Today, Team Red Star, the group behind the popular Image Comic "The Red Star," has announced they will be leaving Image Comics and begin publishing their title independently starting July, 2002, under the new name of Archangel Studios. Team Red Star consists of creator Christian Gossett, writer Bradley Kayl, colorist Snakebite, business manager Johanna Olson, and co-producer Ned Downes.
"Five Eisner nominations in two years, critical and commercial success, and a reputation for innovative excellence describe our collaboration with Image Comics," said "The Red Star" creator Christian Gossett in a release. "We're grateful for all of Image's assistance and wish them all the best, but we feel this move will give us more freedom to accomplish our long term strategic initiatives."
"The Red Star" tells the story of a fictionalized conflict of the former Soviet Union in a world dominated by magic and sorcery. A computer generated comic, the book has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim and mainstream success including an Eisner Award nomination last year for Best New Series and two Eisner nomination this year for Best Publication Design and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art). "The Red Star" is often pointed to by fans as an example of the best Image Comics has to offer alongside books like "Powers" and "Age of Bronze."
The loss of Team Red Star follows other high profile studio defections from Image, including last years announcement that Dreamwave Productions would be leaving the "i" to self-publish. Dreamwave recently released "Transformers Generation One #1" which debuted at number one on the Diamond Comics Distributors sales charts.
Starting this May, "Red Star" related material will be listed under Archangel Studios in Previews. In that issue fans will have the opportunity to order the following items
- A 40 page origin story of the popular 'Makita' character
- Re-launch of "The Red Star" series beginning at the third story arc
- Second collected Red Star trade paperback - Volume 2: Nokgorka
- A limited hardcover version of the second TPB for the holiday season
Archangel Studios was founded in 1999 and in addition to being the new home for "The Red Star" also produces a variety of role-playing game supplements compatible with the d20 gaming system. Their Web site is www.archangel-studios.com. For more on "The Red Star" visit the official Web site at www.theredstar.com.
Wednesday afternoon series creator Christian Gossett responded to further questions from CBR News.
"Image is many things to many people, but to our good fortune and the good fortune of many creators before us, Image is also a place where artists are safe to take incredible risks and learn a lot about what there is to know about publishing comics as an independent pro," Gossett told CBR News when asked why he's decided to move "The Red Star in house. "Simply put, these lessons have been learned, the risks have been taken, we've succeeded together, thankfully, and its time for us to move on.
"It's interesting, but when I think about 'why' I can't help but think about how much our industry has matured and evolved from its earliest days. There was a time when a creator had no choice in such matters, but now we do. A lot of incredibly articulate and talented artists gave hard years of their lives to see these kinds of opportunities become real for future generations of comics artists. Why? Well, I don't know if 'why' is as important as our commitment to not letting their efforts go in vain.
"This is not any kind of exodus. Our goal isn't to create an unnecessary stampede, but to continue to achieve higher levels of excellence in all aspects of 'The Red Star,' including schedule."
The decision to leave Image wasn't an easy one for Gossett and crew who had shared some feelings about the good that Image offers to creators in today's market and how he's following in the original founders foot steps.
"A creator's freedom to pursue their dreams in the way that they want to is why Image was founded in the first place," said Gossett. "People have talked for years about what might have been wrong with the legacy of Image Comics, but let me talk about one of their achievements that I am incredibly thankful for:
"The Image Founders are still practicing what they preach. They all 'moved on' from the publisher that gave them their start. All other issues aside, if no one follows the very bold example that they set by standing on their own, then the industry has failed to learn the valuable lesson Image taught us: Have the Strength of Vision to believe in your own work, and don't let anybody keep you from creating in your own way, however you see fit.
"Secondly, our readers know how much our work means to Team Red Star because we've always tried as much as possible to make them a part of the experience.
"We are known as 'Team Red Star' for a reason, and after our duty to each other, our first loyalty is to those tens of thousands of readers who keep our little epic in existence."
Recently the publishing schedule of "The Red Star" has been more erratic than when it first launched. The lengthy production schedule schedule caught the crew a bit off guard, but Gossett tells CBR news that those delays should be a thing of the past and that there are some exciting plans for the future of the series.
"It's so easy to forget that we created from scratch a completely new production method for comics-- thankfully, we
succeeded. Despite this victory, however, much to our dismay, this new process put us on a brutal learning curve-- but we knew that going in. As the old saying goes: 'Pioneers get all the Arrows'.
"At the end of the day, we really believe in comics as a medium and hoped that our work might show just how versatile a tool computers can be. I'm happy to report that after a whole lotta toil and boil, our process is purring like a kitten. Jim Lee used to talk about how it takes several issues for a creative team finds its high-production stride, and only now do I realize how right he was. It's also great to realize that we'll be able to give our readers a more regular visit to the world of our story."
"What I'm really jazzed about is that not only will the core team be
contributing to this new and improved 'Red Star,' but we're approaching some
of our favorite creators in the industry and inviting them to open up our
world a bit. I won't go into names yet, but in the near future we'll be
releasing some pretty exciting news about some very sought after artists and
writers that will be bringing their unique styles to the 'Red Star' universe.
These guest stories will mean that the next twelve months will be the most
exciting (with the most releases) yet for our readers."
For many creators who start out self-published and end up moving their book to Image the inclusion of the Image "i" on the front cover, plus the marketing push the company lends to their books, often stimulates massive sales growth, but what happens when you remove that name? Are Gossett and company concerned that the lack of Image branding on their book could hurt future sales?
"Honestly? You're damned right we're concerned! Archangel Studios is comprised of my closest, oldest friends and some new ones that have become blood brothers and sisters under some pretty demanding conditions. I love these people more than anything in the world and I want so badly for us to continue to succeed so that we can keep going on this wild adventure we've started. I'll tell you, though, we wouldn't have made this jump if we didn't believe so passionately about each other and 'The Red Star.'"
The switch to publishing under the Archangel Studios name will not affect the way Team Red Star tells stories in their book, nor will there be any format changes, but the future does have some specials thrown in for good measure.
"Issue #10 will be a special 40 page Origin Story of the character Makita (the deadly rebel soldier whose face adorns the cover of issue 6, and who has figured so prominently in the second story arc.) It's titled 'Run Makita Run' (as an homage to German film director Tom Tykwer [who directed 'Run Lola Run']) and its going to be an experiment in speed. How much speed and motion can a comic book achieve? We're going to see what we can do in this regard."
"Image was set-up to be a creator friendly company," Image Publisher Jim Valentino told CBR News Wednesday afternoon when asked for a response. "Our mandate is and has always been one of creator self-determination. We have stated over-and-over for the past decade that if someone is unhappy here for any reason, they are free to leave without predjudice.
"We wish Team Red Star all the best in their self-publishing endeavor and hope they put us on their comp list."