HeroesCon 2008: Image Is Everything

They say Image is everything, but for some comic book fans, the Image Comics panel was the only thing on Saturday afternoon. Attendees were treated to a panel that stayed long past their scheduled time and talked new projects, creating a shared universe and what not to do if you want to pitch a project.

Image Publisher Erik Larsen was joined by fellow creators Robert Kirkman, Jonathan Hickman, Todd Dezago and Craig Rosseau for the panel, which began by showing several clips of upcoming projects. The new Garth Ennis book "Back to Brooklyn," with Jimmy Palmiotti was teased, with Larsen only saying that it was a hardcore, dark crime story.

Also highlighted was the upcoming "Golly" by Phil Hester, described by Larsen as southern gothic horror. Hester's story has a carnival ride repairman doing Heaven's work fighting the Devil's minions here on Earth, which, since it's set in the South, features were-hogs and obese goth vampires.

Mike Allred's "Red Rocket 7" will be taking off from Image later this year. Larsen said that Allred wasn't a big fan of how the original mini-series turned out at Dark Horse and so he wanted to take another stab at the concept.

The panel also teased an image from Whilce Portacio's upcoming project. The only thing fans were allowed to see was a quick glimpse of a character, created by Portacio specifically for this project. The black and white image left a lot to the imagination, as fans could see little more than what appeared to be a man in a costume. The creators said more would be revealed about the mystery project within the next few weeks.

A fan asked what it was like bringing Rob Liefeld back into the fold and Larsen said that it was different this time, because he was coming in as talent, not as a partner, so they can "talk him off a ledge", if necessary. "It was kind of a crappy break-up," Larsen said, "but he's a crazy guy with a lot of great ideas. It just seemed like the thing to do."

Robert Kirkman, who is working with Liefeld on "Youngblood," said that the former founding member of Image wouldn't be diving in with seven or eight projects right off the bat. Instead it would be a slow burn, starting off by re-igniting the Youngblood franchise.

The room also heard Jonathan Hickman's story about how he went from an ad agency to developing "The Nightly News" for Image.

"I was an art director for ten years," Hickman said. "Finally I had enough. It sucks doing a job you hate." Hickman came up with the proposal that became "The Nightly News" and pitched it cold, as a blind submission. He got a response from Larsen, saying that he liked the concept and the very next week, he walked into the office and quit his job, to work in comics full-time.

Fans also got a glimpse into what the future holds for Kirkman's "Invincible."

"I don't think people realize just how little we know about the Viltrumite race," Kirkman said, adding that the series would be taking a look at the backstory behind the alien race in the near future. He also talked about his original plans for Damien Darkwood, which included revealing that he had escaped from Hell to become a detective. This would have set up Invincible going to Hell to free Darkwood's soul.

"I hadn't done a superhero going to hell story and that's a staple (of the genre)," Kirkman said, adding that those plans have been put on hold, along with the character.

As for Kirkman's other book, "The Walking Dead," he told an amusing story about how former Image publisher Jim Valentino had to be "conned" into greenlighting the project. "When I went to pitch to him, he said 'we can't sell a zombie book,'" Kirkman said, "there needs to be a hook."

So Kirkman came up with a plan off the top of his head, telling Valentino that later in the book he would reveal that the zombies had been created by aliens, weakening Earth for a potential invasion. He never planned to include that in the title, Kirkman said, but the sell convinced Valentino to approve the project. Kirkman was clear that Valentino's initial reaction was absolutely the right one as there had never been a successful zombie comic book series, and he's been blessed that the title turned out to be a success.

Kirkman also shared another Valentino anecdote where Jim convinced Kirkman not to save the Omni-Man reveal in "Invincible" for issue 25. Valentino told Kirkman that holding off on the reveal may ensure that the book would be cancelled, so it was moved up to issue 7. To this day, Kirkman contends that this saved the title and gave his a creer a big boost.

Todd Dezago also talked about why he and Rousseau moved "Perhapanauts" to Image, after starting at Dark Horse. He explained that time and again, Dark Horse made them feel like the redheaded stepchild of the company, doing next to nothing to promote the book. There had been a plan in place for an animated series, based on the comic, however it died in development, Dezago said.

For writers and artists looking to submit projects to Image, the panel just had one piece of advice. "Make sure it doesn't suck," Larsen said. "If it's a great concept, it's extremely easy to pass through, but if it stinks, then it's extremely hard."

He and the rest of the panel explained that the reason Image only accepts projects, instead of writers or artists looking for work, is the chaos the alternative would bring.

"The problem is that everyone who owns a keyboard says 'I can totally write',"Larsen said, adding that it would be chaos going through every single submission they would get in.

A fan said that Larsen is the Simon Cowell of comics, with got laughs from the room. Dezago and Kirkman explained that Larsen is just brutally honest and is realistic when presented with a project. That criticism can determine if a person truly wants to work in comics, Kirkman said. If he says your project stinks and you go, refine it and then bring it back, it shows that you aren't willing to give up.

Todd Dezago added that the best thing for writers to do is read as much as possible, then come up with an idea and finish it.

"If you have a desire to tell a story, then tell that story," said Dezago. "You learn to do comics by doing comics.

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