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NYCC: Slave Labor Graphics' Dan Vado Talks Disney Licensed Comics

Slave Labor Graphics' Dan VadoOn the first day of this weekend’s New York Comic Con, Toon Zone News managed to catch up briefly with Slave Labor Graphics founder, President, and Publisher Dan Vado about his licensed Disney comics based on Gargoyles, Alice in Wonderland, Tron, and the Haunted Mansion live-action movie. Vado had recently commented in his weblog that the initiative had not gone as well as he had hoped. Simply put, Vado stated that the company had bitten off more than it could chew at once by attempting to launch four licensed comic book titles at once. In hindsight, Vado said that it would have been a better plan to license only one comic book first and work out the kinks in the process before launching the entire line.

Vado also told us that he wants to renew the licensing contract in 2008, but added that he really has no idea how Disney feels about the comics initiative, and couldn’t rule out an amicable parting of the ways as a possible future. At this time, he said he had no solid ideas on what would come next.

The hardest part of the Disney deal was that it consumed so much time that some of Slave Labor Graphics’ creator-owned comics efforts fell off a bit — something which the company is dealing with now. Vado described his current efforts with the Disney comics as a course correction, partially required due to the nature of selling comic books to the direct market and also to resume their efforts on their creator-owned catalog of comics. While Vado had been hoping that the Disney comics would raise Slave Labor Graphics’ profile and boost sales of the other titles in the direct market, it seemed that many retailers opted to replace any existing Slave Labor orders with orders for the Disney comics instead. He added that the average consumer just doesn’t enjoy purchasing monthly comics.

When asked about the possibility of options or adaptation in other media for existing Slave Labor properties, Vado noted that Eric Jones and Landry Walker’s Little Gloomy comic was optioned and might become a live-action movie. He also said he thought James Turner’s Rex Libris would be a great prime-time cartoon in something like an Adult Swim block, and that there has been interest in the title but nothing definitive yet.

Vado said that the best thing that fans can do for the Disney comics like Gargoyles and Tron is to continue bothering their local comic book shops to order the books, tell their friends about them, or even just order the books off Slave Labor Graphics’ website. He said that the on-line fandom for Gargoyles and Tron were well aware of the titles and that their support has been solid, but there was still a recognition issue because many people still don’t know the comics exist. He even said that people coming up to him on the show floor that day told him that they didn’t know that the company was publishing a Tron comic. However, he holds out hope that the collected editions of the comics will be the product that gains the comics wider recognition.

Regarding collected editions of the comics, Vado said that Disney has the first right of refusal for book editions, and that they will definitely be doing the trade paperback collecting the Haunted Mansion and Wonderland comics. Vado speculated that Disney may end up selling more copies than Slave Labor would have been able to due to their more efficient marketing organization. He had no release date information to share yet, although he guessed that a Gargoyles collection would be released “probably before the end of the year.” If Disney doesn’t want to publish the collected editions, he said that Slave Labor would probably do it themselves.

Finally, Vado updated us on the status of the current Gargoyles comics. He said that issue #3 is complete and currently pending Disney approval, while issue #4 is penciled and inked and is being colored now. He said that the the new coloring studio working on Gargoyles really “gets” the art style, and that both “didn’t want it to be just another licensed comic.”

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