After the January Image Expo, Image Comics received some flak because most of the creators on stage were white men. On Wednesday, Publisher Eric Stephenson’s keynote address to the Image Expo held in conjunction with Comic-Con International included the following comments: "If we want to build a more diverse industry, though, if we want to develop a more diverse talent pool, then it is of utmost importance that we produce comics that appeal to as wide an audience as possible ...”
That was said within the context of the historic gender disparity in comics, especially when looking at mainstream comics and the direct market. There's more evidence than ever that the gender disparity in readership is no longer true; women are just as likely to read comics as men. If that's true, then one would hope that just as many would be likely to attempt to make comics. That doesn’t seem to have come to pass in this corner of the industry, but Image announced a trio of upcoming releases that will hopefully start to shift the momentum in the right direction. If nothing else, these are among the most promising books to be announced at Image Expo, and they build on the gratifying surge in creator-owned comics.
From Under Mountains, by Claire Gibson, Sloane Leong and Marian Churchland, is one of the most exciting announcements. Perhaps the best example of that quote from Stephenson, it also has universal appeal in drawing from classic fantasy, using political intrigue, mythical lands, and knights, witches and goblins. The choice to have the majority of characters be people of color also speaks volumes to the unconventional approach they’ll take with the classic fantasy formula.
While best known as an artist, Becky Cloonan has also written her own fantastic self-published minicomics, such as Demeter and The Mire. It’s rare to see her just taking writing duties, so her upcoming ongoing series Southern Cross promises to be a rare treat. The sci-fi thriller, drawn by Andy Belanger, follows Alex Braith as she tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s death on the way to the moon Titan. It looks like a really creepy nail-biter.
Corinna Bechko’s collaborations with her husband, co-writer/artist Gabriel Hardman, are always worth checking out, and Invisible Republic looks to be no different. The gritty political sci-fi series will explore a woman erased from history for knowing too much. Forty years later, a reporter discovers the woman’s journal and starts to uncover secrets. It’s also great news that Hardman’s Kinski from MonkeyBrain Comics will get released in print.
These certainly aren’t the only female creators at Image (need I mention Saga’s Eisner-winning artist Fiona Staples, or the Pretty Deadly team of Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire?) but the more the merrier to spice up the publisher’s lineup.