Dan Panosian was one of the earliest Image Comics' artists outside its seven founders, and now 25 years since his Image debut he's returning for his first creator-owned series with Slots.
Scheduled to debut October 4, Slots mixes Panosian's love for Las Vegas, boxing, and redemption stories with a little bit of real life drama inspired by Panosian's relationship with his late father, who was a professional boxer.
Newsarama spoke with Panosian about the series, his unique relationship with Image Comics, and the ties to his own upbringing.
Newsarama: Dan, you were among the original art crew at Image Comics back in 1992 but I believe Slots is your first series you own yourself. Is that right?
Dan Panosian: That’s true. I inked Marc Silvestri on his third issue of Cyber Force and then Rob Liefeld recruited me to draw Prophet for Extreme Studios. I also inked Greg Capullo’s first few issues of Spawn. It’s been quite a while since then but, yes – this is my very first series where I handle both the writing and the art.
Nrama: So what made this story, Slots, the right one for you to do yourself as your first creator-owned series?
Panosian: I’ve wanted to create various versions of Slots since as early as 2000. It’s gone through many different phases. When I approached Skybound with the premise they immediately liked the pitch. Then, all of sudden - there was no more sitting on it. “Send us a script” they said. I couldn’t believe it. It’s a real honor to write and draw an Image comic, especially under the Skybound banner. I’ve been smiling ever since.
Nrama: Boxing, Las Vegas, redemption. How did all these interests come together for a cohesive story for you?
Panosian: I grew up with a lot of boxing in my life. Ever since I could find my way into my father’s garage I would watch him hit the heavy bag. He was a pro boxer when he was young and every day, he would either hit the bag, practice Japanese Jiu-Jitsu or play baseball. I wanted to be just like him. Personally, I’m crazy about Mixed Martial Arts. It’s a bit of a problem. I’m obsessed with it. I also love Las Vegas. I’ve spent some time there and it’s a very interesting and unusual city.
When it comes to the character, I really like the idea of seeing what happens to a guy that listened to the devil on his shoulder and brushed off the angel. What happens to that guy when he’s past his peak? We all wonder what our lives would be like if we made a selfish choice or two at various stages of our life - but most of us play it safe. Stanley has burned every bridge and he’s all out of options - save one: Try to be a good guy. Unfortunately, he has no experience in that department.
Nrama: So just who is Stanley Dance?
Panosian: He’s a former boxer that took a lot of dives. Which means, he participated in a lot of fixed fights. He’s also managed night clubs here and there. He’s worn a lot of different hats. A lot of get-rich-schemes that never went anywhere. He’s not a big fan of working. But he can be a lot of fun. But just when you’re having a great time, he’ll hit you up for a few bucks.
Nrama: And who was Stanley Dance in his heyday?
Panosian: At his peak, he was side by side with Lester Royale. A wealthy friend of his that got into the casino business. The two of them were inseparable. It was a free ride for Stanley with all the booze and babes he could handle. He’s not a deep guy. For him that was as good as it could get. And then, like pretty much everything in his life, he ruined that too.
Nrama: What is redemption for Stanley?
Panosian: It’s living a life where he can be counted on. Where he can do something for someone else. It’s connecting with the son he abandoned years and years ago. It’s mending all those broken bridges with friends and family.
Nrama: And what's standing in the way of that?
Panosian: Mostly, he is. He doesn’t have any practice when it comes to doing the right thing. And then there’s Les Royale. He’d like to see him dead. His own son, Lucy, also can’t stand him. So, he has a tough road ahead of him.
Nrama: Stanley Dance was a pro boxer, your father was a pro boxer. In this Stanley is trying to reconnect with his son - I don't know how your relationship with your dad is. Would you say there's some of yourself in this story? How much? How little?
Panosian: My father passed away when I was in my late 20s but things didn't end as well as I would have liked between us. He was a terrific father when I was a boy but when I entered my teenage years things went a little sour. He grew up in the Depression Era and there was a particular way men carried themselves from that time period. You certainly didn't show weakness. So, the more I tried to prove my worth the more we butted heads. Then again, I was no angel back then either. He had his hands full. Still, I would have liked a better relationship with him. That said, regardless of our differences - we could always enjoy talking about boxing, the martial arts and comic books. So ye s- I'm sure there's a fair amount of my relationship with my father in these pages. I can't afford a therapist but I have my editors.
Nrama: I was surprised when this was announced, as I'd been waiting for years for the European OGN series you're doing with Darguard called John Tiffany to come out. What's the status on those series?
Panosian: Two volumes from that series did come out through Le Lombard. They were never published in English. There’s plans to change that – and if the response is good, there are two more chapters already written and waiting to be illustrated. It was a lot of fun and I love character John Tiffany. We’ll see what happens. Working for Lombard was a wonderful experience.
Nrama: You're doing Slots at Image, but through Robert Kirkman's Skybound company - what led you to go here instead of the main Image Central with your former Extreme colleague Eric Stephenson?
Panosian: I was doing covers for Skybound’s Ghosted series and it was an amazing experience. Sean Mackiewicz and Arielle Basich are fantastic editors. Sean also writes his own series at Skybound called Gasolina. When they asked me what my plans were I mentioned that I had a few stories that I wanted to write and draw and they were very eager to see what I had in mind. From there everything just fell into place. Robert Kirkman has created a very special company. It’s an atmosphere I feel very lucky to be a part of. I’ve been in the business a long time and it’s nice to be a part of something like Skybound. Eric Stephenson is someone I’ve watched since my first days at Image and I’m amazed at what he’s accomplished. I’d love to work with him one day too. For now, however, I’m very happy with the arrangement I have with Skybound and I still can still kinda say I work with Eric in a sense. It’s win-win, in my opinion.
Nrama: You're based in California, which is near to Las Vegas. SinceSlots takes place there, any plans for signings, events or conventions in Vegas?
Panosian: I’m hoping. I can always hop in my 67’ Firebird and be there in a few hours. I love Vegas. So, if there’s a show or a comic book shop, I’d love to set something up!
Nrama: Las Vegas, you’re on notice.
Dan, big picture what are your goals with Slots?
Panosian: Ideally, I would like to continue writing and drawing my own material. I have two more story arcs for Slots but the first series is definitely a standalone story. I have a few other stories that I can’t wait to get to as well. Some very odd genres pieces, each one very different from the next. I plan on having a lot of fun writing and drawing in the next few years!