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The economic downturn over the past few years has hit everyone across the globe to some degree, and despite stories of invincibility and super-powers, comics are no different. That becomes crystal clear when you read a recent blog post by SLG Publishing’s Dan Vado. Meant to bring attention to the Kickstarter campaign to help finance upgrades SLG’s side business as a brick-and-mortar art gallery, he opens up about the realities of publishing and SLG’s own unique state in it.
“The thing we did here that we sort of made our name on, publishing new creators and introducing them to the comic book marketplace, was never easy and now feels almost impossible,” admits Vado. “The sour economy and the rapid disappearance of places where we sell our books (including the Hot Topic chain of stored dropping comics as a category in their stores) took more than a toll on us. New releases which once sold a few thousand copies now only sell a few hundred copies. we have cut our line back pretty dramatically and where we once published 2-3 titles a month will now only be publishing a handful of titles this year.”
While some people might discount the hit of Hot Topic getting out of the comic business had for SLG, back in the late 90s and early 00s it was a key part of SLG’s business and put SLG’s comics in over 400 Hot Topic stores in malls nationwide. In the years since, SLG has tightened its belt and downsized its publishing offerings and its staff; earlier this year, Jennifer de Guzman left her position as Editor-In-Chief to become Image’s Public Relations and Marketing Director, leaving the full-time staff at SLG just Vado and Operations Manager Bryan Dobrow.
With the downturn, Vado opened the previously mentioned SLG side business, titled the Art Boutiki & Gallery.
“So we have for the last few months been looking for ways to generate more non-publishing revenue because, to be honest, I can no longer make a living publishing comics,” Vado says frankly. “Since I do not want to STOP publishing comics, I have to make a living doing something else and my preference would be to have that living be something that I can easily work around my life as a comics publisher. Thus, the music venue and art gallery business.”
Headquartered in San Jose, California, its proximity to the famed Silicon Valley has led it to become a “desirable” all-ages music venue, according to Vado. In addition to hosting music performances, they also run monthly art shows, swap meets and a small comics convention called the San Jose Comics Festival.
Since its founding in 1986, SLG has been called home for a number of notable creators and their creator-owned concepts that ended up segueing to larger publishers. Those include Evan Dorkin, Rick Remender, Ethan Nicolle, Ted Naifeh, Ed Brubaker, Jhonen Vasquez, Roman Dirge, Andi Watson, Ross Campbell, Sean McKeever, Jim Rugg and Gene Yang. The current stage of SLG is especially ironic given that the publishers original name was “Slave Labor Graphics” before shortening it to SLG because of the stigma attached to the idea of slave labor wages for the comics they produce.
Currently, Vado has raised just over $2,000 of the $15,000 goal for is SLG Art Boutiki Kickstarter campaign, with eight days remaining.