Zine Review: 8LETTERS #1

24 September 2007

Zine - 8LETTERS #1

I don’t have a tattoo. I have thought about it, but since I’m not passionately committed to the idea, I’m sure I’ll regret it later — I picture Derek Vinyerd covering up the large swastika on his chest.

But not all tattoos can be covered up, and I’ve often wondered how their owners deal with their regrets. 8LETTERS is “a little book of knuckle tattoos”, and it collects interviews Johnny NoPants conducted with strangers he met on his travels. He asks people what they have tattooed on their knuckles, why those eight letters are significant, and what the consequences of the tattoos have been.

There are flashes of humour, like Shawn showing his “FUCK NYPD” to the police, or this exchange with Kimya:

8- Do you ever wish you had different knucklers?

K- the only other ones that I though[t] would be fun, but I wouldn’t rather have, would be Capri sun or juicebox.

8- I’m glad you got LAFF LOUD.

For many of the interviewees, the tattoos are an expression of defiance against the system. These people are making a statement that they don’t want to fit in. As Kimya says, “I wouldn’t work at a place that wouldn’t let me have them”.

Usually I enjoy this kind of screw-the-Man attitude, but in 8LETTERS #1 it’s mostly just depressing. Zane tattooed himself while sitting in his high school class; two months later, he’s already unhappy that “because of the exclamation marks, people cant really read it”, and he’s dropped out of school. Lil J had his done in prison, to remind him of his former life. Josh, too:

He told me how he went to prison, and got “25to Life” tattoed on his knuckles, but after getting released he wanted to remove them to “get a decent job.” He couldn’t afford to get them laser removed, so he tore them off himself with a razor blade and packed them in salt. This left him with scars in the shape of 25to Life.

None of this has brought me any closer to wanting a tattoo, but it was definitely an interesting read. I’d love to see a follow-up with some of the interview subjects, to see what they’re doing and whether they still like their tattoos in another five to ten years. Unfortunately, their transient lifestyles — as Lil J’s knuckles put it, “HOBOCORE” — mean that’s highly unlikely. I’ll just have to cross my fingers that things turn out okay for them.

Johnny NoPants, 8LETTERS #1, 1/4 size, 32 pages.
Available from Microcosm.

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