The Middle Ground #112 | We are the champions, my friend
For a while, before Comic-Con International, it looked like it was going to be Marvel. Marvel NOW! was announced, and it seemed as if the weekend would be filled with announcements of new creative teams on old books with new numbers, sucking up all the air in the room and creating a buzz vacuum (not that any of that actually happened, of course). And then DC Comics pulled out Neil Gaiman and Quentin Tarantino, and it seemed that they’d pulled some kind of coup … and then the Image Comics panel on Saturday hit, and holy moley.
For those who somehow missed the news, Image announced new series from Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios, James Robinson and J. Bone, Chris Roberson and Paul Mayberry, Greg Whitta and Darick Robertson, and two new Joe Casey books (one of which has art by David Messina, hopefully making that guy’s name as big as it deserves to be), on top of the four J. Michael Straczynski projects that are apparently headed the publisher’s way as part of his new Studio JMS deal. In other words, Image Comics decided that its 20th anniversary was the right time to remind you that it was a big deal, really.
That line-up is, let’s be honest, beyond impressive. It speaks to a lot of things at once, I think, not least of all the increasing interest (demand?) among creators to own their own work and their creations; if there’s one thing we’ve seen this year, it’s been a growing awareness of the value of having that ability to control intellectual property, whether it’s to have some level of participation (financial or creative) in big-screen adaptations of work, or even just to prevent the franchising of stories that were quite clearly finished the first time around. It also suggests a growing comfort with the idea that maybe the market is ready for creator-owned work these days, in a way that it hasn’t been for quite some time; after all, if so many big name creators are moving into it, they have be relatively confident that the books will survive for some time and not just crash and burn into cancellation within months of launch.
There are, of course, outliers who can prove that theory: Not just Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga, which has enjoyed healthy sales since launch, or Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead, which has finally matched its collected editions success in single issues with the news that #100 is the best selling comic in 15 years, but also Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips’ Fatale, which feels like an important landmark in the apparent “Big Two Guys Go Image” rush we’re seeing now. All three of those titles demonstrate the strength of creator-owned comics, and Image Comics in particular, in the marketplace if they’re (a) good and (b) promoted properly. With that to go on, it’s no wonder that the publisher is seeing such an influx of established talent, ready to go new places and see what happens. Good luck to them all, and to Image, too. Way to celebrate your twentieth birthday, people.