Last year's Image Expo was set up like a convention with a show floor full of Image creators, and a panel room where fans could hear their favorite writers and artists talk passionately about their books. This year's show was a much smaller, one-day event with a key note speech followed by a series of small panels.
The great thing about Image Expo 2013 was that it showcased the depth and diversity of the Image creator pool. Everyone from the Top Cow and Shadowline imprints to big guns like Kirkman, Layman, and BKV were happy to be there signing books and chatting with fans.
This year was different. The show was held in an auditorium, and fans got to hear big-name creators like Robert Kirkman, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, Rick Remender, Ed Brubaker, Kurtis Weibe, Joe Keatinge, and Jason Latour speak.
Image Expo 2012 was the people's convention, and many fans commented how they felt like they were part of the Image team afterwards and how with enough work and dedication maybe they, too, could one day be an Image creator.
Image Expo 2013 felt like a Marvel or DC panel at Comic-Con. Creators were kept sequestered from fans until they were trotted out to make an announcement. When the panels started, creators seemed to not be taking things very seriously and, at times, seemed bored instead of excited to be there.
Also, there seemed to be a major component missing. Gone was the scrappy, independent spirit of Image Expo 2012. Instead, we were introduced to what's next at Image, which seems to be books from the biggest Marvel names. Other than Kurtis Weibe, there were no up-and-coming creators. Where were the rising stars? Where was the new talent?
Image has been known as the place where talented, new voices come to deliver their first incredible works. Image was a publisher that launched careers, but if Image Expo 2013 is meant to truly represent what's next at Image, then it seems like Image's future is going to be full of the same voices we get at Marvel Comics every month.
One thing seemed very clear from this show: Image Comics is on the hunt for market share. They want sales numbers, and they want Marvel and DC readers to read Image books. That is fine, but it seems to be coming at the expense of what made Image special to begin with, which was fresh, new talent with big ideas.
I'll leave you with one final thought. Rick Remender mentioned at the show that he got his start in comics because ten years ago, Image took a chance on him. When the next young talent like Remender is looking for his start in comics, will this new Image Comics be willing to take a chance or will they be too busy chasing big names and market share?