It's no secret that the final word in direct market sales supremacy these days goes to the massive superhero crossover events belonging to DC and Marvel, and the dozens upon dozens of tie-ins those stories generate.
"'Invincble' #60 is a company-wide crossover produced in one oversized issue," the writer told CBR exclusively, along with revealing series artist Ryan Ottley's massive cover featuring virtually every character currently taking part in the loosely defined Image Comics Universe, as well as a few who haven't been seen in a while.
"The crossovers are a big thing these days. They're mighty popular with the Final Crisis and the Secret invasion, and I really wanted to challenge myself," Kirkman explained. "I wanted to try and cram all this stuff in one single story -- it's going to be an oversized issue, but it's still just going to be one issue. I think that sometimes those things getÂ unwieldy, and there's all kinds of weirdness going on. There's entire issues where you get done and you go, 'What the heck? What happened?' I wanted to see if I could cut the fat and do a cool crossover story but in as little space as possible.
"With 'Invincible,' every now and then I do a 'Hey, let's try and do something new for this issue' kind of thing, and this is the 'Let's try and do the story that is impossible to do in one issue in one issue.' And it may work out, and it may not."
Of course, despite a multitude of characters appearing in "Invincible" #60, from Image co-founder properties like Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon and Todd MacFarlane's Spawn, the story itself will spin out of the adventures of Kirkman's teen hero Mark Grayson. "It's Invincible's book, so he's very much the focus, and it's his villain that's causing all the trouble," said Kirkman. "Angstrom Levy was brought back at the end of 'Invincible' #51. That's the villain that Mark supposedly murdered, but he's alive and well and out there causing trouble. He's gone into a bunch of other dimensions and has found a bunch of evil versions of Invincible, and so he's brought 20 or so evil versions of Invincible into the Image Universe, and they are causing a lot of trouble. We're going to see them wrecking the world and all the Image heroes banding together to fight those Invincibles while our Invincible may get caught up in the mix with people not knowing if he's a good guy or a bad guy."
The havoc wreaked in the pages of the story should make great use of the breadth of Image's publishing line, which held some sway over Kirkman's decision to launch the book. "I guess to a certain extent, we're trying to say, 'Hey, look at all the cool characters that do occupy the Image Universe,'" he explained. "Also, Ryan really wanted to draw Pitt. And I wanted an excuse to talk to Dale Keown. And we're big fans of Madman and getting to play around in the Top Cow Universe. Ultra is also going to be in the issue, and we're really excited about that. The Luna Brothers haven't done anything with her since the initial miniseries, so we're going to have her show up in a few panels. And then with Youngblood, it's just fun to get everybody in the spotlight for a little bit in the issue."
How an expanded and ambitious crossover like "Invincible"#60 affects Kirkman's announced pledge to deliver all his 2009 books on a monthly basis remains up in the air, but the writer joked that the entire "Invincible" creative team remained on schedule and up to the task...so far. "We're pretty much caught up right now, but it wasn't the best idea to do this issue now," Kirkman laughed. "I had this issue planned out for a while, and it fit in with the story line around this time, so it made sense that I had to do it now. Ryan had this cover to do for a good long time and chipped away at it for a while. It didn't hurt the schedule too much. It's going to be tough, but we're doing fine. We're committed to the schedule and luckily Cliff Rathburn's been brought on as the semi-regular inker on the series, and he'll be inking this issue as well so Ryan's not going to have to do all the art chores like he had in the past. It should be easy. I say that, but I doubt Ryan'll say it's going to be easy.
"I like making Ryan's life difficult because every time I give him something insanely difficult to do or that I consider something he's not going to be able to pull off, he pulls it off with flying colors. So I figure the more I try to break Ryan, the better he'll get. That's pretty exciting."
And while readers wait for the March-scheduled book to arrive, Kirkman promises there will be no wheel-spinning in advance of the story, although some threads would be planted in the coming months. "The Angstrom thing does build up a little bit over the next couple of issues, but issue #59 introduces a new villain, and issue #57 is the crossover with 'Astounding Wolf-Man,' so they're packed," he said. "I think the 50s of the Invincible series have been a good 'decade' if you want to call it that. I think we've packed a lot into each issue, and I'm pretty proud of how it's turned out. We're full steam ahead and trying to throw as much as possible into every issue."
"Invincible" #60 goes on sale in March, 2009 from Image Comics.