JK Parkin’s report on the Slave Labor panel from WonderCon includes much more from SLG head honcho Dan Vado on his Disney mishaps, but an even more eye-popping quote when he’s asked what he would do differently:
He added, “On the serious end, I would not publish creator-owned work. It’s a terrible business model as a publisher.” He said the successful companies in the industry own their characters, mentioning Spider-Man as an example.
“When you’ve got an environment where someone can come in, cut their teeth with you, then turn around and walk out, taking the stuff that you put money into with them, it’s just not a healthy way to do it,” he said. “I would not offer creator-owned contracts, I’d own it; I’d own it all. And sure, maybe there would have been things that wouldn’t have come our way, but I guarantee you if we’d had an equitable way of taking those properties on, if I’d owned Johnny, if I’d owned Milk & Cheese, if I’d owned Lenore, if I’d owned everything I’ve published over the last 20 years, this company would be in a lot better shape as a company. So that’s what I would do differently, and that would be my advice: no creator-owned comics.”
This is pretty much the saddest thing we’ve ever read. It’s easy to understand Vado’s bitterness when larger publishers practically use his company as a farm team — a few editors from larger companies are known to go up to SLG creators right at the booth and ask them about working for them. That would be galling for anyone. While it’s hard to argue that the life of the American cartoonist isn’t still so meagre that a page rate is enough to make most of them throw loyalty out the window, there are so many other variables involved. The direct sales market’s lack of support for non-superhero books; Marvel and DC’s lack of support for non-superhero work; the emergence of the book publishing model as a viable place for creators now.
It’s hard to imagine Marvel or DC taking a flyer on Johnny the Homicidal Maniac or Milk and Cheese, and hard to imagine Jhonen Vasquez or Evan Dorkin doing them as work for hire books for anyone. And although Vado is a curmudgeon with the best of them, he’s also run one of the most successful indie comics publishers over a period when scores of other fell by the wayside.
Anyway, we’re just going to have to let this one sit and stew for a while.