SAN DIEGO, DAY 3: Image 10th Anniversary Highlights

[Image Comics]Today at Comic-Con International in san Diego, fans were treated to a rare sight... a gathering of Image Comics founders Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen.... and "the AntiChrist," as Valentino dubbed the fourth member of the panel, Todd McFarlane.

"It's a term of endearment," McFarlane said.

McFarlane insisted, perhaps in anticipation of questions from the audience, on starting with a recap of his recent legal victory over athlete Tony Twist. "It was a victory for the First Amendment," McFarlane said. "comics are as vaid as any other literature and we get the same protections. You know, I'm a big believer -- I mean, if you don't like something, walk on by. You know, with vegetables, a housewife, she doesn't like zucchini, she walks on by and gets broccoli or something. She doesn't go to the grocery store guy and say, 'how dare you stock zucchini here. My children come by here. It's not enough that she doesn't like zucchini, she doesn't want anybody to have zucchini.' you know, if you don't like my book, you don't like Spawn, my toys, whatever -- walk on by. Fine. But you don't get to say my book can't exist and the judge agreed with that. We are protected."

Valentino added, "it wasn't just a victory for Todd, or for Image. It was a victory for comics. And Todd did it on his dime."

"A LOT of dimes," McFarlane added wryly.

McFarlane also expressed pride in Image's longevity. "I think it was day four that they started saying it would never work, we'd never last, our egos would get in the way --"

"Oh wait, that DID happen!" Silvestri quipped, which brought the house down. "Poor Wanda (McFarlane)... it was all right there in her house."

"Well yeah, we had seven, we got four, but, you know, we're HERE," McFarlane said. "And we're gonna BE here."

Talking about new projects, Valentino said dryly, "Well, let's start with Erik, he's got so much going on."

Larsen shruugged. "I got the Dragon," he said. After a moment, he added, "No, really. That's it. I'm doing the Dragon. No projects for Marvel, no Happy Meals... just the Dragon. UNTIL I DIE!"

Silvestri added, "But we got #100 coming up, that's pretty cool," which got a wave of applause that made Larsen blush.

"Yeah, we've got #100 of Savage Dragon coming out in September and it's going to be 100 pages," Larsen said. "I did 88 of them -- "

"Slacker," Silvestri put in.

"We have pin-ups!" Larsen said, laughing. "That's why. Marc did one, some kid named Frank Miller, Art Adams, Bruce Timm, Carlos Pacheco... people who've never drawn the Dragon. It's great."

Silvestri brought everyone up to date on Top Cow. "Wish I could say I'd done a hundred issues of something," he said. "Nah, that's a lie. I have a life. but we are doing a lot of stuff. We're re-launching 'The Darkness' with Paul Jenkins and Dale Keown. I was a fan of Dale before he was Dale Keown and this stuff is his best ever. It's 'The Darkness' the way it was back in the day, the way we want to see it. Also 'Witchblade' is doing very well, the comic I mean, and the TV series, too.

"We don't know yet if we're getting renewed for a third season, but ratings are actually up from the first year so it looks good," Silvestri continued. "Also those of you that follow, y'know, behind the scenes, Yancy's issues have been resolved," he said, referring to star Yancy Butler's recent stint in rehab. "She's a total pro, very solid, she finished the season and we're all real proud of her."

McFarlane described his current projects. "The thing is, you gotta get me out of the way," he said, laughing. "I get busy, I get behind. But we got 'Spawn #119' coming up, we're giving him the Al Simmons identity back. Spawn started as a superhero and then he became more of this scary boogeyman/vampire guy, and now we're bringing him full circle. Let's see, we also got 'Sam & Twitch' coming back, and a new line of toys -- 'Tortured Souls' from Clive Barker, and also 'The Matrix.' So that's pretty cool, I get to see all the advance stuff on that."

Marc Silvestri reminded the audience of another Image mainstay. "Mike Turner's here, you shouild go by the booth and say hi. You know he was fighting cancer, but he beat it, he's one hundred percent recovered. Also there's a 'Fathom' movie in the works, with James Cameron -- you know he makes small movies, right?-- and 'Rising Stars' at MGM looks like a go."

As time got short, Valentino kept his summary short and sweet. "'Tellos: The Second Coming,' with Todd Dezago and Mike Weiringo. We're reprinting 'Mister X,' a great graphic novel by Dean Motter and Los Bros. Hernandez. 'Girl Scouts: Work Sucks,' by Jim Mahfood, which will give us a little indie credibility. A 4-issue prestige-format anthology series by a bunch of different writers, each one with a theme," giving love, lust and hate as possible themes, "that's going to have Devin Grayson, Phil Hester, Chynna Clugston-Major, a bunch of people. And we're doing our own line of superhero comics in the same universe starting in January of 2003."

Some of the details of that superhero universe include the books "The Clockmaker," by Jim Krueger and Matt Smith, "Dominion," by Keith Giffen, "Venture" by Jay Faerber and Jamall Igle and "Invincible" by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker. These titles will join current Image superhero books, "Savage Dragon" and "Noble Causes," creating a single superhero universe. Jim Valentino's new "Shadowhawk" project will join the universe.

Stephenson said that Jim Valentino's Shadowhawk project, will be added and integrated into the line at a later date.

Asked how the reality matched up with the original goals for Image, McFarlane responded, "Well, i figure if they know who I am, I've done my job. I don't care if they like us but I want them to KNOW us."

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