North Phoenix comic book geek and IT guy Shawn Demumbrum had a simple gift idea for his two children: He'd write out a short mini-comic book for each of them and he'd try to get it published for Free Comic Book Day, an annual event where retailers give out independently-made comics, as well as big-name titles.
A year later, his two children's story creations, "The Adventures of Spazzy the Superdog" and "Annoying Cactus Boy", were born. But Demumbrum had a problem -- Annoying Cactus Boy was formless. Demumbrum says he's a writer, not an artist, and he couldn't find anyone willing to draw his main character. He put out a call to artists in the area:
"You come to me with ideas, and I'll write them."
Ernie Najara, a local illustrator, brought Demumbrum "Old Man Clem," a story of a retired super soldier from Vietnam spurred into action by a bank robbery. Issue no. 1 of SpazDog Press, titled after "Spazzy the Superdog," came to being.
And before long, Demumbrum had a team on his hands.
"It's like the Beatles with George Martin," says Jacques La Grange, a San Carlos Apache Native American who came to Demumbrum with an idea for a Native American hero, Shadow Wolf. La Grange's story -- inspired by his want to create a hero for Native Americans in the way Bruce Lee was for Asian Americans -- turned into another series for SpazDog Press.
After having a child (and losing a great amount of sleep), artist Matt Goodall pitched Demumbrum the idea for "Sonic Youth," a series about a newborn with a sonic scream, which borrows names of some characters from Goodall's home life.
SpazDog also enlisted an inker, Derrick West, to help out with the publication.
The comics, along with a fourth titled "The Purge," are printed at home by Demumbrum, then folded and stapled by hand by the team before being distributed to local comic book stores. Retailers around the Valley -- including Atomic Comics, Samurai Comics, and Jesse James Comics and Collectables -- currently stock SpazDog Press' creations.
The project is funded with out-of-pocket seed money from Demumbrum and the artists. They don't advertise yet, either, but they do give a nod to local artists and writers with a free ad for TINY ARMY, a Valley artist and writer's group.
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If SpazDog takes off in the future, Dumumbrum and his team will be ready.
"[Demumbrum is] preparing us to go into battle," La Grange says, laughing.
You can meet Demumbrum and some of the artists at Tucson Comic-Con on November 6. For more info on SpazDog, visit spazdogpress.com.