It’s not often that the “Supreme Commander” of an Independent Comic Company takes the time out of his busy schedule to talk with a fledgling blog, but that is just what Dan Vado of SLG Publishing recently did. Honest and humble, Mr. Vado is one of the nicest guys in the comic industry, and after reading the interview, you’ll agree as well.
Toy-Lines: How did SLG comics come about? What kind of struggles did you have to make to get started and did you ever imagine the success you would one day have, and how did you settle on the name?
Were comics something you always wanted to do with your life?
Dan Vado: Comics were always a huge part of my life. English is not my first language; my parents are both Italian immigrants and spoke mostly Italian around me. By the time I got to school I was speaking well enough but not reading. I was in danger of being held back (this is the early 1960’s and there was no such thing as English as a Second Language (ESL) type of teaching.
The principal of my school was so stupid he thought my family was Mexican and tried speaking Spanish to me, which I guess made ME look stupid because I didn’t understand him. His Spanish was apparently terrible and he seemed un-apologetic when his mistake was pointed out to him. My first grade teacher told my parents (who clearly were unable to help me as they were challenged by the language as well) to just give me anything that I would read. So, at first I gravitated to Dr. Seuss books then went onto comic books.
Had it not been for that, I might never have really gotten the hang of the language.
At any rate, I read comics all through school, started buying and selling them in high school and had a comics shop after I graduated. I never intended on making my entire life about comics, being in the business was just something I was going to do until I figured out what else I wanted to do with my life.
TL: SLG has been around for 25 years, what have you seen in the comic field that has come and gone as a gimmick, and what are you most proud of for SLG?
DV: I guess I am most proud of still being here. Lots of people come and go; I managed to stick it out for a lot longer than most people thought I would. I am also proud that at one point we had a decent sized business going on, with staff who were paid decently and in a couple of cases got health insurance from us.
TL: Currently, what books are SLG putting out?
DV: We are in a transitionary period, so the books we are doing are mostly digital. This year we will only publish three actual books, one of them being a collection of the Filler Bunny comics by Jhonen Vasquez.
TL: Can you tell us about Shirt Designer and how that came about?
DV: We have a side business, which is actually becoming our main business, of an apparel line. In addition to our own designs we do printing and fulfillment for a couple of people who have their own apparel ideas. That company is called Tee Geniuses (www.teegeniuses.com)
TL: For several years SLG released the Disney Haunted Mansion comic. Can you tell us what it was like choosing the artists and writers for each story?
DV: The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland is one that literally spoke to me when I first rode it when I was 10. I started making up stories in my head about how all the ghosts got there and why, of all places, they hung out there.
I was scarcely the only person to feel that way, although maybe I was a little more intense about it, so I just talked to people who had been on the ride and asked them to either tell a story about one of the ghosts, or to tell a ghost story set in the mansion. Lots of people had a load of great ideas.
TL: You wrote three of my personal favorite stories in the series: Mystery of the Manse, The Interview series, and Misery of the Manse. Where did your ideas for these come from?
DV: These came from the back story I created for the ride when I was a kid. The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland is right near Pirates of the Caribbean. There are more than a couple of nautical references in the Haunted Mansion ride; I kind of spun the back story out of that.
The Interview was based on the idea that anyone can be obsessive about anything, even death, and combines it with the passion that some people felt about the ride. That spun into another story where the 999 ghosts thing was a botched curse and developed an idea of a love triangle between The Bride, Leotta and The guy hanging from the rafters.
One of the best and most touching stories in the entire series was Christopher Higginson’s story about the Groundskeeper and why he keeps such good care of the graveyard. I ended up taking from that story in my ending to Interview/Misery stories.
TL: The Groundskeeper is a great tale. I really enjoyed that one as well.
TL: Your web site has a section for comics and graphic novels that are from other companies, things like Maus to Santa Versus Dracula and everything in between. Is this something you always intended to do, help market other companies? Or is this a new direction SLG is going in?
DV: This is kind of a new direction; mostly it is a more retail strategy for the company, trying to generate more revenue without as much of the risk associated with publishing.
TL: I’m quite the Wizard of Oz fan. I enjoyed the trailer for Royal Historian of Oz. Who made the trailer and can you tell us a bit about the book?
DV: Royal Historian is a different kind of OZ book. It does not retell or rehash the old material and instead sort of makes fun of all the people doing OZ stuff today. We cut our own trailers back then.
TL: I also see you have a collection titled “Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz” which are rare Sunday comics that L. Frank Baum himself wrote. Can you tell us a bit about this?
DV: This was published by someone else; we carried it to compliment our OZ book.
TL: The Beachcomber Polynesian Restaurant (Hurricane Cove Tiki Bar Matchbook Shirt) and The Islander Tiki t-shirt are really nice. Do you plan on selling more Tiki-inspired shirts like these?
DV: Yes, there is an entire line of these shirts coming and will include some original designs.
TL: On your web site it says, “SLG Publishing: Better Comics Through Superior Firepower”. Can you tell us what that stands for?
DV: The Firepower are the comics and the talent that produces them. The slogan was a takeoff on Eisenhower’s “Peace Through Superior Firepower” slogan.
TL: What is a normal day-in-the-life for you at SLG publishing?
DV: There is no normal day in comics publishing. Every day brings a new challenge and rarely are two days alike. In recent years we have been running an all-ages music venue in our space, so on top of everything else I spend a good portion of every day booking music.
TL: Is there anything you’d like our readers to know about SLG? Future products?
DV: We are still here, although kind of quiet right now. We could really use some support from our fans right now so maybe go and get that t-shirt you were always thinking of buying.
TL: You sign your emails, “Success is not a goal, it’s a byproduct”. Can you explain that?
DV: I stole that from Friday Night Lights. It is something I say to myself every day.
TL: What would readers and fans of SLG find the most shocking about you?
DV: Shocking? Maybe that I am not a vicious drunk? That I play hockey? That I am over 50? That I am taller (or shorter or fatter) than people imagined? That would be a good poll for people who have met me.
TL: Do you have a favorite movie? What do you do to relax from a day of stress at SLG?
DV: Any Coen Brothers movie is my favorite. I have no spare time, but when I unwind I watch a lot of TV and sports.
TL: Dan, thank you so much for your time in answering these questions. I wish you and SLG the best of luck and hope the next 25 years are as successful as the past 25.
To check out all the great products SLG sells head on over to their website at: http://www.slgcomic.com/