Every Thursday night for the past two years, a group of 2 to 8 artists show up with sketchbooks in hand at Priscilla's Coffee Shop in Burbank, Calif. to hang with old friends, doodle some sketches, and get a caffeine buzz.
And one day, Ed Reynolds realized: this is a bunch of talent going to waste.
The result of his caffeine-induced epiphany? "Zowie: One," a 106-page black and white jam comic with 13 different stories by 10 different creators. The comic is available via the Web site or at this weekend's WizardWorld LA.
"It was just fun, I think, to do it," says Reynolds, the ringleader of the outfit. "It's a nice published piece, even if it is self-published. We'll have our own booth at WizardWorld LA, and most of the people that worked on it will be there. I've been told that they stuck us back by the loading docks, but I understand -- you put Kevin Smith up front and us by the loading docks."
The Zowie crew is an eclectic one, as evidenced by the different story styles in the book. Rick Cortes, a special effects designer with a "Hellboy: Weird Tales" pin-up to his credit, offers "Wreckless Eric," a mad inventor with a malfunctioning time machine. Corbett Vanoni, a freelance illustrator and designer, contributes a Mad magazine style story based on his slacker efforts at getting a strip done by deadline for "Zowie: One." Jon McNally takes cute to another level with his character "Raspberry Swirl."
Reynolds' own contribution is "Jenn Erik -- Space Adventurer." A wanna-be space adventurer with her alien dog sidekick, Erik can't begin saving planets until she gets her spaceship out of hoc. To raise money, she tries her hand at stripping. And as Reynolds says, "Hilarity ensues... I hope."
This isn't Reynold's first foray into self-publishing. At Comic-Con International in San Diego last year, he and Vanoni unleashed "Zowie" #0 to the unsuspecting crowd. Unsuspecting because no one had ever heard of it. The duo hadn't advertised and depended entirely on word of mouth. The end result was a collection of "Zowie" #0s collecting dust in Vanoni's house.
"What was really weird was that this same group did a sketchbook that year, and it sold better than the comic," Reynolds says. "The sketchbook was $10, the comic was only $3."
But Reynolds has confidence "Zowie: One" will do better. Besides that, he has low aspirations -- he only wants to see the book break even and above that, hopes buyers enjoy the product.
"Everyone that was involved with this book is a personal investor, they all chipped in on publishing expenses," Reynolds says. "We've talked about it, and a lot of them have agreed, if this breaks even, we want to do another issue of Zowie. For the next issue, we're thinking about doing a theme -- maybe all the stories take place in space, or something like that."
"I hope the readers like it. Personally, I like it. I go to the comic store once a month -- I used to go every week. But now I buy a lot more independent stuff. I like the fact that you can sit down and read a funny little story and get it all at once. I'm sure there are other people out there like me."
"And hey, there's a hot chick on the cover."