“All The Characters Are Drowning In Some Way” – Dan Panosian On Las Vegas Series Slots

by Oliver MacNamee

We here at Comic.com HQ have been knocked out Dan Panosian’s new creator-owned comic book series, Slots, that follows the exploits of down-for-the-count Stanley Dance as he returns to Las Vegas, on the ropes and seeking redemption. Possibly.

We sat down ringside with writer/artist Dan Panosian ahead of this week’s second issue hitting shelves, like Ali hit Foreman, to discuss the series, the setting and our anti-hero who is hard not to like from the get go.

I’ll stop with the pugilist puns now and let Dan tell you more. Thanks again, Dan.

Olly MacNamee: In Slots you have a central character who’s not only seen better days but maybe burnt all his bridges too? How did the initial idea come about, and why Las Vegas?

Dan Panosian: I like the idea of a deeply flawed main character. Most protagonists have obstacles to overcome beyond tackling whatever is presented as the obvious challenge set before them, but in Stanley’s case, his whole life is the challenge, not to mention putting a stop to Les Royal’s plans. Las Vegas is and always will be a city known for being a bit of a wild and very free place.  Gambling is celebrated, luck is a commodity. It’s the fight capital of the world, too. So the setting could not be more perfect for a man down on his luck and begging for a second chance at things.

OM: In a nut shell, this is about a second chances? About redemption, right?

DP: It is. Stanley is at the end of his rope. He has nothing left. No family, no opportunities. He needs to make changes and he desperately needs those changes to pan out. It’s do or die.

OM: This is a world that from the moment you step into it, it’s been fully realised. How much work goes into a series like this before you even set pen to paper? What other influences are at play here?

DP: I’ve taken quite a bit of time to put this book together and work on the character relationships. When it comes to Stanley, what you see and read may not necessarily spell out who he is, though. It’s in his actions, and the way he recounts his former life and plans on redirecting his future. Is he remorseful?  Does he truly recognize where he went wrong? These questions keep popping up for him.

OM: While a very contemporary comic, the look of the art, the feel of the page, the very textures you use to layer and build up your artwork, all seem from a classic, bygone era. I likened it recently to ‘Scorsese through the eye of Jack Davis‘; was that the feel you were going for? It’s certainly a very distinctive style you’ve adopted.

DP: You nailed it, albeit in a very flattering way! Thank you.That’s quite a compliment. Jack Davis and Mort Drucker were both big influences for me and I decided that although the book takes place now, it’s also about Old Vegas meeting New Vegas and how the two perspectives match up or don’t in some cases. It’s very intentional that this book has a distinctive, lost-in-time, feel. 

OM: As for boxing, I assume you’re a fan?

DP: I love the sport of boxing and I’m a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts. Both sports are very dangerous and even though a fighter works with coaches and a team, in the end it’s only them stepping in a ring or cage against an opponent that wants to physically stop them from achieving a victory. It’s not for everyone, but I think everyone can appreciate the level of courage and self belief it takes to compete in those worlds.

OM: As for the Las Vegas you are portraying: it seems to flourish with characters whose time and ways may be up. Small time grifters and old-timers do good. Are these drawn from your own experiences in Las Vegas, I can’t help wondering?

DP: It’s true. Even Les Royal, the main antagonist, isn’t a mogul like the real life casino owner, Steve Wynn. He owns a big casino off The Strip. He’s not quite big time. But he wants to be. All the characters are drowning in some way except one: Mercy May. She’s the flower that’s blooming. Because of that, everyone wants a piece of her. She could be their lucky charm and their ticket to a better life, and she knows it.

OM: Finally, Dan, it seems to be a whole sandbox you could easily dip back into should the opportunity arise? Are there plans, even now, to return to this Las Vegas and these characters somewhere down the dusty road?

DP: I have plans already for the next arc and the one after that. There’s at least 18 issues of material ready to go at this point. We’ll see how things turn out. I’m crazy about the characters and this part of Las Vegas.

Slots #2 is out this Wednesday, the 8th of November from Image Comics priced $3.99.