Thursday, October 19, 2017
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MightyVille's Joe Kach (with Ryan Cayabyab) was on location in San Francisco for all the huge announcements at the 2013 Image Expo. Read on for his keynote coverage, creator chats, and exclusive photo gallery!

 

MightyVille's Joe Kach (with Ryan Cayabyab) was on location in San Francisco for all the huge announcements at the 2013 Image Expo. Read on for his keynote coverage, creator chats, and exclusive photo gallery!

 

Last year, Image Comics put on their first Expo at the Oakland Convention Center in California. Some issues aside, it was probably my favorite convention of 2012. Fans got a chance to meet the Image Founders, along with a newer crop of creators. It was touted as a show open to all independent comic book creators and vendors and on that it delivered.

Flash forward 17 months. Image Comics decided to put on another expo, to the excitement of many a fan, myself included. But this time they wanted to try something different. Not so much a convention as a symposium. It was a way for fans and press to intermingle with some of today’s hottest Image creators: Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, Ed Brubaker, and several others, including yet-to-be-announced “surprise guests”. Taking what I imagine was a cue from MorrisonCon, Image Comics bravely put on what they called “a unique and intimate experience, offering fans unprecedented access to the creators behind their favorite comic books.” Did they deliver on that promise? Well, yes and no.

 

 

I arrived a little early, trying to avoid the supposed world-ending traffic caused by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Strike (there was no traffic). As the minutes ticked away, getting closer to “doors open”, the crowd outside grew more and more eager. At one point I wondered if maybe I had wandered into some extras on the set of AMC’s The Walking Dead. However, when the doors did finally open (about 20 minutes late), the crowd thinned out and everyone politely formed a single file line with little trouble and lots of big smiles.

That’s one thing I’ll say about the show: everyone was really nice! The staff, the creators, the fans, everyone got along swimmingly and that air of mild antagonism that usually floats around most comic book conventions was not evident. There was one Image Staffer who seemed slightly on the grumpier side due to passing out badges for a few hours, but later, after having a few drinks at the mixer, she was singing a completely different tune. Lesson #1: Alcohol helps at conventions.

Except, this wasn’t really a convention. In fact, you didn’t really have anywhere to go or much to do if you weren’t in the main hall. As people began to familiarize themselves with the location, I quickly jumped into the (single) vendor line to pick up a few exclusives to hopefully get signed. (Editor’s Note: And give away to a lucky MightyVille Member!) I’m glad I did because, unlike most conventions, the desire to buy a comic would land you in the longest line of the day!

 

 

First up was the Keynote Presentation with Eric Stephenson, and oh, what a presentation it was. Stephenson started out by going over all the strides Image has made in market share over the last few years.

“We saw our dollars increase 40% over 2011’s numbers, with our units going up almost as much – 38%,” Stephenson said, noting that Image’s sales have been steadily increasing since 2009. “Better still,” he continued, “six months into 2013 we’re already up 33% in dollars and 38% in units over the same period in 2012.”

They are also the #2 supplier of graphic novels to the comic book store market.

 

 

And, really, Image Comics should be proud of themselves. They’ve gone through a creative renaissance of sorts over the last few years, and the numbers show it. Carrying the momentum forward, Stephenson followed with a salvo of creative bombs. I’m sure you’ve all heard them by now, but here’s a quick round-up:

 

Velvet by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting: Set to launch in October 2013. “Velvet Templeton is the personal assistant to the head of one of the world’s largest intelligence agencies, a Moneypenny kind of character … She leaves her desk job and has to go on the run into the field against her own agents. Imagine Bond or MI6 done in a true Cold War scenario.”

 

Sidekick by J. Michael Straczynski and Tom Mandrake, scheduled for release in August (check back on MightyVille for my advance review!). The premise: “The Red Cowl is a hero and Flyboy is his sidekick. What does Flyboy do when Red Cowl is assassinated?”

 

      

The Book of Lost Souls by Straczynski and Colleen Doran and Dream Police by Straczynski, bringing with him two titles previously published through Marvel’s ICON imprint, but not the artists. The writer also revealed he's also developing a six-issue series with artist Bill Seinkiewicz called Alone. These will all be under his Joe’s Comics imprint.

 

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and John Upchurch, debuting this September. “Rat Queens is like an R-rated Lord of the Rings; it's about four mercenary women who kill monsters and then use that money to throw parties.” Joss Whedon fans should dig it, he added.

 

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, also out in September. “A girl finds out that time stops when she ‘makes whoopee.’ She meets a boy with the same power. So … they make whoopee and start robbing banks.”

 

ODY-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward, coming 2014. An adaptation of The Odyssey, but “the male characters are women and the female characters are male, a gender-swapped super-cosmic take on Greek myth.” It’s also set in space!

 

Black Science by Rick Remender, Matt Scalera, and Dean White is scheduled for November. “If you enjoyed Fear Agent, I think this’ll be right up your alley. It’s about a member of the Anarchist League of Sciences -- a group experimenting with dark sciences.” He followed: "If you like Conan and bongs and spacemen, you might enjoy this.”

 

Deadly Class by Remender and Wesley Craig: “Deadly Class is about a high school for assassins” and inspired by the things Remender saw while growing up in the ‘80s hardcore punk rock scene. Craig was a "scenester" in the mid-’80s and he knew exactly what Remender was getting at in Deadly Class. The writer described the book as a "self-indulgent work" where he'll be taking his own high school experiences and "taking the metaphorical knife in your back and making it real."

 

Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour was up next. They described the book as "The Untouchables versus Boss Hog" or "The Dukes of Hazard by the Coen Brothers on meth." The main bad guy is the local high school football coach, a character Aaron came up with while writing Scalped, but saved him for this series: "He's a local celebrity, won a bunch of trophies and is burying bodies under the end zone and bleachers," There will also be lots of barbeque.

Mark Millar plans to launch a whole universe at Image, starting with MPH with artist Duncan Fegredo.

Other announced titles of note:

Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Ghosted by Josh Williamson and Goran Sudzuka

Three by Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly

Rocket Girl by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare

Zero by Ales Kot and Michael Walsh

Umbral by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten

[Editor's Note: Check out our gallery of preview art below!]

One of the biggest stories from the Image Expo opening was the launch of Image Comics’ new Digital Comics initiative. Image will be offering select titles for sale on its website as digital comics which can be downloaded as DRM-free PDF, ePub, CBR, or CBZ files. The first title to be made available is Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Scatterlands #1, available now for 99¢. I applaud them for this maneuver.

Throughout the presentation, the creators came on stage, including all the previously unannounced surprise guests. This of course set the crowd on fire. With names like Rick Remender, Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, and more, it was like a fan’s Top 10 list come to life. Unfortunately, I did feel a bit slighted by Mark Millar’s “appearance”, which was actually a pre-recorded video announcing his upcoming Image Universe, starting with MPH. No Skype, Mr. Millar? There was no indication given that Mark would not be there in person, therefore lugging around my giant Ultimates hardcovers proved a cumbersome exercise in futility. The other negative ramification from a fan and journalist’s point-of-view was the inability to prepare for the surprise names. I understand that keeping everyone in the dark allows for the exclusivity of the announcements, but, hey, it’s always nice to be able to do your homework and know which books to bring. You don’t always get chances like these. Still, quite a powerful opener to the day and sign of great things to come from Image for the rest of the year through 2014. 

 

 

 

I’ve read a few detractors’ concerns that with this much star power in the Image stable, will they still open the door to the newcomers, or go the more exclusive route, such as that of ICON? Personally, I don’t see any reason why both can’t co-exist and Stephenson has made no indication that they want to move away from a model that has proven to be successful. Just ask Kurtis J. Weibe. As I understand it, Image’s take would be the same for a big name or little name, and a larger audience should only strengthen that business model.

After a quick break for lunch, it was go-time again. Image put up the finalized signing schedule, thus asking the question, “Panel or autograph?” Now, this is where we saw another repeat from last year: poorly handled signing schedules. I’m not sure who decided that a single creator should be given an hour and a group of three given 45 minutes, but I should hope that this is re-considered for next year. There was also no indication of line caps. When Matt Fraction had to leave for his panel, there were about 50 people still in line waiting to get his signature, who had no idea he had left. To his credit, he returned to another signing later, but also unannounced, and I heard a few people grumbling about that a little later on, “Wait, he came back?” Lesson #2: No matter what type of comic convention you find yourself in, you will always have to wait in line.

There was also the issue of how many items one could get signed. What started as a promised “intimate experience” quickly devolved into “one item per person and move it along, people.” Some joked that the “intimacy” was the bond that developed amongst the people waiting in line. I think the coordinators underestimated the numbers and loquaciousness of your average fan. That being said, the staff was friendly throughout and the creators gave as much time to each fan as desired, even signing more than the allowed number of items for many people. Robert Kirkman’s line stretched around the block, yet he declared that he would stay all night if he had to. While the scheduling needed some (serious) work, Image deserves a lot of credit for giving fans and media that much exposure to that many powerhouse creators in one place.

 

 

While the shenanigans went on in the autograph lines, the party continued inside with one Q&A creator panel after another. Here are some highlights:

Ed Brubaker always wanted to write Spider-Man. To him, the difference between “sexy” and “sexist” is whatever doesn’t piss his wife off. When Marvel asked him if Captain America should die at the end of Civil War, he said, “yes”.

Rick Remender said if it wasn’t for Image Comics, he would not be a creator today. His first comic book was Secret Wars #4. Matt Fraction’s was Batman #316, Jason Aaron an issue of Machine Man, and for Jason Latour it was Teen Titans.

Matt Fraction admitted that, for a writer, Wednesday is the worst day in comics.

 

 

Back to our "Adventures in Autograph Lines"! I was able to get a quick lightning round of questions in with many of the comic stars, hopefully giving you a little peak behind their collective, creative curtain.

JMS enjoyed Man of Steel quite a bit, but felt it was one fight too long and focused more on action than anything else. He loved the casting, and we both agreed that DC Entertainment had to get this out of their system and could branch out more in the sure-to-be sequels.

Ed Brubaker’s favorite Elmore Leonard novel is 52 Pickup. Not what I expected him to say, but still a great choice.

Kurtis J. Weibe really wanted to tell a war story that no one had seen, hence his choice to focus on a younger group of men during WWII. The Peter Pan influence was simply due to his love of the darker, more fantasy-based J.M. Barrie novel.

Jason Aaron’s favorite restaurants to eat barbeque are Lexington #1 and Oklahoma Joe’s. For fellow Southerner Jason Latour, the place to go is Arthur Bryant’s.

Former San Franciscan Rick Remnder’s favorite Bay Area watering hole is Murio's Trophy Room on Haight Street.

Matt Fraction’s favorite Godzilla movie is the much-loved Destroy All Monsters epic. He decided on giving his lead character in Sex Criminals the ability to freeze time because … “why not.” I told him that sort of reminded me of Evie from the '80s sitcom Out of This World. “That’s … interesting,” he responded.

 

 

And there you go.

With that, the autograph sessions wrapped, and we gathered our belongings and moved on to the mixer!

Yes, a mixer! Image Comics rented out a portion of Jillian’s Bar and Grill in downtown San Francisco and handed out drink tickets to all who arrived. This made many people happy. Along with the creators in attendance at the Expo, there were a few more familiar faces here, like Erik Larsen, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jimmie Robinson and more. I thought there would be some sort of icebreaker or announcement, but people were pretty much left to their own devices, and many people took advantage of rubbing elbows with their favorite writers and artists. It was definitely a unique experience not found at most conventions, and made for a great way to close a long and fun day. Lesson #3: See Lesson #1.

 

 

Despite a few scheduling snafus and a slight feeling of claustrophobia, I’d say the 2013 Image Expo was successful. It’s definitely not for everyone, and certainly not for bargain-shoppers or cosplayers, but as far as media and creator access goes, the folks at Image definitely delivered.


Image’s theme for the show was “What’s Next?” I can’t wait to find out.

 

Image Expo Announcements Preview Artwork Gallery


 

Image Expo Photo Gallery


 

What'd you think of all the great news that came out of Image Expo 2013? Let us know below!

 

More Event Coverage on MightyVille:

Mr. Moyerman Goes to (Wizard World) Philadelphia

Big WOW! ComicFest 2013: A Picture Parade

COMICPALOOZA 2013: A Day in Pictures

 

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