Bleeding Cool's Best Publisher Of 2014
Lots of comic book publishers are publishing lots of great comics. But in 2014, there was one that stood out head and shoulders above the rest in the English-speaking market.
Image Comics. Month after month, they launched quality comics such as Deadly Class, Minimum Wage, Egos, The Fuse, Undertow, Revenger, Apocalypse Al, Mercenary Sea, One Hit Wonder, Real Heroes, Sovereign, Starlight, Noah, Tales Of Honor, Southern Bastards, The Field, Shutter, Dream Police, Self Obsessed, Genesis, Shotgun Wedding, MPH, C.O.W.L., Madame Frankenstein, Nailbiter, Rise Of The Magi, Trees, Outcast, The Wicked + The Divine, Red City, The Superannuated Man, Wildfire, That's Because You're A Robot, Low, Supreme: Blue Rose, Dark Engine, Death Vigil, Spread, Tech Jacket, Cap'n Dinosaur, The Fade Out, Imperial, Genius, Howtoons, Nightworld, Wayward, Displaced Persons, Roche Limit, Copperhead, God Hates Astronauts, Oddly Normal, Chronicles Of Hate, Wytches, Rasputin, Birthright, Punks, Goners, Cutter, Masterplasty, Ody-C, Autumnlands, Drifter, The Humans, Intersect, American Legends, Penny Dora & The Wishing Box, Just The Tips, Bitch Planet, Rumble, Graveyard Shift and They're Not Like Us.
And that's while continuing to publish, support and promote series such as The Walking Dead, Invincible, East of West, Lazarus, Chew, Revival, Peter Panzerfaust, Sheltered, Savage Dragon, Umbral, Satellite Sam, Sex Criminals, Alex + Ada, Velvet, Black Science, Zero, A Voice In The Dark, The Bounce, Ten Grand, Rocket Girl, Clone, Three, Dead Body Road, Drumhellar, Elephantmen, Fatale, Five Ghosts, Pretty Deadly, Manifest Destiny, Mind The Gap, Rat Queens, Sex, Savior, Spawn…
No other publisher in the English-speaking world comes close to that kind of breadth and quality. Plenty of publishers have comics that are as good as, or even better than these, but no one has so many, of such high quality and making such an impact in sales as well. Image Comics dominates the trade paperback market, first with Walking Dead, then with Saga and now with title after title topping the New York Times bestseller lists. Indeed, they seemed to single-handedly save Diamond a few years ago, when Walking Dead made up half of every title distributed by Diamond Book Distributors.
And they have achieved this without events, without massive crossovers, without licenses, without intense market manipulation (only a little bit). And in the process have put a lot of money into the pockets of big time comic creators, who have been able to take control of their own media rights, and find they can make more money at Image than anywhere else. When Wytches pays Scott Snyder and Jock more than Batman ever could, and they get the full media rights, its a salutory lesson as to what is possible. No wonder that Mark Millar and Matt Fraction also, gradually, moved all their comic projects there.
The Big Two have become a place to get a fanbase courtesy of characters made famous by the movies. Image Comics has been a place to bring that fanbase and give them something new. But equally, Image Comics have found brand new talent and made them stars, for the Big Two to also hire and refresh their own talent pool. Who can then return to Image with a new audience for their next creator owned projects. Other publishers have had to amend the deals they offer as a result, and indeed have published projects to keep their creators happy rather than lose them to Image.
The publisher hasn't yet had success with original graphic novels compared to some more focused on bookstore markets. The creator owned relationship has been accused of sometimes being too writer-focused, and schedules are more subject to the whim of individual circumstance. But pound for pound, nothing even comes close.
2014 has been a sensational year for Image. There's no reason that 2015 can't do the same. Here comes Image Expo…
IDW, for combining strong licensed titles with creator-focused work and pushing comics beyond comics stores, beyond bookshops, with the Micro Comics foil pack line, continuing to innovate with the Artists Editions and even getting more work out of Dave Sim.
And Jonathan Cape for taking big publisher money and using it to curate a boutique graphic novel line that funds new work from geniuses such as Posy Simmonds, Raymond Briggs and Bryan Talbot, increasing the availability of the very best American graphic novelists, translating work from around the world and finding and promoting new talent and funding art prizes.