Staples and Paperclips #3: Mother Nathan 2

Staples and Paperclips #3: Mother Nathan

Despite the rise of digital media, the fanzine has refused to die. Next time you go to a gig, check out the merch table, or where they keep their copies of DIY and Crack, and you’ll probably see a zine or two. Whenever I see a zine I pick one up. Sometimes they’re just the rantings of a super fan or someone looking to form a clique, but generally, they’re full of insightful thoughts, interesting takes on classic albums or full of wonky drawings.

Zines and cartoons go hand in hand. Just look at some of the underground comix and counter culture from the late 60s and a lot of them started out in zines or zine-like publications. One current comic zine that keeps me entertained, and a little bit freaked out, is Mother Nathan. This zine is the brainchild of Sam Bartam. Mother Nathan sits in a Venn diagram between The Beano, Viz and Dr. Chuck Tingle. I managed to have a chat with Sam about how the zine got started, is there a perverse fun to just dumping on characters all the time and whether he is #teamdennis or #teamdan.

Why did you decide to start drawing and releasing zines?

When I was a kid I loved comics and would always be drawing, then as I warped into a self-conscious teenager I really suppressed that, bottled it all up and would just live inside my head. Only really when I met my friend Ramon did I really come back to myself and feel like confidence to start drawing and doing the zine. He’s a 40 something comic and zine fanatic and one of the happiest people know.

Where did you and Ramon meet?

I met Ramon through my Uncle. They met because my Uncle was part of a Chas and Dave tribute CD which somehow made its way to Rio De Janeiro, Ramon heard the track and sent my Uncle a letter and they became pen pals from that. Then a few years ago I went out to see him and it all started from there. It was a cover of ‘Rabbit’

How does your working relationship work?

Do you work on stories together, or are you working on stuff independently and only share those fruits at the end?
He doesn’t really have much input with the Zine but I often use his illustrations for the guest page.

What were the inital plans/hopes for it?

I think the initial ideas were the Cool/Not cool dichotomy and then the Have you ever considered section, which came after not really knowing what to do with my Ex-girlfriends underwear that she had left at my house. ‘Have you ever considered what exactly to do with your ex-girlfriends knickers?’ I put them in the bin FYI. Then the rest of them see and Zine just developed from there

Have they been met?

The hopes have always been just to meet like-minded individuals who wish to contribute or who appreciate it, it’s just a great outlet and distraction

How many do you put out a year?

In a good year 12, probably this year more like 6 or so, but it’s more quality over quantity now

When I was little, the 1980s, there was a definite divide between the Beano and the Dandy. Were you a member of the Dennis the Menace or Desperate Dan fan club?

Dennis never seemed that much of a menace, I always felt a little underwhelmed by his antics, however, I could relate to him more than I ever could with Dan. Perhaps Billy WHIZZER?

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Is it as simple as “Wouldn’t it be funny if this happened to Jimmy Piddle?”
Lots of ideas come from pop culture, snippets of mythology, science, funny words and trying to illustrate difficult concepts in a basic, mildly amusing form like Phantom Power. Haven’t succeeded in that yet.

Who are the characters you enjoy drawing and writing stories for?

There’s a lot of characters who need to be fleshed out a little and I plan to make weightier zines to do so in. There’s a whole group of people who live in the same universe, I just haven’t found a way to bring them together yet, in example Sharon Doomsday, Nanny Wine and Mc Fatburg. Watch this space.

Do you ever feel like you can’t put a character through wringer because you’ve put them through enough crap, or is that part of the fun?

Little Jimmy Piddle is one, he’s been through a lot but his suffering is essential to storytelling.

What zines did you used to read?

I have always been aware of zines, my uncle used to write for Thorne in the Side (TITS) a Brentford FC Fanzine. I was always so intrigued by the commitment and effort to a seemingly fruitless exercise. Mainly though it’s always been comics that got my motor running The Beano, Viz, R Crumb and Nemi from the Metro newspaper.

Are there any zines that inspired you start doing it yourself?

Not one in particular, however as mentioned it was after I met Ramon and saw zines in action, that’s what inspired me. Through arts council funding in Rio de Janeiro (or something) he works with regular people to help them create zines about their lives, issues that matter to them etc. I read great little zines all about local characters, taxi drivers, prostitutes etc. His English is a little broken and I can’t speak any Portuguese so some of this might be inaccurate but I think that was the jist.

Why are zines important to you?

I think they’re just a simple but effective medium between what you want to say and to anyone who might be interested. It’s an outlet and physical embodiment of something that at some point you felt necessary to format

Have you drawn something that didn’t make an issue for being too much?

Working as a pair there have been a lot of disagreements about whether or not something may cause offence or not. For better or worse there have been a lot of illustrations that have been vetoed. The cool/not cool section has always been a difficult judgment call, as there is a clear distinction between our approval or disapproval of something.

Why do you think things like Mother Nathan and works like Dr. Chuck Tingle are on the increase and becoming more popular?

I’ve never heard of Dr. Chuck until now. The more I delve into depravity the deeper I want to keep digging. The only limit is imagination, as we only really speculate and fantazise there are no moral implications or imprints on our souls .

Why do you think that the zine having a resurgence in a digital world?

With everything in HD or on a screen there is an appeal for something tangible and of a low copy print out. Certain kinds of people will always love collecting things, no matter what the format.

How would you sum up the zines you’ve released in 10 words or less?

Erratic bosh jobs with moments of self-indulgent erotic brilliance

What is on the horizon for Mother Nathan?

More contributors and more lengthy stories. This will involve revisiting some underdeveloped characters from previous editions and developing stories like the Percy Ingle and Greggs feud.

For more information please check out the link below

  1. Viva la Zine!!

    Although i never know any of the bands featured in the rock/punk zines that can be found in my local pub, i do feel that they are a valuable creative commodity, which need to be championed much more, and I would be very sad if they should ever die out.

    On a slightly different note, the (happy hardcore) rave scene still have a zine of their own,…(“Ravin’ Eye”) and it always warms my cockles when I’m able to pick up a copy in Leeds, as they are sadly, particularly hard to come by once one ventures any further North than Leicester.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.