Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Image Expo- 20 Years of Independence

In 1992, frustrated by the way their creations were being exploited, some of the biggest artists in comics set out to tell the stories they wanted to tell, the way they wanted to tell them. These artists formed Image Comics, one of the biggest comic publishers in the industry. Through the creation of Image Comics fans have seen the creator-owned Spawn, Savage Dragon, Youngblood, The Walking Dead and Witchblade series’ (just to name a few) become some of the biggest sellers in the industry.  Last weekend in Oakland, Image’s five partners (Robert Kirkman, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino and Erik Larsen) and their fans gathered to celebrate twenty years of independent comics.  

The first day kicked off with the Keynote Address from Eric Stephenson making some awesome announcements of some upcoming Image offerings. Some of the most notable:

-Jupiters Children from Mark Millar

-Black Kiss 2 from Howard Chaykin

-Happy from Grant Morrison

Saturday saw a full line-up of panels that kicked off with Womanthology: What Zeitgeist? featuring Trina Robbins, Maria Huehner, Nicole Sixx, Fiona Staples and Bonnie Butler with moderator Blair Butler.  For those that don’t know, Womanthology is an anthology which showcases over 100 female creators. The project started out as an idea that was tweeted, which then caught on and eventually snow-balled into a Kickstarter project. By the end of the first day, the project reached its goal of $25,000 and in the end, went on to exceed its goal with over $100,000 in funding (for more on Womanthology click here). The book releases on March 20, 2012. Keep your ears open because Maria Huehner stated at the panel that, “There is a next step” and that all will be announced around the same time as the book’s release!

Robert Kirkman, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen and Rob Liefeld were on hand at the Twenty Years of Independence: The Image Comics 20th Anniversary Panel. During the panel they recounted the story of Image Comics’ founding. McFarlane said, “Rob was gonna do his thing, Erik was gonna do his thing and Jim (Lee) and all of a sudden it was like, “Why are we sorta kinda thinking about doing all of these things independently?” So, with Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld all on board, Image Comics was born. "The reason Image worked is because it was a collective. We were all jonesing to do our own thing. We loved our time at Marvel, I'm just speaking from a place of honesty, and I was just excited to do something else. It wasn't like 'I'm done with Marvel' or 'Marvel's treated me wrong’” said Liefeld.
Hands down, the biggest panel of the Expo was The Walking Dead Live with Robert Kirkman, Norman Reedus and Steven Yeun with Chris Hardwick as moderator. If you’ve ever seen The Talking Dead, this panel was a live version of that. To view the full video of the panel from Youtube and hotmilkgt click here

Sunday consisted of workshops from some of the best and brightest in the industry including: Joe Casey (Ben 10), Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, John Layman and many others. Image Comics has come a long way from being, the little publisher that could. “We are 20 years now into the failure. Maybe 20 years from now it will (fail), but I don't think so. I think it'll outlive all of us,” said Silvestri. He summed it all up best in the Twenty Years Panel when he said, "The thing about Image Comics when we started 20 years ago, and it still holds true today, even though we have more experience and we've learned a lot, both from successes and failures, is that the dysfunction of Image is actually the function of Image. Image was formed by seven lunatics who, like Todd said, backup for a running start off a cliff. The beauty of Image is the fact is that now, with 20 years of retrospect, what Image did, what it stood for, has literally become a part of pop-culture history."

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