Image Expo 2014: The Future of Comics

“The only rules are the ones we invent.”  - Warren Ellis

This is the quote that greeted us on the big screen as we waited for Image Expo 2014's keynote to start, and I believe it sums up the event well. Image presented itself as rebel comics, breaking the chains of corporate ownership to tell the stories that creators want to tell and to elevate comics to a new level of passionate, personal art.

The event was fun and intimate. Eric Stephenson spoke to a small room of guests made up of press, comic creators, and Image fans. He held a beer in one hand and was honest about his vision for the company. The speakers were funny and unrestrained. They were here to talk about what they loved to do: to tell stories and draw incredible pictures; they were here to share their art.

The keynote lasted around a half hour, plus there was a video from Image that served as sort of a mission statement from the creators. It was very clear that Image is out to prove something. Eric Stephenson wanted you to know that the gains they have made in terms of market share are not a happy accident. Image is going after the biggest names in comics, they are looking to not only grow the comics reading audience, but also to grow bigger than their competitors and become the biggest name in comics.

Eric Stephenson talked about Image as the future of comics. He talked about the incredible artists and writers he sees entering the medium, and he was very hopeful that the works they are putting out now are just the start of something great.

After the key note address, we were treated to 12 new announcements. Most of these new books will be coming in late 2014 (November or December) or spring 2015. They ranged from sci-fi to fantasy to horror and comedy. The creators announced were still mostly male, but there was a sense that Image had learned from the criticisms of the last Image Expo and made sure to highlight the women they had and give them just as much face time as the men.

So, what was announced? Well let’s get into that right now.


Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender, Sean Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth
Rick Remender described this as a futuristic, violent, and gory story sent in the islands of Los Angeles. Sean Murphy’s art looked incredible, and it immediately made me think of Akira but with a grittier Sean Murphy feel.  I loved Remender’s tag on the end, where he said it is “Murder with a Message.” This one seems like a must buy no-brainer: two of the biggest names in comics bringing their fans a cool, new post-apocalyptic world. I am definitely going to be pre-ordering this one.

From Under Mountains by Marian Churchland, Claire Gibson, and Sloan Leong
This is a cool, new fantasy story that will be set in Brandon Graham’s 8house shared universe. The story follows the unlikely team of a disgraced knight, a runaway thief, and a lord’s daughter who get wrapped up in a crazy fantasy adventure. This book looks like a lot of sword and sorcery fun with a cool cast of characters coming out in spring 2015.

Valhalla Mad by Joe Casey and Paul Maybury
Joe Casey announced a new comedy fantasy book that follows 3 Asgardian Gods who come to earth for a night of drinking and revelry and end up on a magical quest. The book featured some fun art from Paul Maybury and looks like a comedic take on the old Kirby Thor stories. Look for this one in early 2015.

Rumble by John Arcudi and James Harren
Not much was shown of this new book for December 2014 that was described as Scarecrow Conan in a Louis CK sketch directed by David Fincher. I’ll be holding judgement until I see it in PREVEIWS magazine, but this one left me scratching my head a bit.

Intersect by Ray Fawkes
I am a huge Ray Fawkes fan. His creator-owned work is incredible. This new series is a horror comic about monstrous transformation with really intriguing art. This will be one of those books that looks like nothing else on the shelf. Everyone should definitely check this out.

The Humans by Keenan Marshall Keller, Tom Neely, and Kristine Collantes
This looks like a Neanderthal or maybe ape bikers who form a gang and do crazy stuff. I have no clue . . . but it looks AWESOME. As Eric Stephenson said, “Every so often, someone pitches a book that just sounds too crazy to be true, and I mean that in the best way possible. Chew was one of those books. Sex Criminals was another one. Everything about The Humans seems completely nuts, and I think that’s why people are going to love it!”

Invisible Republic by Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
This looks really cool. Hardman and Bechko described it as a big sci-fi story of revolution and huge proportions told through the very human, approachable perspective of a single person involved in this big outer space epic. Hardman’s art looks great, and these two have really been killing it on all their books lately. It is nice to see them do a creator-owned book. I imagine that we’ll be talking a lot about this book in the future on Fanboy Comics.

Southern Cross by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger
OMG! BECKY CLOONAN! Sorry, had to get that out of my system. If you have not read her awesome creator-owned series, then go and get them now. Anyway, this is going to be a cool, new sci-fi horror book about a woman traveling to a space colony to retrieve and bury her recently deceased sister. Things go wrong, horror happens. This looks great, and it is nice to see such a high profile creator as Becky Cloonan come to Image.

Descender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Little boy robot outlaw created by Sweet Tooth creator Jeff Lemire and Lil’ Gotham artist Dustin Nguyen. This sounds awesome and wonderful and very cute and will probably also be very heartbreaking. This is set in a universe where robots have been outlawed and one little robot has just come online to find a world where he is no longer welcome. Descender sounds great and is probably the book I am most excited for out of this list of announcements.

Drifter by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein
Drifter is a cool, new sci-fi series about the first colonists on a new planet. This seems like a really cool, realistic look at the sci-fi genre that will be less polished, less about space lasers and aliens, and more about the people building this new colony. This is scheduled for November, so we don’t have to wait long to check it out.

Tooth and Claw by Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey
This book looks like a ton of fun. It is a crazy fantasy story with animal characters. Ben Dewey is a very talented artist that I just learned about at this con with his new book, I Was the Cat, who draws incredible animals and his designs for this book look great. Throw the legendary Kurt Busiek into the mix, and I think we have a real winner.

Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey
This was the final big announcement. Ellis and Shalvey have been killing it on Marvel’s Moon Knight, and now we know what they’ll be working on next. They didn’t say much about the story, but, with Ellis attached, I am sure it will include big ideas and be a ton of fun. Declan Shalvey is one of the biggest new names in comics, and it will be very interested to see him unleashed on this project.





So, there you have it: 12 announcements spanning the releases of the next 6 to 9 months. Image Comics is really pushing the boundaries, challenging to creators to get . . . well, creative and really explore new ideas and concepts.

What do you think? Which of these will be the next big hit? Which ones are you going to add to your pull list?

Jason Enright, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor

 

Favorite Superhero: Cyclops
Favorite Animal: Anklyosaurus
Favorite Game: Pathfinder RPG
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