The story of Image Comics is being put to film, from its early days as a the biggest shockwave to hit comics in decades comics through its down year to its current Renaissance.
The late night Comic-Con International panel discussing the upcoming documentary had a small but enthusiastic audience who gathered for the latest news on “Comics In Focus: The Image Revolution,” directed by Patrick Meaney, produced by Meaney and Jordan Rennert and funded via a Kickstarter campaign. In the past, the pair worked together on “Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods” and “Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts,” films which centered on individual writers.
“The Image Revolution” features interviews with founding partners of Image Comics including Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino. The directors settled on the subject of their latest film based on what they called the importance of Image Comics. “At [the time of Image’s genesis], there was a sense of the industry changing to be more creator driven and more about original work,” Meaney explained.
Of course, they were also attracted to the more sensational elements to their story. “It’s kind of the classic ‘Behind The Music’ arc. [It tells the story of] starting out, risking everything, getting famous, making a ton of money, flying too close to the sun, losing a lot of the market and ultimately redeeming itself,” Meaney said
Partway through the panel, Marc Silvestri came on stage to applause. The Image Comics co-founder was more than happy to share his view on the early days of Image. “The crazy stories that have been told many times about the early days? They’re 99.9% true. It was the Wild West, it was uncharted territory. We were making the future as we were going along,” Silvestri said.
“I remember writing a royalty check for one issue for a letterer for $10,000,” Silvestri recalled, illustrating how much money Image was making and sharing with talent in order to keep them around during the publisher’s early years.
Silvestri also spoke about the decline of Image in the early ’90s and the worry that began to set in when partners like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld began to work with DC Comics and Marvel again. “I was far more afraid at that time than any other,” Silvestri said, smiling and saying he completely understands why Lee and Liefeld took the paths they did.
Far from being a simple trip down memory lane, the documentary will also tell stories about the current days of Image. A clip shown during the panel featured Robert Kirkman talking about his original pitch to Image for “The Walking Dead.” His original pitch was turned down, so Kirkman, looking for a hook to get published, created a storyline on the spot, featuring aliens invading the zombie-laden world. Of course, the aliens never materialized in the “The Walking Dead” outside of an eventual gag strip, but his quick thinking worked, Image approved the book and the rest is history.
Discussing the current state of the comic book industry, Silvestri told the audience, “This may sound cold, but a lot of comics need to be IP generators, today.” The CEO of Top Cow emphasized the need for creators and publishers to develop alternative ways to make make money from a comic book, pointing to “The Walking Dead’s” successful television spin-off as a prime example.
Meaney and Rennet plan to release “Comics In Focus: The Image Revolution” by the end of 2012, with a goal of having it finished in time to debut during the New York Comic-Con.