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Since they signed an exclusive five-year contract with Image Comics last year, the crime-comics duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have been rolling out newer, weirder stories with the finale of Fatale and their latest Hollywood noir The Fade Out.
But at the end of this month, they’ll return to their biggest project, the anthologized yet interconnected neo noir series Criminal. Originally published though Marvel’s Icon imprint beginning in 2006, the series returns on Jan. 28 with a one-two punch of Coward, the first Image Comics trade collection, and an all-new magazine-sized one-shot titled Criminal: Savage Edition.
We caught up with Brubaker about the return of Criminal, the one-shot’s mix of prison life and ’70s genre comics, and the future of his partnership with Phillips.
ROBOT 6: You’ve spoken a lot about picking up new readers with each project you’ve launched at Image, and because it’s been a few years since you and Sean did a brand-new Criminal volume, I thought we’d start with the basics. How do you describe Criminal to those who haven’t read it? It’s a series with a high concept behind it, but it’s not one of those “It’s The Big Sleep … in Space!” kind of high concepts.
Ed Brubaker: It really doesn’t have a high concept, does it? I usually just lean on saying it’s won a bunch of awards and is critically acclaimed, because I don’t know how to “one-sentence” it. But let’s try …
Legal | Attorney Evan Stassberg finds two significant problems with Comic-Con International’s trademark-infringement claim against Salt Lake Comic Con over the use of the term “Comic Con”: There are a lot of shows called “comic con,” so it could be argued it’s a descriptive term that’s not specific to the San Diego event, and precisely because there are so many events that use that term, it could be argued that Comic-Con International organizers haven’t been policing their trademark. Strassberg adds, “The Salt Lake organizers’ steadfast defiance and ongoing gravitas has turned a simple trademark dispute into a national news story with mountains of free publicity for the Salt Lake event. If this was intentional, it is an astonishing display of marketing genius. If this was mere happenstance, it is the comic book convention equivalent of the accidental invention of Post-It notes.” [Deseret News]
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 lot of big announcements came out of Image Expo today — among them, new projects from Grant Morrison, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Snyder and Jock, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie — but the most significant may be an unprecedented five-year deal with frequent collaborators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
The agreement allows the creators, in the words of the publisher, “to do anything they want with total freedom, total control, and total ownership over their projects.” Or, as Brubaker told The New York Times, “It really is like a movie studio gave you an overall deal where you could green light your own projects. If you wanted to do a four-hour Russian film, you could — you may not make a profit, but you could do it.”
The first project under the deal will be The Fade Out, which Brubaker said at the expo is “loosely based on things that happened in Hollywood in the ’40s.” It will debut this summer, following the conclusion of Fatale with Issue 24.
Brubaker and Phillips first worked together in 1999 on Scene of the Crime, and reteamed for Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito and Fatale.
Image Publisher Eric Stephenson explained the deal with the Eisner Award-winning duo was easy to approve, telling The Times, “Whoever is looking back at comics history is going to be looking back at the work of certain creative teams and Ed and Sean is one the biggest teams we’ve had.”