Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hang Dai Studios at Baltimore Comic-Con: Vito Delsante speaks

by Mike Rhode
Baltimore Comic-Con is one of the best and friendliest of the mid-size superhero focused cons. Under the leadership of Marc Nathan and Brad Tree, it's grown quite a bit in a decade and a half, but still remains enjoyable for all ages and interests. Hang Dai Studios is based in Brooklyn, but as usual will have a big presence at Baltimore. My friend Dean Haspiel (and Hang Dai Studios founder) will be there with the whole studio, a week after he, Christa Cassano and Gregory Benton attended the Small Press Expo. We hope to have interviews with everyone in the studio throughout the week. Our second interview is with writer Vito Delsante.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I'm predominantly a writer, but I have crossed into lettering and editing in the past few years. I still consider myself a writer, but with added dimensions.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

For writing, I still use a notebook and pen almost 65% of the time; the other 35% I'm using some kind of writing program like Google Docs, Pages (on my Mac) or Open Office. For lettering, it's all done on the computer, within Adobe Illustrator, with some forays into Photoshop and InDesign.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1973 in Staten Island, NY. I can't remember if it was at Staten Island Hospital or St. Vincent's, but I believe it was the former.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

Very little. I learned how to write for comics kind of through screenwriting. I took what I learned there and found a... I can't remember if it was a seminar or a newsgroup... but a lesson from Kurt Busiek about writing for comics and applied that to what I new about screenwriting and have been writing pretty much the same since 1996, with a new trick added here and there. Storytelling, which is different than writing, is something I'm still learning.

For lettering, a friend of mine, Andy Schmidt, started an online initiative called Comics Experience and I took their lettering class, which was taught by Dave Sharpe.

Who are your influences?

Mark Waid, definitely. His approach to superheroes is very close to mine, in that we see them as human beings first and build on that. James Ellroy, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Ed Brubaker...a lot of crime authors. I'm also influenced by the work of my studio mates and peers. Making comics is a very socially prohibitive field. You do a lot of work on your own. But with the studio, you get to workshop a lot of things. And sometimes, the best idea isn't your own, so a lot of my studio mates' ideas make it into my work. And that's just because they are some of the best in the industry at what they do.

As a writer, why have you joined a studio? Historically in the comics field, studios have been organized around artists who had a pile of equipment and who also could pitch in and work on each others assignments.

It goes back to when I said who my influences are and I said my studio mates. The free exchange of ideas. For art and artists, it's easy to see where something can be fixed, or where an idea can come from for a panel. Writing doesn't work that way. It's all in the head. And writer's block happens. So being able to open up to friends, peers in the industry, is crucial. In the end, we're all storytellers. We're just using different tools (which aren't that different, really) to tell the story.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I'd probably start sooner. I floated around for a while, trying to make movies and make it as an actor, and if I knew I could do this back then, I probably would have focused my education almost exclusively in the arts. I'm always lamenting the fact that I'm not "sexy" to a publisher because I'm trying to break in at 42, but doing these things on my own, self publishing or using Kickstarter... there's a lot of freedom that I really enjoy. I don't know what kind of creator I'd be today if I started earlier, so who knows what's best?

What work are you best-known for?

That's a loaded question, because I don't know how well known my work is, but the answer is probably Stray, my creator co-owned superhero book that I do with my friend, Sean Izaakse (published by Action Lab Entertainment).

What work are you most proud of?

It's cliche, but my kids. In the industry, I'd say Stray.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

Ideally...I would like to move to editorial and maybe to publishing and put out work from creators I believe in. The problem with that is I'm not sure how much creating I would do then, and my brain really is...that whole thing where you can't shut your mind off because you get a new idea? That's a "problem" for me. I really do get piqued often, so I'm not sure how well I'd do as just a publisher. But I'd still like to do it.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I usually step away from the computer, listen to music, play with my kids...just something that's not writing or not comics. I can't read someone else's comic because then I get really competitive. I have to divorce myself from the entire process.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

I'm terrible at predictions, so I try not to do them. I just hope that whatever the future of comics is, I'm a part of it.

Why are you at the Baltimore Comic-Con this year?

It's one of my favorite shows of the year. I did the show for the first time last year (although I attended twice before) and really fell in love with it. The staff are fantastic and the show is about as perfect as a comic convention gets. It helps that I'm surrounded by heroes and friends alike. This year, I'm pushing Stray and Actionverse, a new mini series I edited for Action Lab.

What other cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, or others? Any comments about attending them?

New York, Heroes Con, sometimes San Diego, but it's not on my calendar usually. I don't know if I'm becoming misanthropic, but I find that the bigger extravaganzas are less my scene. The smaller ones, ones run by locals or by retailers...those are the ones I gravitate toward because there really is an intimacy that is almost akin to a family reunion.

What's your favorite thing about Baltimore?

The Harbor. It's really quite beautiful at night. I once dated a girl from Baltimore and I remember Charles Street (is that the name?) was a lot of fun, although that may be because of the company I kept and less about the actual places I saw.

Least favorite?

The Ravens. I'm a dyed in the wool Steelers fan (although I'm not currently supporting the team in light of Ben Roethlisberger's continued employment and Michael Vick's hiring). The only reason any one truly hates a city is because of their sports teams.

Do you have a website or blog?

I can be found at vitodelsante.com or incogvito.com. I'm also on Twitter at @incogvito.

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