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Swag | issue 1 | review | zine | Lollipop


Issue 1 $6
(8033 Sunset Blvd. #4500 Los Angeles, CA 90046)
by Scott Hefflon

It's really surprising how rarely you find something unique in these "alternative" times. So many things still tow the line, the line is just called something else. I have to admit that when I first glanced at Swag and its tagline of Cool Stuff for Cool People – not to mention seeing Jonathan and Deven Davis on the cover – I was less than thrilled about covering it. But the people who run it (Steven Holiday of Gothic Beauty, Amelia G and Forrest Black of Blue Blood, and are good people, creative people, so I flipped through it a little more thoroughly. As in I read it. And I don't read much of anything cuz I run a mag and, chances are, we said it better, or I thought the band/movie/whatever was an over-hyped letdown and wanted nothing to do with it. So many mags, 'zines, radio and video shows, websites, whatever, all hyping the same shit, whatever's "hot," whatever's making the rounds, whatever's getting the big push... Some fuckin' alternative, huh?

So yeah, on the surface, Swag could look like a Gothic fashion mag. Lots of scantily-clad vixens, most of them models for one of the sites under the Blue Blood umbrella, but seeing as Amelia G and Forrest Black are top-notch Goth/fetish photographers and have great taste in hotties as well as the few bits of clothing the models wear, that's far from a bad thing. Lots and lots of full page color photos with some freakin'-lookin' guy or gal in cool, outlandish clothing, complete with model, photographer, clothing, and accessories credits.

That alone woulda been cool. Kind of just an extension or refocusing on what's come before, but whatever...

What makes Swag cool is what doesn't become clear right at first. Style. Without having to conduct market research or have big meetings, Swag just kinda sauntered onto the scene and did its thing, printed a mag fulla photos, product reviews, essays on topics they found interesting, and even a freakin' fiction piece. While I originally recoiled against reading "Fuck You: A Brief History of the Mohawk" because, fuck you, like some two-page spread in huge type wrapped around some big photos is gonna tell ME anything I don't already know about mohawks. Harumph. Probably just some puff piece, a long-winded, typo-riddled caption, a mere excuse to run the photos real big. But wait, I read a bit, I chuckled, I read some more, I chuckled again, and by sentence three, I was engrossed and read the whole thing. It was fun, I learned a couple things, and there was no nostagia back-in-my-day shit or mindless bashing of how everything sucks now and everyone's a sell-out. No, it was well-researched bashing – funny, but not hatefully hipster ironic – and it read like something I'd write, or something one of my friends'd write. I wanna buy the writer a drink and see what they say next. That's good writing, right? Hell, I even read Amelia G's one-pager about buying a fuckin' car. Sure, I know she can write and all, but who the hell care what car she bought and why and what it means to her? By the end of her story, I did. Who knew? It was a little tough to read cuz the text was one column across the entire page, but I read the whole thing, liked it, and I wanna buy Amelia G a drink to see what else she has to say. (OK, maybe I just wanna get her drunk. Heh.)

I'm not gonna read the make-up reviews, but I imagine they're informative and entertaining as well. I read the essay/reviews on vibrators and rock stars, and the piece on Ugly Shyla's Creepy Dolls. All good stuff. Fuck band reviews, you can get those anywhere. This is some really cool stuff. And the writing is great and the images big and clear. Ok, sure, we live in a culture that can't read for shit, and I don't really give most normal people the credit for having an attention span longer than my cat (and let's not even talk about how I feel about most people's intelligence levels), but I do wish there was more text and that it was smaller. Sure, I happen to get creeped out by open white space, but I love a good text wrap around a big, bold image. Sue me, I'm a word guy.

All in all, a damn fine publication, and one quite unlike anything else out there. And it's got layers, baby, cuz these are not stupid fuckin' posers spouting hipster slogans, parroting some review they just read and passing it off as their own wit. There's eye candy, there's smart, attitude-laced editorial (without being needlessly vicious), and there's coverage of topics you didn't know you were interested in until you found yourself absorbed in the piece.

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