AiPT: We are here at Action Labs. Can you tell us who you are?
Vito: My name is Vito Delsante and I’m the Director of Marketing and I am also the creator of Stray.
AiPT: Since you are the creator Stray, do you want to tell us a little bit about it?
Vito: Stray is a four issue limited series that is currently in trade paperback form. It’s about a former sidekick that quit five years ago and is now back to solve the murder of his mentor.
AiPT: What do you have planned in the upcoming months?
Vito: We actually have a fun initiative starting next month in November. It’s called ActionVerse and it’s basically all the superheroes that we do. They are all creator-owned, but they are all the superheroes that we do. They are now part of the same universe with the exception of one or two but you will see that in the mini-series. We are going to start with ActionVerse #0 which will be the first actual team up of Molly Danger, Midnight Tiger, and Stray which everyone seems to be excited about. Then we have a six issue mini-series starting in February with all of the ActionVerse centric characters. We have First Hero, Virtue from Fracture, Midnight Tiger, Molly, and Stray. We have the Hero Cats in there as well. The newest member of the ActionVerse is Action Lab: Dog of Wonder which I am also writing.
We are being told we are crazy because we are an independent comic book publisher in the market of Marvel and DC. But we are going to try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As creators we are all very adamant and proud of our characters and creations. We really want to put them out there in a way that, maybe a way, people are more familiar with like an event comic. We don’t want to do an event comic every year or every six months or anything like that. We just want to kind of present it in a way that people haven’t seen.
On Halloween, we have an ActionVerse primer, it’s got eight pages that is the preview for ActionVerse #0 and then we have a preview for Action Lab: Dog of Wonder. More importantly, because we know you don’t know who these characters are, we have profile pages in the style of the old DC “Who’s who” so all of the major characters that are in ActionVerse, you guys will know who they are by the time the actual mini-series starts.
AiPT: It looks really cool, a good idea.
Vito: I’m very proud of that because I designed it and I’m not a designer at all. Myself and Sean Izaakse, who is my co-creator on Stray, we just both kind of put it together and I was like, “Oh, look at this. It looks so good. I am so happy.”
AiPT: I actually think that is a really neat idea to introduce new readers to the comics.
Vito: Yeah, and it’s a free book. That’s even better. More people are going to see that, more people are going to read all those pages and hopefully absorb it. And maybe one of them will be their favorite by the time the mini starts or by the time the mini-series ends. I think we did a really good job trying to introduce the characters.
AiPT: I wanted to ask a little bit of technical questions about marketing. I have some experience in my field.
Vito (jokingly): I’ll be honest. I’m not that great at it. I’m sure any of our creators will tell you I’m not that great.
AiPT: What do you see as the future for marketing with smaller publishers?
Vito: I think the focus is always going to be on the creator whether it is creator-owned stuff like an Image, but Image is a lot bigger than us. But for us our creators are the lifeblood of our publishing imprint. It’s always about getting the creators out there. Doing store signings, doing library events, doing kids festivals, or something like that. Book festivals like they are doing outside right now. There is an Action Lab booth at that book festival. It’s about getting people to know who the creators are. I think if you know who the creators are, you will actually care about their creations. It’s kind of like putting that focus out there.
We are going to start a new marketing campaign around the holidays, called Action Lab is Family. You are going to see all of us with our families or with each other. Kind of like the brotherhood and sisterhood of what we do and who we are. We have this other one that is going to be starting sometime next year called Dreams in Action. We actually focus on the creators, and why are you creating. These are going to be full sized ads in our books. Why are you creating? Why did you create this? Questions like that.
AiPT: I’ve been going around and that’s the biggest question that I want to know and I think a lot of other people want to know. Why did you get into comics? Why are you doing comics like that? So why did you get into comics?
Vito: Ah damn it. I knew you were going to ask! Why did I create comics? Part of it is, is because making movies costs so much money. And I was always an actor and as an actor I thought that I was always reading well for roles, but I wasn’t getting parts so I figured alright let me get into writing screenplays. I got into writing screenplays. It’s just as hard to sell a screenplay as it is to become an actor. This was in ’96 — like real early in the AOL days. I put on a message board, “Does anyone need a script doctor?” Two guys contacted me and they were both comic book creators. They were like, “Can you look at my script for this?” When I saw their scripts I did some research.
I found this amazing piece Kurt Busiek has on his website. It’s called Ad Astra. I don’t know if it was a news group conversation or if it was a talk at a university, but it reads like a seminar. It was basically how do you write for comics, how do you write for this medium. Way before there were any kinds of books on it. Again ’96. There wasn’t really an internet at that point. It was just all America Online. I read that and I absorbed it and I still use it to this day. Everything I learned in that is how I write my scripts. I took that and when I saw how these guys were formatting their scripts I was like “This is all wrong.” So I redid everything, and again I was already in screenwriting, so I had to relearn something as well. I’m trying to teach them how to do it and it became everything. I learned the format myself. It becomes like your second arm. Second arm, if that even makes sense. It just becomes second nature.
At first it was because I couldn’t afford to make a movie and then it was I can’t see this thing as anything else. It’s very weird because a lot of times because people are like, “Well I did this comic to be a storyboard for a film.” I don’t write my books to be anything but comics. I don’t begrudge anybody for doing something that can be translated to other mediums intentionally. But I think that’s why I do comics because I love comics.
It’s the beauty of comics is that it is its own kind of medium. Not a genre but a medium. For me that’s really, that’s everything. I’ve been in love with comics since I was a kid. Somehow making them I’m still in love with them. Because it is a hard thing. You quit every week at least once a week when you are really invested in it. It’s a passion. As long as I can share that passion. With Stray, it was very weird because I had a kid, I say kid because I’m 42 years old, I had a kid contact me on Facebook and say, “I lost my father at a young age, this is exactly the book I was looking for.” And now with Action Lab, I’m going to have kids learning about dog safety and how to be a dog owner.
[At this point the PA announced Edward James Olmos of Battle Star Galactica and Stand and Deliver was available to meet]
Vito: Miami Vice!?! What are you.. you forgot Miami Vice!
With Action Lab we are going to try and encourage kids to learn about dog safety and dog ownership and responsibility. We are going to have a really cool story in the front and in the back matter, kind of like the way Brubaker does with Criminal and those things. We are going to have an actual dog expert talk about being a dog owner and why we shouldn’t be afraid of certain breeds of dogs. You have to be careful anyway and stuff like that.
AiPT: That sounds really cool. I really like that idea.
Vito: I’m a pitbull owner.
AiPT: I have one too. I have a Staffordshire Terrior, pit bull whatever you want to call them.
Vito: Yea. For me that kind of breed specific legislation stuff that they are trying to abolish. I’m all for that. It’s not the breed. It’s the owner. If I can get that kind of word out there because it’s special to me. It’s something that you can do in comics, when it’s something that means something to you. If you put it into a comic because a comic takes so much time to make that it’s like comfort food. Whenever you go back home for Thanksgiving, it took so long to make that food, you appreciate it so much. When it’s over it tastes so much better. That’s the way I feel about comics because it takes so long, it’s like comfort food. It should feel like you’re getting someone’s passion. I don’t know if guys that write for Marvel, DC, or Dark Horse or whoever feel that anymore. I think sometimes you do get to a point where you just write because it’s the assignment and stuff. I know guys like Dan Slott writing Amazing Spider-Man. He has been a big Spider-Man fan all his life. This is his dream come true. He says, “You’re going to have to kill me to get me off.” It shows. He puts his passion into the book. For good or bad or whatever people think, the guy loves it. For me that is more important than what people think of the story.
Creator owned stuff is a totally different animal because it is your passion.
AiPT: Alright well thank you very much. I will let you get back to selling comics.
AiPT: Enjoy the Con!