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Image Comics Goes Solo with 'Image Expo' in San Francisco

Ahead of San Diego Comic-Con, Image Comics holds its own mini-convention in San Francisco and talks new comics -- and why DRM-free is vital for the industry.

Robert Kirkman 100th Issue Red Carpet - P 2012
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News about multiple new comics from some of the industry's biggest writers? A long-overdue change in digital releases that'll allow fans to actually download DRM-free versions of their purchases? Today's Image Expo in San Francisco demonstrated that, when it comes to breaking new comics news, some people don't really need San Diego Comic-Con after all.

This year's Image Expo - the second, following last year's two-day celebration of the publisher's 20th anniversary - took place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and saw creators including Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker and J. Michael Straczynski show up with brand-new announcements in tow.

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Amongst the news coming from the show was a raft of new titles, including:

  • Velvet, a new crime series from Brubaker and his former Captain America partner, artist Steve Epting
  • ODY-C, a science-fiction take on Homer's Odyssey which features a gender-swapped cast, by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
  • Black Science and Deadly Class, two new series written by Rick Remender; the first is a Frank Frazetta-inspired sci-fi epic with art by Matteo Scalera, the second a series about a high school for assassins illustrated by Wesley Craig
  • MPG, described as "as pivotal as Fantastic Four" to Marvel Comics, by Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar and artist Duncan Fegredo
  • Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, which is described by Aaron as being "about a lot of southern bastards," and
  • Alone, which aims to "deconstruct the way a comic book works," according to writer J. Michael Straczynski; it'll be illustrated by comic legend Bill Sienkiewicz.

Also announced, a graphic novel written by movie director Darren Arronovsky called Noah, which will be released early next year, and a seven month storyline called "All Out War" that'll appear in Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead and see the monthly comic increase its schedule and come out twice a month for increased zombie carnage for the duration.

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Perhaps the most eye-catching news from the show, however, was the announcement that the publisher will now offer DRM-free downloads of its digital releases, as of today. This bucks the industry tradition of non-downloadable digital purchases that rely on specific proprietary technology to read, and sees Image - the third largest comics publisher in the American marketplace, behind Marvel and DC - follow in the virtual footsteps of smaller publishers such as 2000AD's Rebellion and Brian K. Vaughan's Panel Syndicate.

By making all of these announcements two weeks ahead of this year's Comic-Con, Image has successfully sidestepped the possibility of their signal getting lost in the noise of the barrage of announcements made at the show, and also potentially stolen the thunder of other publisher's big news from the five-day convention. It's a smart move, which means we should likely start the countdown to other big publishers using the idea this time next year. Marvel Expo, anyone…?