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Despite falling sales in the overall comic book direct market, Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson said that his company is having one of its best-ever years to date, due to its focus on creative freedom and a focus on the future during his keynote address at the second Image Expo this year.
“Over the course of 2014, Diamond has reported that sales are down this year,” Stephenson told an assembled group of fans, professionals and journalists at the pre-Comic-Con event in San Diego Wednesday afternoon, referring to figures released by Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor of comic books in the western market. “Down is the direction you go if you stand still for too long,” he went on. “That’s why at Image Comics, we have an ongoing policy that’s based on two simple words: Move Forward.”
Stephenson’s presentation was an aggressive, if somewhat veiled, attack on Image Comics’ competition, with the publisher saying that comic books are more than “mere marketing material for movies, toys and video games” and describing the term “creator-driven” as corporate “double speak.” Comic creators, he argued, “know the difference between getting a good deal and getting the shit end of the stick.”
As with previous Image Expos, Stephenson’s address was merely prelude to the announcement of new projects from the publisher. Amongst the projects revealed today were Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy, which Remender described as “playing with ideas like Judge Dredd, Lobo and the action movies I grew up with in the ‘80s,” and Becky Cloonan and Andy Belander’s Southern Cross, described as something that “starts as an Agatha Christie-style mystery, but builds and builds into something really weird.”
Alongside Remender—currently writing Captain America for Marvel—and Cloonan—about to launch Gotham Academy for DC—other creators known for their work with super hero publishers unveiled projects during the presentation included Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, whose science fiction series Descender features “a story of survival and trying to find a home,” according to Lemire (Plus, of course, robots).
Other projects announced included a new fantasy series From Under Mountains by Marian Churchland, Sloane Leong and Claire Gibson—part of Brandon Graham’s previously-announced 8House shared universe of titles—to debut in Spring 2015, Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein’s Drifter and Valhalla Mad from artist Paul Maybury and writer (and Man of Action Studios founder) Joe Casey, described by Casey as “our chance to do our own kind of Thor comic.”
Fresh from a critically-acclaimed run on Marvel’s Moon Knight with writer Warren Ellis, artist Declan Shalvey appeared on stage to introduce the pair’s next collaboration (Ellis appeared on-screen, via Skype). Injection, which will again be colored by Jordie Bellaire, completing the Moon Knight team, tells a story set in a near-future where a group of people “make the world more interesting” in a mysterious way, even though that quickly gets out of control. The series will mark Shalvey’s first work published through Image, although Ellis currently has two projects with the publisher: Trees and Supreme: Blue Rose.
Other new creators to the publisher named during the presentation included B.P.R.D. veterans John Arcudi and James Harren— whose new series Rumble was described as “Scarecrow Conan fighting in a world similar to the Louis C.K. TV show, but if it were directed by David Fincher”; Ray Fawkes with his “very David Lynch very Cronenberg” series Intersect; Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko, who arrive with a print edition of their digital series Kinski and an all-new science fiction series Invisible Republic; and Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller with a series titled The Humans.
Perhaps the most surprising appearance at the Expo came from Kurt Busiek, writer of many titles for DC and Marvel throughout the years—including Marvel’s perennial Marvels series—who announced a new series with Tragedy artist Ben Dewey called Tooth and Claw, a “sprawling fantasy epic” set in a world populated exclusively by animals. Anyone who’s seen Dewey’s work on the Tragedy series (or his upcoming I Was the Cat graphic novel from Oni with writer Paul Tobin) should realize how exciting this particular series is.
With the exception of Drifter and Tooth & Claw (both due November 2014), each of the new projects announced today are expected to launch in 2015. More details on each of the projects will be released in the coming months.
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