Comic-Con 2013: Next From Image Panel


Time to take a break from the Big Two and look where the really interesting stuff is happening – Image Comics. Get ready for Ed Brubaker’s next book with his Captain America partner Steve Epting, called Velvet. It looks to be something pretty neat. Other books you should read are pointed out below as well, but despite Eric Stephenson’s moderation, his great book Nowhere Men was never mentioned. Good thing I interviewed him earlier today, and will start transcribing that as soon as I have time!

In the meantime, here’s the liveblog of the Image panel, as it happened, including some digs at Marvel and DC, and Ed Brubaker’s thoughts on bad Catwoman creators.


Image won Eisners. Lots. They do.

The panel includes Ed Brubaker, Eric Stephenson, Joe Casey, Nick Dragotta, Amy Reeder, Brandan Montclaire, Rick Remender and J. Michael Straczynski.

Brubaker talks Fatale. The current arc, the fourth arc is a 90s period piece in Seattle grunge rock horror sex cult mystery. It’s about true things that happened when he was living in Seattle when that music scene was dying. The main character has amnesia and is living in a mansion with a one-hit wonder rock band.

Velvet, by Epting and Brubaker, the Captain America team. Five years ago, Ed told Steve about this project, and this is how long it took him to finish all of his Marvel commitments to do it. A high-octane thriller espionage thing – what if the world’s greatest secret agent got murdered, and the secretary was framed for it, but it turns out she’s the deadliest woman alive. Velvet Templeton proclaims her innocence. She’s been at a desk for 18 years, but she used to be the best. Why did she go from being Modesty Blaze-like to this? Due out in October. It’s an angle into like Mission Impossible and James Bond.

Joe Casey on The Bounce. A weird superhero story about a Spider-Man type guy who smokes a lot of weed – he leaned on the Spider-Man stuff to promote it, but it’s really not like Spider-Man at all. There are two universes – the real world and another world, and Fanglorious Fox discovers the bridge between.

Joe Casey on Sex. A costumed guy who retires realizes he’s not well-versed at coitus. He’s retired, he’s not in a redemptive superhero yarn, this is after the capes. Flashbacks occasionally, but it’s not the focus. He’s trying to get his groove on in a big bad way. The Saturnalia in Saturn City happens and it’s weird. And For Adults.

East of West, with Nick Dragotta, the artist. It’s a dystopian future where the Civil War has never ended, with deep rooted hatred in seven different nations. They have a cosplayer dressed as The Crow. Issue #5 is when Death is being tracked by the other Four Horsemen who want to kill Earth, and Death doesn’t because he’s in love. Also, he’s trying to protect something else. He’s playing it more fast and loose with Jonathan Hickman now, whereas with Marvel the scripts were always tight. Hickman is very into the design process as well. Frank Martin Jr. is the colorist and he’s Nick’s right hand for the best work Nick feels he’s ever produced.

Rocket Girl – Amy and Brandon, of Halloween Eve one shot. Brandon says it’s about a 15 year old cop from the future going to New York City in 1986. The twist is that the future she comes from is an alternate 2013. All the 80s sci-fi stuff was supposed to be happening by now, so she’s going back in time to find out why we don’t have the future utopia yet. In 2013, it’s all teen cops, because the way to resolve corruption of the police in the 80s was enlisting teenagers who are less corrupt. Is growing up understanding shades of grey, or should you keep it binary black and white.

Rick Remender returns with Black Science. A return to pulp science fiction like Fear Agent. Frazetta, Wally Wood type stuff. A guy from the League of Anarchist Scientists is playing with things he shouldn’t. A complex mystery he’s never tried before – revealing things between five different time periods in off-kilter ways. Matteo Scalera and Dean White are artists involved. Andrew Robinson of “The Fifth Beatle” is doing covers.

Remender is also doing Deadly Class, amalgamating a number of ideas. In 2004, he had several pitches for creator-owned books, but 2010-11 he developed five more, but two of them he couldn’t get his head around. One was Reagan Youth about 80s, and the other was Deadly Class, about an assassins’ high school. He merged the two and fell in love with it. It’s about growing up in the mid-80s, but with a lot of intrigue and danger of kids being trained by crime syndicates. Plus, normal high school angst! Midterm tests involve ninjas in your dorm room trying to kill you. Many of the stories are personal and true, but tweaked with assassin stuff.

JMS has a book nothing at all like Fatale. They have no art for it. Ten Grand is out right now. Sidekick is coming. Ten Grand is about a guy who agrees to keep coming back to life in order to get 1 minute with his wife when he dies. Sidekick is about a Robin-like guy sidekicking to the Red Cowl. His name is Flyboy. Red Cowl isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. At the height of their career, Red Cowl is assassinated in the middle of a parade, leaving the sidekick alone where no one takes him seriously. He’s going to put Flyboy through hell. JMS hated sidekicks since he was a kid who couldn’t do things Robin did, and he’s going to do everything he can’t do to sidekicks at DC and Marvel.

JMS also has Dream Police and Book of Long Souls coming out. Bill Sienkewicz is doing art with him on a new project about how comics are presented. JMS wants to completely rethink about the structure of comics, so they’re trying to live outside the box and burn the box with the project. It’s coming out this fall, and he has no idea if it will work.

Stephenson asks the panel about what they can do at Image they can’t do at Marvel or DC.

Brubaker feels more proud of his books when he owns them. He also likes knowing he can kill these people and it will stick. He can do things in Velvet he can’t do in Captain America. He writes for readers, not collectors. Freedom but responsibility comes with it. Also, tons of F-words.

Remender says ‘the purity of intention.’ Deadly Class is trying to be an honest reflection of that era of the 80s with their real experiences. No continuity and no threat of being told NO down the road with things you want to do. You can always put yourself into the characters if you own them.

Dragotta says he found himself as an artist doing creator-owned work. Doing Fantastic Four, he’s a second-rate Jack Kirby, but doing East of West, he’s the best Nick Dragotta. It just elevated his work, and he gets to draw what I want. Hickman told him to draw a robotic dragon, and Nick says ‘no, he should ride a horse like Quixote,’ but he didn’t want to draw a horse’s head either, so he put a cannon on its head.

Reeder was at DC on Batwoman. It was a good experience, but you have to make yourself like certain aspects of it. A creator-owned thing, you’re only going to do what you want to do. She also gets more say in what happens with her art – it matters a lot that she gets to ink her own stuff. It’s weird that mainstream American comics make artists split chores.

They are there own bosses at Image, they don’t work FOR Image, which has pros and cons. Brubaker works for his artists – if artists don’t have work, they’ll get mad, but if his artist is slow, he’ll slow down. The hardest part of leaving Marvel is realizing he’s not on vacation, he has to work harder than ever, but only for himself.

Reeder says people talking to her about deadlines doesn’t help. It’s better when she has control. Brandon did that for her at Madame Xanadu as her editor, so he’s always her boss. She worked better on weekends when she wasn’t worried about deadlines. Dragotta works best at night with no distractions. Casey says making comics is the best job you can have, and it hearkens back to his own crappy comics from being a kid, and he’s always loved it. It’s not a vacation, but he doesn’t need one because this is what he loves doing. Being able to create your own ideas might not last forever, so he doesn’t want to waste it.

Dragotta says he draws a page a day whether he wants to or not, and he’s happy to be making decent money now thanks to all of us, and he has two kids and might by a house.

Remender says he burnt out on superhero comics in 1991 before the boom, and was inspired by Optic Nerve and Evan Dorkin and things like that. He worked as an animator, but creator-owned books became something he loved to do. He can’t not do it anymore, walking away from storyboard jobs because he needed to make his own comics.


Q: A fan of Brubaker’s Catwoman asks what his opinion is on how people fail at creating strong female characters while he succeeds? Ed says Catwoman always seems to devolve back into a Catwoman he’d never want to look at. People need to understand the difference between sexy and sexist. He has female friends he’d love to give comics to without offending them. He just writes the stuff he wants to see and stuff he wouldn’t be offended by. Sometimes, he sees awful things and says ‘god, kill yourself!’ Then he retracts and says ‘stop doing comics!’ instead.

Q: Image Comics releasing digital comics DRM free? Stephenson says people should be able to own what they get online. ComiXology and all the outlets aren’t selling files, they’re selling the experience of reading. But some people want to actually have the files.

Q: JMS fan asks about anything for Rising Stars or Midnight Nation returning? JMS says Midnight Nation is his one favorite book of all he’s done, and he doesn’t want to go back into it and poop all over it, because he would.

Q: Any possible Incognito return? No solid plans. He’s thinking about doing some weird sci-fi thing next after Fatale, but Incognito is not over.

Q: How is it different to plot out initial arcs when not doing episodic big company stuff? Remender says foundation and plot are the same. He has a list of 200 questions to answer about any characters he creates. Structurally, they’re not too dissimilar, but the beats you’re trying to hit are different, between your own purity and trying to weave into the large tapestry of continuity. Ed says it’s easier when you start out on someone else’s characters because everyone knows who they are, but for creator-owned, it’s harder to get the detail out there for brand new characters nobody knows. It’s more work, but more fun. Remender says it’s more like screenwriting in that way.

Q: Portfolio recommendations for artists and writers? Clear storytelling is first and foremost – worry much less about being original than being a good storyteller. Don’t break the rules until you know how to do it within the rules. Study the masters and nail your ass to a chair and just do it. You need to be passionate about what you do, so no waffling. Marvel and DC wants you to be able to draw people walking and talking as much as you can draw Spider-Man swinging – the fundamentals.

Q: How did the title for The Bounce and what does it mean? It’s about a guy who bounces. The girl was confused because Fanglorious Fox was on the cover and not The Bounce.

Q: There’s a definite color scheme and design to East of West – what’s the process on that? Death and the Wolf and the Crow, Hickman was specific on his design for them – but make Death likable. Dragotta designed from that. A lot of it is happy accidents. A lot of his stuff is stereotypical to Dragotta – Cruella De Vil is the new president, for example.

Q: Is it hard to ride that line between sexy and sexist? With Marvel and DC, a lot of characters were created with old timey mindsets. JMS says female characters tend to be objectified and men are idealized. Reeder says it’s easier when you make your own characters, and you have to fix other people’s characters. You can do it with using normal posture and presenting it differently. Ed says that the same script drawn by a different artist can go too far the other way. He’s had that happen.


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