Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Image Expo 2013

I've been giving a lot of thought to last week's Image Expo, an event held in the theatre at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco). Unlike many of the hugely inclusive comics conventions I've become accustomed to, this event was organized solely by Image Comics to share "the state of the company" and give fans a chance to interact with comics creators in a relatively intimate setting.  The day consisted a keynote and creator introductions by Image publisher Eric Stephenson, followed by panels, signings and opportunities to buy sneak peek & variant editions of new books.

Much has been written about this event, and it's not my goal to rehash the while thing here (overview by Deb Aoki). Stephenson spoke a great deal about digital comics, that they made up 15% of the companies total sales and seemed to drive new sales of paper comics (see The Beat). He also explained that they are releasing DRM free comics, so fans can actually own their digital copy and read it on the device/app of their choice (see ARS Technica). Creators attending were Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, J. Michael Strazynski, Kurtis Wiebe, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Jason Aaron & Jason LaTour, who all announced new projects (photos Bleeding Cool | Image Comics). There was an after party, which I missed (but Frazer Brown didn't).

What I want to address in this post is a question asked of me by Stephenson. During Straczynski's Q&A, which was moderated by Stephenson, I got up to ask a question. When I mentioned that I've attended JMS's annual session at San Diego Comic-Con every year, Stephenson asked me "What do you think we can do to make this event better?" I admit that SDCC and the Image event are so completely different that I did not know how to respond in that moment. So, here's my opinion.

Dream Police from JM Straczynski
and Mike Deodato, Jr.
I think it was a good event and Image fans are passionate enough about hearing from the comics creators to support it (there was a full house even though there was a BART strike). YBCA seems like the perfect venue. The theatre itself showcased the presentions well, but it's still an intimate space. Even from the back, you could see everything and not feel too far from the action.  YBCA has enough hallways and lobbys for signings and sales, it was occasionally crowded at peak times, but not overwhelming.

After some discussion with my lovely husband and other friends, we concluded that the event model isn't SDCC, it's Creation Entertainment, the organizer of events featuring the stars of Sci-Fi shows we all know and love. In this model, you pay for different levels of access, including special seating, lunches, receptions, yoga classes, etc.  While the Image Expo obviously has different goals, the fans are clearly hungry for interaction with the writers and artists creating work for Image. Would 5 or 6 people pay a premium to have coffee & a chat with Matt Fraction or Robert Kirkman? I bet they would. The money could be donated to the Hero Initiative, CBLDF or another cause. Anything that encourages fan interaction in a safe way would be a plus (sounds like the after party was a success on this front).

I also wish that there had been more artists among the featured guests (I believe Jason LaTour was the only one). Many of the writers profusely complimented their collaborators, but panels like "Comics & Creativity" could have been much richer if both writers and artists were present to talk about their working relationship. There was no female presence, and I'm not sure if that was the "luck of the draw" due to the slate of upcoming books, or lack of female creators working with Image in general. I was surprised, given the level of artistry involved here, that there wasn't a special promotional poster for the event (this would have been popular for signings).

These suggestions aside, I enjoyed the day, and I support Image's "creator first" model. I wish them continued success! On to San Diego!

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