Dan Vado: Teaching Comics at the Center for Comic Book Study

Vado: The Center for Comic Book Study

Ask any person in comics what one of the most common questions they get from fans, and they'll tell you it's "how do I break into comics?" Several colleges have developed college programs, as well as special schools such as Joe Kubert's and the Center for Cartoon Studies. It's also a staple of comic book convention panels, and one that SLG Publisher Dan Vado has participated in on several occasions.

This March, Vado and SLG will be hosting their own in-house workshop series in their San Jose offices for aspiring comic creators to really get to know the ins and outs of working in comics. These day-long events cover a variety of subjects including writing or comics, thinking visually and discussions with various creators about the craft itself.

The first event will be on March 7th and is called "Comics Econ 101". Vado will be on-hand with comic book store owner Dan Shahin to talk about the harsh realities of making comics, and the day will also feature talks with SLG writers and artists.

For more, we talked with Vado by email.

Newsarama: This is a rebirth from your Creator's Studio series which you started in 2003. What led you to bring it back, Dan?

Dan Vado: We have had people asking us about reviving the seminars ever since we did the first ones. Daily I get emails asking me about how to do this or that, which was what got me doing the seminars in the first place, so it felt like a good time to bring them back. Once I made a joke about feeling like we were becoming the Center for Comic Book Study. The name stuck and it is how we are going to brand all of the events.

NRAMA: Conventions are routine for having panels about "breaking into comics" -- what makes these different?

DV: Well, I think conventions are great, but the atmosphere makes it difficult to get people to focus. Panelists are always in a hurry to get back to their booth, or to another panel. Attendees are often faced with having to decide between as many as four or five tracks of programming. Doing these events in this setting will allow people to be more relaxed and focused.

NRAMA: The first of the new series is on March 7th and is called "Comics Econ 101". Can you tell us about that?

DV: Comics Econ 101 is just one of the panels we will be doing. Given the state of the economy and the constant pressures on retailers, publishers and creators to pay rent and support families I thought it would be a good idea to have people come up against the harsh realities of life in the comic book industry.

NRAMA: You'll be co-hosting that with comic store owner Dan Shahin of Hijinx Comics in San Jose. Can you tell us how his knowledge of retail experience is something aspiring comics creators should be aware of?

DV: Dan Shahin is one of the smartest and brightest retailers I know (Hijinx won Best Comic Shop in two local entertainment magazines last year) and he has a wealth of "real world" knowledge that I think caries itself over very well into the business. From the aspiring creator's standpoint I think it is valuable to hear how a retailer, a good one like Dan, makes his decisions on what he carries both from the small press perspective as well as from the front of the Diamond catalog.

NRAMA: You're also having some writers & artists in doing demonstrations. Who'll be there?

DV: Karl Christian Krumpholz will be, for lack of a better term, is our Artist in Residence for the day. We will be having a gallery showing of his Famous Drunkards illustrations in our gallery the night before (in addition to comics, Karl is regular contributor to Modern Drunkards magazine) and he will be staying over an additional day to participate in the seminars. He will be doing a live drawing panel which will take up most of the day. Serena Valentino will also be attending in advance of her own four week course on comics writing.

NRAMA: The charge for this first event is $15 -- what's your class size limit?

DV: We have space for 40-50, comfortably.

NRAMA: What is your average number of attendees in the past?

DV: We had 60 people for the first one, not everyone got to sit, and we turned people away. It was, of course, free so it was easy to get to capacity, but according to the survey we took almost all of the attendees said they would be willing to pay a small fee to attend.

NRAMA: Have any of the attendees gone on to do professional comics?

DV: To be honest I did not keep track. I think a couple of people who came started web comics, but I cannot be sure as our registration for the early events was pretty loose since it was free.

NRAMA: What's included in the $15 fee -- any material, hand-outs, etc?

DV: We'll be working on some kind of hand outs specific to each event. I am also in the process of contacting some art supply companies about distributing samples.

NRAMA: Will you be looking at submissions that day as well?

DV: We will be reviewing portfolios, but not listening to specific pitches. That is going to be a day all on its own.

NRAMA: what events do you have planned in the future for the Studio Workshop series?

DV: There will be a lot of the live drawing thing, with a different artist. By charging for the series I want to be able to pull in artists from outside of the area. I plan on tying the events in with our gallery. I am going to have an ongoing series on how to put together a proposal and to look at people's ideas and help develop pitches (even if not being pitched to us).

I also plan on having seminars on prepress and drawing for reproduction. An idea got floated about something about webcomics, but that is not an area of strength for us so it might take some time to develop.

NRAMA: This brings up another point -- SLG Publishing's offices also has a storefront. Can you tell us about that?

DV: We just finished converting our storefront area into a gallery called SLG Art Boutiki and Gallery. The place is really neat if I do say so myself, having kind of a swanky Tiki Bar theme to it. I am really proud of how it turned out since the place has been a wreck ever since a drunk driver drove through the building. It is less store and more gallery and in the back we have a performance area where bands play.

There is a monthly event in downtown San Jose called South First Fridays in which all the local galleries stay open late and have some kind of entertainment. The events have been really great and it has been a lot of fun being involved in the arts scene downtown.

Online registration is available at slgworkshops.eventbrite.com/ and a complete class schedule is available at www.slgcomic.com/workshops. For more information, call SLG Publishing at 408-971-8929 or email Dan Vado at dvado@slgpubs.com.

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