Robot 6

The Middle Ground #92 | What’s The Buzz, Tell Me What’s The Happenin’

Whether by plan or happenstance, it looks like 2012 is likely to turn into the year when Image Comics is more relevant to the comic industry than it’s been since it was first founded 20 years ago. The publisher isn’t just at the center of multiple conversations about the future of the industry as it stands today, it’s on the “right side” of the argument in so many (if not all) of them.

Perhaps it’s just my cynical and increasingly jaded eye, but so far it feels as if 2012 has been about two big issues in terms of the comics conversation: Creator Rights, and the Need For New Ideas Instead Of Rebooting Old Ones Or Pitting The Avengers Against The X-Men One More Time (Arguably, there are also conversations about double-shipping and the price of books, but I’m not sure the first has peaked, and the second feels like it is just a holdover from a conversation we were having last year, if that makes sense). For both of these “big issue” topics, Image has a silver bullet: Image lets creators own all rights for their books – even if that doesn’t prevent conflict between the creators about rights ownership, as the Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore lawsuit over The Walking Dead demonstrates all too well – and launches all-new series with new concepts literally on a monthly basis, with the structure of the company’s output easily emphasizing new ideas over legacy characters.

(You could also point to the recent, and surprisingly great, revival of the Extreme characters as a way to approach legacy characters as something other than exercises in nostalgia, if you were so inclined. Even though Prophet and Glory are more than a decade old, the approaches to each book are impressively free of a desire to reprise Greatest Hits or story lines past.)

I’m not sure whether or not this is Image coming back into the zeitgeist at the right time, proof of the cyclical nature of things, or something altogether different, but it’s been fascinating to watch Image become very definitely enmeshed in the center of the big conversations about the future of mainstream American comics after too long, it feels, on the sidelines. This coincides with them coming back into the center of mainstream American comics with their output, too, with new series from Big Two big names like Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Mark Millar and Grant Morrison this year alone, what feels like their most recognizable new creator signings in some time. These are the writers behind some of the biggest comics of recent years, and if they’re not names immediately recognizable to the general public, their work is likely to be; if the mainstream success of The Walking Dead wasn’t enough to get people paying attention to Image, hopefully the “size” of creators moving to the publisher will do it, instead.

At this rate, 2012 may end up being the year of Image – and, ideally, Image as gateway to all of the other independent publishers instead of Image-as-Image alone. It’s taken a long time to come, and it’ll be interesting to see what comes afterwards, if it happens.

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A combination of luck and smart planning has allowed Image to position themselves as a serious alternative to DC and Marvel, and I’m very excited about a lot of their upcoming comics. I barely read Marvel as it is, and while I still love DC, I’m not in love with a lot of their stuff. I’ve wanted to branch out in terms of what I read for awhile now, and Image’s ascension has come at a perfect time for me. Still, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that while what image is doing is really interesting, they’re still a company that’s trying to make a profit, just like DC and Marvel. Image just isn’t so naked about it.

Guess what, Daredevil is the only Marvel comic book I buy.

As for DC, just a few Bat-titles, JLA and Green Lantern.

Independent comic books, depending on what titles are available per month, no real favorite pull out list (I’m waiting for bluespear One-Shot from Com.X).

That’s about it.

Image and Dark Horse are the best positioned companies to bring new readers to the comics medium in the US. People often mistake DC and Marvel’s dwindling sales as evidence that the public aren’t interested in comics. This is false. They aren’t interested in superhero comics.

The mainstream success of comics like The Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim, Persepolis and Hark! A Vagrant over the last few years – not to mention the continuing success of Vertigo series like Fables and Scalped in trades as well as ‘young adult’ and manga material – shows that there is an audience beyond the Direct Market. Yes, some of those series I mentioned above have had film adaptations but they were selling bucketloads even before that and, arguably, it was their commercial success which led to their being adapted into films in the first place.

By a vast margin, Image have the most exciting series and creators for 2012. Where else can you get new series by the likes of Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, Robert Kirkman and more?

And you know what else? You’re never going to see Image doing a ‘Before Walking Dead’ against any of the original creators’ wishes. Nice, ain’t it?

Image has been making the right moves for a while now and having been consistently putting out creative titles that run the entire gamut. I haven’t seen such interesting output form a company sense DC’s Proto/Vertigo titles first hit the scene. They hinted that they had some things waiting in the wings at comic con last year and dropped the news about Saga and much more to come in 2012. Very smart move on their part to go about it that way. They’re striking while the irons hot and have definitely tapped into the zeitgeist of longtime readers. Now that the new car smell is fading from the New 52 and Marvel continues to rehash the same old storylines their fresh approach is ready to be accepted by more discerning lovers of the medium, but those devoted to the casual fair offered by the tights and fights comics of the Big Two as well.

All their big titles are from people who made their names at the Big 2. Its still very rare to become big if you have not. People will buy the big names and probably not even try the smaller titles, just like everywhere else. Still, its about damn time Image has been considered a mainstream publisher. They’re not independent anymore. I read posts by people who only buy Image, just like people who only buy DC. Image won’t be a gateway to other indie titles because they’re not an indie company. People still won’t look outside of the box.

Also, I’m not bashing Image. They print a lot of books I enjoy, but I’m just tired of people calling them indie.

The problem is, Image has failed to produce very many books that demand monthly purchases. The “habit” of favorite characters or books from Marvel and DC is very strong, the need for the next fix is very real.

At this point in time, our culture has produced so much fiction, in film, tv, books, and comics there really is no such thing as ‘new’. Everything is a variation of everything else. Whats happened is that whoever was first, gets a stranglehold. Marvel and DC control most of the fictional “archetypes” in comics, hence the majority of sales.

By archetype i don’t mean genre or superheroes.

Will these new series change that? I very much doubt it. These will have a small, niche impact. A much larger impact in trade collections, where I would buy them.

In January, Image’s best selling book was number #59 and DC’s reboot (which you imply was a bad thing) has the top 10 slots. I like Pigs. Hell, actually, I love Pigs, but if you think it’s ever going to outsell even Aquaman, you’re out of your ****ing gourd. They’ve got a few titles and, yes, those bigs names will come in and do ONE series, and then they’ll go back to Icon or Vertigo. You didn’t even mention Brian K. Vaughn and Saga, which is probably the actual most important thing they are doing this year.

Oh, in case you weren’t paying attention, Top Cow just rebooted their entire universe, so, um, there, basically…

Sure, Image is trying to make a profit — but they’re trying to make a profit for the creators, not for themselves. Image, as a company, isn’t set up to turn a profit. Any money they make goes to paying the staff and office expenses, that’s pretty much it.

At this point, I buy as many Image titles as I do DC. All told of the two dozen new titles that I have added or plan on adding in the first five months of this year (up thru the most recent solicits), over a dozen are from Image alone. Batman has me interested enough to keep buying much of the line, but I can see myself dropping half of them after the Owls cross-over. Between price point and the general lousy behavior of Marvel editors like Steve Wacker, I’m down to one Marvel title, and half the reason I stuck with Ultimate Spidey was the art. She’s been absent for a few issues now and apparently has a new title coming, so that one’s likely to get dropped too.

I love superheroes. I get my Marvel fix on the big screen and on their cartoons. Batman is still worth following every month, but if Snyder and Tomasi leave and the new cartoon is as well written as B:TAS, I can give up THAT habit pretty easily.

I don’t read Image for big names. Heck, I doubt that can tell you who writes or draws half of the books without looking. I like the mix of done-in-one mini series, ongoing monthlies that have an ending, and the evergreen never-ending books like Invincible and Walking Dead. It’s that variety of storytelling that has made me trying almost every new title from Image now, much like I used to do with Vertigo.

Black people writing monthly comics at Marvel, DC or Dark Horse? Zero.

The last Black man standing in comics is Enrique Carrion at Image.

http://www.komplicated.com/2012/02/lucky-number-seven-interview-the-last-black-man-standing-enrique-carrion.html

Coincidence? I think not.

I still prefer my DC to everything else. I flip through Previews every month. Image publishes nothing that interests me

Good points but I have to say that Valiant characters coming back is the thing that most excites me for 2012. They look to be doing something very surprising just as the original Valiant did. Most of the details are kept close to the chest and when they release information its innovative, smart and/or impressive. Cary Nord on X-O is perfect and his art is beautiful. Joshua Dysart on Harbinger is pitch perfect. The X-O Manowar talking mouth was new and I have to say smart. It made people pay attention. I hope they can keep it up

Kudos to Image. As a 30+ year comic reader, I have got to say, most of the nostalgia-based superhero comics bore me to tears. In the DCnU faux reboot, they had a chance to do something innovative and original. Mostly what we got was the same old crap with new costumes (there were a few exceptions, such as ‘I, Vampire’). Now we get Earth 2, another chance, and what are we going to get? more of the same. The Big 2 are stuck, which I just promoting their stagnation and slow demise.

I bought a bunch of those first DCnU titles, the first single issues I have bought in years. Now, 6 plus months in, and am not buying any of them except some of the better dark titles.

And AvX, that is just more tired big-event retread…

Yesterday, while standing in Hastings, I was going to pick up more trades, but instead picked up Fatale #1 and #2. I am hooked. I have to head 30 miles away to pick up Glory and Prophet (living in a small town in Idaho is bad for your indie comic lovin’) but I do that too.

I’m glad to see Image seems to have gotten away from the “too many second rate superheroes” image (no pun intended) it had in the 90s, with different genres being offered.

While I like Superman/DC’s characters, I dislike most of the “New 52″, which feels like the same stuff I disliked about DC before, only cranked up to 11/made more “x-treme.” Thus been looking lately for other material to read…and started to read “Reed Gunther” from Image. Fun book so far!

Looking at the comments I sure do see alot of ” oh well I read mainly DC and maybe some image.”
Everyone has opinions and that’s cool. But if youre just another mindless sheep with your sheep opinion, throwing your money towards crap, then you just support mediocrity. “I luvs aquaman because everyone says he’s cool now. Him and batman 4 life!!”
I guess it’s up to the people who live and think above the rabble of drones to explore and seek out new ideas while the sheep scream and deficate everywhere.

I feel like DC fans just attack everyone these days. I plan on trying most of the new image stuff. Believe it or not I buy from more than two publishers.

I don’t really see DC fans who are attacking Image. I also don’t see DC really shoveling the same old stuff. Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Frankenstein, Voodoo, Grifter, All-Star Western, OMAC, war comics, etc. They have just as much variety as Image.

Also, I’d be surprised to see people claim they buy non-licensed comics out of the top five publishers.

Mr Pants wrote: “Still, its about damn time Image has been considered a mainstream publisher. They’re not independent anymore.”

It depends on what you mean by “independent.” Marvel is owned by Disney. DC is owned by Warner Bros. You can’t say the same about Image. A guy doing an Image book isn’t getting a page rate from a corporation. It’s about as independent as you can get.

I’d argue that Image IS independent, but it’s certainly not small press.

But again, it goes back to how you define “independent.”

I mostly agree with this topic. Image is doing really well so far. For the last few years they’ve been getting better and better. I think it’s mainly because they’re producing really good comics. This year it seems they’ve just been getting great books with fantastic talent, such as Quitely and Vaughan.

It’s unfortunate that even with all this buzz, an Image comic may never sell as well as a Marvel or DC, but there may be one book that can get to the top this year or come close.

By the way, go and get Prophet, it’s so good!

Speaking of Prophet, they have enough capital to put out work-for-hire comics. They’ve done anthologies and tie-ins as well. I would assume the artists got paid for those, because I don’t think many would work for Tori Amons for free.

Besides all of this, mainstream is all about the clout and exposure it gives the work put out by a company. If you’re in the front of Previews, you’re pretty mainstream.

Yes, the guys working on the new Extreme books are doing work-for-hire work, but it has nothing to do with Image Comics having “capital.” Image isn’t paying those guys, because Image doesn’t own Prophet. Rob Liefeld does, so whatever contracts are involved are between Rob Liefeld and the guys working on the new books.

I don’t know what kind of deal was involved with the Tori Amos book, but I worked on an Image anthology and it was a back-end deal for a slice of the profits — just like all Image books.

if not for IMAGE .. I wouldn’t be buying many comics these days .. well .. IMAGE and DYNAMITE and BOOM and DARK HORSE .. and Terry Moore .. love his stuff ..

It’s not because of the brand on the cover .. it’s because that is where the good stuff is .. where you really enjoy reading an issue .. and you really look forward to the next issue ..

@JayFaerber,
I actually am kind of curious, how does the image deal work with Trades, is it the same cost upfront to Image for overhead as a regular issue?

Do you make more off the trades or the issues?

I only ask because the next few months show a huge increase in the number of Image books I plan on buying and I am really enjoying Near Death but am torn between getting a monthly fix and waiting for the trade, which I would likely reread more. So you know impasse.

As for Image in 2012, between Fatale, Near Death, Peter Panzerfaust, and Nancy in Hell, it’s been a pretty good few months already. With creators like Vaughn & Staples, Wood & Doyle, Morrison & Robertson, and Hickman all launching books this year, it’s a very exciting time to be a fan of comics.

Image is taking up more and more of my pull list these days, and it’s not because of some “I’m going to my room and gearing up all my Batman posters sort of protest either. While I like that they are on the “right side” of creator’s rights issues (doesn’t their business model sort of require them to be?), their books have just been more interesting to me of late.

Also, Jay – I’m really loving Near Death, and I hope you have the chance to do more books With Image (or anybody else!) in 2012.

Mr Pants:

All their big titles are from people who made their names at the Big 2.

To be fair, The Walking Dead and Invincible were both steadily increasing their readership before Kirkman ever touched a Marvel title.

Hannibal Tabu:

Black people writing monthly comics at Marvel, DC or Dark Horse? Zero.

Poor Marc Bernardin. He seemed pretty excited to write Static Shock, and now his run’s only going to be two issues.

I thought 2011 was the year of Image.

@Neil Cameron
I actually am kind of curious, how does the image deal work with Trades, is it the same cost upfront to Image for overhead as a regular issue?

Do you make more off the trades or the issues?

——-

This is a more difficult question to answer than you might think — Image does take a percentage of profits from the trades, on top of a standard fee. But that’s because trades are so expensive to produce and take a long time to earn their money back. Trades are a marathon, singles are a sprint. That’s why it’s hard to say which I make more money on — for Near Death, it’s the singles, because the trade is so new. Over time, the trade will make more money.

I’m flattered you’re concerned about that, but you really shouldn’t be — just buy the book in whichever format makes the most sense for you.

Thanks!

I look forward to Image books more than I do Marvel and DC. Like it was stated, how many times can you have the Avengers fight the X-Men (or do sequels to Crisis on Infinite Earths). I still read some Marvel/DC titles but I find as time goes on I read less and rather pick up books by smaller publishers like Image, BOOM, Dark Horse, Red 5, etc. who are actually creating stuff, not retreading it.

@ Mr Pants:

People call Image “indie” because no major corporation owns Image. DC and Marvel are not indie because they are owned by Warner Brothers and Disney, respectively.

“Indie” as in independent, you silly person.

To be honest its not that Image has suddenly got better, its that both Marvel & DC are so shockingly bad at the moment. Image is putting out exactly the same kind of material that they always have, the only game changing thing is that DC’s much hyped reboot was not followed up with material of substance & marvel has become so exclusively incestious that image is really the only company with more then 2 books on the shelf.

Thats not so much a pat on the back for Image, as much as it is a scathing condemnation of both DC & Marvel.

I love comics (especially super hero comics) in theory: In practice both DC &Marvel are making it excedingly hard to continue to care. I was a huge fanboy for both the companies up until recently… I’m now down to 4 books ;2 from DC & 2 from marvel one of which is a year late & the other 4 years late. You really are making it hard for people to care anymore.

Yep completely agree with original post. I have found myself adding more and more titles from Image and just skimming the fat from DC (Grifter with Lefield, Voodoo, JL Dark) and Marvel (X-Men Legacy, New Mutants). And too tell you the truth I have never fell more bumped for Image since the first issue of Spawn was coming out.

This year it’s image and valiant. For me!

I’ve noticed Image getting more of my money lately, and that’s a good thing. I’m also buying IDW, Dynamite, a bit of Dark Horse and sometimes Boom! I still buy more DC than any other publisher, but that’s been the norm for most of the last forty years.

I left out Marvel above, because they’ve been producing fewer and fewer books that interest me, and last year’s conversation is still driving my purchasing habits that I’m loathe to take a chance on what I see as an overpriced book. (This is particularly the case in digital where companies like IDW and Dynamite drop $3.99 books to $1.99 after a month or so – but Marvel leaves theirs at whatever they came in at indefinitely.)

Image? Really? The Liefeld titles being booted up again is not gonna save their arse.

Image is indie.

If you think books like Proof, Chew, Lil Depress Boy and Green Wake are mainstream, then you need to look up mainstream again.

The reason behind Image’s continued success lies with their business model of enticing high-end creators/writers to create comics specifically geared towards movies/TV.

Lets face it, besides Spawn, The Savage Dragon and the Walking Dead, almost every other Image title is following a time-stamped limited series formula specifically geared as a pitch towards movie studios.

There’s HARDLY ANY OTHER IMAGE title out there that is set as a continuation, i.e. an actual title that goes beyond issue number 4.

When I see new comics announced each month by Image I always notice that their ideas are not too far fetched. They always seem like perfect, real-world environments aimed towards a mid to large sized movie budget. In other words the average Image title won’t involve a battle between gods and billions of entities across multiple planets…but rather, say, a band of US characters coming across something in the sea like the “The Vault”, or men robbing banks using a fancy device like in “Theory of Everything”. They do this on purpose because if it’s too far-fetched it means too big of a budget for any proposed movie, and that scares off producers.

This is why I choose not to read Image comics, because they curry these ideas not for the average comic reader but for movie execs. I can clearly imagine Image writers creating a comic specifically set to woo in Will Smith or Tom Cruise.

It’s like the Image 90′s all over again except instead of aiming it towards toys and video games it’s Movies and TV.

(I say this because I recall an interview with Joe Madureia (sp?) in Wizard magazine in the 90′s where he talks about a new book he made called Battle something. The book hadn’t even reached issue 3 yet and he was already mentioning working with toy and video game companies about upcoming projects related to this book. Talk about the cart pulling the horse here).

The goal of course if obvious, easy money. Image MAKES FAR MORE MONEY off of licensed properties than anything else. Same goes for the creative team. They even option a title and that means hundreds of thousands of dollars out of thin air, irregardless of whether the damn thing gets made or not. And of course if it does get made then that means many more dollars.

Hey more power to them, it’s a business model they’re not going to change anytime soon, but I’d rather stick with the fantastical/fantasy/superhero worlds of Marvel and DC than read stuff catered to Hollywood.

Image Comics has always been indie.

“Indie” doesn’t mean “small.” And Marvel Comics was mainstream even before the Disney acqusition. Marvel is the biggest player on the comic book field, you know that. Always has been.

Image is even more independent than most comic fans think–the projects all come out in direct collaboration with their creators, with the creators/studio heads fronting a fee–part of the setup cost.

william,

With all due respect, your comments are very naive.

“I’d rather stick with the fantastical/fantasy/superhero worlds of Marvel and DC than read stuff catered to Hollywood.”

Have you been living in a cave for the last few decades? Are you completely unaware of the non-stop flood of Marvel and DC superhero movies and Tv projects? Come on man, you’re smarter than that.

I think what you perceive as “movie pitch” comics is actually nothing more than the emerging diversity in genre. I’m not sure how anyone could see that in a negative light. It’s clearly a positive trend, not a negative.

The reason creator-owned books tend to be miniseries instead of ongoings is because as independent creators, we fund our comics out of pocket. In my case, SWEETS is a 5 issue miniseries because I wrote, penciled, inked, colored, and designed the book without payment. Think about that for a minute. ZERO PAYMENT. The goal is for the comic to become a commercial success, then, and only then, do I get paid.

The odds of selling an option for film/TV is very low, and most options are a low dollar amount. This isn’t something creators can afford to gamble on, trust me. Our gamble is that the comic will sell, and continue to sell and stay in print (or digital) for the next 50+ years. That’s where we’ll make our money. A long-term investment of intellectual property. If an option is sold for film or TV, that’s simply a bonus.

William:

Do you have any idea what kind of budget you’d need to film Skullkickers or G0dland or Nightmare World or The Red Wing or Last of the Greats or The Darkness or about a thousand other things?

If you want to stick with Marvel/DC, that’s your call, but I don’t think you’ve got a particularly solid grasp of the economics of comics OR Hollywood, friend.

Wow, I want to live in william’s make-believe world!

William, man … shit, I don’t even know where to start.

First off: Astounding Wolf-Man, Bomb Queen, Morning Glories, Chew, Invincible, Elephantmen, Godland, Hack/Slash, Haunt, Mice Templar, Proof, and Super Dinosaur. Those are just a handful of current or recent Image titles that have gone well beyond issue 4, despite your claim otherwise. Hell, my own series, Near Death, has issue #6 out later this month (and we’re currently working on issue #9). My previous series, Dynamo 5, lasted 25 issues, plus a 5-issue mini-series. My serious before that, Noble Causes, lasted over 50 issues, when you tally up the various mini-series plus the ongoing.

And frankly, a lot of the books I listed would make terrible movies or TV shows — that’s because they were developed TO BE COMIC BOOKS. They’re not thinly-veiled movie pitches. Don’t get me wrong, I understand your frustration — because there ARE publishers out there whose entire business model is the “4-issue movie pitch” model. But Image sure as hell isn’t one of ‘em.

And what “licensed properties” are you talking about? The ones you say Image is making so much money off of? Image doesn’t HAVE any licensed properties. I’m not even sure you understand how Image works, man. Your understanding of how much money is involved in a movie or TV option is, unfortunately, quite exaggerated.

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