By Cameron Hatheway
Holy crap! When Image Comics throws an Expo filled with exciting announcements, they most certainly deliver! These weren't just your run-of-the-mill press releases, but rather an exciting extravaganza with an array of talented creators on-hand giving the dish on their latest projects with Image. It almost seems as if the best talent in the industry are simultaneously jumping ship from the Big Two and joining the likes of Robert Kirkman, Brian K. Vaughan, and Grant Morrison at Image and just letting their imaginations run wild.
After a very heartwarming speech given by publisher Eric Stephenson, he launched right into the announcements and inviting the creators up to the stage to announce their latest projects. Leading the charge was Rick Remender, creator of one of my favorite sci-fi pulp series Fear Agent. When Remender announced that Sean Murphy would be the artist on his latest project Tokyo Ghost. As he was describing it as kind of an 80's action movie almost with bits of Lobo and Judge Dredd, pages from the comic were being shown and as usual Murphy's art took my breath away. I was a huge fan of his Punk Rock Jesus over at Vertigo, so to see him make one step closer towards Image (perhaps fulltime) put a big smile on my face. Having Remender on writing duties only makes it that much sweeter.
The thing that was definitely intriguing about From Under Mountains was the all-female creative team of Claire Gibson, Sloane Leong, and Marian Churchland. Apart of Brandon Graham's ever-expanding 8House universe, the creators seemed rather excited when talking about their comic and the excitement was pretty contagious when images of the interiors were shown.
When the ever-so-cool Joe Casey took the stage to talk about his next project, Valhalla Mad with artist Paul Mayberry, the premise definitely sounded like a mix between Jack Kirby's old Thor comics and a Viking version of The Hangover, only with Norse gods gallivanting around on Earth. Ripe for tomfoolery aplenty, it conjured up memories of that one Top Ten issue with the death of one of the gods at a Valhalla bar. Can't wait to be smote by the final result, for Casey and Image always go down smooth.
Ray Fawkes is a guy who definitely piqued my interest with his announcement of a nightmare/horror comic. The images they showed for Intersect were twisted, eccentric watercolors that were definitely something you wouldn't find in comic by DC or Marvel. When he mentioned it was like watching Twin Peaks through the vantage of the Black Lodge, several excited murmurs spread through the crowd. Apparently Fawkes has some more unannounced projects with Image for the future, so I'll eagerly await what comes next.
Another book that I was really excited about was The Humans by Keenan Marshall Keller, Tom Neely and Kristina Collantes. Apes on motorcycles, kicking ass and fighting with rival gangs? Shut up and take my money. When the creators took the stage, both Keller and Neely were decked-out in badass biker attire, with one of them wearing a parody of the 1% outlaw patch with the Image "I" replacing the "1." The book itself will be in color, with a #0 issue in black and white taking place before events of the first issue. When chatting with the creators at the cocktail reception, I was told not to refer to the bikers as "monkeys," for that's a derogatory term in this gritty new world.
Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko had two announcements: one regarding their digital book Kinski getting collected in a novel-like package (awesome), and the second one that made comic fans salivate was their new ongoing epic sci-fi series Invisible Republic. Knowing Hardman and Bechko's work from Station to Station and Planet of the Apes, I'm extremely confident that these two will knock this title out of the park. Especially since this appears to be their big passion project.
The announcement that was hands-down my favorite to come out of the Expo was the news that couple Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger are doing a comic together. There is a god, and he finally answered my prayers! Titled Southern Cross, it's a sci-fi horror Agatha Christie-esque story about a woman traveling to Saturn's moon of Titan to pick-up the body of her dead sister. I love both creators so much, that I'll definitely be picking it up come December and stuffing it down every one of my friends' stockings.
Speaking of amazingly talented creators coming together, the next announcement of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen coming together to work on Descender was a nice follow-up to the Cloonan/Belanger announcement. The synopsis of a little boy robot awakening in a universe that mistrusts and hates him is definitely intriguing, and Lemire writing a story about survival seems a little reminiscent of his Sweet Tooth series—which I love. That, and the fact that Nguyen wants to draw robots is all the more reason why I'm all over this title when it debuts in March of next year.
When Ivan Brandon took the stage to talk about Drifter (illustrated by Nic Klein), what first appeared to be another sci-fi title quickly sparked my imagination when the emphasis of literal world-building was discussed. When we eventually travel to other planets and galaxies for occupation, we'll have to have pioneers arrive before the rest to lay the foundation of these new colonies with all the comforts of home. I love the idea of that, and Klein's art will be a fantastic fit, methinks.
When Kurt Busiek took the stage, it was a wonderful surprise. Apparently he wanted to work with Image for quite some time, and had the idea for Tooth and Claw for the past 10 years. After finding Ben Dewey to draw it and Jordie Bellarie insisting on coloring it, it seemed that the A-Team had been assembled and it's quite the creator line-up for this new title. What first appeared to be very reminiscent of Elephantmen (also from Image) turns out to be a world rich with magic, with the only similarities being animal people. I was concerned that Richard Starkings might feel a little upset that Busiek was crossing over into his territory, but then it was revealed that Comicraft was doing the lettering on the title so I think it's safe to assume that he's not only okay with it, but welcomes it. Perhaps we'll eventually have an Elephantment/Tooth and Claw crossover? I can only wish so hard. Like the rest of the announcements, I'm totally stoked for this title.
And last but not least, the announcement that the Moon Knight team of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Bellaire coming to Image with their new book Injection was a fine way to end the announcements. It was great to see Shalvey cracking wise about his relationship with Bellaire and Ellis, until Ellis appeared via Skype and totally stole the show being his lovable, crusty self with cigarette in hand. I didn't even need to hear the pitch for the book, because I already love the creative team and plan on buying it. It seemed to be the mindset of the entire Expo. With Ellis getting more involved with Image projects, perhaps I can add future issues of Fell to my ever-expanding wish list?
So overall, I thought the Expo kicked tremendous amounts of ass. There were notably several sci-fi titles coming out, but I'll gladly take those over the Big Two's constant events and capes any day of the week. With several publishers getting onboard with the trend of announcing their titles weeks before the convention itself, Image took it above and beyond with their Expo and making it feel like only their announcements mattered.
Stephenson wants Image to be the number one publisher in the next few years, and at this rate they will be if they keep making awesome new comics with such sensational creative teams. Remember, remember the fifth of November: Image is going to definitely make a splash with all these new titles coming out.
You can also check out my previous photogallery of the event here.
Special thanks to Rich Johnston, Hannah Means-Shannon, and Ron Richards.