Once upon a time in the mid-1990s Wow Cool was an active distributor of zines and independent comic books to retail markets. Apart from the indie-friendly comic books shops, many of our clients were cafes, regular bookstores and record shops. Sadly, there does not seem to be any sort of active distributor for this kind of small press and comic book material to these markets today. Our clients included Rick Veitch’s King Hell, Fantagraphics (as you can see below) and just about every worthwhile small publisher or self-publishing artist out there. We were probably the single largest direct distributor of zines to physical retail locations at that time. For our sins we were featured in a special on CNN and in endless write-ups on the ‘Zine Explosion.
I was looking for the printed Wow Cool wholesale catalogs from the mid-90s to share today. Instead I found a folder of the old layout boards. Most of them were actual paste-up boards with paper and film attached with wax. Elements from one month that would be reused the next would be peeled off and pasted down on the new layout. The above cover to the September 1995 catalog – featuring some art by Al Columbia and myself – is one of those. There are blank areas where art had been removed to be reused. That red stuff is rubylith; it was used to mask areas to be printed as black in this case.
The interior layout below was from the November/December 1995 wholesale catalog. It’s just pasted up on grid paper. I’ve included it less for the stunning design and more for the interesting content. This is what was new and hot 17 years ago, folks. Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library #6 was brand new… that one makes my head hurt. What’s going on in the lower left there? Why is the type so much bigger for Underwhere than for Storyville? Who is this Sirk fella? What the hell were we thinking with that godawful description of Storyville anyway?