Cometbus was a punk zine, started in Berkeley, California in 1983 by Aaron Cometbus, born Aaron Elliot. For the past 20 years Aaron has been self-publishing his usually handwritten zine, including band interviews, diaries and observations on the punk subculture in the San Francisco Bay Area and from his travels, many of which involve long, grueling cross-country rides on Greyhound buses.
Aaron Cometbus' writing captures a slice of life in Oakland and Berkeley, California from the late 1980s through the 1990s. This includes squatting, collective living, falling in love and other perils of the punk rock lifestyle. His writing is characterized by stories of loneliness and alienation, tempered with episodes of brightness and perennial hope in the ability of humans to connect to one another.
One unique factor with Cometbus was more people bought it directly from the publisher than any other zine. Aaron's travels led him accross the U.S. where he'd meet zinesters, fans, and make many new fans selling his zine at shows, conventions, punk houses, parties, book stores and on the street to people he'd meet. In the 1990s he became a human connection between zine publishers in different cities and at conventions and on alt.zines it seemed every other zinester had an a story about meeting Aaron Cometbus.
In 2004, Aaron quit writing Cometbus to pursue publishing his writing through other channels. As of 2005, he has been self-publishing a series of small books of short stories, Chicago Stories and Mixed Reviews being the first two. He has also recorded and toured with the band Pinhead Gunpowder, which includes members of Green Day, with whom he toured before their mainstream success.
Chicago Stories (self published, 2004) is a small collection about Chicago, originally published in Cometbus issues 35, 37, 38, 41, and 45.
Two collections have been translated into French, including En dépit de tout (1997).
Cometbus' distinctive handwritten script can be seen in early Green Day album liner notes, the Jawbreaker collection "Etc.", and is emblematic of the decidedly lo-fi zine culture.
There have been two issues since this article: #49 which was a collection of stories by writers that weren't Aaron and recently #50 the jubillee issue which features new stories by Aaron in New York, loads of readers letters, interviews again (yay!) a NYC book report and more. Great stuff!