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Image Expo returned on Thursday, and it wasn’t messing around. Each year, Image Comics seems to pack bigger announcements and bigger surprises into a single-day event. And the diversity of creators and genres gets that much better, too.
This year’s Image Expo — held again at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, following last July’s event at Comic-Con International in San Diego — included the now-standard keynote address by Publisher Eric Stephenson. He reviewed the past year’s successes and echoed plans to make Image the No. 1 publisher, but aside from throwing the gauntlet down at the feet of Marvel and DC, his address avoided some of the controversial statements and manifestos of years past. While I appreciate a good sabre-rattling, it allowed the focus to remain squarely on the creators and their comics.
With that in mind, here are my six favorite announcements from Image Expo 2015:
How limited? Just 60 of each 11.7-inch by 16.5-inch linen prints of the covers for the first five issues and the first trade paperback. At $40, they’re likely to go pretty quickly.
The Image Comics series, created by Rios and Kelly Sue DeConnick, earned a handful of Eisner nominations and inspired a line of perfumes.
Publishing | Calvin Reid looks at how publishing is done on Kickstarter, and interviews Maris Kreizman, the general publishing manager, and Jamie Tanner, who oversees the comics category and is himself a comics creator. Comics campaigns have a success rate of nearly 50 percent, making them the fourth-highest category on Kickstarter (and way ahead of general publishing, which has a 32 percent success rate). Tanner sees the popularity of comics as an indication that people still like a print product, and, he pointed out, “setting up a [Kickstarter comics] project, offering rewards and a delivery date, is very much like any conventional comics publishing project.” [Publishers Weekly]
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, the company that’s created fragrances inspired by Hellboy, Irredeemable, Grendel and even Neil Gaiman, has now turned its attention — and its nose — to Pretty Deadly, the mythic Western created by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios.
The new line of perfume oil blends includes Alice, The Reaper of Cruelty, described as “Bourbon geranium emboldened by the rich scent of aged patchouli, the sweetness of peach, raspberry leaf, and bourbon vanilla, surrounded by a butterfly swarm of spicy carnation and Italian bergamot,” and Ginny, The Reaper of Vengeance, characterized as “Sharp tobacco flower and white cognac, a thin layer of smoke, and dusty black pepper pierced by the amber of her eyes.”
In three short years, Image Comics has turned Image Expo into the first big comics event of the year. Interest in the publisher’s announcements has reached the point where I wish there were live-streaming video of the presentation. Maybe next year. For now, we have to settle with live coverage, which was still pretty fun. Image Expo didn’t disappoint: It seemed as if every title announced caught my interest. There are a few that stand out, however, so here are my Top 5 picks of the announcements that went above and beyond.
1. Image signs Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips to a five-year exclusive contract
The acclaimed collaborators have a perpetual green light at Image to do whatever they want for the next five years. That’s a big vote of confidence, and a real commitment to support Brubaker and Phillips. It must be quite a relief for them to not have to worry about crafting the perfect pitch and convincing someone to believe in their story. They just get to create. It’s an exciting arrangement, and one I hope will serve as a pilot program for others equally worthy.
A retailer who last week ripped a copy of Pretty Deadly #1 in half in front of customers, triggering heated online reaction as well as responses from Image Comics and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, has apologized for his actions.
“A small group of long time customers who know me well asked me what I really thought of the book,” Steven LeClaire, owner Comics Ink in Culver City, California, explained in a post on the Bleeding Cool forum (it was deleted and made into a standalone article). “For dramatic effect, I ripped a copy of the book after giving my review. I personally found the book lacking a coherent storyline and the art too muddy to follow. That was my opinion. The book was still on the shelves for sale for all those who wanted it. I made a mistake of thinking I was having a private talk with a small group of friends. I apologize for my actions.”
The incident was first mentioned Thursday by CBR columnist Hannibal Tabu in “The Buy Pile,” where he wrote that he agreed with the retailer’s assessment of the issue — by DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles — although he didn’t mention LeClaire by name. Word of the comic’s destruction quickly spread online, with Zero writer Ales Kot questioning whether the act was prompted merely by “anger about the product, or also by misogyny,” and leading Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson to offer to take back the remaining copies of Pretty Deadly #1 from Comics Ink and have Diamond Comic Distributors cancel orders for subsequent issues.
Publishing | Viz Media, the largest U.S. publisher of English-language manga, is poised to jump in to a new market: India. Kevin Hamric, the company’s director of publishing and marketing, was there this week, and he says the demand is there. “With India’s growing book and reading sector we have identified it as key to our growth,” Hamric says. “We receive many, many requests each and every month from fans in India to bring our product here.” [The Hindu Business Line]
Comics | As the Avengers turn 50, Noel Murray recounts their history and explains why they work so well as a super-team. [Hero Complex]
Conventions | The founder of this month’s incredibly successful Salt Lake Comic Con — it drew about 70,000 attendees in its first year — is planning a spinoff event for Jan. 9-11, the weekend before the Sundance Film Festival. [Salt Lake Tribune]
This week Image Comics released the first trade paperback for Glory, on the heels of the collection of Prophet, two parts of one of the publisher’s more interesting ventures this year: the revival of older, Rob Liefeld-created characters and properties by some of comics’ most creative and individual voices, artists whose style couldn’t be further from Liefeld’s (although, like Liefeld’s, are perhaps just as instantly recognizable) .
The Liefeld-by-others aspect was pushed by the publisher as something of a Marvel-esque gimmick with these books (and their companion titles Supreme and Youngblood), numbering the first issues not with #1’s, but by picking up the numbering wherever it left off, so that the first issue of the new Prophet, for example, was Prophet #21, and the new Glory began with Glory #23.
In a sign of just how successful the books have been (creatively, if not financially; I ‘m only speaking to the former and ignoring the latter in this column), it’s worth noting that these trades are titled Prophet Vol. 1: Remission and Glory Vol. 1: The Once and Future Destroyer. That is, now Image is selling them as their own stories with their own beginnings, and have moved past the gimmick.
Passings | Douglas Phillips, who drew many stories over the years for the rough-and-tumble British boys’ comics The Rover and The Victor, has died at the age of 85. [Blimey!]
Creators | Green Lantern writer (and DC chief creative officer) Geoff Johns is returning to his hometown, Detroit, to appear at a comics shop and the Arab American National Museum, promoting Baz, the first Arab-American Green Lantern. Johns himself is of Lebanese descent. [Detroit Free Press]
Brandom Graham pointed out that last week that there was an error with some captions in Prophet #26. To be clear, he let his readers know before the issue came out, but in case you missed his post and were confused by the page, the explanation is that some of the text from issue #25 made it onto one of the pages in Emma Rios’ back-up story in #26.
Graham notes, “It’s still readable and we’ll get it right in the first Prophet collection, but I wanted to run it on here to show how Emma intended it and also just because it’s the kind of pages that get me excited about making comics.” He’s right about the readability. The incorrect captions are in yellow and the right ones are white, so once you know what happened, it’s really not a problem. But if you don’t know about the error, it’s pretty confusing.
As promised, Graham also shares the correct version of Rios’ pages.
Conventions | Despite the $500-plus price tag, the least-expensive tickets for MorrisonCon, the Grant Morrison-focused convention being held in September in Las Vegas, are already sold out. Remaining tickets cost between $699 and $1,099. Morrison says the high-priced event combines “visionary ideas, occult ritual, music and spoken word performances, art workshops, experimental films, DJ sets and in-depth discussions inspired by the comics.” [Hero Complex]
Publishing | Industry veteran Jim “Ski” Sokolowski, who was let go in October as Marvel’s chief operating officer ahead of a round of layoffs, has been hired by Archie Comics as senior vice president-sales and business development. The publisher also promoted Harold Buchholz from executive director of publishing and operations to senior vice president-publishing and operations, Paul Kaminski from editor to executive director of editorial, and Alex Segura from executive director of publicity and marketing to vice president-publicity and marketing. [Archie Comics]