Aaron Elliot’s Cometbus is perhaps the best known of the fanzines that once provided the lifeblood of the underground punk rock scene in the San Francisco bay area, and to a large extent, the United States as a whole. For much of its nearly 20 year history, Cometbus has documented punk culture, describing shows, chronicling the travels of the author through various punk scenes, and providing a personal documentary of punk culture. Cometbus’ success has always been that rather than simply interview bands and review records it address the intersection of punk rock and the personal and how the ideals and ethics of the punk scene manifest themselves in the author’s everyday life.
Chicago Stories collects numerous stories from Aaron’s tenure in Chicago, all of which appeared in previous out of print issues of Cometbus, and compiles them into a sharp looking pocket-sized book. However, while the stories are the standard Cometbus fare–and as such are well written–the book is typeset rather than handwritten which considerably detracts from the personal nature of the zine. Certainly longtime readers of Cometbus will recognize Aaron’s writing, and new readers will appreciate Aaron’s tales of growing old, spending time in diners, and passing the day browsing book stores, but without the “Cometbus” handwriting, the book loses the charm of its zine counterpart.
Cometbus has long been one of the best zines and Chicago Stories provides some introduction to what all the hype is about. Aaron has a knack for taking seemingly mundane and trivial aspects of both life and punk culture and making them seem at once significant and interesting. While Chicago Stories is a good way of becoming acquainted with Cometbus and the zine underground, readers looking for a more through introduction would be better served picking up a copy of <Despite Everything for a more complete anthology of Cometbus.
Aaron Cometbus, Chicago Stories, (Self Published, 2004).