Late Thursday afternoon, Vault Comics, held a panel at Emerald City Comic Con discussing the joys and struggles of breaking into the industry as a new publisher. Among the speakers were founders Damian and Adrian Wassel and Nathan Gooden, assistant editor Kim McLean, and creators Tim Daniel and Deniz Camp.
Moderator, Katie Proctor, asked since they were new to the scene, what an unexpected part working in comics was. Typical of a start up company, some discussed how they had to work in different positions, not necessarily the role they were brought in for, to get their product made and out into circulation. They also spoke about how they received so many submissions and pitches, that they were disappointed that they had to turn a lot of them down. Not necessarily because they were bad, but because they didn’t fit their brand.
From a creator standpoint, Camp was surprised by the amount of promotion that was needed to bring awareness to the imprint and the titles. It was almost more work promoting than actually writing. Daniel liked how they could make their own rules as they developed their comics. They didn’t have to worry about continuity inconsistencies since they didn’t have a long history like other publishers.
Going back to their brand, Damian wanted Vault to be known to have the best Sci-Fi and fantasy comics with subversive and interesting stories. Some of their current titles include:
Zojaqan is about a single mom grieving over the loss of her son who is transported to another world where she gets a second chance at being a parent and must raise this new world. The series is created and written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing with art by Nathan C. Gooden.
Alien Bounty Hunter from writers David M. Booher and Wassel and artist Nick Robles is a tongue and cheek ode to 80’s movies about a human bounty hunter who pursues aliens here on earth. This title is being developed for TV by Mark Wahlberg.
Daniel created and wrote Spiritus to voice his frustration about our country’s addiction to incarceration. In the future, individual’s consciousness are transferred into labor robots, but for one champion fighter convicted of murder, Kinju Dayal is transported into a robot that is free from its programming. Joining Daniel on the creative team is Michael Kennedy who does the art.
Cult Classic is a creator owned universe filled with spooky fun. Think the best of the Simpsons’ Tree House of Horror episodes, but extended. The first book from this universe is Return to Whisper written by Eliot Rahal and illustrated by Felipe Cunha.
Maxwell’s Demons is about a brilliant young boy with a bad home life who uses his genius to escape to other worlds. It is written by Camp with art by Vittorio Astone.
The titles Vault publishes are carefully curated and so it takes a lot for a series to stand out. Some things the company looks for is a cohesive vision from the creative team to ensure the writer and artist are on the same page. Also, it is more than creating a good story. It helps if the creators know who exactly their audience is and knows why people want to buy that book. A good example is their title Heathen, where creator Natasha Alterici pitched it as lesbian Vikings.
Once you break into comics, the hard part is staying relevant. Vault hopes their approaches can help them do just that. They hope to provide support and tools to retailers to ensure their products still sell and to keep them aware and informed of their upcoming titles. In addition, they did the simple thing of asking their artists, like Jen Bartel and Tess Fowler, what kind of books they want to draw. They were impressed by what they heard and hope to announce soon some unexpected books from known and established artists.
Hopefully some new independent comic publishers can learn something from the Vault model of breaking into the industry. Just to have some perspective, last year at ECCC the publisher had a single table in artist alley shared by two people promoting two books. Now they have their own booth on the main floor with a library of 14 titles.