Image Comics has for the past few years enjoyed what CBR has called a quiet renaissance, one that appears to have become permanent. While the company has benefited from the continued success of the founding creators' and studios' line of titles, the impact of newer works like "The Walking Dead," "Girls," "Fell" and "Casanova" has made the Berkeley, CA publisher the premier destination for creator-owned comics. Image is set to grow further still with the appointment of Joe Keatinge as the publisher's new Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator, and CBR News spoke with Keatinge about the challenges and goals of his new job.
Joe Keatinge replaces outgoing Image Comics marketing man Mark Haven Britt, who we spoke to last week about his new graphic novel, "Full Color." Joe Keatinge told CBR News that Britt has left his job at Image HQ to pursue comics creating full-time. "After closing in on the final pages of his OGN, 'Full Color,' Mark got the creative itch in a bad way," Keatinge said. "He couldn't resist it enough so he's decided to put his entire focus on creating new funnybooks. That said, you haven't seen the last of him. Not by a long shot. Everyone will be hearing from him for some time to come."
Keatinge has been working at Image Comics for the last few years and has in his time there made an impression as someone very serious about advancing the position of comics in popular culture. "From day one, I wouldn't keep my mouth shut about what I thought we were doing right, what we were doing wrong, and where I thought we should be," Keatinge said. "[Image Comics Publisher] Erik Larsen and [Executive Director] Eric Stephenson took notice and had me work on various forms of marketing in a smaller capacity. The most public of which was by being the main guy hawking books at our conventions. Once Mark decided to leave, Eric and Erik felt like I was ready for the position."
Spreading the word of Image Comics to the world at large is no small task and one that will take a lot of time and hard work, but Keatinge is determined to accomplish his goal of elevating Image's position in the greater pop consciousness. The publisher has cultivated a wide variety of high quality titles, a stockpile which Keatinge plans to use on the world. "I believe we're producing titles for the entire planet, not just the typical comics market," declared Keatinge. "The company came into being out of a creative revolution that still flourishes today. People have really caught on that if you're creating comics, there's no better place to do them. That's why Kyle Baker ('Special Forces') took his line of creator owned works over to us. Same with Mike Allred ('Madman'). Richard Starkings could have continued producing his great line of books such as 'Hip Flask' and 'Strange Embrace' through Active Images, but he chose to bring them to Image. The list goes on. These are the comics that are the dream books of the creators. Comics produced out of the purest love of the medium you'll find. It shows in every, single panel of every last book we do."
In addition to an ever-expanding line of creator-owned periodicals, Image Comics has in recent times evolved their graphic novel and reprint campaigns, producing a huge volume of trade paperbacks and even several hardcover collections every month. And beyond comic books, Image offers readers original art books such as Joseph Linsner's "Girls & Goddesses" pinup collection and Scott Morse's sketchbook "Scrap Mettle."
Keatinge believes that Image Comics' diverse line is uniquely suited to take advantage of the comics medium's newfound value in mainstream entertainment. "Think about it - comic books have evolved into primary fuel for the engine of pop culture. Nearly every major mainstream film is either directly a comic book adaptation or is taking an obvious influence from the medium.
"That aside, comics are infecting everything from music, television, and advertising. Even musicians, actors, and directors have gotten the bug to create comics of their own. These factors have taken comics to the forefront of the collective consciousness.
"Which brings us to Image. In my experience working the convention circuit, I've heard from more and more people that they've never read comics before, but a book like 'The Walking Dead' or 'Rocketo' was thrown their way, instantly turning them into addicts. I want to generate more of that. Not only through comic book websites - whose traffic has absolutely reached new heights in a very recent period of time - but also through print media or other sources that the public at large looks to.
"Those people need to be buying these books initially through established sources as Amazon, but then they need to hear the good word of the brick-and-mortar comic book shops, bringing their well earned money into the hands of the retailers who have supported the industry from the get go."
With such a wide variety of comics and products, Keating defies new readers to look Image's line over and not find a title that would be of interest to them. 'Image has books for every type of person on the planet," Keatinge said. "From the historical fiction of 'Age of Bronze' or 'Nat Turner' to the hi-fi sci-fi of 'Casanova' or 'Stray Toasters' to the superheroics this company was built on like 'Madman' or 'Savage Dragon,' we have something for every walk of life. Truthfully, there's absolutely no excuse for you to not read an Image book."
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CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.