Slave Labor Graphics, known for publishing work like Milk and Cheese, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Nightmares & Fairy Tales, and Lenore, has turned to crowdfunding to keep the business going.
According to owner Dan Vado’s GoFundMe page, he used his personal assets to expand and fund SLG when times were tough, and now he’s staring down bankruptcy while trying to keep publishing. He blames the bad economy and his own decisions equally, and is open about how hard it is to make it in the comics industry. Vado states he’s using GoFundMe as “[t]his isn’t something Kickstarter would touch anyway.”
Looking to crowdfunding to put out comics is nothing new, but Vado isn’t trying to publish a specific book. He’s asking for investors of a sort, who don’t get anything concrete in return. This would be why he made that comment about Kickstarter; both Kickstarter and Indiegogo require something in return for a contribution within a designated span of time, even just a thank you of some sort, while GoFundMe simply raises money without a pending deadline.
Hopefully SLG will put out more comics, but Vado reports that his last attempts to raise any money failed. They tried to get the funds to update their current building, a combination night club/art gallery, with a better stage and ADA-approved bathroom. Vado was open at the time that they were struggling, and hoped putting money towards the physical space would lead to more revenue for the comics side of the business. He also added a t-shirt line and retail to their venue in an effort to broaden their appeal.
One factor in their current trouble is having a warehouse space in an era of digital distribution. Since SLG does print runs, they have to have somewhere to house the books until they’re sent out.
I love crowdfunding. I love being able to support smaller artists who wouldn’t get picked up by larger companies, or even helping projects that would have the support but want to sell directly to their audience. I fully support people’s choice to fund whatever projects they want, but this particular one feels odd to me. I know SLG for their awesome comics, not a venue I’ve never been to, so I wouldn’t have given to the venue Kickstarter. Dan Vado’s openness is a double-edged sword as well. Stating that you’ve messed up is a weird way to ask for money, even though everyone makes mistakes.
This campaign is asking for a lot of trust. I personally would be more likely to fork over my dollars if there was a comic in return, rather than just a general sense of having helped. I like concrete facts and plans in my crowdfunding, not just a vague sense of debt being paid down. I might just not be the audience for this particular crowdfunding campaign.
However, I do hope that SLG makes it, and you can follow the link above if you’d like to support them. They’ve already raised $6,775 as of this morning, and are trying to make it to $85,000. They gave a lot of amazing artists their start, and maybe cashing in on some of that goodwill will let Slave Labor Graphics do that again.