Stephenson Spreads Holiday Cheer with the "Image Comics Holiday Special 2005"

When I first started collecting comics about 20 years ago, I remember being enthralled with the Christmas specials offered by the major comics publishers. There was something about reading holiday themed stories featuring some of my favorite heroes that really grabbed me. And they always helped bring a little extra Christmas spirit to the season. What's a little surprising is that all these years later, nothing's changed. I'm still a sucker for Christmas special issues. If a comic has a Christmas themed cover, I'll pick it up. If it's a Holiday Special, that's a guaranteed sale for my comic shop. If you're anything like me, there's a special holiday themed offering from Image Comics this week that you'll want to check out.

This Wednesday sees the release of the "Image Comics Holiday Special 2005," the publisher's first holiday special. The 100 page book (for only $9.99) features all new stories from the creators of "The Amazing Joy Buzzards," "GØDLAND," "The Gray Area," "Noble Causes," "PvP," "Savage Dragon," "Shadowhawk" and "The Walking Dead," plus a few surprises. The list of creators is an impressive one, which includes:

Glen Brunswick

Joe Casey

Chris Eliopoulos

Jay Faerber

Chris Giarrusso

Brian Haberlin

Robert Kirkman

Scott Kurtz

Erik Larsen

B. Clay Moore

Mark Smith

Eric Stephenson

Jim Valentino    ARTISTS

Charlie Adlard

Gabe Bridwell

Shawn Crystal

Chris Eliopoulos

Chris Giarrusso

Brian Haberlin

Cully Hammer

Dan Hipp

Scott Kurtz

Erik Larsen

Tim Seeley

Tom Scioli

Jim Valentino

All that and a cover by Frank Cho. What's the story behind this special? How do these stories fit in with the regular series of each book? And will this become an annual tradition at the publisher? We spoke with Image Comics Executive Director Eric Stephenson to learn more about what this special has to offer.

The first step in bringing this book together was deciding whom to approach, then find out which creators had the time and interest in participating. "Obviously, the special doesn't include work from every single Image creator -- not everybody could spare the time," Stephenson told CBR News. "There were also people I specifically didn't ask, because I'd already begged anthology contributions from them or whatever and I felt to hit them up again would seem a tad unreasonable. In some cases, too, it was a question of whether or not the material would be a good fit for this type of book. I mean, I love Eric Shanower and I think 'Age of Bronze' is an amazing piece of work, but it doesn't really fit in a holiday anthology, y'know?"

In addition to Stephenson and the creators listed above, the "Image Comics Holiday Special 2005" sees Laurenn McCubbin handling the design the book, while Allen Hui handled most of the production and paste-up work. Image Publisher Erik Larsen even lent a hand. "In addition to contributing a Mr. Glum story, Erik got Chris Eliopoulos and Chris Giarrusso involved, as well as doing a couple single-page strips to open and close the book."

As you'd expect, all the stories have holday themes and some even tie into their regularly published counterparts. "They don't all tie into ongoing series, but in the case of things like 'GØDLAND,' 'The Walking Dead' and 'Savage Dragon,' there is definitely a connection," said Stephenson. "The Mr. Glum story fits into 'Savage Dragon' continuity and ties into what's going on with the book at the moment. Joe Casey cooked up a cool 'GØDLAND' story involving Basil Cronus that doesn't have any major ramifications on the ongoing story in the series, but serves to further readers' impression of what Basil's all about. 'The Walking Dead' story -- I think that's a particularly cool story, because it ties into the ongoing story in a way people may not necessarily expect. Valentino's 'ShadowHawk' story is another one that fleshes out the characters a bit more -- and so does 'The Gray Area' story Glen Brunswick and Cully Hamner contributed to the book.

"Some of the stories are stand-alone things, though. Chris Eliopoulos has a cute little story in here that should appeal to fans of his 'Franklin Richards' book, but isn't related to that (obviously) or 'Desperate Times' or whatever. I did a series of one-page strips with Tim Seeley that just peek into different people's lives as they spend Christmas Eve in a local bar. 'PvP' -- well, I guess that's kind of in keeping with Scott Kurtz's usual antics, but it's really a stand- alone thing."

As for why Image has decided to do a Holiday Special, the answer is a simple one-- as a means of exposing these books to new readers and as a special treat for long time fans. "If you're already into the book represented here -- everything from 'PvP' to 'Spawn' to 'The Walking Dead' to 'Amazing Joy Buzzards' to 'GØDLAND' -- you're getting more of something you already like. If you're unaware of this stuff and the book happens to catch your eye, I think it's a good introduction to the material."

The "Image Comics Holiday Special 2005" is really driven from beginning to end by Stephenson's passion. In talking with CBR News, he mentioned that he, too, was a fan of the old Marvel & DC Holiday specials, especially the treasury-sized editions that came out in the '70s. With that in mind, he thought it would be fun to put something like this together at Image. In addition, Stephenson is also a fan of anthologies, as evidence by his own work on the "Four Letter World's" anthology released earlier this year. With two anthologies under his belt in one year, Stephenson hopes this holiday special becomes an annual tradition at Image Comics. "I think there's worse things than getting a thick slab of variety every holiday season. And since our slate of books is fairly fluid, it's an opportunity for Image to do something completely different, year-in, year-out, instead of just offering up the same old stuff, time and again. If we keep doing these, long-time readers should eventually be able to look back at these as kind of yearbooks, records of what Image looked like at that time."

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