Cody Melior is quite probably one of Jacksonville’s most focused zine writers. Landing in Duval County from Seattle, Melior realized that there was no organized pinball community or fandom to speak of, so he decided to create it out of thin air. And he’s been incredibly successful at it; a large group of would-be pinball wizards has coalesced around Melior’s 904 Pinball Zine and Facebook community, sharing tips, tricks, and high scores. Adding to that, Melior became a kind-of Lewis and Clark of Jacksonville pinball, going out and personally mapping the location of every pinball machine in our city, said map then forms the bulk of his foldout zine.
Now on its second issue, the 904 Pinball Zine is expanding into an all-purpose pinball information hub, incorporating interviews and gaming news. Melior’s enthusiasm is infectious; talking to him you really start to believe that pinball-mania is going to sweep aside more sedentary couch-potato pursuits like television and video games. If only….
What was your first exposure to zines?
The first absolutely interesting & unforgettable zine (most other zines are so forgettable) that I picked up was the Skill Shot pinball zine in Seattle WA. I picked that first issue up at my local pinball bar arcade called Shorty’s in the Belltown area where I lived in early 2008. They have local pinball news in it and a map on the back of where games are on location all around the Seattle region (my personal pinball treasure map).
What was your first exposure to pinball?
The first pinball machine that I played was a 1974 Sky Jump machine which was in my parents’ room in our old house on Rudy Dr W on the Southside. My dad kept this machine from a pinball arcade that he ran in the early 70s in Wyoming. He kept it because he thought it was her favorite game only to find out this year that High Hand was her favorite game from the arcade. The second he kept was traded to my aunt in Lakeland FL for furniture and I played it a lot there when I visited them. My cousin Scott has it currently in out of order condition and won’t sell it to me.
What was it that made you decide to combine these two interests and start your own zine?
When I moved back to Jacksonville from Seattle in 2009 I realized quickly that it would be harder to get my pinball fix. I found a machine here or there but no pinball places. I spent the summer of 2010 in Seattle and picked up more Skill Shot issues, ran around town playing pins again and went to the Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show there. I hit up the Pacific Pinball Museum during a layover in San Francisco on my way to Boston that summer as well. I spent the end of 2010 and start of 2011 looking for machines to play in the 904 area code. I knew that I couldn’t be alone so I started the 904 Pinball Zine Facebook page to see who was out there and people joined almost instantly. A new friend who is what we’d call a collector/operator of pinball machines was asked to put machines to play at a Players By The Sea presentation of The Who’s Tommy (to enjoy during intermission mostly) and that was the final match to light the fire of me getting an issue out ASAP to have to share with people that went to see that event. That issue ended up in many locations in the 904 area code and shipped all over, with 450 copies being distributed.
Have you found that the pinball community in Jacksonville is bigger and more fanatical than you initially thought?
For better or worse or whatever… Jacksonville FL isn’t really a city (like Seattle) but instead is a huge town with a bunch of city stuff in it. No matter how many malls, strip malls, colleges, chain restaurants, or sports teams are here, the mindset and interest set of the average Jacksonvillesonian will be restricted to common bonds like sports, teevee, movies, pop culture, and the desperate consumption of goods and or services. Pinball is nowhere near as accessible as any of these interests or that of couch-warming video games. Arcades are now gone in Jacksonville and most people into Pinball are either collectors like myself, people that quest to play them on location or people that very casually play them (people I meet @ Tinseltown’s game room). I’ve met some very hardcore pinball collectors and players. Those people helped me keep the Facebook page and zine going. Most people have never seen or played the greatest pinball machines that I took for granted in Seattle. I’m doing what I can to promote pinball here and raise awareness rise so that I can then finally know how fanatical the 904 area code can actually become about pinball. It’s a duty that I’m proud to have and carry out.
What kind of response have you been getting from the zine?
On the Facebook group we have members from here to Seattle, from here to Sweden and in many different states. We’re the only pinball zine on the east coast of America (only one of 2 in the world being made?). I gave a copy of the 1st issue to the CEO of Stern Pinball and the CEO of Jersey Jack Pinball (a new company working on their first machine, Wizard of Oz, currently) when I met them at the Southern Pinball Festival in late 2011. They both accepted my invitation to interview them in the future. Many people seem to know about the zine, the issues go fast in most locations that I put them and people are happy that it exists. The pinball community existed here before the zine but it is now more connected online with the group and has helped more people join us, network, and contribute to the community.
What work goes into putting an issue of 904 Pinball Zine together? You’re incorporating interviews into and other features into the zine now?
Going into the 2nd issue the process was 1/4 patience, 1/4 an interview with a well known pinball designer, and 1/2 having the layout completed. I do the layout, most of the map, and local pinball activities before the interview. This process is occurring for the 3rd issue currently as well. The 3rd issue is based on the new and already in town at Latitude AC/DC pinball machine. In the future I may put out issues in-between ones with big interviews to focus more on local pinball matters and interview people not as well known yet many times just as interesting in the pinball scene as those who are huge world.
Since I did my first interview with pinball game designer George Gomez (who did the Lord of the Rings, Sopranos & the relatively new Transformers games) for the 2nd issue, the cycle is based on new games coming out and having an interview with someone known in pinball. Local news is added like plugs of one of the 3 pinball related conventions that happens in the state annually at this point & results from them. Lastly once the interview is done and convention news is added I make sure that the map is as up-to-date as possible. No matter what I do the map is outdated not long after the issue is put into print. So I don’t print hundreds at once, but instead I print them as I put them out and when machines change on location they are then changed on the map portion of the zine.
Favorite pinball machine to play in Jacksonville? Most challenging pinball machine?
AC/DC is hands down my favorite machine to play in the wild (term for playing pinball machines on location) in the 904 area code. Spider-Man used to be my favorite (hence him being on the cover of the first issue) but that machine was replaced with a Transformers machine. AC/DC & Spider-Man were designed by Steve Ritchie, who is also the designer of the first pinball machine that I ever bought, which was Terminator 2 last year. Transformers is no freaking doubt the most difficult and unforgiving machine in town. I walk up to the game and see an average last score of around 3 Million. For a few weeks I had the highest score @ 70 Million points until local pinball great ROZ knocked out 96 Million point (1st) & 99 Million point (Grand Champion) games leaving me @ 3rd behind a default grand champion score of 75 Million.
What’s next for 904 Pinball Zine?
The term full spectrum dominance comes to mind. The 904 Pinball Zine also has a youtube channel which has more interviews not in the printed zine, footage from pinball conventions, footage of pinball arcades in other regions and high scores from machines around the area code so people know who/what they’re up against next time they go out. A 904 Pinball Zine shirt is currently being designed. We’ve made a lot of ground in a year’s time and this is really just the beginning. We currently have 62 machines on location in what is the largest area code of America landwise. Considering that the Seattle area has over 2 times that amount of machines on location, pinball in the 904 area code has got a long way to go before it is anywhere near the status of being an overly saturated entertainment option and until pinball is known here as well as it is in Seattle.