a grumpy wilfulness to it that made it very hard to pigeonhole. It could be self-mockingly pompous, describing itself on the cover as ‘A publication about the male phenomenon’ and including itself as the latest entry in a history of men’s media in the first issue. ‘It’s a fanzine not a sociology lecture’ is a memorable part of that description.
It was also wickedly funny, and while its primary focus was the men’s mags and masculinity, its targets often included other magazines and media.
Magazine parodies were aimed at those regarded as untouchable for their good taste: The New Yorker, Monocle (above) and Fantastic Man were all mocked. As I mention in the podcast, the latter came in the form of imaginary magazine Fantastic Porter, highlighting the appropriation by online retailer Mr Porter of Fantastic Man’s written and visual languages (below).
These parodies displayed a love of magazines, and the fifth and final issue saw the first of what might have become a fascinating series had the mag continued: The Manzine Magazine Club looked back at the origins of US title Fortune magazine.
Photos with speech bubbles, parody advertising and cheap puns run through the pages, alongside longer pieces more serious than I remember. While the visuals owe plenty to Private Eye, their execution is more artfully pitched, the better to match the slightly skewed nature of the content. And a lot of stuff – content and design – is just odd. The magazine reflected the interests of its makers to the point of being almost a playground for them to indulge themselves. If that sounds grim, the result was anything but – Manzine was not a vehicle for self-indulgence but a wonderful experiment that I wish had lasted longer.
It would veer from the cool to the ironically uncool; one moment Brian Eno was being interviewed about ambient music, the next Phil Collins was being hailed a hero. The Peter Pan sculpture in Hyde Park was eulogised, and a series of Design Classics included the pint glass, mermaids and Snowdonia. There was a photo report from the former Iraqi embassy in East Berlin and a piece about the typography of rubbish bin numbering. What held it together was the tacit avoidance of the aspirational lifestyle approach beloved of the then already failing men’s press – indeed, the launch issue of Manzine was composed of material rejected by Esquire et al.
Its creative success was down to the quality of both the written and visual content – Braddock, Lyle and Jackson had a tight working relationship and the five issues they produced reflect their shared focus.
Its reflection on the male phenomenon was both super-contemporary and timeless, a unique intervention into the men’s press, and I suspect that, despite the denial in that first edition, Manzine might already have made it onto a sociology syllabus or two.
We’ll be posting about future Back Issues choices alongside the magCulture Podcasts.
Read Creative Review’s interview with co-founder Kevin Braddock and check his website for his side of the story.
Listen to the magCulture Podcast episode five here (Manzine mention at 27:40)