Editor’s note: With Tim O’Shea being out this week, Chris Arrant was kind enough to step in and provide an interview for us this Monday. Tim will be back next week.
One of the most exciting new talents to come into comics last year was cartoonist Nate Simpson with the debut of Nonplayer #1 last April. It was made official when, only three months later, he received the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Since then he’s gotten a movie deal and been approached with a variety of comic opportunities, but also had his share of bad luck with a broken collarbone in September. 2011 was a year to remember for Nate Simpson.
Now Simpson is back at the drawing board working on Nonplayer #2, but his whirlwind success (and spill) forced the cartoonist to take a more earnest look at this business he left his full-time career in video games for back in 2009. On his workblog he says it best, describing it as place where he “learns to draw comics by drawing a comic.” And what he’s learned is that there’s a lot more to comics than just drawing them. I talked with Simpson this past weekend about the status of Nonplayer #2, his outlook on comics, and the struggle between seeing comics as an art form and seeing them as a business.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Image Comics, the company formed by a group of artists who left the security of work-for-hire comics to create and own their own comics. It’s been 20 years of ups and downs, but one thing that has remained consistent is a focus on creator-owned work.
With 2011 in the history books and their big anniversary kicking off with the first Image Expo, a new ad campaign and high-profile series by big-name creators like Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and many more, I thought it was a good time to chat with Publisher Eric Stephenson about the state of the company, the year that was, their upcoming plans and anything else he was willing to talk about. My thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions.
JK Parkin: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Eric. Incidentally, another feature we’re running as a part of our anniversary bash is one where we asked various comic industry folks about what they’re looking forward to in 2012. I got one back yesterday where the answer was basically “everything from Image Comics.” I find that interesting, because there’s a lot of diversity in Image’s line and although I think you guys probably publish something for every kind of taste, I wouldn’t think that every title would appeal to every comic reader. And yet I also find myself checking out at least the first issue of everything you guys have done lately. So from your perspective, what’s the unifying factor (or factors) right now among your titles, if there is one?
Stephenson: I think the main thing is that we’re moving forward and creating new things. We’re not content to just recycle the same old ideas month in and month out and then market it all as brand new. If this was another publisher, we’d be debuting our latest spin-off of The Walking Dead in March, but instead, we’re launching a new series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, a new series by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, a new series by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz, and so on. For 20 years, Image has put its faith in creative people, and it’s the power of their imagination that links all our titles together, now more than ever.
Although mainstream comic publishing is built on characters and brand names, the importance of creators has been one of the keys to its success. Since the early 1990s, talented creators have served as fonts of ideas as well as big draws for sales. And with the competition between DC and Marvel reaching to new heights in the build-up to “The New 52,” comic creators are being snapped up left and right into exclusive agreements and put to work. But amidst all of this, there remains a number of talents that haven’t been drafted. They might simply prefer to work on their own outside the Big Two or are just waiting for the right offer. I’m going to list creators who could make a big difference if they chose to go to Marvel or DC.
Let me preface this to say that I’m avoiding mentioning some creators due to the fact that they’re generally considered as not looking for work from Marvel or DC. I’m talking about creators like Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughn, Robert Kirkman, Mike Mignola, Joss Whedon and the like.
Joe Hill: Joe Hill is many things to many people. For comics readers he’s the co-creator of the IDW epic Locke & Key; for novel readers he’s the writer of Horns and Heart-Shaped Box; for Stephen King, he’s his son. With all of that, Joe Hill could be a potent force if DC or Marvel would choose to go the lengths to get him on board. Hill is no stranger to super-heroes; he wrote a story for Marvel’s Spider-Man Unlimited years ago, and did the recent series The Cape for IDW. Imagine him in the city limits of Gotham or perhaps showing up in Marvel’s version of Hell’s Kitchen.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item.
There comes a time when curiosity overwhelms common sense, which is why if I had $15 this week, I’d pick up Fear Itself #1 (Marvel Comics, $3.99). I’m not sold on the series, as much as I love crossovers – Immonen on art is a big draw, but Fraction has been very uneven recently for me – and, despite some of the reviews I’ve read, I’m hearing word that it’s more of a case of “You’ll like this if this is the kind of thing you like” book than a home run. We’ll see. I’m much more excited about Nate Simpson’s Nonplayer #1 (Image Comics, $2.99); the previews look amazing, and everyone I know who’s read a preview copy has only had glowing praise for it. I’ll also be picking up the second (and final) issue of IDW’s crossover event Infestation ($3.99), as I want to know how the whole thing ends up, and the spoilers for Brightest Day #23 (DC Comics, $2.99) make that a must-have, too, even if it’s more for “They’re doing WHAT?” reasons than genuine excitement.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we talk about what comics and other stuff we’ve been reading lately.
Today’s special guest is Joe Keatinge, writer and co-creator of the upcoming Image comic Brutal with Frank Cho. He’s also the writer of the final “Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies” installment in April’s Savage Dragon #171, drawn by Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen, Billy Dogma’s Dean Haspiel, Nikolai Dante’s Simon Fraser, Parade (With Fireworks)’s Mike Cavallaro, The Transmigration of Ultra Lad’s Joe Infurnari, Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation’s Tim Hamilton and Olympians’ George O’Connor. He’s also executive editor of the PopGun anthology, he’s got an ongoing series coming soon that he can’t say anything else about and with his fellow studio members at Tranquility Base, regularly beats up on 13 year olds at laser tag.
To see what Joe and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.