Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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?
Veronica Darkwater lives in a world that’s a bit jagged around the edges. That’s because she’s the heroine of Matt Ritter and Adam Elbatimy’s Nova Phase, a comic that is drawn in an 8-bit style reminiscent of old-school video games.
Robot 6 readers got a sneak peek at the first issue late last year, and now the first two issues are available on comiXology; the first issue is free, and the second is just 99 cents. Ritter and Elbatimy plan on a six-issue story to be released digitally first, with every two issues collected into a print comic by SLG Publishing. Eventually, the whole story will be collected in one print volume.
This comic raises some interesting questions of technique and format, so I asked Ritter and Elbatimy to share some of their process and their thinking.
Robot 6: I know everyone asks this, but I’m going to start with it anyway: Where did the idea for this comic come from? Why do a space opera about a bounty hunter in 8-bit-style art? Did the story come first, or was the art a part of the concept from the beginning?
Matthew Ritter: I was interning over at Dark Horse Entertainment, and I wanted to pitch them something before I left. So I contacted my artist friend Adam, who I had worked on other projects with/for. We both loved comics and pixel art, so as we tossed ideas back and forth we settled on pixel art. We talked about some video game spoof comics and other ideas, and eventually I wrote a little short piece set in the Nova Phase world, he liked it, and so we went on from that.
Comics and video games. Chances are if you like one, you like the other to some degree. And if that’s the case, a lovingly old-school graphics to an upcoming comic series might hit that sweet spot and win you over.
Writer Matthew Ritter and artist Adam Elbahtimy’s Nova Phase is a six-issue seriescoming by way of SLG Publishing that uses the nostalgic 8-bit pixelated graphics to create a new sci-fi story. Described by Ritter as “full of pixel art, adventure and crushed dreams,” Nova Phase will premiere in January as a digital-first release through comiXology, with subsequent issues released monthly and a print collections of the first two issues in February.
Nova Phase is a treasure hunt through the blackness of space, with these pixelated heroes and villains going after one goal: a mythical world bearing untold wealth called Una Tesara. On one side is a down-on-her-luck bounty hunter named Veronica Darkwater, who’s vying for the treasure with a crazy military commander seemingly pulled straight out of the original Metal Gear or Bionic Commando.
So suit up, commandos! Here’s an extensive preview provided by the creators to get you dialed in.
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.
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.
Like clockwork, Comic-Con International organizers have released the programming schedule for Friday, July 13, the second full day of the San Diego convention. It sees publishers kicking things into high gear, with Marrvel’s “Cup O’ Joe” and DC Comics panels on the New 52 and Justice League and Green Lantern groups, as well as presentations from IDW Publishing, Oni Press, BOOM! Studios, UDON, and Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly.
That’s only for starters, though, as AMC’s The Walking Dead, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The CW’s Arrow make Comic-Con appearances, and creators as diverse as Joss Whedon, Kate Beaton, Larry Hama, Scott Snyder, Lynn Johnston, Dan Piraro, James Robinson and Jeff Lemire get the spotlight. There are also tributes to legendary creators Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon, as well as Comic-Con co-founder Richard Alf.
And to keep off the day, there’s the 24th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.
We’ve selected some of the comics-related highlights below; visit the Comic-Con website to see the complete schedule.
Before Reed Richards ever convinced his friends to join him on a rocket trip to outer space, and before the Avengers ever assembled, their co-creator Jack Kirby had spent years at Marvel working on a different kind of mutated comic: monsters. And although Kirby may be gone, others have proudly pushed on in his stead, and now an upcoming graphic novel by Chris Wisnia is lofting the freak flag one more time in a Kirby-infused panorama of man versus monster.
Released by the fine folks at SLG Publishing, the graphic novel Monstrosis: The Giant Russian Monster Conspiracy has Wisnia taking his intrepid photojournalist character Doris Danger into the belly of the beast — literally — when she goes out to uncover the truth about monsters. Along the way she’s bound to meet “the world’s greatest actor” Dirk Doole, Army Commander Luke Luggash and a librarian-turned-behemonth known as … Pootwah.
Although Wisnia might be a veritable unknown in comics circles, his pop Kirby art homage recalls the King himself … and Wisnia has enlisted a few modern greats of his own in the form of guest inkers like Mike Allred, Herb Trimple and Bill Sienkiewicz, and pin-ups from everyone from Neal Adams to Simon Bisley.
This seems like a unique weekend read, celebrating Kirby’s epic style in the hands of someone new and reveling in insane monster wackiness.
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.”
Robot 6 has covered cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks on multiple occasions concerning her comics, but this time we’re discussing something new: what kind of living she makes as a cartoonist. Hicks recently opened up about the financial realities of her life as a working cartoonist in a blog post supplementing her current webcomic Friends With Boys, which First Second will release later this year as a graphic novel. Hicks isn’t the first to share such intimate details on the business of comics, but the picture she paints with it is surprising in many ways.
“First of all, never in a million years did I think I would be able to pay my rent by drawing comics,” Hicks wrote, “or even through doing the freelance art thing. Sometime I cringe inwardly when I tell people that I write and draw comics for a living, because sometimes it doesn’t feel like that; it’s more like I’ve taken a vacation from some real job to draw comics, and eventually I will return to the workforce when I run out of money.”
As we reported this morning, longtime editor-in-chief Jennifer de Guzman left SLG Publishing Friday after 10 years with the company. It’s now known that she began work today as Image Comics’ new PR and marketing coordinator.
Sarah deLaine, who was promoted to that position a year ago, has been named Image’s event coordinator.
“My decade [at] SLG was, I suspect, like no other decade anyone has spent working anywhere,” de Guzman wrote on her blog. “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.)
An award-winning writer who contributes graphic novel reviews and articles to Publishers Weekly Comics Week, de Guzman was named Friends of Lulu’s 2006 Woman of Distinction. She and husband Brian Belew also collaborated on a series of comics/columns for Robot 6 in 2009.
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]
Back in 2009 writer Van Jensen and artist Dusty Higgins introduced three simple yet brilliant words into the comic book vocabulary–Pinocchio Vampire Slayer. Over the course of the previous two volumes, the little wooden boy and his friends won our hearts–and staked a few along the way–as each lie brought a new weapon to use against Pinocchio’s enemies.
The print version of the final volume, Of Wood and Blood, isn’t due until this summer, but SLG Publishing will release it as a series of digital comics on comiXology and their own website (we managed to get an advance copy, which you can read right now). The first issue is free, while subsequent issues will cost 99 cents.
I caught up with Jensen and Higgins to talk about the third volume, what the series has meant to them and what they plan to do after it’s finished.
JK Parkin: What was going through your heads as you put the finishing touches on this volume? Was it bittersweet, relief, accomplishment … or some combination of all three? Did the fact that this is your last hurrah with these characters make it more difficult to finish?
Van Jensen: It was kind of an emotional conclusion for me, I’ll admit. I didn’t want to say goodbye to any of the characters, even the drunkards in the bar in Rome. Beyond that, this third book is in some ways a long meditation on death (don’t worry, there’s still plenty of humor!), so I think I’d been in a pretty dark mindset for the months that I was writing it. But, as usual, I was mostly excited to see Dusty take my script and bring it to life.
Dusty Higgins: What keeps popping back into my head as I finish these last pages (and I’ve still got a lot to go) is a sense of wonder that three years into this project I’m still working on it. When I first approached Van the with the idea, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be working on a third volume. I’d actually intended to get that first book out and move on to something else, but things happen and the story took on a life of its own. It’s always a bit sad to look at a page and think, that might be the last time I draw that character and there are redshirt vampires I’ve felt that way about, but it’s also a relief knowing soon our foray into Pinocchio’s world will be complete in a way that Van and I are both satisfied with. We didn’t make concessions on the story, we told it the way we wanted to and we’re not dragging it out for the sake of dragging it out. Knowing you have that creative freedom and being able to finish a story the way you feel it should finish… that’s what makes me want to keep doing this.
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]
The third and final volume of Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins’ Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer trilogy will debut next month as a serialized digital comic, available through the SLG Publishing website and comiXology.
Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer: Of Wood and Blood picks up where the cliffhanger ending of the second volume left off, with Pinocchio and his friends shipwrecked and Carlotta in the clutches of the vampires. The first issue will be available for free, and each subsequent issue will be 99 cents. Jensen said they decided to serialize the book digitally to support SLG publisher Dan Vado’s digital first initiative, in which SLG comics debut electronically. A print edition of Of Wood and Blood is planned for summer 2012.
You can check out the cover for the second issue, which also comes out in January, after the jump.