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Comic Book Fans Step Into the Ring

Jay Payne, left, David Dean and Troy Allen devised "Bamn" while working together at a Silver Spring comic book store.
Jay Payne, left, David Dean and Troy Allen devised "Bamn" while working together at a Silver Spring comic book store. (By Naomi Brookner -- The Gazette)
By Jeremy Arias
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, January 29, 2009

For everyone who has ever picked up an issue of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and thought, "I could do better than that," meet David Dean, Jay Payne and Troy Allen. The three men published the first issue of their independent comic book last year.

Dean, 25, of Silver Spring and Payne, 25, of Chevy Chase developed the concept in 2005 when Payne began bringing sketches he'd made of character designs to the Alliance Comics store in downtown Silver Spring, where the two worked. Allen, 28, an Alliance manager who lives in Hyattsville, signed on as a writer after seeing Payne's drawings.

By October, the first 100 copies of "Bamn" were printed and ready for sale. The comic book chronicles a down-and-out professional wrestler who decides to mentor a group of high school wrestlers.

"I do believe that this is the beginning," Payne said during an interview at Alliance, where the three meet each week to work on the next issue, due out in April. "After [the first issue] I talked to the guys, and I wanted to know where their heads were as far as their ambition was concerned, and we all put our hands together saying we wanted to go the whole 10 yards."

"Bamn," named after the main character, could run for about 50 issues, its creators said. The team put up the money to print and advertise it. The men sold 70 copies at the 2008 Small Press Expo in Bethesda and have moved several copies on the Web site of ComiXpress, an independent printing and marketing company based in New Jersey.

"Our goal is to get it done, get it out there and see our idea develop," Dean said. "Once we got issue one inked, we Googled 'how to self-publish a comic' and found ComiXpress. . . . We've been with them since."

The trio spent about $145 printing the first 100 copies, plus about $600 for promotional materials to sell the comic at the convention, Dean said. The three hope that the book, which goes for $2.99, will catch on in the indie crowd and that sales will increase as they work on more regular release dates for issues.

"The guys from 'Bamn' are actually very typical of our average customer," said Logan DeAngelis, president of ComiXpress. "These were guys trying to scrape together enough money to get their printing done and see a profit."

Funding aside, Dean, Payne and Allen said they are excited to be realizing a dream as well as telling a semi-autobiographical story. Allen spent six months working with a wrestling promoter while he attended Montgomery College. He tried to break into professional wrestling but was turned off by what he called the darker side of the business, one of the major themes facing the main character.

"People use steroids, people use drugs, and there's a lot of political stuff going on backstage, and you start to realize that these people are people, they're not characters," he said.

Another theme is the underdog story of wrestling fans trying to make it big. In the first issue, Bamn meets with the group of students. After seeing them tormented by the school's wrestling team, the pro-turned-drunk decides to help them fight back. He cleans up his act in the process.

"I would talk to the promoter about the concept of, maybe we should do a thing where the backyard guys fight the pro guys that you actually have in [professional wrestling] already," Allen said. "Nothing ever came of that, of course, but flash forward a couple of years, and that's ultimately what 'Bamn' is about."

With Payne and Dean creating the art and design and Allen crafting the dialogue, the "Bamn" team might look to break into the mainstream comics industry someday. But for now, the three are content in their roles as friendly neighborhood comic book creators.

"We're hopeful, but at the same time it feels really good to own it and to do this on our own," Payne said. "I feel that we're very comforted keeping it as our own. It's early going, and I think the excitement that we have, we'd like to keep it a little longer."

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