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Image Month @ C2E2 2012: Image Artists and Creator Rights

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Continuing Broken Frontier’s celebration of Image Comics’ 20th anniversary, we spoke with several comics creators at this year’s C2E2 about their experiences with the publisher. The influence of Image on creator rights cannot be underestimated and one need only look to their writers and artists to see Image’s effect on the industry. Even those creators who are now working on high profile projects at the Big Two publishers seemed eager to return to Image and the environment and benefits that it offers.

BROKEN FRONTIER: What are your thoughts on how Image has changed the industry over these past 20 years because of what they’ve meant for creator-owned comics?

FRANK CHO: Image is the best deal in the industry right now. They are hands down the most creative and the most generous publisher when it comes to creator-owned stuff. When you do a creator-owned book through Image, you get all of the profit, minus the printing costs and production costs. Whatever’s left over, that’s yours, 100%. And also you own the property. Image doesn’t get a cut at all. They’re fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about Image.

JEREMY HAUN: I think in an industry where most of the focus has to be on superheroes, Image has built a brand around telling any kind of story you want. While there is a decided superhero focus (Savage Dragon, Invincible), they really support everything else just as much. If you look at Chew, The Walking Dead, Luther Strode—these really aren’t books you’d find in other places. Vintage Image is like genre TV at its best. Image is kind of the Showtime of comic books. They absolutely support the variety that’s out there and give us an opportunity to tell any kind of story almost any kind of way.

TODD NAUCK: When Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane and all those guys that started Image were creating Cable and various X-Men characters, they owned next to nothing of that. I thought it was cool that they would start a company where they would own their characters and let other people submit their concepts and then help to get them out there. For example, I own WildGuard and all related characters flat out. They don’t try to take a piece of that. It’s really cool that there’s a publisher out there that will help us maintain our rights. If I get into action figures or movies or video games, it’s all me. So I really appreciate that Image exists.

BF:  What are some of your favorite memories of working with Image over the years?

FRANK CHO: One of my favorite memories was just hanging out with Erik Larsen and a bunch of Image guys, just goofing around over dinner. Teasing Erik Larsen is always fun. I mean, in terms of how he holds his pencil, he draws like a retarded chimp. [Cho clutches a pencil in his fist and demonstrates.] His stuff is fantastic. Erik’s a great guy. But he really does hold his pencil that way.

JEREMY HAUN: I did Paradigm originally with them a decade ago (wow, seems like forever) and Battle Hymn with B. Clay Moore. Battle Hymn honestly always stands out as one of my favorite things that I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. While it was a superhero book, it was the kind that you couldn’t do anywhere else—a revisionist World War II superhero book. At so many places, you hear that World War II doesn’t sell but Image really embraced it and stood behind it. It was a book Clay and I were both really proud of.

IVAN BRANDON: Viking and Cross Bronx and NYC Mech are all my babies. The thing I’m most actively working on at the moment is usually the thing I’m most invested in at that point. The most recent thing I did with them is Viking and that’s probably where my heart is at this second. But they’re all really important to me and hold a special place in my heart and career.

TODD NAUCK: Doing WildGuard. That was something I came up with when I was in art school in the early 90s back before reality TV made its big boom. When you create your own characters, it’s always fun since you can take them any direction you want. I’d like to do more. I’m always making notes and sketches for miniseries or even spinoff miniseries on characters that didn’t make the team. But finding the time and resources to get that material out can be a challenge.

BF: How did working with Image and their approach to creator rights affect your career personally?

IVAN BRANDON: It affected my career personally in that it’s jaded me in a positive way. My baseline is already 100% of what I create so any new relationship or business decision I make, that’s where the bar is. I think for a lot of people, it’s established that baseline, that the default position is to own what you create and to reap the rewards, so to speak, good or bad. That’s definitely a positive thing and it’s very different from what the comics industry was thirty years ago before Image existed.

TODD NAUCK: I got my start at Image working for Rob Liefeld. I was a member of Extreme Studios. I did that for two and a half years, which was mind-blowing to me. 22 years old, moving from Texas to Pennsylvania, then being discovered by Rob. I ended up moving to California to work in-studio in this tower next to Angel Stadium. At that time in comics, the bubble hadn’t burst yet. We were all having a great time and making good money and doing comics. I’d been a fan of Rob since his New Mutants stuff so I was excited to work for him. I remember walking into the studio and thinking, “This is it. I’m here. I’ve broken in. I’m a real comic book artist now!”

BF: Do you have any upcoming projects (creator-owned or otherwise) that you would like to tell our readers about?

FRANK CHO: I’m doing a Liberty Meadows Sunday Collection Book One which is coming out in June. It’s actually going to the printers right now. The Sunday Collection Book Two will come out in November. I’ve been doing new Liberty Meadows strips for a while now but have been so busy with my Marvel stuff that I haven’t had enough to put out a new issue. It is coming, I just don’t know when.

Through Image, I’m also still working on Guns and Dinos. I’m trying to get that out as soon as possible. And I have a couple of creator-owned projects that I want to do through Image, which I’m not going to announce until they’re finished. Also, there’s going to be a new art book, Women: Book Two, coming out through Image sometime in the fall.

JEREMY HAUN: I’m going to be working as the ongoing artist on The Darkness for, I don’t know, ever. As long as I can. We at least have a year’s worth of stories that we want to tell and I think it can potentially go on even beyond that. I also worked on a book called The Beauty. It was the Pilot Season winner this year for Top Cow. It’s a little book about an STD that makes you beautiful. We’re now going to do the rest of the miniseries. We’d like to try and have it out in the late fall.

IVAN BRANDON: This is a huge creator-owned year for me, probably the biggest I’ve ever had. I can’t talk about what any of the things are but I’m literally working on six different creator-owned books at the same time. Stay tuned. There is a really weird and varied spectrum of genre content—sci-fi, crime, etc. My New Year’s resolution this year was to focus on creator-owned far beyond anything I’d ever done before.

TODD NAUCK: There’s going to be a press release next week of the new book I’m doing, Skybound. So I’ll be coming back to Image. Right now, my main focus is on this new series. I’m penciling and inking the series and having a lot of fun with it. I can’t wait for everyone to find out what it’s all about.

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