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Behind the curtain of Overwatch’s bustling zine scene

One passionate zine maker talks about her upcoming D.Va project, McGenji, and the challenges of publication.

Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch has, since its launch, been defined by the passion of its fans. The cast of characters have been drawn, painted, sketched, voice-acted, and written in thousands of scenarios. Not only are fans creating these works, but they also collect them into zines. Zines were once a way for small groups or individuals to spread the word; collections of thoughts and images bundled together, photocopied, and distributed. The Internet has made fan zines far more accessible and successful. Heroes Never Die sat down with Meaghan L Mark, one of the creatives who is working to collect the work of fellow Overwatch fans and assemble them into published works.

Mark has already published one zine, Faster Than a Bullet, celebrating the ship of Genji and McCree. Now, she’s turning her attention to D.Va. We spoke with her about building zines, Overwatch, and everyone’s favorite MEKA pilot.

Heroes Never Die: Can you introduce yourself to Heroes Never Die’s readers?

MLM: Hi everybody! My name is Meaghan L Mark. I’m an Illustrator currently based in Savannah, GA working on my Master’s degree in Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I have also attended quite a few conventions as a part of the Artist Alley and hope to continue to do so when I graduate/finish my thesis. You can find me and my work on Instagram (@meagmark) or my website (http://meaghanmark.com)

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Heroes Never Die: Why did you get into Overwatch? What attracted you to the game and why?

At first, Overwatch was just the big trendy game that a lot of my friends were playing -- I had never really invested in any of Blizzard’s other IPs (was never a big WoW player or anything) so that appeal was a little lost on me. I didn’t even have a PS4 (or gaming computer, for that matter), but had always wanted one, so after saving enough of my “fun” money I decided to invest in both the console and the game in August 2016. I thought it would be fun if only so I could play something with my friends but it quickly became so much more than that. I never expected to be completely immersed in such a unique and fun environment nor did I think I would be playing the game almost every day for the better part of a year and a half since purchasing! Getting into what I can only describe as the culture of Overwatch in and out of the game is truly one of the best choices I’ve made as a consumer and fanperson.

HND: When did you decide to start your first zine, Faster Than a Bullet, and what drew you to those characters?

MLM: The conception for the zine actually began in November 2016. At the time, myself and my good friend/fellow Illustrator Mason Rosati (@m__rosati on Instagram) were discussing the current political climate and how the results of the election implied a lot of hate and chaos in the United States. Both of us identify as LGBT and in other ways that would likely be negatively impacted, as well, and as a result wanted to create something that could net a positive change within those spaces even if it was small. We knew the Overwatch fan community was special and knew that celebrating some of our favorite characters, McCree and Genji, could be a good vehicle to help make some change. There is a wholesome quality to these two characters together supported by admittedly minimal lore, and yet the fans have really made some wonderful ideas in addition to what we already know about them. It was easy to pick these two because of the healthy kindness implied in their getting together - we wanted a wholly positive representation of an LGBT relationship that other people wanted to invest in, too.

Faster Than a Bullet | A McGenji Fanzine

HND: Can you talk about the process of making a zine? How long does it take, and what kind of tasks do you have to complete? What is it like working with artists from the community?

MLM: Gosh, we were working on it for a long time! It was the first big zine project either of us had organized/art directed (though we had been in several zines as just artists before), and between conception, organization, editing, printing, and shipment, it all took about 7 months. Zines typically begin with a call for submissions, and in our case, we were able to accept all 24 artists who submitted for serious consideration. The process depends on the organizer(s), but I finding artists we decided to ask for a proposed thumbnail (basically a small, rough sketch of what they’d like to make) and their existing portfolios to look at finished pieces.

When everyone signed on and we were able to give them a template of dimensions to work from, artists were given about 2 months to slowly work on their pieces with a few progress checks along the way just to make sure they were thinking about their ideas. When they were complete, each piece was then organized and edited within a book format through InDesign. Mason and I were the last to finish our pieces (an advantage of organizing I think, haha!) and I also finished the cover image.

Once a proper file has been created you can begin to talk with printing either locally or online to see what the best options will be. For us we had a couple different printers, as some artists volunteered to make charms and stickers as a preorder bonus, but from the beginning we had a printing service we liked and tried to maintain a dialogue with them throughout. Once the printing was finalized we opened preorders for a few weeks and eagerly awaited! Upon receiving the materials Mason then shipped every order themselves (even international!) and kept track of the expenses to then subtract from the preorder profits.

We ended up making about $2,006.64 to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union and their LGBT Services. Truly, we couldn’t be more proud and humbled to have facilitated that success. Working with artists in the community as well as the costumers purchasing really made all of the hard work worth it, too. All of our artists put their hearts into their pieces, and seeing some of the preorder/purchase comments created such a sincere ripple of kindness it still touches me to this day.

I know this answer is getting wordy but I’d love to also share the description insert from the published book as it gives a really great encompassing idea of the whole thing we all strove to complete: “Faster than a Bullet is the passion project of 24 artists - 24 wonderful folks who’d like to share some joy and make some magic. It’s meant to celebrate a relationship between McCree and Genji while also celebrating happy, healthy, and valid queer relationships. All proceeds benefit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the United States, which directly helps oppressed voices in need of being heard.”

Blizzard Entertainment

HND: Why did you decide on D.Va for your next zine?

Since we wrapped Faster than a Bullet in June I’ve been itching for another big charity project. I knew I wanted to do a singular character and for me the choice to feature D.Va came rather easily. From the first moment I began playing the game (and even before, honestly) I was drawn to her and what she stood for. I am sure plenty can identify with a lot of who she is and the fact that a young Korean female is known within the universe at being the best at what she does is something really striking and empowering. She’s always had a sass and confidence that’s made her a standout character to me in many ways. To put it plainly, I just love D.Va and all 180+ hours I’ve put into playing her!

HND: There’s some controversy about D.Va and how she’s portrayed as a meme loving goblin, versus her lore as a war hero. What is your opinion on this contrast?

MLM: I think we walk a fine line with it. I am definitely of the opinion that I really don’t like to see her infantilized when it takes away from her accomplishments, because it does devalue her role as a strong force for people who may not feel represented otherwise. She is a fun character that’s easy to identify with (since the people who enjoy Overwatch can consider themselves a gamer just like her!), but there is also a poise and tenacity we can’t ignore for the sake of a joke. Her lore implies she has had to grow up pretty quickly, and especially being the youngest human character in the cast she’s had to compete on the same level with a lot of adults many years her senior. There is an inherent maturity to that I think the more childish depictions of her tend to miss.

It’s additionally difficult to think of her in terms of how we view online/gamer culture in the 2010s-20s because Overwatch takes place (roughly) around 2076. While things have so far remained similar in a lot of her voice lines (“GG!” “AFK!” and etcetera) we have no clue how the culture might have evolved. Is she vintage? Are those jokes still current so many years in the future? It’s fair to assume, even in a small way, that things could have changed the same way many of us aren’t still humored by the things we would find funny/made into memes in the early 2000s - in fact, I’ve seen it argued that many of the older characters (like Ana, Soldier, Rein) would actually be the ones laughing about memes we think are funny currently, because they would’ve grown up around this time period! It’s a lot to explore and consider. And, despite her “Game On” emote, I doubt she’d let her technology pile up with Dorito dust for too long.

HND: Thank you so much for your time!

MLM: Thanks for having me! If any readers are interested in purchasing the zine once it’s out, feel free to follow @DVAzine on Twitter for further updates. I expect to have a Tumblr page up once we are closer to preorders (expected June of this year). The url will be posted on our Twitter once it’s ready, as well. ALL proceeds earned will be donated to a TBA charity so we hope you consider supporting the project! :)