First Salvo: More Publishing Fun & Games

People might remember back in late October I spoke about the now defunct publisher First Salvo and how they treated Alan Weiss and myself, namely by commissioning a story and not paying us, and also refusing to pay Alan for outstanding work that he'd done for the company. Just for the record, to date they've still yet to pay either of us (as I've told them - they can refuse to pay me, that doesn't bother me, much, but they are honour bound to pay Alan) and have not responded to numerous emails. Since that initial post I've had more contact with artists who've shared various stories with me about the conduct of the Salvos, how they promised a lot of work and then ceased contact without explanation.

Publishers do go under, especially small press publishers, so there's nothing wrong there. However it's generally accepted as being good business practice to at least let people know that you've gone under without abuse or silence. Most people will accept a publisher going broke, some will even write off what's owed, as long as they're told and a suitable explanation is made. However to just vanish, or, in this case, to just cut people off while giving the impression that you're still an active publisher, is not only poor form, it's plain rude.

Having said that one story that was shared with me recently really caught my eye and it involves the cover art to the Dangers Dozen Interlude comic, one of the last that I'm aware of First Salvo publishing. Over on their blog they're still boasting about how they're in business and still publishing, good on them - if they're still viable and active then they can pay Alan Weiss. As it stands the last comic that I've physically seen bearing the First Salvo banner was the Interlude.

I was attracted to the Interlude not only because it was by First Salvo, a publisher I'd gone to great pains to help promote, but also because the cover was by two of my favourite artists, Trevor Von Eeden and Norm Breyfogle, a pairing that'd not been done before. After the comic appeared I contacted Norm and bought his original art for the issue. The cover is a stunner and highly effective, however the publishing quality of the cover just doesn't move me at all and by muting the black boldness it helps dilute the power of the work. Knowing I love a good story behind the story I was contacted by those in the know and informed of a few facts.

The Salvos contacted Trevor and commissioned the work with the full knowledge that it'd be used as an eventual cover. The Salvos told Trevor that the cover was to be inked by Joe Rubenstein, at no time was he told that the cover was eventually inked by Norm. No biggie there, publishers often change art teams as they go along. What the Salvos neglected to tell Von Eeden was where and when they were actually going to publish the cover, such was the instability of the company and the lack of communication, the work was done, paid for and then published without Von Eeden's knowledge, nor were any copies of the final product sent over for Von Eeden to have on file. Indeed the first knowledge that Von Eeden received of the covers publication was when his art agent, Bob Shaw, contacted him to tell him it was out there.

If that's where it ended then that would almost be tolerable but, as with most publishing horror stories, that's not all folks. Von Eeden was also tapped to provide full pencils for at least three covers plus interior art for an upcoming series. Duly advised Trevor supplied, as per the Salvo's request, character designs and preliminary artwork which were then sent off for approval. Due to the volume of the work he also cleared his schedule and turned down other work so that he could devote the appropriate amount of time required. That's when the Salvos ceased responding to emails and calls, hence Trevor was both out of work and out of pocket, as the Salvos have yet to pay him for the work he'd done, outside of the Interlude cover (which, I'll point out again, was paid for). That's three full issues of time, plus the other work.

There's a pattern there and that pattern is that First Salvo appear to be a bit lax when it comes to fulfilling their obligations as a publisher. All they have to do to fix these problems is simply pay people what they're owed, for work already done, accepted and submitted, along with kill fees, at least, for work commissioned by the publisher. Even an email or two just explaining the situation. I'm not holding my breath though. Such a shame that their forums are now defunct, but then no great surprise really.


wow...first salvo had promised me work,and never came e-mails...nothing....i now feel really fortunate that i didnt work for them,because i would have probably been stiffed...brian postman...
Mark McKenna said…
Boy, this is a tough thing to read. I WAS there as really a 1st contact or nearly a 1st contact for AFS to artists in the US. Thad emailed me after an interview he read done with me in Draw! Magazine. I kinda intro'ed him to the idea of using American artists, plenty who were terrific and out of work or looking for new things to do. Thad tapped into that and within months had a plethora of name talent working for him. Once he discovered that Diamond WOULD accept his books without having to package and use a known publisher distribute he was totally excited. I think the wheels started to fall off once he got his initial #'s back on DD#1. I mean he spent many thousands of dollars developing an inventory of books, ready to ship and then he gets his 1st book to sell, maybe 1000 copies? He was distraught by that. Diamond takes 60-62% of cover just to be acquainted with them. Do the math. He took a bath AND that was a 1st issue. You guys know the history of a 1st issue vs a 2nd or 3rd issue circulation? Thad also got pretty sick and had some personal issues affect him. I don't condone the situation that was beset on anybody. Thad went from using some pro talent doing a cover or 2 to hiring many name guys leaning on AFS for income and instead of the usual story of a company growing TOO fast and end up going bankrupt, times this by 10 and you could read the writing on the wall. In the beginning of our correspondence I used to get daily emails from Thad, sometimes we'd go back and forth 10X in an hour. That went to 1 time a week. my spidey sense was tingling, I've seen it happen with publishers over the years. Early exuberance turns to REAL business to shock and disappearance. He got too busy fluffing everybodies pillows and then the realization set in that the business didn't show AFS the love that he thought he would get. I hear he left at least a few guys in bad situations(me not being one of them, thankfully). I like Thad and Garan. They've been good to me, even though the end seemed a bit abrupt. I like our Danny Boy too. Unfortunately Danny brought all this excitement to the dance but AFS left early. A fine mess. I'm really sorry to hear this stuff.
Anonymous said…
None of this surprises me, from Danny's post to Mark's reply. When I first heard of AFS existance I eagerly went to my local comic shop to reserve Danger's Dozen. I ordered it in plenty of time to reserve the entire series. However, I never received a single issue. The store was unable to order a single copy. Now that I hear that their initial print run was roughly 1,000 copies, I am not surprised.
From reading about the company online I quickly figured that this was not a reputable company. My own hunch led me to believe that these were some guys with a few bucks who thought it'd be cool to make their own comic. I did manage to track down Danger's Dozen #1 and #2 through mail order, and realized I wasn't missing much. Those two issues ended up in the trash.
I feel bad for the creators for not properly planning out their business plan, for probably losing money, time and potentially even friends. However, there is still a moral and ethical responsibility to let the people you know who work for you that serious trouble occurred which caused a change in the plans for the business. At the least, Thad owed his creators a explanation as to what was happening, as opposed to ignoring them, which is what it sounds like he did.
George "The Stooges"

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