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February 1, 2011
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My last Journal was a compilation of some varied ideas regarding Creator Owned comic book properties. Some discussion of what Marvel and DC represent to writers and artists. My random thoughts regarding Diamond Distributors and some ideas I thought Image Comics might want to consider.

Since I hit the Publish Button I've received a lot of interesting feedback and there's been a lot Internet talk on the subject. The most interesting feedback so far was directly from the Publisher of Image Comics, Eric Stephenson. I guess he might have some insight, right? I thought so too! Eric and I have known each other since the very, very early days of Image Comics when he was writing and editing and he's always been very helpful over the years. I was surprised that he stumbled across my journal and thrilled that he took the time to address what I brought up. He's good that way. After emailing, we thought it would be nice to make our discussion regarding these loose topics available to creators and fans alike.

ERIC: After reading your thoughts on Image's position with publishing I wanted to clear some misconceptions up. I'm all for ideas about how to increase the awareness of our material. I think there's some big problems across the board in comics and one we all need to tackle. But making erroneous statements about what we do here doesn't help matters, because a lot of people are already walking around spreading a bunch of half-truths where Image is concerned.

You wrote: "For one thing, not everyone that is creating their own comic book is a Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane or [ insert comic book creator with a built in fan base ]. Image comics offers all their creators the same privileges. That privilege includes ONE page in Previews."

In most cases, if a book is starting out, its first issue gets more than one page in Previews. I've got the Previews for titles shipping in April 2011 in front of me right now, so let's just look at that as an example:


Super Dinosaur #1 has four pages
Blue Estate #1 has two pages
Green Wake #1 has two pages
Undying Love #1 has two pages
'68 #1 has two pages
Nonplayer #1 has two pages
Zero: JM Ken Niimura Illustrations TP has two pages


Obviously, we can't give every single title multiple pages on a regular basis, but we've actually been giving launch books a couple pages to show off interior art for years now.

You also wrote: "Image pays for that or has a deal with Diamond [ Diamond is the biggest means of distribution in the comic book marketplace ] which is great - but that's it. That's the ALL the advertising you get."


Also not true. We actually do place banner ads on comics Websites like CBR and we regularly highlight titles on our own Website. We also advertise in other Diamond publications and through a weekly retailer newsletter, not to mention the Diamond Website. We also distribute preview copies of books (these days, more and more, we're doing this digitally, using ISSUU) to retailers and reviewers. We send review copies out. We frequently do posters for books that are sent to retailers. Whether those posters are put up is entirely dependent on the retailers in question, but we have done and continue to do these when they seem like they'd help. We send out postcards for books. In the past, we've done bookmarks for various trade paperbacks and graphic novels. We also run house ads in our comics, and we frequently run previews for other titles in our comics, too. Running a preview for, say, CHEW #1 in THE WALKING DEAD certainly helped increase awareness of that book.


Most of the press you see for Image comics? We set that up. The preview art you see online? We send that out. The articles on Image and various books that have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, etc.? We did that. Signings, panels at conventions, etc.? All of that is arranged by Image. The implication that we do nothing is a little insulting, especially coming from someone I would have thought understood the company a bit more. Given that there are a grand total of ELEVEN people working here, I think we do an admirable job – Dark Horse has over 100 employees. IDW has something like 30. Could we be better at certain things? Certainly, but we do a lot for a small staff.

DAN: That is an impressive amount of work for 11 people...! I had no idea. I didn't mean any offense by my journal - I just thought the advertising was pretty limited and the policy was different. Taking into account all the convention work and the means of solicitation - I stand corrected! Thanks Eric!

ERIC: Not at all. I love this business and all of this is very important to me. Concerning the advertising aspect, though, I'm not sure where you want any of us – Image, IDW, Dark Horse – to advertise. Entertainment Weekly? TV? That isn't cost effective for Marvel and DC, why would it be for the rest of us?

DAN: A man can dream, right? I was thinking of targeting college campuses to start with. I wouldn't imagine that would be as costly as huge magazines and national broadcast television. Maybe some authorized Image Comics Panel discussions on campus that could lead to organized clubs or the present day equivalent of what a club might be on a college campus these days? What do you think? I'm sure that's not as simple as snapping your fingers and with the limited amount of resources available, etc... But maybe mentioning that Image Comics and some of it's creators would be up for some University Tours or something...

ERIC: I think that's an interesting idea, and you're right, it's not going to be as expensive as advertising. What's more, I have to think it would be a more direct method of engaging readers. Honestly, there are probably lots of things everyone could be doing beyond merely advertising in the usual places, and it's good to hear new ideas. I was reading something online recently, it may have been Skottie Young's blog or maybe it was Tony Harris, that said there's a lot of talk about how something needs to be done to broaden our readership, but very few ideas suggested about how to actually do that, so ideas like this and some of the others you brought up in your journal are a big help.

DAN: Gotcha. So what's one of the things most new creators don't pick up on when they're starting out? Any pointers or suggestions?

ERIC: The one thing most people don't seem to get is that the most successful books at Image are the ones that come out on time, by creators who are motivated to make their books successful. For every John Layman or Robert Kirkman, there is a creator content to just turn the book in, LATE, and then wonder why things didn't work out. I've seen it time and time again. There's a book right now – the first issue came out in January, great reviews, sold out. The second issue should be out now. Tumbleweeds. Probably going to be over a month late. That doesn't help on any level, and it's the main reason creator-owned books aren't supported by many retailers: They don't believe they're going to come out on time or, in some cases, ever.

DAN: Thanks, Eric. Mind if I share this on my next Journal? I know you're super busy and you won't be able to field questions - but I think everyone would dig hearing your perspective.

ERIC: Sure thing. More than happy set the record straight on all this stuff.
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:iconmisterhardtimes:
MisterHardtimes Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011
Wow... I just...

I will just shut up now.

Mike
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:iconchainsaw-munkey:
Chainsaw-Munkey Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
A lot of colleges and universities offer courses in comic book art, or story telling. Those, to me, would be the ideal schools to start with in terms of doing a live panel discussion. I am not sure who you would speak to about that, possibly student services, as a lot of the money is student accounts for rec type services go to fund these events. The schools will, in a lot of cases, handle paying the talent that comes out to be a part of the events. I got that from the Kevin Smith Q&A dvds.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2011
Kevin Smith definitely tells it like it is and has a very interesting take on comics/movies.
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:iconchainsaw-munkey:
Chainsaw-Munkey Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
True DAT!
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:iconrobertatkins:
RobertAtkins Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2011
Why do image allow books to be solicited and even distributed when the second issue isnt even completed? There are other companies that require atleast the first 4-6 issues to be done before solicitation. I know thats not easy on the creative team to go so long with out compensation, but if you are on time you wouldnt get paid until atleast after you've completed the 2 or 3rd issue.

THanks for posting this Dan, great insight
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2011
I'm not really sure what the answer is there.
Reply
:icondogwitchfan:
DogwitchFan Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2011
Informative discussion guys, thanks.
Suggestions on advertising:
I like the idea of College campuses. How do you get High schools?
Xbox network & PSN.
Since we can’t get rid of the slide-shows that run before the ads, that run before the movies we go see maybe a slideshow deal with AMC and Cineplex would be cost effective.
Some way to make your stuff pop up more often on Amazon.

Okay, so you’ve probably thought of all the above. <shrug> 2.

But the big question is what are your plans in the light of “tablets” looking like they may devour publishing in the next ten years? I hate the idea of not having hard copy but it’s either that or no trees.
Okay, so you’ve probably thought of all the above. <shrug> 2.

But the big question is what are your plans in the light of “tablets” looking like they may devour publishing in the next ten years? I hate the idea of not having hard copy but it’s either that or no trees.
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2011
Very good question. I certainly see comic books going the tablet route eventually.
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:iconvinroc:
VinRoc Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Great article! Thanks man! I'm busting my ass to pump out my projects and this info helps!
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2011
;)
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:iconjohnchalos:
johnchalos Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2011  Professional General Artist
Awesome!
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2011
Thanks!!
Reply
:icondarkdragon247:
DarkDragon247 Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thumbs up! :)
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2011
Thanks!
Reply
:iconjakeekiss:
JakeEkiss Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2011
On the subject of getting comics to new readers, I think it's very much a public image issue and a lot of comic guys don't realize why comics have maintained such poor visibility in America. My day job is restoring vintage comic books so I've gotten to have a pretty unique viewpoint on this and my thoughts go accordingly:

There's a common notion among the lay populace that comics are indeed low literature, only suitable for young children. And despite mainstream penetration of things like Watchmen and Dark Knight, that image persists. Largely this is because, on the whole, for much of the history of American comics this point of view is entirely correct. If you go back to the days of the golden age books you'll see incredibly simplistic writing and very poor meshing of writing and story. It was so bad to the point where most golden age books have writing that literally describes the images already represented on the page. The quality of literature was just not there.

Now of course, the industry started to grow and change, and it began to layer on complexities. Then along came the 50's and Fredric Wertham, a man who in my view is the single greatest hurdle to comics gaining mainstream acceptance. After Wetham wrote Seduction of the Innocent and went on his campaign to paint comics as centers of amorality and danger to children, comics were forced into the corner of either policing themselves, being externally regulated, or dying altogether. Hence we received the comics code. Let me tell you, when you see a couple hundred vintage comics a day from all across the spectrum of comic history, you can see how this move affected the industry in real time. The code as we all know was incredibly restrictive, to the point of being asinine, and if you read it closely, more or less made it impossible to publish a comic outside of the most banal four color hero or cartoon genre. So we had poor writing, then stymied writing, and all the while the general publicity regarding comics painted it strictly as a childrens medium if for no other reason than it was of most danger to that demographic.

What nobody talks about is that by this point comic fans are starting to become comic producers. This is a problem because the fans have for heir entire lives only really seen poor writing done in comics. There are outliers of course, but the bulk of what was produced simply wasn't of a standard that was higher than children's material. Now these fans are writing the books, and though they do bring their own flare and change things up somewhat, they are still pinned by the comics code and ultimately working from a history of bad examples. Most of the outliers in this set, the Americans who pushed the boundaries were fans of the more "subversive" magazine comics. The stories that went to the magazine racksspoecifically to avoid the comics code. these guys were fans of horror and sci-fi comics. And while those people are responsible for much of the growth we got, the industry's growth as a literary medium I don't think really took off until the late seventies and eighties. And of course, what tends to be held most responsible for the more adult (some might say grim and gritty) comics? Why, the British invasion. Guys like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, who came from Europe, a place where adult comics have been much more common for far longer (much like Asia actually). They didn't grow up reading comics from within this very narrow genre set, and brought with them fresh, very adult ideas.

And since then the medium has exploded with a much richer, broader pallet of stories. The problem now is hat we've had near on 50 years of something else, of a comic industry that was held back by public opinion and relegated to a sideline. The biggest problem getting new readers is a public relations one. The general public thinks of Dark Knight and Watchmen as the exceptions, not the rule, and why shouldn't they? There's several decades of history backing up that view. Tackling this stigma, the notion that comics cannot attain a "high art" (or even just general consumer art, like film) status should be primary concern. Honestly it would take a lot of work. the best effort I've seen lately were DC's television ads for the Fables books. They were completely straight faced, just like adds for novels on TV, and they were well placed in appropriate demographic programming (I think it was BBC America during Dr. Who and Being Human). With more efforts liek that I think we can make progress, but I think getting new readers is going to be a battle against our own industry's history.

Sorry, that was a super long, waaaay too professorial rant on the subject. Needless to say I've got some opinions here ;) Thanks for the post, Dan!
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2011
Super long but very interesting. Thanks man.
Reply
:iconjakeekiss:
JakeEkiss Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2011
Yeah, I need to do a tldr version ;) Glad you dig.
Reply
:iconvinhluanluu:
vinhluanluu Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2011  Professional General Artist
He does that... a lot.
Reply
:iconandrew-ross-maclean:
Andrew-Ross-MacLean Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2011
I think the biggest issue with expanding the fan base in comics is an undying stigma. Meaning the general public thinks comics are childish, nerdy, and lacking anything they want to be associated with. UNCOOL. I think the comic medium has evolved into something way more adult than the average person will come to understand, and even if they may be curious they don't want to be seen in a comic shop or on the subway reading a comic. I don't want to be a negative-Nancy but I'm not so sure this is a battle we can really take on. I think the new found comic movie craze is extremely beneficial but if the films aren't made in a way that can gain the level of respect the Dark Knight receives it will only reinforce that generation old stigma. Again, something we can't directly control. On the plus side, the young readers these movies create will be life-long readers that will become the contributes of the next generation of comics.

Just some thoughts that won't benefit.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2011
All good ones too! Thanks for sharing.
Reply
:iconliquidology:
liquidology Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
I think, for what it's worth, there are some fundamental problems with comics, that need to be overcome. First and foremost, I don't think anyone wants to wait 30 days for the 'next' issue of anything... blame our 'instant gratification' culture, or the speed of life [tm] that the internet has created, but fundamentally I think that's part of the problem.

The second is, I don't want to buy comics at a shop. I need an iTunes, and not a separate one for Marvel/DC/Image, but one central one. And one that sells comics CHEAP. I want to buy XMEN 1-100 for $10, and new issues for .75 cents. I think that's more than reasonable... 2.99 for a digital comic is insane, and publishers are literally cutting their own throats. All you have to do is look at iTunes, and Steam to find examples of distribution that WORK.

But hey, what do I know, right? ^ -^
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2011
Interesting. I don't think waiting thirty days is the problem - I think it's a problem when the fans get excited for a book to come out on time and it comes out two or three months later [ like some books you may have been familiar with ].
Each week comic books ship and I don't know too many fans that only read one comic book a month. It's like watching only one tv show...
You want to buy XMEN 1-100 for $10...? Um, I'm sure everyone would like that. But it doesn't make sense. You can't get 100 songs for $10 why would it make sense to get 100 comic books for that amount?

I think a fair price is $1 downloads. It's affordable. I do think companies would benefit by creating collectible Flash drives that contain the equivalent to a trade paper back. There's an aspect of collectibility that is inherently a part of comic books and that's what is missing from the digital part of it.
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:iconleighwalls-artist:
LeighWalls-Artist Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011
Absolutely brilliant follow-up, Dan.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011
Cool!
Reply
:icontasteyfrog:
Tasteyfrog Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
I know alot of people have all ready said this but thanks for sharing this (and that video the other day) it's made a very interesting read.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
I'm glad! Thanks for reading it!
Reply
:iconvintonheuck:
VintonHeuck Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
That was very enlightening, Dan. Thanks!
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
;)
Reply
:iconstephenschaffer:
StephenSchaffer Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
Really enjoyed reading this, and I'm glad Image does all that for their creators. That's very decent of them!
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
With 100% ownership rights it's a great deal. No other one out there like it.
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:iconstephenschaffer:
StephenSchaffer Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
Oh I know, I've done some research about them versus other companies... But what you discovered is truly great to hear :)
Reply
:icondreno360:
dreno360 Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Very helpful!!! Your journals are always filled with great information!
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:iconsikartist:
sikartist Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks a ton for this. Very insightful.
Reply
:icondrawmonkey:
DrawMonkey Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Filmographer
How interesting. I showed your previous link to my friends and it brought in some good conversations.

Thanks to both of you for sharing.
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
You're welcome. The more people discuss this stuff the better it is for the industry.
Reply
:icondrawmonkey:
DrawMonkey Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Filmographer
No kidding. Especially an industry that has such a great history ( short maybe, but awesome ). It'd be a damn shame to see it go in the way of electronic literature. Although you can do magical things with say an iPad comic, or Flash comic with interactivity and movement, there's something in the texture of a book in your hands.

With that said, I don't see it happening anytime soon ( and I could be absolutely wrong on that point too ) ( ... wait, thinking back to your whole discussion, how IS the actual industry doing? Is it collapsing under the wait of electronics? Do comic artist like or fear the change? Obviously artists able to embrace both sides will come out a winner but does the traditionalist loose out big time or just... umm... little time? )

... longest parantheses ever?

Cheers.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011
I look forward to whatever comes up next for comics. Thanks man!
Reply
:iconryanottley:
RyanOttley Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Artist
Very cool. Glad he could clear things up.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
Me too. Thanks for your comments earlier too.
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:iconwestwolf270:
westwolf270 Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
nice info
Reply
:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
For a while, the reputation of Image has been so-so. Many people I've spoken to have said that if you go through Image, don't expect them to go above and beyond with helping you out. My impression was that while you might have a publishing deal, you might be on your own when it comes to publicity and many of the other things you might need.

But it sounds like it's turning around. It says a lot about Stephenson's committment that he'd come online to sort it out.
Reply
:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
Eric jumped in there and I think that's pretty cool. Also, with 100% ownership rights it's a great deal. No other one out there like it.
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:iconnickmockoviak:
NickMockoviak Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Great work Dan. It really has been an interesting discussion; now hopefully we get some say from one of the Big Two.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
I don't think there's much to say on their end. They do a great job with their characters and they're really not in the business of supporting the creator owned market. It would be nice, however, if Disney or Warner Bros would use some of their built in star power to bring comics to the mainstream cultural level.
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:iconangilram:
Angilram Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
That was a great insight into Image and how it's functioning. Amazing work for such a small staff.
Thanks for sharing!
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
You're very welcome and thanks for your comments on the previous journal. Also very helpful!
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:iconangilram:
Angilram Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Actually, I'm very interested in knowing how Image works. I always assumed they functionned like Marvel or DC, except for the series created by the big guns, but it seems very different and I'd rather know than assume! :)
More journals like that! Knowledge is valuable for everybody.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
Cool! Yeah, each creator owns 100% of their creations and after they reach a certain number of sales required by Image - all the profits are there's to keep. In some instances, like Top Cow or Todd's branch, he hires art teams and pays them similar to Marvel. Royalties as well.
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:iconangilram:
Angilram Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Sounds amazingly good, actually. Depending of course on the basic number of sales, of course, but still on principle sounds good.
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:iconurban-barbarian:
urban-barbarian Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2011
If you have a knack for promotion - you can't beat what they offer!
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