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Image Month: Jim Valentino Excited about Shadowline

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by Karen O'Brien

As Image celebrates its 20th anniversary, temptation abounds to wax nostalgic and look back at the ground-breaking company’s origins and accomplishments. But when you’re having a conversation with Image co-founder Jim Valentino, you quickly discover that the busy publisher is already looking forward to the next 20 years.

Image was established in 1992 as a co-op with each publishing partner in charge of his own house. The lineup of houses has changed through the years, but the company’s commitment to creator-owned comics remains an integral component of Image’s identity. The current configuration is Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow, Skybound, Image Central, and Shadowline.

Valentino founded Shadowline in 1992, deriving the name from his popular character, ShadowHawk. (For more on ShadowHawk, check out ShadowHawk Chronicles, Volume 1, a collection of the first set of ShadowHawk’s adventures that was released in 2010.) Shadowline quickly distinguished itself from the other Image houses by publishing titles outside of the super-hero genre.

Shadowline was deactivated when Valentino became the publisher of Image Comics in 1999. During his tenure, Valentino worked to diversify Image’s offerings—a practice he carried over to Shadowline when he reinstituted the house after turning Image’s reins over to Erik Larsen.

Rather than establishing a singular universe within which all of its titles function, Shadowline publishes a diverse array of genres and titles produced by an equally varied collection of creators including Bomb Queen, Cowboy Ninja Viking, 27, Parade (With Fireworks), Green Wake, and Sam Noir, and many more.

    

In 2008, Valentino founded Silverline Books, a division dedicated to publishing kid-friendly books. The Fractured Fables Anthology was released hardback in 2010, and remains one of Shadowline’s most popular titles. “This January we re-released the second printing in trade paperback form,” Valentino said. “I’ve been extremely grateful for the success of this book and feel it owes its popularity to the many A-list contributors it boasts such as Mike Allred, Terry Moore, Jill Thompson, Whilce Portacio, Shannon Wheeler, Peter David, Bryan Talbot, Ben Templesmith, and so many more. The only guidelines the contributors were given was to choose a fairy tale or nursery rhyme and make it funny. Most did, and the book was wonderful as a result!”

Shadowline publishes a mix of ongoing monthly titles as well as limited-run books. Valentino noted the advantages to limiting the publishing run of a title. “Shadowline and, by extension, Image is, like most publishers and most businesses, sales driven,” he said. “If a book is selling well and the authors want to continue it, we do. If the book isn’t doing well and the creators aren’t making any money, we cancel it.

I prefer starting a series with four or five issues to test its viability. To that end, I tell creators to bring their first story arc to a satisfying conclusion—but leave plenty of side and back doors so if it does take off we can continue. This way, those readers who invested in it get a full story.”

Shadowline only accepts full proposals from hopeful creative teams. “We don’t hook up writers and artists the way that Marvel and DC and a few others do,” Valentino said. Rebel Blood pairs Riley Rossmo’s concept and art with Alex Link’s words in an atypical zombie story that became a hit this spring. The title sold out its initial print run of the first issue and has earned a second printing. Valentino credits its success to the good execution of a good idea. “In this particular case, I’d worked with Riley on a few other projects; Cowboy Ninja Viking and Green Wake,” he said. “I enjoyed working with him; love his work. He brought Alex in.

“While I liked the concept (and, considering I am not a zombie fan, that’s a feat unto itself) I can’t know whether or not a book’s going to be a hit, and I don’t select a book on that criteria. I select books that I think are interesting and unique, books that have an idea well executed. And then I cross my fingers, eyes, and legs that others will see what I see and it becomes a hit.”

Shadowline has more exciting titles in store for the remainder of 2012. “In May, we have Grim Leaper, which is written by Green Wake and Peter Panzerfaust author Kurtis Wiebe and illustrated by Aluisio Santos,” Valentino said. “This is a story about two star-crossed lovers who keep getting brutally killed, then leap into another body where it happens again and again.

“In July, we have two books; a Treasury-sized 64-page one-shot called Enormous by Tim Daniel and Mehdi Cheggour, which is about a group of individuals trying to survive in a world of giant monsters, and Debris, which re-unites the Green Wake team of Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo for a four-issue series about a strong female lead trying to find the last source of fresh water in a world devastated by garbage! We’re describing it as Red Sonja meets the Transformers…only different.

 

“Then in August, we have Harvest, a five-issue series by A.J. Lieberman, who wrote Cowboy Ninja Viking and Term Life for me and Colin Lorimer. This one is about a guy who repossess black-market organs out of the bodies of the rich, powerful, and dangerous people who bought them illegally. There are a few other things coming later in year, but it’s still too early to talk about them.”

For more information on Shadowline, go to its website: www.shadowlineonline.com

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