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Comic Culture: Meet the “New” King

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For my money Image is the publisher to beat right now. They have slowly, but methodically crept their way into the third largest publisher spot behind Marvel and DC. It has been a slow journey, but one that has blossomed within the last couple of years. With countless “big name” creators taking their fresh and original ideas away from other publishers and choosing the creator-owned route, it has become clear that this not a “fad;” Image is here to stay. And with them cementing their spot as a very strong publisher, they are also putting out some of the strongest titles on the market today. For this reason alone I find my pull list being more and more inundated with Image titles. It isn’t just the fact that their titles are so good; there are things they are doing that make their “line” very approachable and easy to get into. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to examine a few of them this week.

In a nutshell, here’s what draws me to Image books month by month.

There is no continuity you have to worry about. When I was younger it didn’t really bother me, but the older I get the harder it is for me to want to dive into continuity-driven and universe-spanning books and events. It becomes taxing, as well as a burden on my wallet. Lately I find myself drawn to great stories, with great characters that are isolated to their own book (imagine that). These types of books are becoming harder and harder to find in mainstream comics (Big Two) and very easy to find from the indie publishers. And, that my friends is where Image comes into play because they excel at these types of books.

The price is right. Most Image books are $2.99, with a few exceptions (specifically larger size one shots) and at this price point it’s easy to try more books as well as to read more on a monthly basis. Marvel seems to be bumping the price of all their books up to $3.99, while DC claims to draw the line at $2.99 when they really don’t. Their prices are all over the place, so it’s nice to have some stability with prices from a publisher like Image. Image also prices a lot of their volume 1 trades at $9.99 which is a great price point for someone who wants to try a new series. Clearly they know what they are doing to try to get new readers, as well as what to do to keep them in the long-term. Also, their trade release schedule is pretty efficient as well so they also have that going for them.

There is literally something for everyone. The sheer diversity in Image’s catalog of books is simply awesome. Pretty much any genre you can think of they are publishing, or have published (crime, noir, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, etc). So if you make the statement that you don’t like Image because they aren’t putting out a “type” of book you like I don’t know if I can believe you, personally. Because, I am willing to bet if you took the time to do a little digging you’d be able to find something in your “wheelhouse” fairly easily.

My money (for the most part) goes right to the creators. Now I am not going to sit here and pretend like I know how royalties and creator payments work in the comics industry, because frankly I am not knowledgeable enough in that area. But, I do know, because it has been stated by numerous creators that the ratio of revenue from a title vs. what the creator actually sees (subtracting printing costs, marketing costs etc) is greater with their creator-owned work. Granted, more time, money (up front), and liability is involved on the creators end with these types of projects vs. work for hire stuff with the Big Two but a lot of that profit on Big Two books goes back to the company more so than the creators. So, in the end there’s something to be said about supporting creator-owned books that line the creator’s pockets a little more. Yes, Image does make some money off of these books. They are still a publisher, so they have to make money to survive, but they aren’t taking as much as DC or Marvel is. And there’s something about that fact that is refreshing.

Shelves like these are slowly being overrun by great new Image books week in and out.

Shelves like these are slowly being overrun by great new Image books week in and out.

Image is not the only publisher putting out great creator-owned books, but they definitely seem to get the most press these days. Publishers like Oni Press, Monkeybrain and BOOM! Studios are all putting out great indie books as well (some of which I am even checking out). However, these publishers appear to be a little more cautious with what they choose to put out as well as the sheer volume. Image doesn’t seem to have any trepidation these days. They fully support creators and their ideas and are putting these books out fast and furious.

So, if you aren’t reading any Image books, I think you’re simply doing yourself (and the comics medium) a disservice and you should remedy it ASAP. They are putting out a great product month in and month out. Reading Image doesn’t mean you have to stop reading the Big Two (if that’s what you think I am preaching here), but it does mean that you are willing to acknowledge that there is more out there beyond the walls of DC and Marvel. And I promise you that once you get past those walls you WILL like what you see.

Happy reading.

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