Opening Image Expo at the Lam Research Theater in San Francisco on July 2, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson delivered a rousing and revealing keynote address to an audience of more than 500 comics industry journalists, retailers, and fans about the independent publisher’s upward trajectory in the comic book and graphic novel markets.Stephenson re-affirmed Image’s commitment to independence, creator ownership, and creative freedom. “Image Comics was founded by and for creators,” he said. “Whereas the dominant conversations at other companies are about licenses and franchises and the executives steering their ‘properties’ toward success, the conversation at Image – the only conversation at Image – is about the creators.”What’s more, Stephenson asserted, is that this model has been increasingly successful for Image. “We saw our dollars increase 40% over 2011’s numbers, with our units going up almost as much – 38%,” Stephenson said, noting that Image’s sales have been steadily increasing since 2009. “Better still,” he continued, “six months into 2013, we’re already up 33% in dollars and 38% in units over the same period in 2012.”
“We are making significant gains on Disney and Warner Brothers,” said Stephenson, speaking of Marvel and DC, which are respectively owned by those two large entertainment conglomerates.
Credit for these gains, Stephenson stressed, lies in one place: with the comic book creators whom Image publishes. Citing titles like SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, FATALE by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, Stephenson said, “The creators we work with reward our ongoing faith in new creativity with one amazing new series after another, proving along the way that there’s more to entertainment than simply sucking every last drop of life out of ideas rooted in the twentieth century.”
“We’re making gains on our competitors in the marketplace,” he continued, “but units and dollars aside, we’re doing even better than that when it comes to talent, because when it comes to talent, we’re not just gaining on them, we’re passing them by.”
Among the talent being published in 2013, Stephenson noted Mark Millar and Frank Quitely (JUPITER’S LEGACY) and J. Michael Straczynski and Ben Templesmith (TEN GRAND), and Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin (SATELLITE SAM), as well as upcoming titles like SIDEKICK by Straczynski and Tom Mandrake, SEX CRIMINALS by Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, and RAT QUEENS by Kurtis Wiebe and John Upchurch, and ZERO by Ales Kot and Michael Walsh.
The speech continued with the introduction of Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman, who spoke about his plans for the tenth anniversary of his zombie apocalypse phenomenon THE WALKING DEAD.