“What have you heard about Image Comics? Was the article in Comics Buyer’s Guide accurate? Just who is involved, what will they be doing, and will it mean the end of the world as we know it? It’s time to end the rumors and hear the truth. Attend the CCD Jim Valentino meeting: Tuesday evening, February 25th, 1992, 7:30 p.m. Retailers only.”
After a build-up like that, how could anyone not attend the meeting at Capital City Distribution’s Commerce, Calif., warehouse? I went with two of my employees to represent my store, Paper Hero Comics. Jim Valentino, as one of the original founders of Image, answered questions for two hours. The following is information that is pertinent to both retailers and consumers.
- Who is involved in Image Press?
“Image was the best-kept secret in the comics industry. We have been working on it for six months now, ever since Marvel threatened to sue Rob [Liefeld] over The Extremists.”
Image Comics consists of seven voting partners: Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio, and Jim Valentino. Other professionals who will work (not necessarily exclusively) for Image include Chris Claremont, George Perez, Dale Keown, Sam Kieth, Ken Steacy, Brian Murray, Scott Williams, Tom Orzechowski, Hank Kanalz, Brandon Choi, and Marat Mycheals. Considering working on new projects with Image are Perez, Keown, John Romita Jr., Jim Starlin, Mike Grell, and Mark Texeira. There has also been discussion with Jack Kirby about bringing back Captain Victory in some form or another.
Valentino said, “We’re talking to people all over the entire spectrum of the comic-book field, so, hopefully, we will get a wide range of people.”
He also said, “Peter David has said he will categorically never do a book for Image, and we all kind of agree on that. So we seem to be agreeing on something.”
Many Marvel artists are involved with Image; will they still work for Marvel, too?
“Todd McFarlane left Spider-Man almost a year ago. Rob Liefeld was asked by Marvel to stop penciling X-Force with issue #9 and to stop plotting with issue # 12. Jim Lee is leaving X-Men with issue #11. Marc Silvestri is leaving Wolverine; the issue number is undetermined. Erik Larsen is leaving Marvel at the end of Spider-Alan #22.”
Valentino said he was unsure when Portacio will leave Uncanny X-Men. However, Valentino said that he planned to stay on with Guardians of the Galaxy. He said he already has the comic book plotted through issue #50.
- Why start Image Comics rather than sell the creations to Marvel or DC?
“We saw what happens when you sell Superman to DC, and we saw what happens when you keep the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for yourself. If you create Superman and the company makes a billion dollars off it and you’re living in a trailer, there’s a serious injustice going on,” Valentino said.
As to Erik Larsen’s comment that was reported in CBG #953 (“I think that in many ways we’ve been holding back”), Valentino said, “I haven’t been holding back, anything, ever. I don’t think I am capable of it and I don’t think Jim Lee was holding back. I don’t think anyone who has ever seen one of his [comic] books can think that. I don’t think Rob Liefeld was holding back; I don’t think anyone is holding back, except our original creations we’ve kept for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
As to why they are doing super-heroes, he said, “These guys are at the top of their field and the peak of their career and what they do best is superheroes.” Further, Valentino said, he had originally offered ShadowHawk to Marvel, as a project for himself and Marc Texeira but Marvel didn’t act on it in a timely fashion and so Valentino decided to work on it on his own. In an interview in Comics Scene, Liefeld stated that he had tried to sell part of the Youngblood team to DC as Team Titans or Titan Force, but DC wanted to make too many changes so now it’s part of Youngblood.
- What is the editorial structure at Image?
Image Comics has no managing editor. “I don’t think there is anyone all seven of us could agree on,” Valentino said, adding, “it’s like we just moved out of Mom and Dad’s house and were on our own. We’re not ready to hire another Mom just yet.” Each creator will work as his own editor.
- What does the exodus of these top-level creators mean to Marvel, and how does Marvel feel about it?
Valentino said he doesn’t think that Marvel will fall off the face of the Earth without the Image artists. The top Marvel titles will continue to be top sellers. If Image affects sales from the “Big Two,” it will only affect the bottom-of-the-line sellers or the sales of multiple copies of the same issue. Marvel has some very competent people whom it will use to replace the Image creators, he said.
Because of all the people leaving, Image seems to be perceived as an anti-Marvel movement. It is not; it is a pro-creator movement, Valentino stated. According to Valentino, Mark Gruenwald, a Marvel senior editor, talked with him Friday, Feb. 21, and told him that Marvel in no way had any bad feelings towards any of the Image freelancers.
- What is Image Comics, what is its relationship with Malibu, and why did Image choose Malibu?
Image Comics is an independent company, which has subcontracted with Malibu to solicit, collect money, and publish for Image. Image had received offers from Dark Horse Comics and virtually every other independent publisher before signing with Malibu, Valentino said. If the deal with Malibu does not work out, Image Comics will continue with another publisher, he said. He added that Malibu has demonstrated difficulty in publishing monthly books on a monthly schedule but. Valentino assured retailers, Malibu would get the job done on time or there would be a new company associated with Image Comics. He said that Youngblood # 1, which was solicited for February, was not yet late. The problem with Youngblood, he said, is that Malibu has never printed a series with a print run this large, and its printers were unprepared. He added that, with the late re-orders, print run for Youngblood # 1 is now about 500,000 copies and said that the printer will not be a chronic problem.
[Diamond Comic Distributors, in its Feb. 27 Diamond Dateline, said that Malibu “reports that Youngblood #1 has now passed the 350,000 mark in sales, with the book already half completed and scheduled to ship in approximately 30 days from Ronald’s Printing.” Malibu Creative Director Tom Mason told CBG March 5 that orders were at 459,000 “and climbing.” Distributors had until March 10 to increase their orders prior to printing.]
- What if McFarlane took Spawn to Dark Horse? Would he still be part of the Image universe, if every one else was at Malibu?
Valentino said, “We’ve discussed what happens when someone wants to leave and take their characters with them; unfortunately, Peter David wasn’t in on it. It’s your character; you do what you want with it. If you don’t want to be published by Image any more, that’s fine; come back anytime you want. We have no ties, but mutual support.”
Further, each character is individually owned and, if Valentino and McFarlane wanted to do a crossover at different companies, they still could. “Image is like a neighborhood in which everyone has built their own house. If they move out of the neighborhood, we will throw them a party. If they move back to the neighborhood, we will throw them another party.”
- Does Image expect to do as well sales-wise as Marvel did with these creators?
Valentino said that “not all Spider-Man titles sell the same. The difference is not the character, but the creators. Naturally, Spawn will not have the readership of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man. However, all retailers should remember how many copies of Amazing Spider-Man they sold before Todd McFarlane and how many they sold when he was on the book. Likewise, how many copies of New Mutants they sold before Rob Liefeld and how many copies of X-Force they now sell. The difference in sales represent the fans of the creator and his ability to produce exciting and dynamic stories. It is the fans of the individual creators who will buy these new books.
“It should be noted that this is a brand-new company and readers will be able to get in on the ground floor. Who can afford Amazing Spider-Man #1 or Fantastic Four #1? Everyone can afford Spawn # 1.”
After Youngblood, he said, every comic book from image will be $1.95. “We want, as much as possible, to not break that $2 barrier,” Valentino said.
- What type of product support can retailers expect from Image Comics?
Valentino said that Image Comics is looking into co-op advertising, retailer-sponsored creator appearances, posters, t-shirts, buttons, trading cards, and bisques, all at a competitive price. Image’s seven co-signers will appear together at San Diego Comic-Con, he said, and someone from Image will be at every major convention this summer.
- What about those multiple covers that worked so well for Liefeld and Lee at Marvel? Will Image try to duplicate this?
“The day of the multiple cover is over. We’re doing trading cards because we all dig them,” Valentino said. He added that Liefeld is doing a flipbook much like Marvel Comics Presents. McFarlane is including a poster. Larsen is doing glowing logos on the covers. Valentino is doing silver ink on the cover because the character is black and silver, but every issue will not have silver on the cover. Each creator will decide what he wants to do with his book.
- What about distribution of image comics; are they a direct-only line?
“There will be no newsstand distribution of Image. When you d look at the independent companies that went to the newsstand, you see a list of companies that went out of business s very soon thereafter: Now, Comico, and First Comics. However, Image is working on a deal to be distributed to Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’ Us, and other places where the comic books are non-returnable.”
- What about the longevity and desirability of these comics and this company?
“I think if Image Comics are going to fail, it’s going to fail because we are going to self-destruct. It’s not because the customers don’t want this book. Thus far, egos haven’t gotten in the way. We are all working for a common purpose and a common goal.”
The tentative schedule for Image Comics as of Feb. 10 is:
Youngblood# 1 by Rob Liefeld and Hank Kanalz; three-issue mini-series.
Youngblood #2 by Liefeld and Kanalz.
Spawn #1 by Todd McFarlane, with pin-ups by George Perez, Dale Keown, and Ken Steacy; ongoing series.
Youngblood #3 by Liefeld and Kanalz.
Savage Dragon #1 by Erik Larsen; four-issue mini-series.
Spawn #2 by McFarlane.
Brigade # 1 by Rob Liefeld, Marat Mychaels, and Hank Kanalz; four-issue mini-series.
Savage Dragon #2 by Larsen.
Spawn #3 by McFarlane.
Wildcats # 1 by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Brandon Choi; three-issue mini-series.
Youngblood Special # 1 by Rob Liefeld; one-shot.
Brigade #2 by Liefeld, Mychaels, and Kanalz.
Cyberforce # 1 by Marc Silvestri; four-issue mini-series.
Savage Dragon #3 by Larsen
ShadowHawk #1 by Jim Valentino; four-issue mini-series.
Spawn #4 by McFarlane.
Wildcats #2 by Lee, Williams, and Choi.
Brigade #3 by Liefeld, Mychaels, and Kanalz.
Cyberforce #2 by Silvestri.
Savage Dragon #4 by Larsen.
Youngblood # 1 by Rob Liefeld; ongoing series.
Brigade #4 by Liefeld, Mychaels, and Kanalz.
Cyberforce #3 by Silvestri.
ShadowHawk#3 by Valentino.
Spawn #6 by McFarlane.
Supreme #1 by Rob Liefeld and Brian Murray; ongoing series.
“Who’s Who” in Image #1; probably a one-shot.
Youngblood #2 by Liefeld.
Cyberforce #4 by Silvestri.
Huntsman #1 by Chris Claremont and Whilce Portacio; mini-series.
ShadowHawk #4 by Valentino.
Spawn #7 by McFarlane.
Supreme #2 by Liefeld and Murray.
Youngblood #3 by Liefeld.
Darker Image #l, featuring Sam Kieth.
Huntsman #2 by Claremont and Portacio.
Spawn #8 by McFarlane.
Supreme #3 by Liefeld and Murray.
Youngblood #4 by Liefeld.
A major inter-company crossover is planned, involving all Image characters.
This schedule is tentative and is subject to change. If any of the mini-series do well, you can most likely expect an ongoing series will follow, Valentino said.
- Now that we know the titles, what’s happening in them?
Youngblood is two teams of heroes, a home team and an away team, who are also highly visible media stars. Liefeld’s basic idea is that this is what it would be like if there really were super-heroes.
Spawn was a black man who was murdered and went to Hell. He makes a deal with the Devil to come back so that he can see his wife and children again. When he does come back, it’s five years later, his wife is remarried, and he’s a white man. Further, he has been given super powers greater than Superman but they are finite in nature and, when they are used up, he’s dead again.
Savage Dragon is a Chicago cop who is a one man S.W.A.T. team. He also hates guys in Spandex costumes.
Wildcats is the opposite of Youngblood, it is a covert team of super-heroes; the last thing its members want is media attention.
Brigade is a renegade bunch of young heroes who strike out against Youngblood.
Cyberforce is a team of mutants who have been cybernetically enhanced by a major corporation. Now they want to escape from the corporation.
ShadowHawk is a mystery man whose identity is unknown to the reader. ShadowHawk’s view on criminals is that, if you kill them, you are letting them off too easy, so he goes around town breaking criminals’ spines. ShadowHawk replaces Pact on the Image schedule because Valentino said he felt there were already too many team comic books from Image to add one more.
“Who’s Who” in Image is just what the title implies.
Supreme was the greatest and only super-hero in the ’30s and ’40s and he had an ego to match his power. He got bored with life on Earth and left. He now comes back to Earth and discovers there now are a lot of other super-heroes and he doesn’t like that. Also, the government is upset that he has come back.
Nothing is known about Huntsman at this time, Valentino told retailers.
Darker Image will be an anthology title.