Moderator David Brothers kicked off Image Comics’ final panel of NYCC 2016 by telling the crowd, “Spectacle is the exciting stuff – the explosions, the drama, everything that makes you laugh and cry in comics.” With a wealth of current Image talent at the table with him, he started with the creative team for “Glitterbomb” — writer Jim Zub and artist Djibril Morissette-Phan.
Zub described the book as “a Hollywood horror tragedy,” about a middle aged actress who is no longer young enough to star in Hollywood, but not yet old enough to play the grandma roles, which puts her “at a strange point in her life.” She decides to get some revenge on the people who have wronged her over the years, and the supernatural may be involved in that revenge. He met Morissette-Phan at Montreal Comic-Con over a year ago, “a 22-year old wonder-kid who is totally rocking it out, cover through cover.” After they pitched the series to Image at 2015’s NYCC, it got the green light and debuted 2016.
“We’re doing 4-issue arcs, then the trade in Spring, and then another four issues next fall, so it’s like a Netflix-type thing,” they told the crowd. “It’s a nice little October surprise.”
Next was Andrew MacLean, the writer/artist who puts out the quarterly series “Head Lopper.” He said that it’s about “decapitation! It’s a big guy with a big sword killing big monsters.” The lead character Norgal hangs out with a talking head, Agatha. When they’re not bickering and sabotaging each other, they’re fighting big monsters. “I think of it as fantasy rather than comedy or drama,” McLean said, “but the jokes are right there sometimes, so it’s slowly picked up more and more humor over time.”
After Brothers mis-announced the next two creators as “Brenden Stewart and Cameron Fletcher,” Brenden Fletcher stepped in to say “actually, my middle name is Stewart – Brenden Stewart Fletcher. So it’s like we’re meant to be together.” Zub added, “I totally ship you two, now.”
Cameron Stewart said their new series “Motor Crush,” with their “Batgirl” collaborator Babs Tarr, is “a science fiction action adventure about a world where motorcycle racing is the most popular sport.” By day, Domino Swift is one of the biggest racers in the game, but at night she takes part in illegal death racing to try and get a substance called Crush, which is a narcotic for motorbikes.
Brothers asked about the use of violence in the panel’s comics, and how they control that spectacle. Zub, looking at a panel on the screen from “Glitterbomb,” mused that series was about “lovable characters doing lovable things.” Joking aside, he said, “It’s horror, but it’s more a character drama which punctuated by horror. When she’s frustrated beyond belief, this monster comes out of her, but that’s only an element of her. It’s not like a monster story – the monster is an emotional response.” Morissette-Phan added that they call it “the creature” when her personality changes. Zub described her as “not the hero, but she is the protagonist.”
McLean said that he has an approach inspired by Quentin Tarantino. In his movies “an arm gets cut off and a fountain of blood comes out – no guts, no gore, but just these sprays of blood. So I try and pull it back – it’s not about the violence, but about the adventure… which just happens to usually end with a decapitation.” He told the crowd that he fully scripts every issue, which surprised Stewart. “The scripts are tight,” McLean said. “I could give them to someone else and they’d see everything I see in my head.” When asked why he scripts for himself, he says it’s just a part of his process, and “a reminder of what’s in my head at the time, as I script sometimes about two months before I draw anything.”
Stewart says when he’s writing and drawing, like with “Motor Crush,” he draws the whole thing out. Fletcher added that he’ll just say something like, “put a motorcycle race here,” and Stewart will draw it as he wants. Zub said he approaches his writing in much the same way, adding, “I’ll write something like, ‘here’s the part where we want people to freak out, so just go to town at this point.'”
Talking further about “Motor Crush,” Fletcher said lead character Domino “fights to be the best she can, and loves motorcycle racing. There’s a legacy of it in her family, as her dad is Sullivan Swift, and he leads her racing team. So she’s trying to honor her family legacy – but if she loses it also hurts the family business! Which is a lot of pressure.” He compared it to ‘The Warriors’ but better, as it had more motorbikes in it, and Stewart noted that “Akira” was a big touchstone for the race scenes. Fletcher added “it’s a book about badass ladies on motorbikes. You need to represent the speed on the page.”
The panel then shifted to talk about coloring, with Fletcher and Stewart agreeing that one of Tarr’s biggest strengths was with color. At DC Comics, however, they didn’t get the time or option to spend the time they wanted with that part of the process. Morissette-Phan said he colors his covers digitally, with each one taking a day and a half or so to complete. The interiors are colored by K. Michael Russell. “I was a fan of his YouTube channel, and learned a lot about colors from him – so when I saw he was going to color this series, it was really exciting!”
Zub spoke about letterer Marshall Dillon, explaining, “He lettered my first creator-owned book, and I literally have not done a creator-owned project which he has not lettered. He’s a foundation in so many ways.” MacLean letters his own work at Image, and had had several colorists on “Head Lopper.” He told the crowd that Jordie Bellaire would be coloring the next arc, to distinguish the new world the characters head to from the world of the previous storyline
Heading to the Q&A session, the first question asked what the creative teams could do at Image which they couldn’t do anywhere else. Fletcher jumped in with “bad language, violence,” with Stewart adding, “Babs is really pushing for nudity.” Apparently Tarr would try to sneak rude words into their “Batgirl” issues – on license plates, and hidden elsewhere. “Now she can do all the vulgar license plates she likes!”
Zub said, “On ‘Skullkickers’, we did 34 issues, and in that five year period, we had one editorial note – in issue 6, one character gives the middle finger. A note came back saying ‘your book is rated 12+ – if you do this, it’ll have to be 16+, is it okay?’ It didn’t tell us what to do, it was just suggestive.”
The next question asked if pitching was intimidating. MacLean said “I pitched dozens of things which were turned down before getting books at Dark Horse and Image. With ‘Head Lopper,’ I already had 60 pages done, so there was something for them to read – which really helped. Just on paper, ‘Head Lopper’ probably would’ve been turned down immediately!” Fletcher said all they had to start with was the creative team – they then had to decide what they wanted to do subsequently.
Zub likened the pitching process to “piloting a plane while you’re watching it head towards a cliff. Between publishing “Skullkickers” and “Wayward” there was a gap of four years, and it’s because there are all these planes which crashed or never got off the ground. We have to salute those planes now as we fly past.”
At that point, Jason Latour arrived at the panel, having been unaware of the timing. He sat down and announced that Image will be printing “Loose Ends” in January, a four-issue crime series with artist Chris Brunner and colorist Rico Renzi. He described it as being part of the same family tree which brought us “Scalped” and “Southern Bastards.” “It’s about a man who comes home from the Iraq war and tries to make a life for himself.”