Q&A WITH VITO DELSANTE
Itâ€™s Vito Delsanteâ€™s birthday so I thought it would be a great time to talk about him and the comics he brings to the world.
1. How has being a parent changed your comic reading and writing lives?
VDS: I don’t actually think it has. I mean, I read the same stuff I always did and I write the same way. I don’t necessarily think that kids *have* to change you, or specifically, change your method of writing. They change everything, believe me. They make you more cognizant of everything around you…more hyperaware. A good example is music. I listen to just about everything, and I love hip hop. I grew up in the era that saw the birth and rise of rap. And, I don’t think I’m saying anything that is necessarily untrue, but a lot of hip hop has profanity. And a lot of the hip hop I enjoy has profanity.
So, yesterday, we were driving back from NYC, and we’re sitting in the car, and Mos Def comes on, and Sadie, my oldest (3 years old), starts bopping in her seat and dancing and proclaims, “I LOVE THIS SONG!” I had never played that song for her ever before, and I can’t specifically point out if there are profane words in the song, but she’s responding to the beat. My wife asked me, “How long do you think she’ll listen to our music before she starts to hate it?” and I replied that I don’t know that she will.
I won’t play music or watch a movie that is extreme in it’s depictions of violence (which is a bone of contention with my in-laws because they LOVE Criminal Minds and shows of that nature), but the thing I know, at least at this moment in terms of Sadie and James and their exposure to pop culture, is that they aren’t responding to the things we think they are; they’re responding to beats, to colors, to repetition of sound (my daughter loves Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools because of this). So, with that all in mind, I haven’t had to change much, if anything. Sadie doesn’t read STRAY because she has no interest, but she enjoys looking at ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER. Those books are built that way, so yeah…no change.
2. How do you respond to the defense that books that try to be diverse, donâ€™t sell well and get canceled?
VDS:Â Hmm. I mean, I see the point on both sides, but I’ve always thought that you shouldn’t be penalized for trying something different. There is a concerted effort to reach new readers, and it used to be (at least during my retailing years) that the prevailing thought was, “We need to get adults.” So they went after adults with, like, the MAX line at Marvel or at Image, THE WALKING DEAD, and some of that worked. Then there was the Manga Explosion in bookstores…kids reading manga. So, they went after them with things like Marvel Mangaverse. Then the publishers overthought it and made new kids lines, new all ages lines, once every couple of years. Now, with things like LUMBERJANES, the effort is more specific. Women and girls are the growing audience marketshare, so the effort is in making books specifically for them, but in a targeted way…almost exclusive. And there’s nothing wrong with that. With any of it.
Again, I think you have to try new things, from a publisher’s end, to be successful, but also…what is the measure of success? If it’s to make money, then maybe this business isn’t for you. But if it’s to find new readers? All bets are off.
3. I know superheroes are important to you which is why you co-created the STRAY series. What superpower would be most useful to you in a non-crimefighting life?
VDS: Flight and the ability to clone myself. I am pulled in so many directions and stretched so thin, I’d love to be able to do ALL of it, but it’s just impossible. The flight is purely personal, in the sense of…I want to escape some times, and get away from what is happening on the ground. Think about everything that happened this past weekend. I would love to just be above it all, the hate, the divisiveness and just float 10,000 feet above. And, as you know, the ability to time travel would be nice, too.
4. In the past few years, there have been internet storms where consumers (fans) are making it known that they will not support creators who have bad reputations. The concerns have ranged from who supports anti-equality organizations to creators who arenâ€™t fired for sexual harassment to creators who have domestic violence police records. Now that youâ€™ve seen life as a creator and also from the publishing standpoint, whatâ€™s the best way to support comics if a fan doesnâ€™t want to support a creator when MOST books are team effort collaborations?
VDS: That’s tough because it’s easy to look at the medium and those that make the books and say, “Well, maybe it’s a comics industry problem.” Like, the way people blame Muslims for every domestic mass murder when they can easily blame men, or homophobes, or misogynists. It’d be easy to paint the industry with a large paint brush and say, “Let’s burn it down and start over from the ashes.” And I’m not sure if that’s NOT the answer. But then you’d miss out on voices like James Wright, who writes NUTMEG for Action Lab. James is an African American man writing a tween dramedy for girls. That doesn’t happen in Hollywood, and if it happens in the book (novel) industry, then it is probably rare.
These things come to light a lot, the indiscretions, the awfulness…all of it. There are certainly 85% more stories like this that haven’t seen the light of day. But the good news is that because of the 15% that is being reported on, people are becoming emboldened to share their stories.
I think about Colleen Doran and wonder if her situation would have been different (in regards to the sexual harassment she received) if there was an internet and a global community when she went through her harassment. But then, you look at Colleen’s career, and she’s a trailblazer. She worked in an industry that, at that time, treated women like novelties and she still pressed forward, didn’t give up and became…well, Colleen Doran. I’m not sure how this answers your question, if it does at all, but I think, as an industry, we’re coming around (from the back of the room, sure, but we’re coming around) to responsibility. Owning up to the faults of 80 years or so of doing it “that way.” New voices, from all over, are bringing a lot of this up and making sure the industry doesn’t grow apathetic.
I think. It’s so hard to say if this is all actually happening or if it’s just me hoping.
5. Action Lab: DOG OF WONDER is one of my favorite books of 2016. Youâ€™re part of a huge creative team to make this series. How do you coordinate the project?
VDS: It’s kind of easy, actually. Scott (Fogg, my co-writer) and I have this list of plots, we trade off storylines, and whichever one falls in my lap, I’m the lead writer and he comes in and tightens it up, or adds a page or whatever is needed to make the issue work. Then we send it off to Nicole (D’Andria), our editor for fine tuning and then it goes off to our artists (Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt for the first three issues; Reilly Leeds for the ongoing). I…suppose I act as an almost “pre-editor,” in the sense that I try to do as much as I can before the script gets sent to Nicole, but that would be unfair to say because Nicole brings a LOT to the table. As does everyone. I swear the only thing I bring to the book is a sense of organization.