26 Jun, 2014

The Rise of Image Comics

Posted by Midtown Comics in .Blogs


By Daniel Toy – @dw_toy (twitter) – danieltoy.com (website)

Issue #1 of Outcast — the newest comic by Walking Dead superstar writer Robert Kirkman — hit shelves this week, and if it’s anything like his zombie epic, we’re in for one hell of a ride.

Kirkman, in addition to being a writer, is one of five partners at Image Comics, one of the leading indie comic publishers in the industry. Despite being the only partner who’s not a co-founder, it hasn’t stopped him from becoming something of a poster child for the company—his flagship comic series is on its whopping 129th issue and has spawned one of the highest rated cable TV dramas. It’s kind of tough to top that.

But Image has been changing the comics industry long before Walking Dead was ever a thing.

It came to be 20 years ago when a group of seven freelance artists left Marvel to found their own company. With humble beginnings and good intentions, Image popularized a new form of graphic storytelling, one that catered more to serialized narratives and a (mostly) ad-free reading experience. Now, in the 2000s, it has firmly settled into its place and established itself as the premier publisher of indie comic books.

Unlike its longer-running and ubiquitous cousin companies, Image gives all rights to the creators, affording its writers and illustrators full creative freedom in addition to fair financial compensation. While this practice in and of itself is admirable, it also allows for a vast number of story possibilities and genre mash-ups, casting a wide net in terms of audience demographic.

Perhaps that’s why in April of this year, 10 out of the top 25 best-selling trade paperbacks were published by Image (according to the Diamond Sales Index).

Boldly veering away from the tried-and-true superhero archetype has proven to be Image’s strong suit, as the aforementioned best-selling TPBs cover a wide range of topics: fantasy-romance with a side of robot princes (Saga Volumes 1, 2, and 3); post-apocalyptic Earth with a hint of magic (East of West Volume 2); and couples who can stop time with a little love makin’ (Sex Criminals Volume 1). What’s more, two of those three titles were also included in Time’s Top 10 Comics and Graphic Novels of 2013 at third and first place (Saga and Sex Criminals, respectively).

Despite their steady rise, the indie comic will likely never surpass the popularity of most superhero franchises, but series such as Outcast have paved the way for a larger readership by marrying the single-issue formula with the storytelling and artistic depth of a graphic novel.

Don’t miss illustrator Paul Azaceta at Midtown Comics Thursday, June 26 at 6:00 p.m. for an exclusive signing of Outcast Issue 1, written by Robert Kirkman.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer, and not Midtown Comics.  Additionally, Midtown Comics makes no representations as to the accuracy of any of the information expressed herein.

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