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SENYC: Cloonan, Graham & More Talk Making Image Their Creator-Owned Home

Some of Image Comics' finest creators gathered at the publisher's Special Edition: NYC Where Creators Own Stories informal Saturday morning panel. Discussing how they became involved with Image, their current work, and their current views on today's ever changing market, Valentine De Landro (Bitch Planet"), Adam McGovern ("Nightworld"), Becky Cloonan ("Southern Cross"), Brandon Graham ("Arclight") and Alex de Campi ("No Mercy") and moderator David Brothers gave the fans in attendance a fascinating look into the world of Image.

The panel kicked off with McGovern telling the crowd all about his and artist Paolo Leandri's "Nightworld." McGovern explained that the book is "a mix of super hero action, grindhouse horror and raucous humor," and tells the story of "some very bad people who have to do some very good things and make some very tough decisions. It's a grindhouse Faust type of story, like if Dario Argento did Saturday morning cartoons."

Next, Becky Cloonan discussed "Southern Cross," a book that started after her relationship ended with her ex-boyfriend and current co-creator on "Southern Cross" Andy Belanger. "Andy came to me with 'Southern Cross,'" Cloonan told the audience. "He wanted to do something that was sci-fi and horror, and I wanted to do a mystery that takes place on a boat -- 'Maybe we can put that boat in outer space!'"

Cloonan said working with Belanger has been "wonderful," and they have remained best friends thanks to the book. "He has a great sense of humor, so I try to write something he would get a kick out of drawing," she said. "He always comes up with stuff I can't even imagine." Cloonan, who also co-writes DC Comics' "Gotham Academy" with Brenden Fletcher, discussed the differences between writing for Belanger and for "Academy" artist Karl Kerschl. "They have a different sensibility. With Karl, I just kind of say what's happening on the page, and he does all the art directing."

The panel then turned to "Bitch Planet" and artist Valentine De Landro. At the mention of De Landro and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick's series, the crowd broke into loud applause. "Kelly Sue and I were trying work together on a work for hire at Marvel," De Landro said, explaining the origins of "Bitch Planet." "We couldn't seem to get things aligned at that point -- we just said, 'Hey, if we want to make a comic, let's just make a comic.' Kelly Sue shot me an e-mail, and she had five ideas in development -- I hope the other four come out, because you are all going to love all of them, but 'Bitch Planet' was on the list, so I said, 'That's my book.' I was a big fan of Kelly Sue even before I met her and a fan of the genre. It's all stuff I grew up with."

Shifting to Alex de Campi's teen horror title "No Mercy," Brothers asked the writer to talk about the series, a collaboration with co-creators Carla Speed McNeil and Jenn Manley Lee. "If you like watching teenagers die, this is your book," de Campi quipped. "It's a book for people who remember a time when they were young and doing stupid shit where they should have been dead by now, but you aren't because you were seventeen. And that crippling feeling your world is going to end because of some trivial bullshit. I take a bunch of these kids and basically drop them off a cliff in Central America -- they got stuck in a really inhospitable environment. They're not friends. There's no powers, there's no vampires, no smoke monster shows up -- it's just a bunch of kids in a room, and it can be terrifying.

"If you like 'Attack on Titan' and 'Death Note,' there are similar storytelling techniques," de Campi continued. "You and the characters of those books assume that the world is a certain way, that there are rules the world behaves by, and the main storytelling arc of the book is that those rules are not what you and the characters think they are. "

Moving on to Brandon Graham and "Arclight," Brothers asked the writer to explain the premise for his new series. "Along with '8House,' it's basically a shared fantasy universe with multiple creative teams all working in the same world," Graham said. "It's very experimental, and I have high hopes -- I keep saying that if I'm going to do something really stupid, then right now at Image is the best time and place to do it."

De Campi agreed with Graham's assertion regarding Image's desire to embrace different genres and ideas. "One of the best things about Image is its willingness to experiment -- doing anthology books and shared universe books." De Campi pointed specifically to Image Publisher Eric Stephenson's book "They're Not Like Us" as an example of some of the experimental work going on at the publisher.

Asked where they believe comics will be five years from now, Brothers said, "Comics should be better. More readers more books from everyone."

A fan asked how each member of the panel got started with Image Comics. De Landro answered that after he and DeConnick decided to do "Bitch Planet," "We just brought it to Image Comics; it was the place to be. It is a very supportive environment. It was the right place for this book."

McGovern explained that he owed his Image career to one of Image's original founders. "I interviewed Erik Larsen for 'The Jack Kirby Collector.' I was at NYCC in 2007, and we were discussing a Kirby concept, a Sasquatch character named Thunderfoot, when Erik walks by. He asked me if I wanted to do an issue of the 'Next Issue Project.' From there, he asked me to do a revival of 'Silver Star,' but that feel through because of licensing issues."

"Even though 'No Mercy' is a horror book, we didn't take it to Dark Horse because it wasn't their sort of horror," de Campi shared. "So I just kind of e-mailed Eric Stephenson a paragraph and told him I accidentally wrote a book, can you publish it for me -- and he emailed me back, 'Sure.'"

Asked about Kelly Sue Deconnick's recent deal with Universal Pictures and the possibility of a live-action "Bitch Planet," Del Landro slyly closed the panel with a tantalizing non-answer. "The deal with Universal is in place, we have the rights -- stay tuned!"

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