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Image Month: Graham Crackers and Successful Image Sales

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by Karen O’Brien

Graham Crackers Comics has nine locations in the Chicago area, and Image books are doing very well. Talking comics with store managers Matt Streets of the Downtown location and Shanna Berry of the Edgewater location will quickly lead you to checking out Image books for yourself. Their enthusiasm for Image’s current lineup is contagious. But beware—if you’re having these conversations within earshot of other patrons, you’ll be sure to kick off a discussion that will resonate throughout the store.

Image’s comics are flying off the shelves at the Downtown location, and store manager Matt Streets noted that second printings are selling well as word of mouth spreads about popular titles. “Image definitely has its finger on the pulse of what’s hot right now,” Streets said. “People are excited about Image books again. We’re selling through on our orders of first printings and have waiting lists for when the second printings arrive. That’s happened most recently with Saga #1. Other popular titles right now are Prophet, Glory, Bloodstrike, Supreme, and the Strange Talent of Luther Strode.

“Image is enjoying success with two types of books: the re-launches of former titles like Prophet and the new books like Luther Strode. With the older titles, it seems that Image really tried to put together creative teams that they knew would do a great job on a particular book and then turned them loose to re-imagine the characters. And it’s working. I have Prophet back issues in the 50-cent bin, but the current run is considered cutting-edge now, and I can’t keep it on the shelves.”

Over at the Edgewater location, store manager Shanna Berry has a similar reaction to the demand for Image books. “Thanks to the recent re-launch of DC and with Marvel continuously kicking butt, independent titles sometimes get shoved into the ‘next time when I have more money’ stack,” Berry said. “But recent Image comics are making fans look harder at the mainstream books they buy, asking themselves if the overpriced, underwhelming usual is really stacking up to the bold new books being unveiled across the street. That’s what I love most about Image—they force you to examine the quality of the heap.


Strange Talent of Luther Strode is a perfect example of a $2.99 comic that wipes the floor with any other mainstream book. This series covers a fantasy of almost every fan but with a morbidly bloody twist. It sold unbelievably well all across the chain with new readers jumping on every day. And with the release of the trade paperback, I expect the follow-up series to double if not triple the previous sales. If the addition of Luther Strode wasn’t enough, Image exploded into 2012 with the new Brubaker/Phillips noir, Fatale; Brian K Vaughan’s new Saga; Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects and Secret; Scott Snyder’s horrific Severed—and those are just the appetizers.

    



“Other series that are turning heads cover such a wide range of genres it’s almost jaw-dropping: Peter Panzerfaust, a fairytale feeling WWII story; Thief of Thieves, the family-man larcenist; Hoax Hunters, unexplained occurrences covered up by reality TV; Morning Glories, an over-privileged academy with a mysterious and sinister scheme; and Near Death, a killer determined to save a life for every one he’s taken; and Image’s newest addition, America’s Got Powers, about a super powered reality TV show.”

Berry and her customers appear to be more than pleased with the diversity among the Image titles. “Whether it’s the light-hearted, all ages Super Dinosaur or the ultra-violent, Vietnam zombie comic ’68, your bucks are well spent. And unlike other indy books, where readers take a sample and run back to the Big Two, these new and improved Image titles are keeping the attention of readers and bringing them back for the subsequent issues. It’s rare for indy books to outsell mainstream hero books, but it’s no surprise that Image has been a consistent contender every week.”

  



A recent in-store appearance at the Downtown location by Bloodstrike scribe Tim Seeley brought even more fans and mayhem to the always-busy store. Seeley’s appearances underscore that it can be a mixed blessing, however, to do a signing at a notoriously busy comics shop on its busiest day of the week.

“As much as I like the store and think it’s well run with great employees, the Downtown Graham Crackers [can be] a difficult place to hock books as an indy creator. It’s one of the busiest comic stores I’ve ever been in, especially on a Wednesday afternoon. People from all over downtown and the financial district swarm in to get their fix. It’s amazing. On the downside, these are people who have a fixed amount of time…maybe they’re on a lunch break or they have only a limited time at the parking meter…so they know what they want to buy. They don’t really want to hear your evangelizing about the wonder of creator-owned comics. So, as much as I always appreciate the chance to sign at such a busy, well-loved store, it can be pretty daunting.”

Seeley is enjoying the creative liberties given to him by Image to re-launch Cabbott’s bloody adventures. “I was given an insane amount of freedom by Rob and Eric,” Seeley said. “I think the approach for all of these Extreme re-launches was that they picked creators to handle books they thought would have something interesting to say about them. Once they’d heard my approach, they basically just let me go nuts. I think they know I have genuine affection for this stuff, and would never treat it poorly.”

The book features an interesting psychological component that breaks up the pulse-pounding action. “I really wanted us to see how it would affect a solider to know that there’s no end to his tour of duty…not even death takes him out of the endless fight,” Seeley said. “I wanted to really dig into what makes a guy in that situation keep going. Also, I wanted to have zombies fighting mummies.”

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