IMAGE EXPO: 12 AUSPICIOUS ANNOUNCEMENTS AND THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN COMICS UNION
In the final few hours before San Diego Comic-Con opened its doors to the public for Preview Night on Wednesday, Image Comics Expo took place in an upstairs ballroom at the nearby San Diego Bayfront Hilton, where the publisher welcomed a group of press, creators, and fans to watch as the company announced, discussed and otherwise promote a great variety of upcoming Image titles.
Britpop boomed over the speakers as the attendees filed into the room, which was set up in a manner familiar those who’ve watched Apple keynote presentations, but is still somewhat untraditional for comic book conventions. A few minutes after 2pm, Image publisher Eric Stephenson bounded onstage and launched into one of his now-customary keynote addresses, bemoaning what he described as the American comics industry’s penchant for recycling as opposed to innovating, and promised that the afternoon would expose readers to fresh ideas and bold new concepts. He name checked Marvel luminaries Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Stan Lee’s reinvention of comics in the early 1960s as an ideal to be strived for; talked of his own passions and ambitions for Image as a company; showed off some sales graphs that demonstrated Image’s growth over the last few years; and spoke powerfully about the need for diversity in content in order to appeal to the widest possible audience.
“Comics have been viewed as a boys club, but that’s changing,” Stephenson said, referencing the growing conversation in our community about the need for more representation of women and persons of color both on the page and behind the scenes.
Perhaps unintentionally, Stephenson’s earnest remarks about comics diversity became conspicuous when he screened a short film outlining Image’s history, the policies and ideals that the company hopes to embody, and showcased clips of creators speaking about the freedom they enjoy working at the famously hands-off publisher. With the notable exception of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, the film was essentially a succession of talented men talking about their love for comics. However, the optics would become a lot better very shortly, when Image’s new announcements (topics and people not discussed in the filmed presentation) came with numerous new projects created by women and persons of color.
But before those specific announcements, Stephenson discussed his belief that “creator-owned” — where writers and artists own the copyright and other rights to their own comic books — should be the industry standard, and spoke unfavorably of the rise of the term “creator-driven,” which has been used by some publishers to describe the idiosyncratic nature of their nevertheless company-owned publications. Stephenson described “creator-driven” as the bare minimum treatment acceptable in publishing. He spoke openly about how such comments often don’t make him friends with Image competitors, and positioned himself as a figure that welcomes controversy so long as that controversy leads to “better comics.”
The Image publisher then proceeded to put his money where his mouth was, segueing into the main event: new comics that Image hopes will rise to the standard of Stephenson’s bold rhetoric.
UNIVERSAL’S CABLE ARM PICKS UP REMENDER & DWYER’S ‘NIGHT MARY’, BARBIERE & MOONEYHAM’S ‘FIVE GHOSTS’ AND ORIGINAL SERIES BY WARREN ELLIS
Universal Cable Productions, the cable and digital arm of NBCUniversal, announced three new projects rooted in the comic book realm, including what will be Planetary and Transmetropolitan writer Warren Ellis’ first original series developed especially for television. Additionally, UCP optioned Night Mary, a 2005 IDW drama by Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer about a young woman trained to enter the dreams of serial killers; and Five Ghosts, the recent critical hit from Image Comics/Black Mask Studios and creators Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham, who tell the story of Fabian Gray, a 1930s adventurer possessed by the spirits of five literary ghosts — Merlin, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Miyamoto Musashi, and Dracula. Five Ghosts began as a miniseries but its success resulted in an upgrade to ongoing, and now, it seems, an “upgrade” (because comics are the best, obviously) to television.
There’s no information about the Ellis project, but he’s working on it with producer Gale Ann Hurd, best known for numerous films with James Cameron as well as The Walking Dead.
FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS: MARIAN CHURCHLAND, CLAIRE GIBSON AND SLOAN LEONG SUBVERT CLICHÉS WITH A NEW FANTASY ADVENTURE
By Juliet Kahn
There will be magic in From Under Mountains, an ongoing fantasy series coming from Image in 2015 and announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Set in the world of Akhara, the story introduces us to a lord’s daughter, a disgraced knight, and a runaway thief whose unlikely partnership will change the course of a world locked in a bitter conflict between rival clans. There will be goblins and witches and knights as well, lost in the churning of a world in turmoil. Great houses will square off for power. Thieves will dash into the shadows. Naïve youths will learn that the world is vaster and more terrible than they ever imagined. In these warm, well-worn ways, it will embrace the best that fantasy, as a genre has to offer: sweeping scope grounded in the lives of heroes, villains, and everything in between.
Creators Marian Churchland, Claire Gibson, and Sloane Leong have worked on everything from Elephantmen to magical girl comics about anthropomorphic wolves, and they are bringing their varied experience to bear upon From Under Mountains and the fantasy genre in ways both familiar and innovative. ComicsAlliance talked with them to discuss breaking new ground with thoughtfulness, experience, and memories of Ursula Le Guin.
SCOTT SNYDER & JOCK REVEAL FIRST PAGES FROM INCOMING IMAGE SERIES ‘WYTCHES’
Their new series, Wytches, isn’t quite what you might expect. It’s a horror story — about witches, if you haven’t guessed — though Jock is often thought of as an artist who specializes in action. And it’s published by Image Comics, despite Snyder seeming firmly entrenched at DC for the past several years (though his series Severed was also at Image).
Snyder has established quite a track record as a horror-comics writer over the past few years, with Severed, American Vampire and The Wake under his belt. And it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to categorize The Black Mirror as a horror story of sorts.
Snyder explained what Wytches is all about to Entertainment Weekly:
Forget everything you know about witches. Because the truth is, witches, real witches, are something much, much scarier. Something you’ve never seen before. I’m collaborating with the super talented artist Jock on a new ongoing comic book series from Image Comics called Wytches. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s leave it at this—you’ll never think of witches the same way once you see Jock’s designs.
As for what you thought were witches? A wytch? A real wytch? Imagine, if you will, a bestial, primal creature that lives deep in the woods, waiting. We know nothing about them—they’re rarely seen. They are bigger than we are, stronger and smarter than we are, and they are gruesome and predatory. So, forget what you think you know. Leave the broomsticks for the kids. No magic, just horror.
ONE-SHOT GALLERY’S IMAGE COMICS TRIBUTE SHOW FEATURES ART INSPIRED BY SPAWN, WILDC.A.T.S, SAGA AND MORE
By Chris Sims
Ever since it was founded back in 1992, Image Comics has been one of the driving forces in American comic books. Whether it was those early days of Spawn and Youngblood or the more recent critically acclaimed hits like Powers, Saga and The Manhattan Projects, the publisher’s a vital part of the rise and enduring popularity of creator-owned comics, often releasing some of the best things going.
This week, New York’s One-Shot Gallery kicked off a show celebrating 22 years of Image with art inspired by the publisher’s long roster of titles. Curiously, The Rob’s work seems to be underrepresented, but there’s still a lot of great stuff from artists like Paigey, Amy Reeder and Hoang Tran, whose carved crayon sculptures are basically amazing.
NOW IS AWESOME: JOE KEATINGE & KHARY RANDOLPH ON THE RESURRECTION OF ‘TECH JACKET’
This week Image Comics released the first issue of Tech Jacket by Joe Keatinge and Khary Randolph. And while this may be the first time many of today’s readers have heard of the title, it’s actually been lurking around the edges of the Image line for over a decade. Created in 2002 by pre-Walking-Dead Robert Kirkman and artist E.J. Su, the eponymous Tech Jacket is a wearable cache of the most powerful weapons in the universe, bestowed irreversibly unto teenager Zack Thompson when he encountered a dying alien. Naturally, Zack used his newfound abilities to become a galactic warrior of great worth and protecting Earth from universal threats with more enthusiasm and wide-eyed wonder than other Earthborn space cops you might have heard of.
The original series ran for only six issues but the story was later continued as a back-up in the pages of Kirkman and Ryan Ottley’s Invincible. Then, earlier this year, Keatinge and Randolph produced a trio of digital issues that revitalized the concepts and characters and paved the way for this new ongoing series.
With issue #1 on sale now from Image and Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, ComicsAlliance spoke to the creative team about what drew them to these characters and concepts, and what plans they have in store for the series.
Joe Keatinge: I love big sci-fi — whether it’s big in scale like Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama or big on action like, well, everyone’s heard of Star Wars, right? — but my favorite part isn’t so much the big part, the massive concepts on a scale unlike any other, but the small reactions to it. The human bits. Tech Jacket gave me the opportunity to do something exactly along these lines — to create an increasingly massive scale blockbuster with the focus on a guy who would never star in, say, the latest Transformers. Zack’s no Captain Kirk. He’s barely a Star-Lord, from what the Guardians of the Galaxy trailers have shown thus far. He lives with his parents, for crying out loud. His Dad is the one operating his satellite.
‘THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’ #2 VARIANT COVER GAZES A GAZELY STARE
By Andy Khouri
Because you’re young you may not realize the latest Wicked + Divine variant cover is a particularly cheeky reference to a 1976 mugshot of David Bowie, himself a major inspiration on the Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie series about ancient gods reincarnated as glamorous pop stars. But hang on to yourself; the only way to get ahold of this conversation piece is to buy it from Beach Ball and Corner Store Comics in California.
Ragged and naive, Bowie was arrested at the Rochester hotel in upstate New York on charges of felony marijuana possession. Fortunately Bowie was not dragged from police station to station, and his stay lasted only a few “…hours” before being released into the heat of the morning — but not before the Thin White Duke was able to create a little wonder in the form of what’s doubtlessly the prettiest star mugshot ever captured.
OH SNAP! THE GODLIKE GENIUS OF ‘THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’
By Douglas Wolk
The mark of a great pop song is not just that it’s a pleasure to hear and hear again, but that it rewards struggling with it. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have been conflating pop music and comics since they first collaborated on Phonogram ten years ago; Gillen’s described the central conceit of their new series The Wicked + The Divine as “gods as pop stars, and pop stars as gods.” That’s a good way of describing the story itself — but the comic is also about presenting Gillen and McKelvie as pop stars, and as pop mechanics. It’s the product of a decade spent working out what makes comics click, and how to make them speak to a mass audience.
I’ve been fortunate enough to read the first two issues of The Wicked + The Divine; they’re marvelous, a little bit maddening, and thoroughly worth wrestling with.
To put it in musical terms: Phonogram was a couple of fans, in love with the artifacts of pop, discovering that they could make something with their own voice. Their fifteen-issue take on Young Avengers, published across the course of last year, was experienced punks playing with pop gear, Chumbawamba realizing that they’d been at it long enough to make people dance if they wanted to. The Wicked + The Divine is Gillen and McKelvie as Lennon and McCartney, sitting down to “write a swimming pool,” or Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, sweating out the hooks of “Waterloo.”
‘SEX CRIMINALS’ RETURNS FOR A SECOND STORY ARC BUT SOMETHING’S MISSING (JON’S PENIS) [PREVIEW]
By Chris Sims
I don’t know if it’s even really necessary to tell anyone that they should be reading Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, but on the off chance that you’ve been sleeping on the story of two bank robbers with hearts of gold and time-stopping orgasms, you really oughtta get on that, and this week is a pretty good time to get to it. With Sex Criminals #6, Fraction and Zdarsky are kicking off their second story arc with the return of Jon and Susie. Or at least, the return of most of Jon and Susie. See, there’s a piece missing, and one assumes that this is going to cause all kinds of problems over the next few issues.
Oh, and if that’s not enough to get you intrigued, this issue actually includes a price guide for the first arc. Finally, we can all get on the same page about the monetary value of the first appearance of Jazmine St. Cocaine.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE: THE ENTIRE CREATIVE TEAM TALKS STORY, ART, DESIGN, COLOR, LETTERS + MUSIC [INTERVIEW]
The creative team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie first made their mark with the 2006 Image Comics release Phonogram: Rue Britannia, a thrilling and thoughtful story about magic, music, modern sorcery, and how the records we listen to affect our lives and identities. The series combined cultural touchstones and urban fantasy trappings in a way that captured the imagination of critics and readers, and its success ultimately led to Gillen and McKelvie becoming separately and together some of comics’ most fan-favorite creators on books like Journey Into Mystery, X-Men Season One, Suburban Glamour, a second series of Phonogram, and their rmuch-lauded collaboration on the recently concluded reinvention of Young Avengers.
Today they’ve released the debut issue of their latest and most ambitious project: The Wicked + The Divine, an ongoing series from Image that blends together many of their favorite subjects: youthful reinvention, manifest deities, supernatural superpowers, and, of course, the transformative power of pop music. The first issue is both intriguing and exhilarating, depicting the adventure of a superfan as she rubs elbows with ancient gods who return every ninety years, this time in the form of gorgeous young people who become 21st century celebrities. At once sublimely understated and action-packed, the first issue grabs you instantly and leaves you anxious to read more.
ComicsAlliance connected with the entire W+D creative team of Gillen and McKelvie; designer Hannah Donovan; letterer Clayton Cowles; and colo(u)rist Matt Wilson for an in-depth conversation about the story they’re telling, their collaborative process, and the artistic and cultural inspirations for the series. Along the way, we’re revealing some previously unseen behind-the-scenes materials and an exclusive preview of The Wicked + The Divine #2.