ECCC 2008: Image Comics Panel

The Image Comics Panel at Seattle’s 6th Annual Emerald City ComiCon on Saturday was a loose, relaxed affair. After pushing a couch onstage, creators Richard Starkings (“Elephantmen”), Jay Faerber (“Noble Causes”), and Robert Kirkman (“Invincible”) piled on and didn’t budge for the rest of the panel.

The three of them solicited questions and plugged upcoming Image projects, all while emphasizing their belief in creator rights and creator-owned properties - ideas that have in many ways been part of Image’s philosophy since it was founded in 1992.

When asked about the first comic he ever purchased, Kirkman - writer of two of Image’s most high-profile books, “The Walking Dead” and “Invincible” - said that he “started out with the Image guys at Marvel,” which drew laughter from the crowd of attendees.

“Elephantmen” creator and legendary letterer Richard Starkings said that in the early years, “Image fired a torpedo through the comic book industry.”

Apropos of the collective onstage nostalgia, fans were once again teased with the promise that two “Image founders” would be coming to “Spawn.” The panelists confirmed that the top-secret team will be announced this summer at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Other Image projects were briefly previewed, including an upcoming collaboration with singer/songwriter (and apparent comics fan) Tori Amos, which is to feature the first new art in months from Pia Guerra, longtime artist on the recently-wrapped series “Y: The Last Man.” Also on the horizon for Image is a new “Nocturnals” series by Dan Brereton, a western anthology series called “Outlaw Territory,” and Mark Millar and Tony Harris’ “War Heroes.”

Kirkman called “War Heroes” a “thematic extension of the 'Ultimates,’” while the other panelists joked that it was the real “Ultimates 3.” A special variant cover contest for issue #3 is being organized in conjunction with Wizard Universe where the series creators will pore through fan-drawn submissions, with the winning cover design seeing publication. Apparently, there are other variants in the pipeline, all of them by high-profile creators that Millar has worked with in the past.

The panel wrapped up with a few fan questions that shifted the focus onto Kirkman’s Image workload. The cover for “The Walking Dead” number fifty-four was shown, featuring an all-new character blowing away a horde of attacking zombies. Kirkman said that killing off half the cast was part of his plan all along, and that the series will be gaining a lot of new characters in upcoming issues.

His series “Invincible” is also undergoing some changes. The title characters’ costume was updated because Kirkman wanted to commemorate reaching fifty issues, though he said that the change is “not permanent.” The storyline is going to go “cosmic” in coming months, with more bloodbaths and “superhero sex.”

While the three creators had a fun and easy-going time on stage, it was clear that they were passionate and excited about the projects they’re working on at Image. “I always wanted to do my own comics,” Starkings said. “In my opinion, the mainstream’s become very stale.”

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