A short essay on the first page of Shaving in the Dark’s inaugural issue satirizes the comics quarterly’s own central ethos: “Why did I agree to write for this magazine?!!” it starts, and ends with the answer: “Because I said ‘no way, this is where I draw the line’ and these morons actually gave me some paper to do so!!!!”
SITD started as an indie comics art collective in Shanghai, planning a single thin publication so the founders would have a platform on which to publish their own comics. Their objective was to encourage themselves to create more, with no pressure to create something “good,” at least not by any standard other than that creating anything at all is good.
漫画季刊《胡子拉碴》（Shaving in the Dark，简称SITD）创刊号首页的一篇短文就以杂志的创刊理念为梗进行自嘲，开篇提出“为什么我要答应给这本杂志写稿！？”，在结尾奉上答案：“就因为我说‘不可能，这就是我的底线’，这些白痴竟然真的给我纸，让我画出来！！”
The publication borrows part of its aesthetic from “zines,” informal publications often made on photocopiers for a gritty or amateurish visual aesthetic. Outwardly sleek and colorful, the interior of each issue is an organized mess of black-and-white comics, sometimes one page, sometimes many, by artists of all levels, backgrounds, and interests.
In the words of Jay Mark Caplan, one of the original founders, “It’s about having a beginner’s mindset. To not be afraid of not knowing what you’re doing, to not let that keep you from doing it, and to create.” The very name of the publication comes from another co-founder’s grandfather’s expression: “shaving in the dark” describes a situation where you don’t really know what you’re doing.
这本刊物借用了部分独立杂志 Zine 的美学。作为一种非正式出版物，Zine 通常用复印机制作，以营造一种噪点颗粒感或业余的视觉审美。《胡子拉碴》的封面设计色彩缤纷，内部却是一系列乱中有序的黑白色漫画作品，既有单页也有多页的作品，由不同水平、背景和风格兴趣的艺术家创作。
用创始人之一 Jay Mark Caplan 的话来说：“关键是保持初学者的心态。不要担心不知道自己在做什么，不要让这种想法阻止你去行动、创作。”杂志名字来自其中一位创始人的祖父的话：“胡子拉碴”，乱七八糟，指的是完全不知道自己在做什么的情况。
Though Shaving in the Dark only started in 2017, they quickly grew into a quarterly, and perhaps even more quickly, grew an attached community. “There were a lot of people out there who felt the same as us, who wanted art and comics to play a bigger role in their lives.” Now it operates more like an organization, hosting monthly drink-and-draw events, collaborating with other Shanghai arts organizations such as the Shanghai Literary Review and Unravel, and recently, even working with brands.
虽然“胡子拉碴”成立于 2017 年，但已经迅速发展成一本季刊，甚至很早就已经是一个关系紧密的社区。“其实有很多和我们一样的人，他们都希望让艺术和漫画在他们的生活中能占据更多的份量。”现在，他们更像是一个组织，每月举办喝酒画画的活动，还与《上海文艺评论》和故事分享组织 Unravel 等其它上海艺术组织合作，最近甚至开始与品牌合作。
They’re also starting to see themselves more as publishers. Besides the quarterly, SITD has also released Peach Fuzz—”the teenage zine for zine-age teens”—which features only art by local high school students. They also produce “shaving kits,” which are smaller cartoon booklets featuring art by individual underground artists, which they hope will make it easier for more Chinese artists to collaborate with them.
This last in particular is a way to engage more with a local Chinese audience. To this end, besides the shaving kits, issues have included a smattering of bilingual comics, recently shifting in the direction of leaving Chinese works untranslated so as not to privilege an English-speaking audience.
Also part of this drive is the most recent issue, Mute. Each issue has had a different theme on which contributing artists base their work; past themes have been (in order of release) Shave, Pets, Apocalypse, Metamorphosis, and Trip. Zovi Weng, another co-founder, notes, “The themes are there to be interpreted, misinterpreted, overinterpreted, whatever. It’s very loose.” The sixth issue, Mute, was slightly stricter—as another effort at inclusion, it experiments solely with textless comics.
他们也开始更多地把自己看作出版商。除了季刊外，“胡子拉碴”还出版了《小桃子》（Peach Fuzz），一本青少年独立漫画杂志，专门展示当地高中生的艺术作品。他们还推出“胡子别册”（shaving kits）——由个别地下艺术家创作的卡通小册子，希望这能让更多的中国艺术家与他们合作。
此外，最新一期的杂志“静音”（Mute）也是以此为理念。每期的杂志都会有不同的主题，投稿艺术家根据主题来创作。之前的主题(按发布顺序)分别为“刮胡”（Shave）、“宠物”（Pets）、“启示录”（Apocalypse）、“变形”（Metamorphosis）和“旅行”（Trip）。另一位创始人 Zovi Weng 指出：“主题可以用来解释、曲解、过分解释等等，反正就非常随意。”《胡子拉碴》的第六期，“静音”的要求可能稍微严格一点，因为它要求全部为无文本漫画，旨在提倡包容的精神。
“I think the themes that we pick usually come from an inspiration we had at that moment,” says Zovi. “I want it to be something that resonates with what you were thinking at the moment, or seeing around.” She attributes this to the French satirical political magazines she grew up with, which reacted very specifically to events on the average person’s mind. Notably, both Jay and Zovi mentioned comics publishers that encouraged artists to move away from larger publishers. Jay brought up Image Comics, a company formed in 1992 by disgruntled artists leaving Marvel and DC in order to retain ownership of their ideas; Zovi referenced L’Association, founded by seven cartoonists struggling to find a mainstream outlet for their work. But both admitted being drawn specifically to publishers that aged with their audience; both agreed that a lot of comics they grew up with “didn’t go through puberty, thematically.”
Zovi 说: “我们选择的主题通常来自于自己当时的灵感。我希望主题能与自己当下的想法或周围的情况产生共鸣。”她说这种理念主要受到了她从小看的法国讽刺政治杂志的影响，即各人对个体事件的观点和看法，会鲜明地在作品里反映出来。
值得注意的是，Jay 和 Zovi 都提到了鼓励艺术家远离大型出版商的漫画出版商。Jay 提及了 Image Comics 公司，这家公司最初由一些不满漫威（Marvel）和 DC 的艺术家于 1992 年成立，他们为了坚持自己的想法而离开这两家公司；Zovi 提到了法国的 L’association，这家出版商由七位努力为自己的作品寻找主流出路的漫画家创立。但两人都承认，他们对与观众一起成长的出版商尤其感兴趣。他们都觉得，自己小时候看的很多漫画“在主题上像是从未有过青春期”。
This certainly can’t be said of the content of Shaving in the Dark. There is a wide range of themes, plenty of mature language, occasional nudity, and references to drugs and alcohol. “We don’t want to censor our artists,” Jay shrugged. In fact, Shaving in the Dark has only turned away a couple of pieces in their whole history; one for being 22 pages long and a couple for containing racist elements. Besides that, their harshest editorial work (starting with Issue 5) has been asking artists to redraw sections or cutting pages out of a submission.
“On one level, it has this amateur quality because we want to encourage people to contribute,” says Jay. But along with the growing community comes higher-quality art. “Even very professional artists have the same desire as us for an outlet without pressure, to do whatever they want.”
当然，《胡子拉碴》的内容也并非仅限于此。里面有各种各样的主题，有成人用语，偶尔会有裸露的画面，也会提到毒品和酒精。Jay 耸耸肩说：“我们不想去审查我们的艺术家。”事实上，《胡子拉碴》成立至今只拒绝过几份作品，一次是因为作品有22页太长，有几次是因为内容有种族歧视的内容。除此之外, 他们最严厉的编辑要求（从第 5 期开始）也不过是让艺术家重绘作品的部分片段，或是从提交的作品中减少一些画面。
Moving forward, they admit they’ll have to start being a little pickier as more submissions come in. I asked if they saw any conflict between this possibility and the magazine’s drive for inclusivity and encouraging amateurs. Zovi immediately replied in the negative. “’Do it anyways’ is a thing you can do all the time–I think the drink-and-draw events really reflect that—but then at some point, critique will make you better. So for me, those things aren’t in conflict . . . I think it’s essential to that spirit of ‘go out and do it,’ but be ready to get it back in your face.”
Shaving in the Dark still seems to be looking for its place in the world. The team is expanding the business side of things, selling more products like mugs, postcards, bags, and t-shirts, and recently locking down a more permanent space for everything at Subland Quarter (51 Runan Jie, near Jumen Lu). With furious energy, they paint murals, host comics workshops, coordinate classes for everything from screen printing to live drawing and much more. They’re still in their early days yet, and the organization’s expansive nature belies its actual youth. If this is what they’re doing in the dark, we can surely look forward to the things they’ll accomplish once they turn on the lights.