Image Expo: Eric Stephenson’s Keynote Presentation Live Blog

“What’s Next” is the theme of the day at Image Expo 2013 in San Francisco, California. The company is clearly focusing on the future as the indie collective further expands its reach on the comics industry, seizing spots on best-seller lists from titans Marvel and DC thanks to titles like “Walking Dead” and “Saga.” What’s the next monster hit from publisher? Perhaps we’ll find out as Image Publisher Eric Stephenson takes the stage to lay out the plans for next year or more of Image Comics.

Stephenson takes the stage to remind us that he is not the founder, just the publisher, and lays out a brief history of what Image is. McFarlane, Lee, and company started it to have a place for their creator-owned work.

Stephenson gives us an overview of his relationship with Image. He’s worn many hats but has been the publisher for five years. He explains how one of the strengths of the company is that creators stake their careers on their work.

Stephenson tells us that Image is not a “Kafka meets American Idol” sweepstakes. It’s about the creators. “By and for creators…the only conversation at IMage is out creators, and word is spreading.”

Sales have been trending upwards, with 2012 being one of the company’s best years and 2013 is already looking better.

“Time and time again,” the Image Comics of now beats the Image Comics of then.”

Stephenson takes a break from talking numbers to remind us all that it’s about the creators. He highlights “Saga,” “Manhattan Projects,” “Fatale,” “Peter Panzerfaust” and others.

The prevailing wisdom is that audiences, don’t want anything new. They don’t want the same ideas beaten into the ground and literally resurrected. “That’s not creativity, that necrophilia.”

Stephenson highlights newer titles like “Sex,” Jupiter’s Legacy,” Ten Grand,” and others.

WHAT’S NEXT?

“Just as we refused to rest on our laurels in 2012…this week marks the release of new titles.” He points out Matt Fraction’s “Satellite Sam” and “Sex Criminals,” “Ghosted,” JMS’ “Sidekick,” Ales Kot’s “Zero,” and more.

New titles hitting soon are:

“Pretty Deadly” by Kelly Sue De Connick and Emma Rios

“Three” by Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly

“Rocket Girl” by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare

Now let’s get the latest on a little thing called WALKING DEAD! Here comes Robert Kirkman…

Kirkman says: After ten years we have to do something new.

Saviors, Hilltop, Survivors, and Kingdom are factions. It’s time to rebuild civilzation. “With civilzation comes conflict.” So now comes…

A new 12-issue storyline called “All Out War” is coming. The issues will come out bi-weekly.

ED BRUBAKER TAKES THE STAGE:

Brubaker talks how the next “Fatale” arc is set in the ’90s grunge scene starting with issue 15 and based on many real-life events.

Brubaker’s relationship with artist Sean Phillips is the second longest of his life though they’ve only spoken on the phone two times. They’re never going to stop working together. “He’s healthy at least, I’ve got at least another 8 years in me.”

Brubaker is launching a new series with “Captain America” artist Steve Epting called “Velvet.” Brubaker said he brought Epting to the “light side” of creator-owned work. “Velvet” launches in September.

“If you liked what we did in Captain America, it’s a more grounded, twisted version of that.” Lots of espionage. “It’s my version of taking a Bond movie and mixing it into a real world Cold War scenario.”

JMS TAKES THE STAGE (and promptly takes a seat):

On “Ten Grand” JMS says: “I wanted to explore the notion of how far you would go for love…would be able to put up with an eternity of pain and death and suffering…like any marriage.”

On Working with Templesmith: “He’s a mad man…he’s also a very snappy dresser.”

On his new series from Joe’s Comics, “Sidekick”: “When you work for the major companies you learn about the things that you can’t do, especially with younger characters, but what I wanted to do was the things that I couldn’t do.”

And he’s launching a few new titles! JMS joins past-collaborator Colleen Doran on “Book of Lost Souls” which he previously worked on for Marvel. They’re rebooting the series from the beginning.

Next, “Dream Police.” Another that’s coming from Marvel’s Icon line. Another relaunch that will explain who the “Dream Police” are and where they come from. He’s working with the same artist that he’s working with on “Apocalypse Al” for MTV Comics.

He’s doing a new book with Bill Sienkiewicz. It’s rare to have Sienkiewicz do interiors. It’s being kept very secret and will involve the deconstruction of the superhero genre.

KURTIS J. WIEBE:

Wiebe updates on the “Peter Panzerfaust” motion comic featuring voices of Elijah Wood and Summer Glau. It’s now being developed as a live-action series for the BBC.

He talks his next series, the fantasy-comedy “Rat Queens.” “It’s like a rated-R ’Lord of the Rings’ story…think of it as what college girls would be like if they killed monsters for living.” They will be doing a web-comic every month featuring a different subject to reveal more about his “Rat Queens'” personalities.

Stephenson says: “One of the pleasures of my job is to put out work that I love…one of those books was “Casanova.”

MATT FRACTION TAKE THE STAGE:

On working with “America’s dirty old man”(his words) Howard Chaykin on “Satellite Sam”: “The chance to get to write something in our common wheelhouse is great.” He says: “It’s sex, death, and live television,” adding “it’s kind of a mystery, it’s kind of noir…” Also it features a “dirtier than ’Mad Man’ kind of story.”

On “Sex Criminals”: “It’s a story about a girl who can stop time whenever she makes whoopie…One night she meets a young man…and after they make whoopie…they realize that they have the same gift…so they do what anyone would do, they rob banks.”

This is the next step for “Hawkeye” fans. It’s a relationship comedy. “It’s non-linear…there are some info-graphics coming later.”

He announces “ODY-C” with Christian Ward. It’s a sci-fi adaptation of “The Odyssey” by Homer. Why “The Odyssey”? Fraction says, “It’s a lot like comics” because it’s told all out of order and you have to know everything in order to understand. But Fraction has a hook: “All the girls are guys, and all the guys are girls.” Ulysses is a female hero that Fraction’s daughter could appreciate. It hits in early 2014.

RICK REMENDER IS BACK AT IMAGE…AND ON THE STAGE:

It’s been 10 years since Remender has worked for Image. He’s been doing some “other stuff” since then. Namely “Uncanny X-Force” and now “Uncanny Avengers” and “Captain America.” But now he’s got…

“Black Science”: It’s kind of a spiritual sequel to “Fear Agent” and inspired by Frank Frazetta. “If you enjoyed ’Fear Agent’ it’ll be right up your alley.” Drawn by Mateo Scalera. “If you like ’Conan and bongs and spacemen…this is for you.”

Also coming is “Deadly Class”: “I wanted to write a book about my experiences growing up in the ’80s hardcore scene…” But he says that felt self-indulgent so he decided to combine with another idea and combined with “Deadly Class,” a thriller set in a high school for future assassins. “It’s an exploration of high school and kids growing up…and who doesn’t want a 40 year-old telling them about that [laughs].” He’s working with artist Wesley Craig, who shared Remender’s experiences in the ’80s punk and hardcore scene, so he understood Remender’s intentions.

He says: “At this point in my life I want to do things for me, and this is what I like.”

He closes with: “Image Comics is very important, I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for them.”

JASON AARON ANNOUNCES A NEW PROJECT WITH IMAGE:

He explains how he’s been spending a lot of time playing with Marvel’s toys and now it’s time for a new creator-owned book…

“Southern Bastards”! He says: “People say write what you know, well this is what I know.” He’s working with artist Jason Latour, who also takes the stage.

Aaron says: “The book is about a lot of Southern Bastards” and promises “there will be barbeque.” Adding, “I get to create my own world and fill it with colorful characters and do terrible things to them.”

Aaron says, “Southern Bastards” is “The Dukes of Hazard” by the Coen Brothers. It’s a crime book set in a fictional Alabama town full of bastards. The main villain was originally conceived for his Vertigo series “Scalped.” He’s the local football coach who is celebrated for his record but buries bodies in the end zone and under the bleachers. It hits early next year.

MARK MILLAR PAYS A VISIT VIA PRE-RECORDED VIDEO:

He thanks the fans for the response to “Jupiter’s Legacy.” Artist Frank Quitely is half-way through issue 3. He’s next launching an equally ambitious project about which he says, “Wouldn’t it be cool to launch a line of books that was as pivotal as Fantastic Four was for Marvel.”

Millar will be launching his own standalone universe. Like a whole universe called “Millar World.” The first is “MPH” drawn by Duncan Fregredo launching in January.

MORE NEWS!

A graphic novel called: “Noah,” co-written by Darren Aronofsky, based on the brilliant filmmaker’s new film. They showed off some stunning pages from the project.

RON RICHARDS TALKS IMAGE’S DIGITAL PLAN:

He unveils a brand new design for ImageComics.com, full of very clear information and an easier way to shop. The new site will offer FULL downloads of digital comics. You can download a PDF, epub, CBR, or CBZ file that you can own or store completely DRM-free.

Warren Ellis and Jason Howard are bringing the complete collected “Scatterlands” to the Image store for $.99 which Ellis has been publishing online one panel at a time.

And that’s it, folks! Stay tuned for more from Image Expo!