Monday, 24 March 2014

Interview with Vito Delsante

I thought it only right to start off this series of interviews with the guy who was kind enough to conduct mine for the website, Vito Delsante. 

When one says the phrase “a scholar and a gentleman”, odds are they are speaking of Vito Delsante. Vito has been, in the short time I’ve gotten to know him and his work, nothing short of impressive in the way that he conducts himself, not only as a professional but as a person.

I originally came across him when I backed his Kickstarter for the comic book Stray (with art by the excellent Sean Izaakse) and I can tell you this: he will have my backing on EVERY project that he does from now on.

Not only is he a supremely talented writer (I HIGHLY suggest you check out his latest release World War Mob) but he’s a helluva human being. From volunteering to conduct an interview for yours truly, to providing feeback and encouragement to his peers on their work, to sending out his PERSONAL CELL PHONE NUMBER to Stray backers to call during the holiday season if they were in need of someone to talk to in what can be a very depressing and stressful time of year for some folks, Mr. Delsante has proved time and again to be a great guy.

No, I won’t give you his number, but I will give you some insight into who he is and what he’s up to next, in this interview.
1.  You know the drill- tell us all about yourself; who you are, what your background is, etc., all that good stuff.

A. know as many times as you get asked this, you never know how to answer. Vito Delsante, from New York, by way of Pittsburgh, by way of New York, by way of Los Angeles, by way of Seattle, by way of New York. I've been a professional writer for just over 10 years, but I've been at it since 1996. In the past two years, I've added editing and lettering to that. 
2.  So why do you write comic books? What about them appeals to you? Do you have any plans of writing something outside of comics?

I've never really thought of why I write comic books. Why not, you know? I mean, there are plenty of other things to write, and ways to write them, but comics kind of meshes all of them. I never intended to write comics; I never intended to write at all. I'm more of an actor, always have been, and I've been a singer in I'm used to being the front man. Writing, unless it's a novel, makes you the guy in the back. If it's a movie, you are the last person anyone acknowledges (an exaggeration, I know). With comics, it's the art. So, comics were kind of...I figured I could do it, so I did it. I'm working on two novels right now and a possible screenplay. It's just that because they are so low on my totem pole, and the learning curve is different, I'm focusing almost too much on the comics. 

3.  Stray was the first comic book work of yours that drew me in- I loved the concept and the art and since then I’ve picked up some of your other work- World War Mob in particular was one that I’m enjoying. What can you tell us about these books?

A. They're both rather personal, which wouldn't seem obvious, especially with a superhero title, but they are almost...I hesitate to call World War Mob "autobiographical" but there is a truth and a real connection to that story that won't be evident until the final issue. Stray,'s not technically an autobiography, but there are things about me, moments in my life, that find their way into the book. Stray is about how I dealt with my father's death, but it's also an unused idea I had for a Nightwing pitch. World War Mob is based on actual events and is a story that was told to me by my grandfather. So, immediately, there's a connection to me, the writer, that wouldn't normally exist in a comic because, nine times out of ten, the focus is on the action. These two, there is action (obviously...can't do a war story or a superhero comic without action), but the focus is on the individuals

4.  Lately there seems to be more and more of a push towards “creator-owned” books as opposed to the “Big Two” of DC and Marvel. You’ve published both your own creations and work for the Big Two- which do you prefer? Is there a character that you’ve always wanted to write?

A. I prefer the one that is going to give the reader a more well rounded reading experience. That doesn't rule out franchise books like Batman or Spider-Man. My goal is to tell a good story, a great story if I can, but at least a good one. From there, I work with my editors and my artists to craft something that is a complete experience. Something that dazzles you visually, but makes you feel something inside. It's harder to do with a World War Mob type story, but I think we get that in the end. I don't prefer one to the other, but I'd rather do creator owned because, while it's not impossible, it's harder to convey truth and life and something that matters with a character that is almost 80 years old. If you follow comics with any regularity, you have a preconceived notion of who those franchise characters are and readers are quick to let you know when someone does something out of character. It's much easier with your own character.

There are a few franchise characters I would love to work on...Daredevil, Nightwing...not many, but a few that I am vocally passionate about. I'd love to do Batman, Superman, Wolverine and a few others again and do them better, but I don't think it's a failing on my part if I never get to work on them. At some point, my goals were less about being "famous" (or whatever counts as fame in comics) and more about being a good storyteller. I once said that I have a responsibility to my daughter to tell stories that she will get something out of in the future. Can I do that with Wonder Woman or Speedball? Maybe, but I think it's more effective with one of my own characters.

5.  You aren’t just limited to writing though- I’ve seen your name in the lettering credits as well, is that something that you enjoy doing? What made you get into that?

A. I love lettering. I prefer to only work on my stuff because I don't have to answer to too many people (for Stray, the only person I really answer to is Sean, because we want to highlight his art), and it gives me a chance to self-edit on the fly. It's an invaluable skill, and I would never say that I am particularly good at it (sufficient, maybe, but not necessarily good), but why I love it so much is that I feel like an artist. When I was a kid, I used to draw all the time, but it's not a skill that I possess now. I mean, I can draw somewhat, but I would never be able to draw a comic that I personally would want to read. But lettering gives me that chance to be an artist.  

6.  What do you have in store for us next? Are there any more Kickstarters in store? I want a Stray action figure- any thoughts on how soon you’ll have one?

A. Right now, all I want to do is focus on the two books I have out now. Giancarlo Caracuzzo, the artist on World War Mob, is eager to work with me again, but I have no clue what I would want to do. I have something in the works with ChrisCross, and of course, there will be a Stray Volume 2, but really, all I can think about is getting the first 4 issues done and making sure the trade for WWM is good to go for the summer. I don't want to do another Kickstarter ever again, because it's a lot of work for one person (and I had someone helping me out somewhat), but I have to admit that I'm kind of addicted to the rush of funding.
7.  As we’ve established, you write comic books… But which ones do you read?

A. It might be easier to point out which ones I don't read. I tend to read books by my friends more often than not, so Daredevil, The Fox, Lazarus...anything by Brubaker, anything by Morrison. Slott's Spider-Man...jeez, I'm blanking. Batman '66. Honestly, I read a ton of books. I mostly like to read books that, while they are similar in some ways to Stray, they don't have much in common with the character. Mostly because I want to make sure I'm not treading on familiar ground. But 99% of the time, I'm just reading things to have fun

8.  Outside of writing, what are some of your proudest accomplishments?

A. Being a father. Being a husband. Rescuing my dog. Being a friend to my friends. I'm a fairly simple person, but I have this real palpable fear of failure. So, I try to keep things simple. We could have easily failed to fund the book on Kickstarter, and that would have wrecked me for a bit, but I would have bounced back and tried again. I just try to keep it simple. Like, if my daughter cries (she's just a few weeks over a year), and I can't figure out why, I get frustrated and I feel like I'm a failure as a parent. I put a lot of pressure on myself, right? But if I get her to calm down, talk to me (in her way), and work it all out, I feel like I won the Oscar. It's really all the small things. 

9.  You can only listen to one album (dating myself using that word) for the next 5 years. What is it and why?

A. Blue Train by John Coltrane. It could be any Coltrane album, but it's got to be the quartet (Coltrane, Tyner, Jones and Garrison). Why? Hmmm...I think because I can listen to those albums, especially Blue Train, and hear something I never heard before. And I can cry listening to it at the drop of a hat. That album, and any of the ones with the classic quartet (which, oddly enough, Blue Train doesn't have) moves me. That's my goal with a lot of movies I see. I want to be moved. Like Dallas Buyers Club or 12 Years A Slave...they moved me. American Hustle, which I just saw, is a good movie, but it didn't move me. That's what I seek. That's what I want to do. I want to move people. To tears, to laughter...whatever.

I'd like to take a moment to thank Vito for taking time to do this interview and for his on-going support and advice on my own work. 

Here's some places you can find out more about Vito and his work.
Skype: vdelsante

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