To put it succinctly, Image Expo is like the upfronts for comics. It’s an opportunity for the publishing house to reaffirm its unique mission as a creator-owned comics publisher and to bring news of its forthcoming titles directly to the fans and retailers. The room was filled with anticipation as bashful, and occasionally swaggering, writers and artists came out to finally present the projects they’ve been holding onto like precious treasures. Some of these comics are years in the making; collaborations that finally found the right timing, ideas that came to fruition after brewing on the backburner and some are completed, whole and found a home at Image.
The day started with remarks from company head Eric Stephenson, who thanked the Image staff by name. It’s a small company and you could tell from the start this isn’t a behemoth despite their strong output of content. Stephenson stressed the creator-owned model of Image where creators have full rights over their content, including media rights. Furthermore, Stephenson emphasized that they are given as much or as little support as they need and this theme would be reiterated throughout the day.
Then the hits started rolling. One by one, each creator revealed their upcoming projects, in varying degrees of nervousness, style and panache. Some highlights were Tula Lotay’s upcoming horror comic Heartless with Warren Ellis (Supreme Blue Rose), which featured an arresting image of a skull-faced girl with a glowing candle. Steven T. Seagle (Big Hero 6) presented his all-ages comic Camp Midnight, about a young human girl who ends up at a summer camp for monsters. For his first project with Image, Kaare Kyle Andrews (Iron Fist) debuted a fantastic piece called The One%, an action-adventure comic about Renato Jones and his impassioned mission to take down the rich from within their ranks. Each presentation elicited gasps and applause from the audience, yet this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Probably the biggest announcement of the day was from Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Y: The Last Man) who revealed that his comic The Private Eye, which up until now was only available digitally at Panel Syndicate would get a print release at Image. In what can only be described as a major coup for fans, Vaughan agreed to release The Private Eye in print at Image in exchange for the rights to write and produce a The Walking Dead arc for Panel Syndicate with Kirkman’s approval. Basically, we get to reap the benefits of these two comic titans making a throwaway deal that actually became a real-life awesome thing.
What sets Image Expo apart from other company announcements is its heart. It’s not slick or flashy. It’s about passionate creators who are excited and somewhat self-effacing and ready to discuss their work. Their appreciation for Image is palpable and rightfully so, as it’s a company where their creativity can flourish and be set free.