On Halloween, 1988, aspiring graphic artist Darby Romeo launched the 'zine Ben Is Dead, named, ironically, for the husband she would subsequently divorce. Romeo, now 29, has produced 28 issues of Ben and started the improbably titled Killzine Zine, feeding an audience of self-styled alterna-vistes who consider Spin frightfully mainstream. "Retro Hell" (Little, Brown), a compilation of Ben Is Dead issues of the same name, will be published in early December.
Q: What is retro hell?
A: A piece of pop culture that captures and symbolizes an embarrassing moment in time.
Q: And L.A. retro hell?
A: Bands trying for the next Sex Pistols reunion hit. Poseurs, the punk rock clothing store. Clubs like Odyssey and Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco.
Q: He restarted that recently.
A: That's a scary comeback. Rodney Bingenheimer--retro hell to the nth degree.
Q: Isn't all of this just nostalgia?
A: Retro hell is more obnoxious than nostalgia. People who grew up in the '70s and '80s are extremely cynical. We're cynical from an earlier age than other generations. All of our history seems to be this cynical looking-back.