29 February 2012

THE JOB EXPERIENCE

Here are the five "Experience Creativity" ads we ran over the course of February.

Every time we get one of these photos in, I'm a little amazed. We've only used professional photographers in a few instances – the vast majority of these shots are taken by friends, co-workers, spouses, significant others, and there's something raw and beautiful about them. 

And real.

I love the smile on Nick's face, and the look of quiet satisfaction on Emi's. I love how serious Natalie looks, and how much fun Ross seems to be having.

Robert's photo is especially great – and if you spend any time writing, you know why.

The cool thing about all these photos, all these ads, is that it's like opening a door into each of their worlds. For a brief moment, we get to see what they're like while they're working, because as fun as creating comics is, it's still a job. There's something really cool about that.

On a related note: iFanboy is running a contest for fans interested in trying to guess all 52 creators we'll be featuring over the course of 2012, so this is five more, in addition to last month's and the creators featured on the "Experience Creativity" posters. You can cast your votes here.





WEDNESDAY GIRL

Katee Sackhoff

28 February 2012

R U MINE?

I think you know I am a bit of an Arctic Monkeys fan, so you probably also know I'm pretty stoked that just after culling "Black Treacle" from Suck It and See as a single, they've released another new single this week.

And it's a brand new track called "R U Mine."

And it is awesome.

I wish all bands worked this hard.

THE CITY NEVER SLEEPS AT NIGHT

The Uptown, date unknown

Flora, date unknown

Fox Theatre, 1928

Tribune Tower, 1924

27 February 2012

LONG TALL DEXTER


Today is Dexter Gordon's birthday. Like so many other giants of modern jazz, Gordon's day is done: He died in 1990, at the age of 67. Unlike the other giants of modern jazz, he was also a literal giant, standing nearly seven feet tall.

I discovered Dexter Gordon later than most of my other jazz favorites, through a 1986 film I for some reason tend to confuse with Cline Eastwood's excellent Bird, a cool little movie about an American sax player in Paris, Round Midnight. Gordon was actually nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Dale Turner, a composite character based on Lester Young and Bud Powell. (Gordon didn't win, but another jazz legend, Herbie Hancock, picked up an Oscar for scoring the film.) The film made a big impression on me, so I went out and started grabbing Dexter Gordon albums, beginning with the one that seemed most appropriate at the time, Our Man In Paris.

Eventually, I had almost all of Gordon's albums from the early '60s: Doin' Allright, Dexter Calling, One Flight Up, Go! The man made some great music, and it was nearly always wrapped up in wonderful artwork.

Take a look:





23 February 2012

TONIGHT TONIGHT


If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, tonight's the opening party for the Cartoon Art Museum's new Image Comics exhibit, celebrating our 20th anniversary. I'll be attending, along with most of the Image office staff, Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Fiona Staples, Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen, Joe Keatinge, Rob Guillory, the CBLDF's Charles Brownstein, iFanboy's Ron Richards, and a whole gaggle of other fine folks. There's going to be wine and cheese and a pretty great selection of artwork spanning Image's 20-year history, and it should be a top night out.

22 February 2012

I'VE GOT NEWS FOR YOU


As we get closer to Image Expo, there are a few different articles featuring interviews with yours truly online:

Plus, I did a quick interview about Image's long-time support for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:


And CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein had some kind words for Image and myself in a blog post about the latest issue of Cometbus and the history Berkeley comics scene:

(If you're interested in Berkeley history, specifically the glory days of Telegraph Avenue, I highly recommend picking up Cometbus #51. Charles turned me on to it last week, and it's a fascinating read. You can get a copy here.)

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Amy Acker

21 February 2012

HAVING A PARTY


In  addition to Image Expo this weekend, we're also joining together with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and iFanboy to throw a party at the Uptown Nightclub. Should be a good time, so if you're in the area, check out. All proceeds go the CBLDF.

20 February 2012

THE HOME FRONT


Image Comics has made Berkeley home for around eight years – we moved up here in October 2004 – and I've lived here myself for around three. I love San Francisco and I lived there for the first few years I was in the Bay Area, and then again from 2010-11, but somewhere along the way, I came to realization I love Berkeley more. It’s a college town: small, full of character and characters, and abounding with shops and restaurants that all have their own singular identity. It's easily walkable, and from Telegraph to Gilman, there's a lot of history here. It’s by not perfect by any stretch – there’s a pretty wide gap between the wealthy and the poor, and it probably has the highest percentage of panhandlers I've encountered anywhere.  For all its flaws, though, it's a pretty cool place. When my mother visited me a few months back, I found myself strangely proud to show the city off, and after mulling over what makes a place home for several years, it occurred to me I've finally found something pretty close to it here.

Meanwhile, I spent the weekend before last in Dallas for the annual ComicsPRO meeting. I was talking about the meeting with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's Charles Brownstein last week, as well as Image Expo, the Bay Area and the various things I love and loathe about Berkeley. Charles laughed and noted that my feelings about Berkeley and the Bay Area almost perfectly mirror my stance on comics and the Direct Market. Because like Berkeley, comics' Direct Sales Market isn't at all perfect. There's roughly the same economic divide – for every amazing, super-successful shop, there’s another that struggles to exist – and like this quirky little city, the direct market thrives on individuality, creativity, and independent vision.

I don't think I need to tell anyone that it's a time of tremendous change for the comics industry. 

The comics industry has always been wiry and lean, a business funded more by passion than dollars. Over the last several years, though, serious money has started filtering in. Comics and graphic novels are carried in more mainstream outlets than ever before, and both writers and artists are increasingly being offered lucrative jobs – in television, in film, in animation. Once upon a time, comics was the redheaded stepchild of the entertainment business, now our value is being recognized and for better or worse, we're being assimilated into the larger culture of mass media.  There are opportunities that literally did not exist when I entered this business 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, when I first signed on as Image's marketing director. When I spoke at ComicsPRO, I stressed that change is good – and it is, but at the same time, it's important not to lose sight of how important the Direct Market is to comics.

If all the opportunities we have in mass markets right now give us the potential to rise to previously unimaginable heights, the Direct Market is still the foundation for our business.  The Direct Market matters, perhaps more than ever, because it allows everyone with a passion for comics – creators, retailers, readers –  to explore that passion in new and vital ways. Compared to other entertainment industries, the barriers to entry in comics are extremely low. Whether you're a publisher or a creator or a retailer, you can reach readers with fairly modest resources. Publishers and creators can easily develop new ideas. Retailers can easily test those new ideas and voice their support for material that may be a sleeper one day, but a blockbuster the next. The Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim, Hellboy, Bone, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Batman, Superman – none of them started out as sure things or even safe bets. The Direct Market has made the chances of success for new ideas more likely, though, and as a result, it's now more possible than ever before for talent and publishers alike to invest in new creativity.

In the big scheme of things, the Direct Market is no more threatened than any other content-based retail business right now.  It seems, though, that there's a growing concern amongst some that as the comics industry becomes more and more entwined with the entertainment industry, the comparatively low revenue generated by the Direct Market in contrast to larger mass outlets, may result in a reduction of support for it, from the very corporate entities it helped build.  Which would be a great shame, because the direct market, almost since its inception, has made it possible for talented creative and business people to shape their own independent destinies, and by proxy, has helped refine the material that makes what we do so attractive to the world around us.

One of the big announcements at ComicsPRO was that Chris Powell, formerly of the Lone Star Comics chain in Texas, is heading up an initiative at Diamond Comics Distributors to encourage growth in the Direct Market, and that's heartening news. Now more than ever, what we really need are more stores. The world at large is taking more and more notice of the comics industry, and it's important that we're able to satisfy demand when curiosity comes knocking. But the source of that curiosity wouldn’t have been allowed to grow and thrive anywhere but the Direct Market.  Yes, it is absolutely weird and funky and a tad dysfunctional, but like this weird and funky and slightly dysfunctional little college town I now call home, it's all part of its allure, it's charm.  

And ultimately, part of its success. 

And that’s not just worth cultivating – it's worth fighting for.

19 February 2012

WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE


Bizarrely, Rick Santorum is still in the running for Republican nominee in this year's General Election. I know his opponents' names, but honestly, if you told me he was running against an acorn, a squash and a rusty pair of pliers, I would probably be able to make more sense out of the fact many polls currently place him in the lead.

Today, Santorum was on the news explaining a comment he made on the campaign trail, about President Obama and "radical environmentalists" putting Earth above Man, noting that Obama has a "phony" ideology that is not based on The Bible:

"This idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth – I think that is a phony ideal. I don't believe that's what we're here to do. That Man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth. But we're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective."

It seems strange that this would need to be explained to people, but guess what? Whether you are for or against Obama or Santorum or that pair of pliers I mentioned earlier: If the Earth's atmosphere is weakened and destroyed by global warming, and if its resources are exhausted by (the actual root of the problem that nobody really wants to address) over-population, MAN IS FUCKED. When the Earth dies, SO DO WE. There isn't really a middle ground. Our continued well-being goes hand-in-hand with that of the planet, and if, as Santorum states, we arre to care for the Earth and be a steward to the Earth – WE ARE FAILING MISERABLY AT THAT.

So maybe – just maybe – instead of alternately claiming global warming isn't real and praying for rain in drought-ravaged Texas, Republicans should get on the same page with the rest of us and start thinking about ways to actually do what Santorum himself says we should be doing: "Care for the Earth."

Seriously, it's that simple: We should be taking care of this planet as though it were our homes, our cars – ourselves.

HIT PARADE


1. Toy - "Left Myself Behind," (single a-side, 2012)
2. Graham Coxon - "The Truth, " (A+E, 2012)
3. Paul Weller - "That Dangerous Age," (Sonik Kicks, 2012)
4. Gaz Coombes - "Subdivider," (Here Come the Bombs, 2012)
5. Catatonia - "International Velvet," (International Velvet, 1998)
6. The Jam - "Trans-Global Express," (The Gift, 1982)
7. Raw Geronimo - "Role Play," (single a-side, 2011)
8. Arctic Monkeys - "You and I," (single b-side, 2012)
9. Edwyn Collins - "Mine Is At," (Doctor Syntax, 2001)
10. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - "The Hardest Part," (Jacksonville City Nights, 2005)

BLACK TREACLE

I missed this went it first came out a few weeks back, but it's the video for the latest single to be lifted from Arctic Monkeys' Suck It and See album. Alex Turner is in full rocker mode here, and Matt Helders revisits his thug character from the "Suck It and See" clip. It's my favorite song from the album and the video is impeccably shot, but watching it, I had to wonder a little what it's all about. It's chocked up half a million views to date, so it apparently appeals to someone, but what's the exact purpose of so elaborate a video these days? Do videos still move the dial when it comes to selling music? At this point, it seems like the primary outlet for music videos is YouTube, so I would imagine someone has to actually go in search of something like this, or Noel Gallagher's similarly excellent videos, as opposed to stumbling upon it whilst watching MTV or whatever. Sure, there are fans who post them elsewhere, as I'm doing here, but I'm curious how much impact that actually has on record sales.

Anyway. Here's the video for "Black Treacle," also here's the b-side, featuring the always remarkable Richard Hawley:



18 February 2012

DREAM ON

Another great video from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds:

RESPECTABLE STREET

17 February 2012

A WEEK AWAY


I think this has already made the rounds on Twitter today, but it's still cool to finally have one of these in my mits. (Those freaky teeth are from the cover of Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim's Secret, by the way. You have no idea how much you are going to love that comic book right now, but trust me, you will.)

I'm really curious how this whole thing will work, because it's unlike anything we've ever attempted before. I did a couple of interviews about the show yesterday, that I guess will be making their way into the local press over the next few days, but the one thing I've tried to stress is how thankful I am for the opportunity to do something not just for the Bay Area comics community, but for the local community in general. 

When I visited Oakland for the first time, back in the '90s, it was a very different place. The way Downtown Oakland has transformed itself over the last couple years is really inspiring. That sort of undertaking is something I have a lot of affinity for, and I have a lot of admiration for all the people who made that happen. Being able to get involved with an event that takes place within that community feels really good.

And – gak! – it's next weekend.

If you don't have tickets yet, you can get them here.

16 February 2012

DEATHLY


Here's a question I was asked more than a few times at ComicsPRO this past weekend:

"Is there something from Image you think should be doing better, that we might not be paying enough attention to?"

At least once, I answered that question by saying I felt Invincible was a criminally overlooked book. But the more various retailers complimented us on the success of Fatale and Thief of Thieves, I realized the actual answer was Jay Faerber's quietly remarkable crime series, Near Death.

Jay's been at Image for around 11 years at this point. You may know his name from Noble Causes, or maybe Dynamo 5. They're both superhero books with a lot of fine qualities, but you know what? Jay's first love has always been crime fiction.

And Near Death is a crime comic.

People always do their best work when they're doing something they truly love, but Jay wasn't always planning to do this as a comic. Another publisher had talked to him about doing something with it a while back, but since he's been making inroads into writing for television, he decided it might work better as a television pitch.

But then Brian K. Vaughan – and I like to think, myself – talked him out of it. 

Because it's a great idea, and y'know, why waste a great idea on TV, when you you can turn it into a comic book?

Scratch that: a great comic book.

In brief, Near Death is the story of Markham, a hired gun who glimpse eternal hell during a near death experience. Determined to avoid that fate, Markham dedicates his life to balancing the scales: He will save a life for every life he's taken. And as Jay notes, "He's taken a lot of lives..."

It's excellent, inspired work, and easily the best thing Jay has done in comics to date. And if you like Fatale? If you like Thief of Thieves? It's right up your alley.

The trade paperback collecting the first five issues is out next week, and even better yet, it's only $9.99. And if you haven't had a chance to check out Near Death yet, here's a preview of issue six. It's out a month later, on March 21, so you've got plenty of time to grab a copy of the trade and get caught up.

You'll be glad you did.






15 February 2012

14 February 2012

INCREDIBLE

Comics legend John Severin died today. He was 90, and while it's sad when anyone dies, 90 years is a damn good run. 

Even better when you're an artist as insanely awesome as the esteemed Mr. Severin.

A few weeks ago, I was at a comic book store out in Concord, Flying Colors, and they had an amazing copy of this comic on the wall:


When I was younger, this was one of my favorite Incredible Hulk covers, but when I found it under the Christmas tree amongst a stack of other comics one cold Christmas morning almost 40 years ago, it looked like this:


Reprint books like Marvel Super-Heroes, Marvel Tales and Marvel's Greatest Comics were how I discovered a lot of comics, and more importantly, how I discovered a lot of comic book artists. With Marvel's Greatest Comics, it was Jack Kirby. Even though I bought the current issues of Fantastic Four, I liked Kirby's F.F. more. 

With Marvel Super-Heroes, it was Herb Trimpe and John Severin. And I like Happy Herb's Hulk just fine, but to this day, the Hulk I see in my mind's eye, is penciled by Trimpe and inked by John Severin. And while Severin is known for a wide variety of other comics, it's his work on Incredible Hulk that made him one of my favorites.

It's a testament, too, that even though the cover layout and artwork was altered for Marvel Super-Heroes #63, it's still an instantly memorable cover. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

And the same could be said about John Severin as well.

LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM

And here's a more traditional Valentine's Day message, courtesy of the L'il Depressed Boy, Kid Omni-Man and Sina Grace...

LOVESTRUCK

I suspect this is a more honest love song than most you'll hear today...

13 February 2012

RACHEL

I was at the ComicsPRO retailer meeting in Dallas, Texas this past weekend, and at one point, writer/artist Terry Moore got up to talk about his wonderful new series, Rachel Rising. I've been following Terry's work since Strangers In Paradise back in the '90s, but as much as I liked that (and Echo, which came after), Rachel Rising is probably my favorite thing he's done so far. There are five issues out to date, and I highly recommend you buy all of them when you go to your local comic book shop this week.

They look like this:





08 February 2012

07 February 2012

GET IT WHILE YOU CAN

You've probably heard about Image Expo, happening this February 24-25 at the Oakland Convention Center in Downtown Oakland. We're barreling towards that blessed event at what seems like light speed. I'm both looking forward to it and looking forward to looking back on it.

A lot of cool people are coming: Brian K. Vaughan, Jonathan Hickman, Todd McFarlane, Joe Casey, Fiona Staples, Ed Brubaker and Robert Kirkman, just to name a few. But also cool? There are going to be some insanely awesome Image Expo exclusives. A full announcement is coming later this week, but here's a sneak peak at the cover for The Walking Dead #94 we're GIVING AWAY to the first 5,000 attendees. We're giving away something else, too, but you'll have to get one of the Image Expo TWD variants to find out what that is...


You can get tickets for Image Expo here.

We're also going to be giving away a limited number of these as well:

LONG TIME GONE


Richey Edwards was last seen today, 17 years ago.

He was beautiful. He was gifted. He was doomed.

In the wake of his disappearance, his band, Manic Street Preachers, scaled previously unimagined heights, but Richey remains sadly missed.

Some of Richey's best...






...and the promo video for a song about Richey by the latter-day Manics, which for some reason always manages raises the hair on the back of my neck when the stages merge at the end...



06 February 2012

BAD COVER VERSION

This seemed relevant...

02 February 2012

NO FUN


I'm still kind of gnashing my teeth over the "Before Watchmen" news, mainly because of how dismissive people are of Alan Moore's rights as a creator.

Historically, the comics community has been on the side of the creator in most creator vs. corporation battles. Much has been written and said about Jack Kirby's battles with Marvel Comics, for instance, and most of us tend to agree that Kirby was not treated as he should have been, when the big picture is considered.

But something else most of us can agree on when discussing Kirby vs. Marvel, is that Jack knew he was creating characters that would be owned by Marvel Comics. Did he want more credit and compensation for his part in those characters' creation than he ultimately received? Yes. Did he deserve it? A thousand times, yes: characters Fantastic Four, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Silver Surfer, Captain America, and the Avengers would not exist without Jack Kirby. But did he know he was creating characters that Marvel would ultimately own? Again, the answer is yes.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, meanwhile, created Watchmen under the impression that the rights would be returned them eventually. Within a year after it was concluded, in fact. That's not my opinion. That's a fact. It's public knowledge. Due to the nature of the deal that had been agreed upon by Moore, Gibbons and DC Comics, it was widely discussed. It was a genuine victory for creators' rights.

But then the book was kept in print forever, and the rights to Watchmen never reverted back to Moore and Gibbons.

And people wonder why Alan Moore felt betrayed.

It was a dirty deal, and the fact that there are people who want to rationalize it by saying, "Well, Alan Moore wrote League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls, and those books used other writers's characters, so how is this any different?" just shows that truth is a sadly devalued currency. It's different because Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons negotiated, in good faith, a deal that would have allowed them to retain the rights to Watchmen.

And yes, the characters in Watchmen were inspired by characters like Peacemaker, Thunderbolt and The Question. We know that, because Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons told us as much. Had they kept that inspiration quiet – would anyone anywhere have mistaken Watchmen for something published by Charlton Comics? Dr. Manhattan is no more the same character as Captain Atom as Captain Marvel is Superman or Blue Beetle is Spider-Man.

All in all, it's a strange double standard, arbitrarily applied to an amazing writer who has done more than almost anyone else to draw serious attention to this medium. And it's one that anyone who supports creator's rights should find fairly troubling, if not outright maddening.  

01 February 2012

LADDER'S BOTTOM RUNG

Everyone has known this was coming for a while, but that doesn't make the news of DC's "Before Watchmen" comics any less disgusting.

There are some really talented people involved in these books: Darwyn Cooke is one of my all-time favorite storytellers; Amanda Conner, Adam Hughes and J.G. Jones are artists whose work I've admired for years; Brian Azzarello's a wonderful writer and his 100 Bullets is a genuine classic. Len Wein? He co-created Swamp Thing and a good chunk of the X-Men most people know and love. (Namely Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler.)

I would rather see any of them do something new than engage in the kind of hard graft DC has conscripted them for with these books. Or as Alan Moore's daughter Leah put it on Twitter:

"Why not do NEW ogn's (sic) from the Before Watchmen creators, or better yet fresh talent. Use the budget to find the *next* watchmen instead?"

Alan Moore gets a lot of stick from various quarters for having principals. Certain people like to couch that in different, less flattering terms – he's crazy, he's lost it, he's an asshole – but at the end of the day, he's making a stand based on what he thinks is fair and right. Whether you agree with his position or not, I have to think you'd be able to admire his tenacity. It would have been far easier for him, at any point, to simply accept the DC/Warner Bros. agenda and just pocket the cash.

In the final estimation, it's really just more of the same. This is what they do. I'm sure it will be perfectly serviceable fan fiction.

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Karen Gillian