Image Comics’ Branding Manager David Brothers introduced Brian Haberlin (Faster Than Light), Jimmie Robinson (Power Lines), Brian Schirmer (Black Jack Ketchum), Keenan Marshall Keller (The Humans), and Joe Harris (Snowfall) to a roomful of WonderCon attendees Friday afternoon for the panel titled “Image Comics: Where Creators Own the New Creativity.”
Keller self-published issue zero of The Humans with Tom Neely, and they figured they were going to self-publish their series. It was an opportunity for them to become comfortable with the publishing process. Haberlin started with Image Comics in 1993 with his own project, and he expressed he has been treated well by the publisher. Robinson first began with Image Comics in 1996. He had been self-publishing, doing the projects he had wanted to do. Schirmer wanted to work with Image, so he published his first comic book with the publisher. He felt it was the logical first step into publishing. Harris had an independent filmmaking background and had worked at Marvel when he was quite young. He has been doing original work and appreciates the support of Image.
Brothers asked the panelists if they work full-time on comics. Keller said he had a full-time job, but he is now a stay-at-home dad. Schirmer is a professor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and teaches a “Writing for Comics” course. Robinson had been a semi-professional skateboarder, but the last five years he has been working as a comics creator full-time. Haberlin has been a professional illustrator since the age of 18 and was a television executive. Meeting Mark Silvestri at San Diego Comic-Con International led to comics.
What led to the each creator’s project? Harris stated that Snowfall is speculative fiction and while he did not want to preach in his comic, there is naturally a message arising from his genuine interest in the subject. Robinson used Power Lines to explore how communities develop and how media reacts to each hero’s story. His series follows how a person mediates being a hero to a community that is adverse to that hero’s help. Haberlin described the spirit of space and wonder as the background of the series, while Schirmer’s weird western was based on a vivid dream he had a couple of years ago. With a film background, Keller came up with the idea for The Humans 15 years ago as a genre story, inspired by the ape-hanger motorcycle handlebars.
Brothers asked each creator what inspired them. For Haberlin, he started reading comics as a teenager, which had been cherry picked for him, but it was Frank Miller’s Daredevil that truly gave him inspiration. Robinson was artistic from a young age. A retailer gave specific comic books to Robinson’s mother for him. The retailer added post-it notes with drawing tips for the young artist. Robinson said he never met the retailer. Schirmer was so enthralled with Micronauts when he was 7 years old that he wrote a screenplay; however, when he read Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, it blew his mind. Keller was a Marvel fanboy and was into the 1960s/’70s underground comics scene. Harris was inspired by Chris Claremont’s X-Men and Frank Miller’s Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns. Nexus was particularly important to Harris, because it was the first science fiction genre comic book he experienced.
Keller was asked about his sitting on ideas. He stated that if he has ideas that he cannot do himself, then he’ll sit on the idea until the time is right. An audience member asked what songs he would include as a soundtrack to The Humans. Keller said that each issue came with three free songs. Music ties into all of his stuff.
Brothers asked how each panelist felt about the collaborative relationship. Harris said collaboration is amazing, thrilling, and energizing. Schirmer is usually surprised by the artists he has collaborated with, because they have done more than he could have expected. Keller said it’s important to not be rigid with collaborative relationships.
There were opportunities for questions from the audience as the hour came to a close, and a couple of the panelists had parting thoughts. Haberlin stated that as creators, it’s crucial that you be truthful with yourself. For Robinson, he said he is motivated to create comics that his daughter can read and enjoy.
Image credits: All panel photographs by Michele Brittany.