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    Eric Stephenson talks the World of Comics, Future of Image at NYCC [Interview]

    By | October 23rd, 2012
    Posted in Interviews | 9 Comments

    For the past few years, we’ve been having interviews every quarter or so with Image Comics’ publisher Eric Stephenson about the world of comics and his slice of it over at Image. Since we first did that, Image has quickly went from being a publisher that had its niche audience with a few bigger books (namely, the Kirkman joints) to one that is almost the tastemaker for the rest of the industry. Now we’re in a full out creator-owned swing, and Image is riding that wave with their biggest year in a long time.

    For the first time, I had the chance to interview Stephenson in person at NYCC, and we talk about the new Image announcements, what’s next for them, the role of artists in creator-owned comics, and even a little word association. Thanks to Eric for talking to us, and enjoy the interview below.

    Alright, this is David Harper with Multiversity Comics here with Eric Stephenson, publisher of Image Comics. How’s your con going so far, Eric?

    ES: It’s going pretty good, it’s the first full day of the show. It’s very busy and we’ve sold out of our exclusive books that we brought a little sooner than we expected to.

    That’s what I get for coming from Alaska a day late, I got to miss out on all the good stuff. Well, this time last year you were announcing huge books like “Saga” – that’s been a breakout hit this year for you guys. I’m curious – how do you feel like the year’s played out since last year’s con, and what are you excited about announcing at this year’s con?

    ES: Actually, it’s been better than expected. I think we hoped that things would go well but we’ve had a very strong year and it’s been kind of surprising in certain respects, because there were things that we kind of knew were going to do very well, and then there are things where we’re like “Oh, wow!” that did even better than we hoped.

    In terms of upcoming stuff, one of our big announcements is that we’re doing this book “One-Trick Rip-Off” with Paul Pope, which is the first thing that we’ve done with Paul and hopefully the beginning of more stuff we’re going to be doing with him. I’m just a huge admirer of his work, so I’m looking forward to that. We’re doing another new Jonathan Hickman book that he and Nick Dragotta are doing together – that’ll come out in the Spring of next year. It’s pretty different from what Jonathan has done before so I think that’s going to be really cool. Another one I’m really excited about is Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly are doing a book for us, which is going to be pretty cool. I’m obviously a big fan and supporter of Kieron’s work so it’ll be nice to be doing stuff with him again.

    One thing I’m curious about – you’re mentioning you’re a big admirer of Paul Pope and you’re a fan of Kieron Gillen, and obviously when we’ve talked previously you’ve talked about how you admire Brian K. Vaughan’s work, and now he’s working on “Saga”, Grant Morrison, he’s working on “Happy” – do you find as a publisher you specifically target people that you admire, and try to see if you can bring them into your fold?

    ES: I’d say by and large there aren’t that a whole lot of people I look at and say “that guy’s books sell really well but I am not a fan of his work, but let’s get him to come over here.” For the most part I think we should be doing books that we’re proud to do and working with people that we want to work with. It’s something I tell people, a lot of times some will say “what do you want to see from me?” and it’s just “do what you want to do”. It’s like we like what you do, come do that here. I think for the most part it’s a case of seeking out people that you like and just getting them to come work with us.

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    You also mention that in the last year you had some books perform a little bit better than you expected them to, things that have kind of stood out. What are some examples of those books?

    ES: Oh, man. It’s funny, I just walked over here with Jay Faerber, and he and I were talking about “Point of Impact” which is a book that both of us have been surprised by what orders were on that book. And I think that’s partially because I really liked “Near Death”, his previous book, and I thought that was just from the concept on up just kind of a slam-dunk. And it did okay, but it didn’t perform to my or Jay’s expectations. Then “Point of Impact” comes along, which is no less a viable concept, but for whatever reason it did way better, and that’s the kind of thing that’s kind of cool when it’s like”we thought it was going to do’this'”, but it kind of blew up beyond that. I think everyone knew “Saga” would do well, but “Saga” has done CRAZY well. Honestly, we had high expectations for that and it surpassed those expectations, which is a very good thing.

    You were talking about how “Near Death” didn’t perform extremely well – it performed well, but it wasn’t to the expectations you wanted given the quality of the book. One thing we’ve been talking about is that Image’s line-up – going across not just Image, but Shadowline and into other areas, it seems like there’s more diversity than ever. You have crime books, like “Near Death”, then you have your book coming up “Nowhere Men” and “The Manhattan Projects” that have kind of a science feel to them, it just goes all over the place. One thing that we’re curious about is does the diversity of your line ever cause difficulties in marketing to the audience? Do you think that it’s a hindrance for you guys at all?

    ES: I think it’s a stength actually, but it’s funny because I had a retailer tell me back ten years ago, this is back when I started doing marketing for Image – he said “you guys need to stop doing so many different kinds of books, because it’s impossible to market diversity.” And I said I don’t think so, I said as long as they’re all good books, that becomes the hook. We do every different type of book, you don’t have to buy all of the books, but everyone’s going to be able to find something that they like. Actually when Jim Valentino was publisher he had his tagline, “a book for every reader”, and I think that’s a viable way to get diversity across. We’re not trying to sell a gigantic line of superhero books where we’re saying “hey, buy all of these and you get a multi-title crossover every year.” That’s not what we do. But I think at the same time we can say “look, if you like “Fatale”, you’re probably going to like “Point of Impact” or “Near Death”. If you like “Saga” there’s a good chance that you’re going to like Brian Wood and Ming Doyle’s new book “Mara”.” I think within each genre type there’s some crossover and that’s how you market it. We do these different books and you can pick and choose what you want out of that.

    So you’ve been the publisher at Image for six years now, is this your sixth year?

    ES: Nope, just fourth.

    Oh man, I am terribly out of date. DAMN RESEARCH. One thing I’m curious about is it seems the line has definitely expanded over the last couple of years, and even with Jim, him trying to move it in a more diverse manner, it seems that the diversity has picked up even more from there. Do you have an ultimate vision as to what you look at Image and you want to see?

    ES: My goal has always been for people to look at Image and… back in the sixties Motown was a record label, where even if you didn’t know an artist that was putting out an album or single on Motown, you could pick it up and know that it was going to be good, just because as far as soul/pop of the sixties, it was this ubiquitous thing. And that’s what I would like Image to be, where people are maybe not familiar with the name of the writer or the artist or the concept is completely new to them but it’s like “oh, well Image does that so it’s going to be good”. That’s kind of the goal that I’ve been going towards.

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    That’s a good goal to go to. Another thing we’re curious about, in a lot of ways, there’s been the creator-owned manifestos coming out, from Robert Kirkman to Sean Gordon Murphy, you name it. And it seems like creator-owned comics are growing even more and more viable, and popular with each passing day. It seems like as they’ve grown there’s been the evolution of the writer as what pushes popularity in comics. Do you feel like creator-owned comics is more of a writer-centric endeavor, or do you think artists are equally represented in creator-owned comics?

    ES: Well, I think they can be. But I think the reason there’s this situation with the very writer-driven market is down to the a lot of the practices at Marvel and DC, specifically at Marvel because the…

    Architects.

    ES: Not even just that, but if you look at how they place artists on books…nobody draws more than three issues of a book at a time. They’re constantly rotating art teams and that goes back almost a decade. Grant Morrison did a brilliant run on New X-Men and to me, and this is something I’ve talked to him about so it’s not like I’m speaking out of school here, but to me you have that first great arc with Frank Quitely then it turns into Ethan Van Sciver then…

    Igor Kordey.

    ES: Yeah, Igor Kordey comes in. And Igor Kordey I really kind of sympathize with because he came in as a last minute replacement for another artist because things weren’t getting done quickly enough and he had to turn that stuff around really credit, which isn’t to his credit or the story’s credit.

    And he gets vilified for it.

    ES: That’s why I sympathize with him. People are always like “I don’t like those issues” but, well, he had to do them in an incredibly short amount of time. But from that on to what’s happening today, I’ve talked to writers who work over there who…they write issue one, and then they’re told to turn in the script for issue four because they need to pass it on to the fill-in artist.

    If you look at all these Marvel Now books, it’s not like “hey, this guy is doing it with this one artist.” There’s one writer who is then working with two to three artists because they are going to be rotating everyone in and out.

    I think Marvel’s a little more guilty of this than DC, but it’s kind of like they devalued the role of the artist in comics. And, not to get all conspiracy theory on you (laughs), but it’s something that in a large way that’s been done kind of in response to 20 years ago their seven biggest artists (laughs) got up and left and formed their own company.

    I think it’s like, “well, we don’t want that to happen again, so what we’re going to do is create a situation where artists aren’t as important anymore.” Something I’ve said before is they’re basically treating artists like they’re making greeting cards. It’s like they it doesn’t matter who does it, we’re just going to have a conveyor belt of stuff. So you get people like…I love the book Jason Aaron does, Wolverine and the X-Men.

    Nick Bradshaw. Chris Bachalo.

    ES: It’s like, either of those guys…I was telling Jason this recently, I told him “man, if you were doing that book with either one of those guys by themselves, I think that book would be perfect. I don’t care if it’s Chris, I don’t care if it’s Nick, either one of those guys would be great. But instead you’re going back and forth and neither one of them has been able to establish a look for the book.”

    I know a lot of people didn’t come up on the Byrne/Claremont X-Men or the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four, but those are books…the reason why people speak about them in such reverent tones is because they established this look over…in Lee and Kirby’s case it was 102 issues, and Byrne and Claremont did 30 or 40 issues of X-Men. It’s like you can look at that and say, “this is how this book looked.” In my mind, when I think of the X-Men, I think of Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Colossus… that’s who I see. And they just don’t allow artists to do that.

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    But on the other hand, in terms of creator-owned stuff, you know, Robert (Kirkman) has been doing Invincible with Ryan Ottley for…I think Cory (Walker) stopped doing it with number seven, and Cory still does things with the book, but it’s very much Ryan’s book at this point. We’re going to be putting out the 100th issue of that in January, and there aren’t a lot of books you can say, “oh, that guy’s been there the entire time.” Bendis and Bagley did that on Ultimate Spider-Man.

    It’s the same with The Walking Dead. You know, Charlie…I think…

    Charlie’s 100th issue is coming up on 106 he told me. He said, “that’s the one that’s really going to hit #1.”

    ES: (laughs) Yeah. That’s what Charlie said? (laughs) That’s a huge feat. There aren’t many artists who do that. I think Brian (K. Vaughan) and Fiona (Staples) are planning on doing Saga as long as people buy it and as long as they have stories to tell. You’re going to get a long unbroken run of Saga by the two of them. I think that’s the difference between corporate comics and creator-owned stuff is, the writer and the artist determine what the nature of the relationship is going to be and how that work is going to flow out to people.

    Not to bring it back to the Big Two too much, but I think one of the interesting things is the release schedule. You look at Saga and they release six great issues, release the trade, have a break month and they come out with issue seven at the end of November. You look at that, and then at Marvel in specific there is so much double shipping…and it’s like, I don’t want to go conspiracy theory also, but they’re trying to inflate the numbers to a certain degree to make sure they’re number one by releasing these all the time.

    You look at Hawkeye, which is a book I really enjoy. Matt Fraction and David Aja, who’s just an incredible artist, but he’s only on for three issues. And for me it’s kind of difficult to really hold onto an identity of a book without having that creative team together for a little bit at least.

    ES: Yeah, it’s like on a certain level….I’ve heard people say they don’t want to burn the artist out. That’s this kind of thing where I’m watching the baseball playoffs and the Nationals looked like they were going to do great, and they’ve been kind of struggling, but they took their best pitcher out because they didn’t want to exhaust him, and it’s like now you’re going into the playoffs without your best pitcher. It’s kind of the same concept in comics. You don’t want to exhaust your artist, but maybe give him more lead time to work on the book so he’s not exhausted. There are lots of measures you can take to prevent that from being a problem. But, yeah, I’d much rather see twelve, twenty issues of Hawkeye with David Aja, and then maybe have a fill in issue, as opposed to bringing a guy in immediately.

    The problem with that too is it puts someone like Javier Pulido, who’s a great artist in his own right, and it puts him in a position where’s looked at as the guy who’s replacing Dave Aja.

    ES: That’s the other thing. It devalues artists because one you’ve take the main guy off, but then whoever comes in next is going to be judged against the first artist. So it’s kind of unfair to the replacement artist. Javier Pulido is brilliant, but everybody is going to compare him to David Aja, which should not be the case.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen these, but Sean Murphy on his DeviantArt page has a lot of very interesting dissertations on his view of the comic industry. He recently did a write up on cartoonists or writer/artists, and he thinks more artists should write and do their own books. And, I’m curious, to my knowledge — and I could be entirely mistaken — Ken Garing is the only person doing a book on his own at Image. Is that something deliberate, or is that just how it’s panned out?

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    ES: Well, Erik Larsen is doing his book. Ian Churchill did Marineman, which was all him. It really depends on what comes to us. Obviously, Paul Pope writes and draws his own work. There are different people we talk to. It’s just a matter of when things kind of happen. Someone just brought up…I was just on a panel with Brian Wood and Brian K. Vaughan pointed out that Brian (Wood) is a pretty good artist himself, and for years he’s worked with other artists and that’s just kind of his choice.

    There’s no…Image was started by seven guys who were writing and drawing their own stuff. There hasn’t been a conscious decision to move away from that, I think it’s just worked out that that’s what comes to us. There are guys…I’d love to do a Bryan Lee O’Malley book. He’s an amazing writer/artist. There are all kinds of guys we want to work with, it’s just a matter of getting to them when they’re available.

    We always end up talking to you about who you would work with if you could work with any creator, who would it be. This year we’re going to do something a little bit different. You’ve had a lot of creators who’ve left Image…

    ES: For a minute I thought you were going to ask, “who don’t you want to work with?” (laughs)

    We want the hit list Eric. (laughs) You’ve had a lot of creators who left Image, went to the Big Two, had success, and then came back. Like Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brubaker. Is there anyone out there you’d love to see come back who is firmly in the Big Two realm? To come back to creator-owned work, or even work there for the first time?

    ES: I would love…Rick Remender and I have talked off and on about him eventually doing more stuff. I’d love for Rick to come back and do stuff. His…you’ve read Strange Girl and Sea of Red and Fear Agent?

    Yeah.

    ES: All of those are great. He also did this thing called Doll and Creature, which is really weird because he did that Punisher stuff with Frankencastle, that’s all kind of derived from stuff he started doing in Doll and Creature. I’m just like, “It’s kind of unfortunate that everyone paid so much attention to the Punisher stuff, but it’s like, Rick also did this really cool thing over here you’d really like.”

    Rick, and, honestly, it’s like…Tony Moore is someone I’d love to see come back and do stuff. David Mack. I don’t even know what he’s doing these days.

    Kabuki is at Icon.

    ES: I know that, but it’s been years since there’s been a Kabuki.

    Nick Bradshaw is a guy I’d love to see what he’d want to do on his own. He’s done the X-Men stuff and before that he was doing Danger Girl.

    I’m surprised we haven’t seen anything from him before because he came out of nowhere for me. I love his work.

    ES: He did some older work on…I think Danger Girl/Army of Darkness. That stuff was great, and then he disappeared for a while, then he came back on Wolverine and the X-Men. Before that he and James Asmus did this annual that led into…part one was in X-Men, part two was in Captain America, part three was in…something like that. That was the first time I was like, “okay, this guy jumped to another level. He’s amazing.” He’s someone I’d like to see do some stuff.

    I don’t feel like Stuart Immonen has done much as far as creator-owned stuff.

    MM: I think he did Shock Rockets.

    DH: And Moving Pictures. He was releasing that online and then it was published by Top Shelf.

    ES: He did that Superstar with Kurt Busiek too. All of that stuff, Shock Rockets and Superstar was ten to fifteen years ago.

    I’m not sure if this is a touchy subject. I was asking a friend of mine who is a DC fan what draws him to DC comics, and he said it was the shared universe. I know you guys tried to do that with Image United, and I was curious, what happened with that, and are there plans to revisit that series or to touch onto something similar to that?

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    ES: The plan is to finish it. The problem is when it started there was really kind of a window for certain people involved to do their parts. When it kind of veered off schedule, it got more difficult for the other guys to honor their commitments. Just because they were doing other stuff. It’s not like they took on other stuff. This was stuff they knew was coming. And it was like, “we’ve got to get to this. We’ve got to get to this.” And then that window passed. It’s still being worked on. But at this point it’s being done in-between other things.

    There are guys who are done with their parts and there are guys who aren’t done with their parts. But when everyone is done we’ll put out the three remaining issues. Four is really close to being done, we could say hey, we’re going to put four out in Decemeber. But I don’t think that’s going to do anyone any good, so I think we’ll wait until four, five and six are done and then we’ll put the three of those out together and then do a collection.

    But if I have my way, we won’t ever do anything like that again.

    Honestly, that’s one of the things…as far as we’re concerned, we like Image for the diversity of the story and we like it because there is something for everyone. I love Saga, Matt may love Morning Glories, our other writers…we have a column about The Manhattan Projects where one of our writers goes absolutely nuts researching the history of it. It’s just like…there really is something a little bit different for everyone. That’s what appeals to me about Image.

    So…in 2013…it’s rapidly approaching. This may be difficult, but if you had to name a breakout title/creator, who would it be?

    ES: My mind just went blank on what we’re doing next year.

    (laughs) Tell us everything.

    ES: I think the Hickman book is going to be really good, but that’s not news to anybody.

    But with Dragotta, that’s an excellent team.

    ES: I think the nature of the book is going to really…that’s the great thing about somebody like Jonathan. The Manhattan Projects isn’t anything like Secret, and this new book isn’t going to be anything like those. I think that’s going to do really well.

    There’s a…one of the Straczynski books. I don’t think we’ve really talked about what he’s doing.

    I forgot, he’s doing Joe’s Comics again, right?

    ES: Yeah. The first book he’s doing he’s doing with Ben Templesmith, and it’s called Ten Grand. I think that’s going to do really well. It’s funny because Joe’s one of those guys we talked years ago and this didn’t come into fruition until earlier this year. Ten Grand was one of the original books he pitched, and I’ve always really, really liked that idea. I think people are going to dig it. I think Ben is the perfect artist for it, and I think that’s one to watch for.

    In terms of breakout creator, so far…most of the stuff we have that’s dropping in 2013 are all people who have broken out already. There’s kind of nobody…I guess the closest to that is this fellow Ales Kot. He did Wild Children for us. He has two or three other books that we’re going to be doing over the course of the next year, and he’s a guy who has a pretty unique voice and definitely has the potential to build a much broader audience. I’ll go with him.

    I’d love to see the Danger Club guys take off. I love that book. The last section I have — you can pass on this if you’d like, is I’d like to do word association with you. First thing you think of after I say each word or phrase.

    Saga.

    ES: Fiona. Every time I get pages…every few days Brian and I get emails from her with layouts and then fully rendered pages. I can’t even describe how much I look forward to getting those emails. There hasn’t been an issue of that book that has been like the other issues so far. Whether it’s a cover or just a couple pages, I’m just knocked off my seat by her work. She’s the main thing I think of when I think of Saga.

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    When I first experienced her on North 40 I was blown away. That was a Wildstorm book, and she was nominated for an Eisner even though no one else really read that book. I was so happy. She deserved it. She’s a fantastic artist.

    Walking Dead.

    ES: (laughs) I can’t say…see I’ve read the next issue. (laughs) There’s a particular line of dialogue in the next issue that is that I’m not going to spoil for people. It’s funny and it’s explained in that issue because the reason that line of dialogue stands out for me is somebody sent Robert a letter that pertains to the line of dialogue.

    Nice. (laughs)

    ES: So that made it unintentionally hilarious. You’ll have to find out when you read that book.

    Big Two.

    ES: Eh…overused term? I just…I don’t know if that’s ever going to change. It’s funny, when you were talking about doubling up on shipping, it’s a way to goose the numbers but to me, it’s like, when you go into a grocery store and all they have is Coke and Pepsi. I don’t know how aware people are of that there are lots of other brands of soda. In terms of Cola there is a brand of soda I really like called Boylan’s. It’s all cane sugar, and Coke and Pepsi have corn syrup and that shit will kill you.

    So I drink the one with cane sugar in it. Boylan’s is fantastic, but you can’t find it everywhere. And there are all kinds of other sodas like that. Stewart’s makes a great root beer. And, it’s because Pepsi and Coke did a really great job of pushing everything else off the shelves in mainstream places. They do all these deals that, grocery stores are paying as little as possible to get Coke and Pepsi. It’s the same with beer. You always see Miller Lite and Budweiser. It’s the king of beers if you like shitty beer. (laughs) There are a billion better tasting beers out there, but you know most people wouldn’t know it because these others aren’t carried. All the best discounts are associated with these brands.

    That’s basically for better or worse, that’s how Marvel and DC run their business. They keep doing more and more…if we’re going to do Spider-Man, we’ll do Spider-Man three times a month. We’ll do it four times a month. That gets people…they know people are going to order a base number of that stuff. There are so many people who just buy those books…some of those books are great, I think Jason Aaron does fantastic work on Wolverine and the X-Men, Rick is doing good…Uncanny X-Force is fantastic. I haven’t looked at Uncanny Avengers yet but I am sure that’s great because Rick does good work. All of Hickman’s stuff has been fantastic. Hawkeye. The Batman stuff Scott Snyder is doing is great.

    I’m not saying there aren’t good books. But there’s a lot of stuff that’s…

    Undercooked.

    ES: Yeah, it’s just shit. (laughs) They know they can’t put out…if all of those books, if every single one of them was fantastic, I don’t think anyone would be sitting around complaining about them. I think there are people who know as they are buying those books, that they are buying those books because they collect them and they will keep collecting them until they get so frustrated until they can’t do it anymore.

    It’s funny, I have this friend who is a big Hulk fan, and he’s like, “they’re changing Hulk, it’s not going to be Incredible Hulk anymore.” What’s it going to be called again?

    MM: Indestructible.

    ES: The Indestructible Hulk. And he was like, “I think I can justify not buying Hulk now. (laughs) They’ve technically changed it to something else so I can say, ‘I’ve finished that’” A couple years from now they’ll change it back to Incredible Hulk and continue the numbering. There are just always games.

    That’s the way things are, and things will probably continue to be that way. I think they’re the Big Two because the amount of effort they put in to kind of keeping everything else down.

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    To tack onto that a little bit, do you think there are ever roadblocks with retailers to try and get Image books into their shops. Personally, I’m from Anchorage, Alaska. Much smaller market, and I talk to my shops and tell them to order certain books more because I’ve read it and it’s great. Anything like that, I try to hype it up. They have a tendency of underordering and selling out, and next thing you know, you have those industry wide sellouts of your books and it’s just because people are underordering them. Is that a problem any more?

    ES: I know for a fact that there are stores that flat out don’t order anything besides Marvel and DC, Archie, and some of the Star Wars and Buffy books from DC. There are stores that are built around the notion that they’re just going to order what they know they can sell. I understand that. Running a comic store is hard, and it does take a lot of guess work, and there are hundreds of comics that come out each month, and to try and pick and choose which one is going to do well is a difficult task.

    Definitely over the last couple years our track record has been pretty good, so I’d think the guess work would come out of that at a certain point. It’s like…the fact of the matter is, the guys I talk to are the ones who support our stuff. I’m not talking to a lot of retailers who aren’t buying our stuff because I think at the end of the day, they don’t really give a shit about what I have to say.

    I don’t know what goes into their thought process, but the guys who order…who say they’re going to order two copies of Saga. I don’t get that. You know Brian K. Vaughan. You know how his past books have sold. The kind of audience he has. To that, I think they’re being a little silly. We’ve tried to do things…for the first three issues of Saga, there was an incentive that if you order x amount of copies, it’s returnable. We want to take the risk out of it for people. If you can’t sell this, send it back to us. And that’s worked, and that’s helped with some of the guys who are a little more skeptical. For the guys who aren’t skeptical and are already supportive, that just emboldens them to go from ordering a lot to even more.

    And I’ve talked to them, and they’ve told me it allowed them to sell even more than they expected. There are challenges here and there, but it’s one part of the market, there are guys who are die hards to their own way of thinking and I don’t know if we’ll ever change that.

    Next one. Joe Casey.

    ES: (laughs) Sunglasses. (laughter) Sunglasses. Handlebar mustaches. Surly disposition. (laughter) It’s funny. Joe and I used to hate each other. I don’t know how happy he’d be I’m telling this story, but I’m sure Joe just doesn’t care under the circumstances because he doesn’t care about anything.

    When I was working for Rob Liefeld at Extreme Studios, this artist Marat Mychaels brought in this friend of his, and a friend of a friend who was Joe Casey. At that time, his hair was down to his elbows, and he had round John Lennon glasses. I think he had just moved to LA from Tennessee, so he had a much more pronounced Southern accent than he does now. He really wanted to write comics, and he would just show up to the office with this friend of Marat’s, and he did this story…it was featuring one of the Youngblood characters…and we paid him but never ran it.

    A couple years later when AOL got up and running and they were…remember when there were chat rooms? Where you’d go on and talk about comics in a chat room on AOL. And there was this thing where people were bitching about editors, and Joe was bitching about me because he was saying, “yeah, I turned my story in and all he did was correct some punctuation on it.” He was upset because I didn’t put a lot of attention to it. At the time, I was just kind of doing the story as a favor for Marat, and it wasn’t something we were tremendously invested in.

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    So he and I started arguing in this chat room, then for like years whenever we’d see each other…he started doing Cable after that…we’d see each other at conventions because he was friends with people I was friends with. And I was like, “Why are you friends with that Joe Casey guy?” (laughs) And he’d be like, “fuck Eric Stephenson, that guy’s an asshole!”

    And I don’t know how it was, but at some point I was back at Image, and we were working on stuff together and all that went away. Joe and I are very good friends now. But it’s like this really weird thing, where some of that was him in the process of him in building his persona.

    But yeah, Joe’s a great guy, but he’s definitely really perfected that “I don’t give a shit” comic book rock star vibe.

    I interviewed him a couple years back, and I was a little intimidated. He’s a great guy, but I was just…

    ES: It’s funny, he and I will get on the phone and we’ll talk for a couple hours, he’s a fun guy to talk to. I wouldn’t say he’s a teddy bear (laughs) but he’s definitely a lot more easy going than he gives off, and I’m sure he hates me saying that.

    We’re telling the world.

    Next one we’ve got, and I know you’re a fan of this guy. Brandon Graham.

    ES: Oh, Brandon’s a genius. Brandon is one of my favorite people in comics and he has a fantastic eye for up and coming artists. He just really has a singular vision of what he wants to do in terms of comic storytelling and the kind of boundaries he wants to push. I’m just…every time I get in an issue of Prophet, and now that Multiple Warheads is coming, I’m always amazed by where he goes with things and what he can do.

    Last thing. It’s shocking how little we know about Nowhere Men.

    ES: Yeah. It’s funny, I was just talking to this cartoonist friend of mine named Gregg Schiegel. I sent him the first issue to read a couple of days ago. He said, “you’ve done a really good job of making sure that people had no idea what was going to be in this. I thought this was about these four guys, and that this was just going to be The Beatles of science.” He said he was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot more to it.

    I know I’ve run this into the ground, but I grew up in a time where you did not know about things when they came out. It’s like you found out when you read it or you saw it or when you listened to it. It’s almost impossible to do that. I’m as bad at that as anyone else. When an album comes out by someone I’m really into, I will go online and look for a leak of that (laughs) knowing I’m going to go buy it. But, I want to hear it now. That’s the mindset that everyone is into.

    Which, I guess it is what it is. But there is something really cool about…I’ve said this before, but when I went and saw Star Wars, I had seen one TV commercial, but you guys aren’t old enough to know this, but I feel like the TV commercial was just a Tusken Raider raising his staff into the air and then, it’s like, “Oh! What the fuck?” and then it’s like “Star Wars.” “Okay, I guess there are some spaceships in it.” But I just knew I wanted to go see it. But it was like…I remember the poster going up and there was an ad for it in the paper, and there was all this other stuff that wasn’t in the TV commercial.

    Then going and just being bombarded with all of these ideas. That’s how comics were when I first got into it too. The whole way I got into comics was my parents gave them to me for years, but they gave me an issue of The Hulk, not a particularly good one, and there was an ad in the back that had a John Buscema drawn thing that had every Marvel character on this poster. That was what got my attention. I was like, “who is this guy?” It made me wonder about these characters. The guy that stood out the most was The Thing. I knew I wanted a comic with that guy. Which, again, wasn’t the best issue of the Fantastic Four because it was mid 70’s, but it was a pretty good one drawn by George Perez.

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    But then, I was like this is cool. Who is this Galactus guy? Who is the Destroyer? At that point, The Thing was like Ben Grimm in a suit of The Thing. An exo-skeleton. So I was like, “wait, that guy I thought was so cool is just a guy in a suit?” (laughs) And then I was reading around, and I realized he actually was that guy.

    There was all of this stuff to find out. The process and discovery is a lot of fun. A friend gave me an issue of X-Men not long after it turned into All New, All Different X-Men. I remember there was this scene where Storm went into her attic apartment and takes off all her clothes and then makes it rain so she’s taking a shower. And I’m like 8 or 9, and I’m like “she’s naked and she’s making it rain on her in her apartment. (laughs) And there’s this other guy who disappears in a puff of smoke. I gotta find out more about this book.” That just doesn’t really happen anymore.

    That is what I wanted to do. All we’re going to show you is these elements of the book. The preview we put in The Walking Dead #102 were images from three or four different issues. They’re all out of context, and it just so happened that there was a bit of dialogue from the first issue that works as a voiceover for that. Well, the goal is to come in and be surprised.

    We’re looking forward to it. November 21st, right?

    ES: I’m going to this thing in England. Thought Bubble. We’re going to try and get it out a week earlier for that con.


    David Harper

    David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).

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    • Hey David,
      Great interview. Just one thing though.
      Ken Garing is not the only writer/artist currently at Image. Don’t forget Epic Kill written, drawn, lettered and colored by one guy (edits by Yannick Morin). The trade came out in early October and issue 6 of the ongoing series comes out Nov. 7
      Thanks!
      -Raffaele Ienco

      • Hey Raffaele, I haven’t read the full interview yet just up to the part where they said there wasn’t anymore Writer/Artists at image, I came down here to remind everybody of your awesome book(congrats on getting the on-going), but you already beat me to it. 🙂

    • Plus Paul Grist.

    • DavidMultiversity

      Ah! Good point Raffaele! I totally spaced you and Paul – my bad on that! I knew I had to have forgotten someone.

    • Ian

      Fascinating interview, really excited for Nowhere Men and many, many other new Image series to be honest. Also James Stokoe does all the work on Orc Stain, not sure you can call that ongoing though.

      • DavidMultiversity

        I honestly forgot about that one because it NEVER comes out, but that is a good point!