With Further Ado #241: SXSW Part 1 – Vault Unbound

My head just about exploded at the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals (SXSW) this past week. This is an amazing event- kind of like the love child of San Diego Comic-Con and a musical festival and a business conference with a ton of forward-looking panels. There’s so much to dissect and analyze. I’ll be doing a deep dive in next week’s column.

But to give you a taste of it, I will focus on the lone comic panel at the SXSW this year – the Vault / Def Leppard / Kajabi panel.

This was a high-profile event that was designed, on the surface of it all, to celebrate Vault’s upcoming Hysteria project with Def Leppard. Phil Collen of Def Leppard was on the stage, along with Vault CEO Damian Wassel and Kajabi’s Sean Kim as part of the new Headshell imprint.

With the recent success of Z2’s music comics, and BOOMS! Keanu Reeves’ BZRKR this makes all the sense in the world. There were a lot of Def Leppard fans who showed up just to get close to Collen. To his credit, he comes across as hard-working professional who’s serious-minded, but still humble and charming. He handled several fawning fanboy questions with grace and dignity.

But there was another piece of big news. At this panel, Vault also announced a partnership with Kajabi, to essentially serve as a platform for their back catalog. It’s called Vault Unbound. With the collapse (is that too strong a term?) of ComiXology, it makes sense that publishers would seek out a proprietary place to serve up their books.

After two free months, users can then keep a free subscription or bump up to a premium level for $4.99 a month.

Since neither Rob Salkowitz nor Heidi MacDonald were on hand to ask the tough question, I figured it was up to me.

Damian Wassel & Phil Collen

I was the first audience question, and I think it surprised the panelists. They may have been expecting a “what’s your favorite Def Leppard song?” type question. (Those did come eventually.) I asked Vault’s CEO Wassel about how this move would affect comic retailers. Wouldn’t Vault Unbound be perceived as one more thing to discourage them to carry Vault Comics?

To his credit, Wassel spoke respectfully of comic shop retailers. He clearly has a great deal of fondness for retailers and is grateful for all their contributions to Vault’s successes. While not getting too specific, he did topline that Vault would be sure to offer comic shop retailers special incentives in the months to come.

Here’s the official press releases:


The Company Makes Announcement Today at South by Southwest, Alongside Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Kajabi President Sean Kim

Missoula, MT, March 14, 2023: Vault Comics, the critically acclaimed comics publisher and entertainment company, today announces its partnership with Kajabi, the leading platform for creator-led businesses, to build the first-of-its-kind fan community and digital reading experience on the Kajabi platform.

Using the Kajabi platform, Vault will build Vault Unbound, a new community experience where fans can interact with creators and other community members, access special behind-the-scenes offers and first access to product drops, attend special virtual events, and read favorites from the Vault catalog.

“Traditionally, publishers and entertainment companies have carried on behind closed doors, fencing fans off from their team and their development process. We think this is backward. We’ve learned that the more we open up our doors to our fans, the more we share with them about what we’re working on, the more we invite them in, the more excited and supportive they are of the stories we publish. So, we’re thrilled to finally build a platform that lets us open the door to our fans,” said Vault CEO Damian Wassel. “Of course, the challenge has always been building the right kind of integrated platform to support and reward fan engagement. Kajabi offers everything we could need to create a place where fans can interact with one another, with our team and our creators, and have special one-of-a-kind experiences. We could not ask for a better platform.”

The Vault and Kajabi partnership comes on the heels of Vault’s announcement of Headshell, a new line of graphic novels from iconic recording artists like Metallica, Def Leppard, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, The Beach Boys, Redman, and more. In addition to supporting the Vault catalog, Vault will use the Kajabi platform to provide Headshell fans with special content, virtual backstage access, and live experiences about creators’ favorite recording artists.

“Every artist wants to connect with their community of followers and fans in more meaningful ways,” said Sean Kim, President, and Chief Product Officer at Kajabi. “Kajabi’s partnership with Vault will help power connections between top artists and their fans in new and innovative ways. We’re looking forward to bringing more interactive fandom experiences to market to help fuel deeper relationships between creators and fans, both online and offline.”

Vault will open sign ups for Vault Unbound on March 14, and will launch on March 28. New subscribers will receive 60 days of free access to the premium subscription tier, and thereafter will be able to choose between a free or premium subscription starting at $4.99 a month. Free memberships will include access to a private fan community, select live events, and digital reading access to select titles from the Vault catalog. Premium memberships will include early access to new Vault releases, special private events with the Vault team and Vault creators, special private merchandise drops, and more expansive digitally reading access to the Vault catalog. Find out more at: http://www.vaultcomics.com/

More on SXSW nest time.

* * *
Oh, and for anyone who likes this type of thing, here’s the boilerplate from this press release describing both Vault and Kajabi.


Vault is a critically acclaimed entertainment company that curates bold new science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. We have been committed to working with historically underrepresented talent since day one. Purpose-built to create enduring fans, our expansive catalog of more than ninety original titles attracts a diverse and growing fandom. Launching new stories first as comics and graphic novels, Vault has partnered with leading companies like A&E, BET, Boatrocker, CBS, Netflix, Paramount, and others, to adapt its story properties to film, television, video games, and more. In 2023 Vault will launch Headshell, a line of graphic novels in collaboration with some of the world’s most iconic recording artists like Metallica, Def Leppard, the Beach Boys, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, Redman, and more. Press inquiries should be sent to: press@vaultcomics.com Learn more at http://www.vaultcomics.com/

Founded in Irvine, California, in 2010, Kajabi is the leading platform helping creators and entrepreneurs to turn their knowledge and experience into sustainable online businesses. With Kajabi’s integrated platform, creators have a single ecosystem to build and market their digital products including online courses, communities, live coaching and more. Tens of thousands of creators and entrepreneurs rely on Kajabi as the backbone to their business and have collectively earned over $5 billion in sales from more than 70 million customers. Learn more at http://www.kajabi.com/ and follow @Kajabi on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.