Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
SLG Publishing has been a major part of the American comics industry, helping to usher in notable creators like Charles Soule, Jhonen Vasquez and Jim Rugg. But for the past few years the publisher has been struggling.
Founder Dan Vado has been public about the company’s financial status, turning to crowdfunding platforms for help in keeping the business afloat — but with little success. He organized two unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns in 2012, and returned this year, first with a GoFundMe effort and now with Patreon.
While none of the campaigns have reached the stated goal, Vado remains hopeful. The comics industry has witnessed numerous successful crowdfunding campaigns (even on a publisher level, such as with Fantagraphics), but SLG’s plight underscores that, unfortunately, they don’t all work out that way. But what’s so different about SLG’s situation?
Manga | Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto comes to an end in next week’s issue of Shonen Jump, but it’s not going away. Already side projects are popping up, including a miniseries that will launch in the spring, marking the 15th anniversary of the manga, and a series of novels about the different characters in the franchise. It all seems to be part of something bigger, the “Naruto Shin Jidai Kaimaku Project” (Naruto‘s New Era Opening Project), and the official Naruto website has a countdown to an announcement on Monday. [Anime News Network]
Digital comics | Tom Spurgeon talks to comiXology’s Chip Mosher about the comiXology Submit program, which is tailored for small publishers and self-published work. To prepare for the interview, Spurgeon gathered questions from creators at the Small Press Expo (which comiXology co-sponsored), and he talks to Mosher about the nuts and bolts of the Submit program, including payments, processing and the willingness to handle unusual formats. “We’ve had people sell thousands of copies and we’ve had people sell one or two copies,” Mosher says. “People have told me they’ve paid their rent with money from Submit. Or they were able to work on more comics with the money they made from Submit. It’s great to offer our customers such diverse comics from the program and at the same time be able to support the creation of more diverse work.” [The Comics Reporter]
Last fall, SLG Publishing announced it was being forced to relocate its office space and Art Boutiki gallery, with Publisher Dan Vado mentioning there likely would be some fundraising efforts to help pay for the move. We now have some details of at least part of those plans.
John Backderf (My Friend Dahmer) recently posted some art to his Facebook page, noting that it’s his contribution to SLG Stories, Volume 2: Too Stupid to Die, an anthology to help raise the money the publisher needs. I contacted Vado for for information about the project, but he says he’s still ironing out the details. He did say, however, there are some creators he’s published for whom he no longer has contact information. Former SLG creators who would like to contribute, but haven’t yet heard from Vado can contact him at email@example.com. Any help in spreading the word would also be appreciated.
It’s become an annual tradition during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of people we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we have in past years, we have asked various comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they are excited about for 2013.
Check out Part One, and keep reading to see more of what people shared with us, including details on their upcoming projects. Our thanks to everyone who responded this year. Also, thanks again to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
SAM HUMPHRIES (The Ultimates, Sacrifice, Uncanny X-Force)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
SLG Publishing will be forced this spring to close its San Jose, California, offices and Art Boutiki & Gallery to make way for a new apartment building. The Market Street location, which Publisher Dan Vado lovingly refers to as a “stinking rat-hole,” has been home to SLG for nearly 11 years.
“The property is scheduled to be razed and have an apartment building built,” Vado tells Metroactive. “When that will happen, we’re not sure, but we were informed that we should be looking for a new place to do business.”
Located in downtown San Jose’s SoFA District, the SLG Art Boutiki is a combination comics store and gallery that for the past three years has also been host to all-ages live-music performances; it’s also home to the San Jose Comics Festival. While Vado tells Metroactive they can probably remain on Market Street as late as the end of the summer, on the Art Boutiki website he teases he’s already “singled out a location that will allow us to continue to be one of the coolest places in Silicon Valley.” However, no contracts have been signed.
In the meantime Vado plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the relocation.
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
Small press publisher SLG Publishing has applied for a grant through Chase Bank and LivingSocial’s Mission: Small Business program and would like your help in obtaining it. Mission: Small Business was created to “increase awareness of the important role small businesses play in local communities and to help small businesses grow.” To that end, they’ll offer $250,000 grants to four to 12 small-business owners. To even be considered, SLG needs to gain the support of at least 250 people who are willing to vote for the company in a show of support. That’s where we come in.
SLG is a vital part of the comics industry, having given first breaks to such creators as Evan Dorkin, Andi Watson and Jhonen Vasquez. A $250,000 grant would go a long way toward helping the company continue doing that, and it costs nothing to vote. In addition to helping SLG, every vote gets Chase to add another $5 to the grant pool, thus adding to the potential for more businesses to receive grants.
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.”
Publishing | Jennifer de Guzman announced that, after 10 years, she has left her position as editor-in-chief of SLG Publishing: “My decade SLG was, I suspect, like no other decade anyone has spent working anywhere. I had great co-workers and got to work with fantastic creators, all of whom I will miss very much. (Though because this is comics and a community like no other, we will always stay in contact.)” [Possible Impossibilities]
Retailing | Chris Powell, current general manager and chief relationship officer for Texas-based comic chain Lone Star Comics, has accepted the newly created position of executive director of business development for Diamond Comic Distributors. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board member will start his new position in March. [ICv2]
Crime | A drunken Coventry, England, man was arrested for selling drugs outside a nightclub while dressed as the Incredible Hulk. According to the article, “Police were alerted by his costume which was based on the TV and film character who becomes green and superhuman when angry.” [Coventry Telegraph]
Creators | Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North discusses his work on BOOM!’s upcoming Adventure Time comic. [ComicsAlliance]
Creators | Colleen Doran posts some character designs she worked up years ago for a never-completed animation project written by Warren Ellis; she admits to using Star Trek actor George Takei as the model for the main character. [A Distant Soil]
“In January, we will start re-releasing Johnny the Homicidal Maniac as digital comics. When that one comes out, issue #1 (my prediction) will become the top selling digital comic, outselling even Marvel and DC titles. We are going to take our time with that one, as I want to make sure we have all of our outlets selling it at exactly the same time.”
– SLG Publisher Dan Vado, discussing the company’s recent decision to release comics digitally first
Indy publisher SLG, the home of Halo and Sprocket, Pinocchio Vampire Slayer, and Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer: A Story About Chickens, will begin publishing all its serialized comics in digital format rather than print. President and publisher Dan Vado summed up the situation rather neatly in the company’s press release: On the one hand, the market for print comics is dwindling; on the other hand, serialized comics allow creators to build up a fanbase before releasing a completed graphic novel. Digital allows the company to bypass Diamond’s quotas and avoid some of the costs of print comics while ensuring as wide a distribution as possible. The first two comics to be distributed this way are Stephen Coughlin’s Sanctuary and Chris Wisnia’s Monstrosis. In both cases, the first issue is available as a free download from the SLG site or through the iTunes store, and subsequent issues are priced at 99 cents each.
SLG got into the digital game early, offering downloads of its comics from its website, and their strategy now seems to be to make the comics available in as many channels as possible: By direct download from their site as well as through iTunes (for the iBooks app), Nook, and the comiXology and iVerse services.
While this is an unusual step, there is a certain logic to it. Phil and Kaja Foglio did it years ago, switching Girl Genius from serialized comics to a free webcomic, and they found that sales of their graphic novels increased, while they were able to avoid the cost of laying out and printing the monthly comics. The Foglios already had a large fan base when they made the move, however. SLG has a diverse set of offerings, so it’s less of a slam dunk, but it’s worth watching to see if they can make digital-first distribution work.
SLG Publishing‘s booth at SDCC [Booth #1815, right next to DC Comics] is going to be extremely busy this year with a number of SLG creators making appearances. Three first-time graphic novelists, Joe Pimienta, Lindsay Hornsby, and Lauren Affe, will be debuting their book, A Friendly Game, at SDCC–and will be at the SLG booth as well. The book (which SLG gave a 10-page preview here) is described as follows: “Friends play many kinds of games with each other: cops and robbers, checkers, tag. The best of friends will make up their own games. Todd and Kevin’s friendship is built on such a game. However, the rules and premise are far from the typical childhood games. A dispute amongst the two splits them into very different directions: one sees the game for the cruel act that it is, while the other decides it must move to the next level. Imagine No Country for Old Men crossed with Lord of the Flies, or even imagine if Johnny the Homicidal Maniac were once a little kid. There you have a Friendly Game.” Thanks to assistance from SLG’s Dan Vado and Jennifer de Guzman, I was able to email interview all three characters. If you’re at SDCC, be sure to check this book out while you’re there–and even if you’re not, once you read the preview–SLG’s made it quite convenient for you to order the book. It was a pleasure to interview the three creators and I hope this is the first of many times we’ll be seeing their names in years to come.
Tim O’Shea: Did the idea for this story find its start at Savannah College of Art and Design ([SCAD] where all three of you attended)?
Joe Pimienta: Yes. It originally started as an 8-page story I did for scripting class. But part of the assignment was to have drawn pages and character designs, so, I asked Lindsay to do that. Once I finished the assignment, I put it away and didn’t think about it until 6 months later when Lindsay took advanced scripting and asked me if we could develop the story more. I was surprised, since the subject matter was so different from what she normally does. We talked about a bigger story arc, making my short story only the first pages for the final story arc. It wasn’t until senior project, 2 years later, that we actually started drawing pages for it.
The comic book industry is populated with a vast array of good people–and Dan Vado, head of SLG Publishing is one of them. When I heard about this Saturday’s San Jose Comics Festival (January 16 from 12 to 5 PM–for the reasonable price of FREE), I sought out Vado for an email interview. We also discussed the SLG Radio podcast (my current favorite comics podcast at present) for a bit.
Tim O’Shea: In discussing the festival recently with CBR’s Kiel Phegley you described how successful the San Jose area in terms of festivals, noting that with a past event SLG “managed to get over 1,500 people to come out to downtown San Jose on a Wednesday night”. What is it about San Jose that makes it tend to so strongly support festivals/gatherings of this type?
Dan Vado: The snide answer is that there really isn’t much going on here, but that would not be the truth. There actually is a lot going on, but not enough that covers the middle ground of people who have slightly older kids to teens and the older music and bar scene. The 1,500 number was in reference to a zombie crawl we sponsored. While we put it together as a pub crawl, the sheer number of people with families that came out was astounding.
Dan Vado and Drew Rausch are working on a new series called Winchester, which is about wealthy widow Sarah Winchester and the insane house she built, and built, and built, over the course of 38 years in San Jose, Calif. Legend has it that the house was haunted by the ghosts of all the people killed with Winchester rifles, and the only way to appease them was for the house to be continuously under construction.
SLG Publishing had some of the artwork from the book at their booth in San Diego, and it looked pretty amazing. You can check out what it’ll look like for yourself right here:
For more information on the comic, read the full press release from SLG.