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Image’s Eric Stephenson on creators’ rights, Saga and sales figures

by  in Comic News Comment

In a three-part interview with ICv2.com, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson talks in his typical straightforward fashion about a number of topics, ranging from the state of the market and the phenomenon of The Walking Dead collections to the early success of Saga and competing with “the DC and Marvel superhero stuff.” The entire Q&A is worthwhile reading, but here are some of the highlights:

On creators’ rights: “People talk to me about what’s going on with the Watchmen stuff. If Image Comics had been around when Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons wanted to do Watchmen, they would have had someplace else they could have gone to do that type of work.  The situation that developed out of what did or didn’t happen with those contracts would have been irrelevant because they would have had a deal that offered them 100 percent creator ownership.”

On competing with long-established properties from Marvel and DC Comics: “If you look at the success stories over the last 20 years (start with Sandman, which is a weird deal between DC and Neil [Gaiman]), and moving up until now, you can’t point to anything new that has been created by Marvel and DC that’s had any lasting impact, but there are all these things, whether it’s Bone, Hellboy, Sin City, The Walking Dead or Y: The Last Man, that are all tremendously successful properties that have done especially well as trade paperback sales both in and outside the comics market. Those things support the fact that there’s an audience for new material. Is there an audience for superhero stuff? Of course, all of the DC and Marvel superhero stuff that goes back 50, 60, 70 years, those people are going to be there, but I think there’s an audience that craves something new. Once you’ve read a story about Spider-Man fighting the Green Goblin for the dozenth time, I think you get hungry for something else. I think there are publishers out there who provide that something else.”

On the success of Saga, the new series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: “It’s been our biggest launch of the year so far. We just announced a fourth printing on that. […] We’re getting to the 70,000 mark, and that’s in addition to really strong digital numbers on the book too, which I find heartening in terms of the conversation of print vs. digital.”

On the disparity between Diamond sales estimates and the actual figures: “Just going off of what happens, usually in the space of a month, there seems to be a pretty great difference in how things are being reported. If that’s being reported to you as the U.S. numbers as opposed to U.K. numbers, that’s not how the numbers come to us. That to me seems a little odd. […] I would love an explanation of why those numbers, including Diamond UK, aren’t reported. They’re reported to publisher. When we get our numbers from Diamond, it is not broken down by channel; it is ‘here is a lump number.’ Why we would be provided one number and reporting for sales would be different, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”