INTRODUCING VAULT COMICS
NEW INDIE PUBLISHER DARES TO BE DIFFERENT
There was a day when you could be sure that most any comic you picked up would bear the name of one of two publishers on the cover: Marvel or DC. And while the prevalence of the so-called “Big Two” no doubt endures, it has over the last several decades been challenged by the rise of the independent publisher — companies like Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and others have come to the table with the promise of new, original characters and unprecedented freedom for creators. The result? For the first time in the history of the medium, many of the most popular books on the shelves today come from publishers other than the Big Two, and have spawned massive franchises that fuel some of the industries biggest exports to television and film.
Such is the power of the indie publisher, who, lacking the security blanket of time-tested characters, has no choice but to step out in search of the new. And it is there in that creative ether where we find Vault Comics, an emerging publisher that has exploded onto the scene with a host of new titles and a bold pledge to originality and diversity of thought, character, and creative voices.
The elevator pitch of Vault is simple enough: An independent publisher of creator-owned sci-fi and fantasy comics. But there’s a lot more to unpack here, so for the next few weeks we’re going to devote a series of articles to the task of getting you up to speed with the company and their creators and titles. And it all starts here. Let’s step inside the Vault.
To truly understand the what of Vault, it’s probably best to start with the who. The company was founded by brothers Adrian and Damian Wassel, who fill the roles of Editor-In-Chief and Publisher, respectively. The Wassel’s grew up in rural Virginia, several miles outside of what they themselves refer to as a “small, boring town” where their love of comics began as kids.
“We didn’t have a local comic shop,” Adrian says. “We had a hole-in-the-wall used book store where people would occasionally trade in boxes of mangled comics. My education started there, digging through mildewed cardboard.”
Early favorites for the brothers included everything from classic Guy Gardner issues of Green Lantern to X-Men runs like Age of Apocalypse as well as more offbeat books such as Arnold Drake’s Doom Patrol and Frank Miller’s Ronin.
Damian describes those days of reading dog-eared back issues as not just an adolescent pastime, but a compulsion. “I couldn’t not do it,” he says. “I’d read on car rides, and while my parents were grocery shopping, and while I was sitting in class. Once I tried to read during a dental check-up until the dentist took my book away.”
It wasn’t long into the process before the brothers’ obsession with comics prompted them to try their hand at making them, leading to a series of stories written and drawn in elementary school which they speak of now with equal parts reminiscence and good-natured embarrassment. “Turns out I was pretty good at actually putting my books together, but pretty bad at filling them with likable content,” Damian says. “Suffice to say, my artwork does a disservice to noble stick figures everywhere.”
Nonetheless the brothers kept at it, turning their focus primarily to writing, and by the time they hit college they had begun to find traction both creatively and professionally. Collaborating with their cousin, artist Nathan Gooden, they self-published their first series, The Gifted, in 2012; it was a hit, receiving high praise and a number of awards, including Foreword Magazine’s 2014 IndieFab Award for Best Graphic Novel.
The success of The Gifted, along with several other self-published books, opened new doors for the brothers, and they began to evaluate how they could use those openings to push forward onto new ground–not just for their own work, but for their fellow creators and the industry as a whole.
“We get very honest with ourselves — assessing where the industry is headed, where we are, and where we’d like to be in a few years’ time,” Adrian says. “We realize we’re in a unique position to give back to the industry, the form, the genres we love so much — as we’ve secured independent financial backing. But more importantly, we’re at this critical moment, where we’ve been on the inside long enough to see the ugly, strong-arm tactics out there, but not so long we’ve grown jaded. We buckle down and start to capitalize on all the connections we’ve made along the way in hopes of generating one heck of a splash.”
That splash turned out to be Vault, which Adrian and Damian launched earlier this year with their father, Damian Wassel Sr. and Gooden rounding out the family affair. Now it’s time to get to work.
When asked what Vault aims to be, Adrian doesn’t mince words. “We’re the new guard,” he says. “The young guns. The geeks of today. We aim to gain the trust of creators and readers who are interested in changing the shape of comics from within. We don’t just want to be diverse, we want to be new. New talent, new stories, new voices.”
If it was anyone but the Wassel’s, such bold statements might be easy to dismiss as young-hearted idealism, hence why the who is so vital in understanding Vault’s story. But as is clear from their own histories, the brothers aren’t newcomers, nor are they corporate suits looking to cash in on funny books from behind a desk; they’re creators. They know what the process is like from the inside out, and their commitment to the quality of that process has allowed them to attract what they rightly recognize as their most valuable asset in fulfilling that promise: Their contributors. Currently, Vault is set to publish ten brand new titles in 2017 (see full previews of the first five below) from a creator base that includes both established artists and writers as well up-and-comers and first-time creators.
On the publishing side, Damian’s approach is no less ambitious. “My mission…is to take some lessons from the world of mainstream prose publishing and apply them to comics,” he says. “I hope to deliver a brand that retailers and fans know is committed to consistently delivering high-quality content. I know this is a challenging, low-margin business, beset by a nasty thicket of complications, but comics fans and retailers deserve an independent brand that upholds its release schedule and delivers what it promises, when it promises. We aim to be that brand.”
When it comes to what they publish, Vault’s focus on genre isn’t merely a stylistic choice, it’s part and parcel to the company’s overall mission. “Science fiction and fantasy are in the business of posing tough questions and — when they’re really gutsy — attempting to answer them,” Adrian says. “If sci-fi inherently gazes forward, fantasy turns the eye inward…And in so doing, they hold a mirror up to what it means to be a human, right now, reading that text.”
“But,” Damian adds, “the most important answer [to why we chose sci-fi and fantasy] is love. I love these genres; they’ve seen me through the best and worst times of my life. The first novel I ever read was Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I was hooked from there. Frank Herbert’s Dune, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, Robert Silverberg’s Nightwings–these are my sacred texts.”
Under these broad headings, Vault intends to publish a wide array of stories encompassing the best of what the genres have to offer, a diversity which is reflected in the five titles they have announced thus far.
- Co-Creator / Writer: Chris Lewis
- Co-Creator / Artist: Tony Gregori
- Colorist: Jasen Smith
- Letterer / Designer: Nic J. Shaw
Issue #1 Release: February 1, 2017
Jack Allen is a young woman who has been recognized as the reincarnation of a Tibetan monastery’s holiest monk. Trained as a compassionate assassin, Jack soon discovers an enchanted dagger from her previous incarnation’s bloody past. But she’ll have to resist its lure to stop the violence surrounding her in the present.
- Co-Creator / Writer: Tim Daniel
- Co-Creator / Artist: Patricio Delpeche
Issue #1 Release: February 8, 2017
El Sueño, Texas, was a single street town withering under the shadow of the Mexico — U.S. Barrier. Then the pavement split, and a massive crack spread from one end to the other, rapidly swallowing El Sueño whole. Young couple, Avery Lee Olmos and Hark Wright fight to escape the mysterious sinkhole and the malevolent force that beckons from its depths.
Download an exclusive preview of Fissure by clicking here!
- Co-Creator / Co-Writer: F.J. DeSanto
- Co-Creator / Co-Writer: Todd Farmer
- Co Creator / Artist: Federico Dallocchio
- Letterer: Travis Lanham
- Designer: Jon Adams
Issue #1 Release: February 15, 2017
When he executed the last nanotech-enhanced super soldier, John Ravane thought that was the end of the haywire Insurgence Program. Ten years later, in the wake of social unrest, its true legacy is revealed. As sleeper agents scattered throughout the country activate, Ravane must stand between a government he cannot trust and the soldiers he once hunted.
- Co-Creator / Writer: Ricardo Mo
- Co Creator / Artist: Alberto Muriel
- Colorist / Designer: Jon Adams
- Letterer: HDE
Issue #1 Release: February 22, 2017
When Trans Atmos Shuttle 34 disappears into a wormhole, its pilot and passengers are launched into an adventure of gigantic proportions. Lost in an oversized parallel universe, the group must put aside their differences and unite to survive a hostile environment. But the biggest threat they’ll face is the one that hitched a ride on Shuttle 34.
Check out our interview with the creators of Colossi here.
- Creator / Writer: David M. Booher
- Artist: Nathan C. Gooden
- Colorist: Mike Spicer
- Letterer: Deron Bennett
Issue #1 Release: March 1, 2017
Billy Bannister lives in a world without superheroes. Not because powers don’t exist. But because everyone has them. After the outbreak of PRV, a virus that rips away those abilities, Quarantine emerges to stop the spread. An elite agent, Billy is the last line of defense against contagion. But his loyalty is tested when the infection hits too close to home.
All Vault titles are distributed via Diamond Comic Distributors and will be available for pre-order from your local comic shop.
While Vault’s lineup for 2017 has already been slated, they are currently accepting submissions for their 2018 schedule of twelve to fifteen new series. As for what they’re looking for, Adrian advises creators to “Embrace the medium. If you can tell a story that needs, desperately, to exist as a comic, you’ve already set yourself apart from the competition. I’d also like to say: If you’re a non-male and/or non-white comic creator, please consider submitting to us. We want — we need — to hear your stories.”
Submissions are accepted via email to submissions[at]vaultcomics.com.
THE ROAD AHEAD
For a publisher who’s yet to officially release a book, Vault’s future looks promising. They debuted in earnest at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to a reception that surprised even the Wassel’s, as fans emptied their booth of previews in a matter of days. Currently they’re hard at work preparing for their 2017 releases as well as sorting through submissions and planning for 2018 and beyond.
As for what he hopes the company will achieve, Damian is cautiously optimistic.
“I think we have wonderful content and an incredible team of creators behind us as we climb into the comics market,” he says. “But, it’s going to be a tough, uphill climb. I think we can build a successful company, in the traditional, slow, incremental way, so that in ten years we’re a household name for the comics readership.”
Adrian is more direct. “Pipe dream? [We] crack the list of top ten comic book publishers in five years.”