On Saturday afternoon, the five Image Comics partners gathered together on stage to discuss the company's past, present and future with attendees that completely filled the panel room. The panel included newest partner Robert Kirkman and original Image Comics founders Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri and Todd McFarlane. CBR News was there to bring readers the latest as these business partners and friends talk everything Image and answer questions from fans.
"Walking Dead!" shouted Kirkman as he was introduced.
"Now that we got that out of the way, you're done," joked Silvestri.
Each of the creators introduced their various titles. Kirkman also joked that he writes "Image United" with the slowest artists on the planet, poking a jab at his fellow partners. Larsen mentioned that he'll be drawing an issue of "Spawn," #199, that McFarlane will ink.
"Erik and I have never actually been able to do that combo," said McFarlane. "He's always been really sensitive about inking himself. [With Image United] if I put one line on Dragon, he notices, even if it's one line on a foot." McFarlane also said a new artist will be taking over duties on the title, one that he found on the social networking feed Twitter.
Silvestri talked about the "Pilot Season" book he's working on with Kirkman. He also talked about the Top Cow Comics crossover, "Artifacts." "We got some really cool other media stuff coming up—some movie stuff," he said. He also talked about the recently announced Witchblade video game.
Valentino joked he does a book called "Walking Hawk" and "Shadow Dead," carrying on the group's jabs at Kirkman's popular series "Walking Dead," now made into a television series set to air on AMC.
"Any of our books coming out of Image heading into a new medium is good for us," said McFarlane on a series note about the jabs toward "Walking Dead." "It keep reiterating the point that all of us had made that there are more than one ways to get stuff to TV and you can control you own destiny." He continued that "The reason I want walking dead to be successful.. is that he will be a glowing example that you can still do it the way that we thought 15 years ago when we started Image Comics. You can come up with characters on your own and control them" and find success with it and could even "find yourself in a position where you're the belle of the ball."
Kirkman said that he is extremely thankful to the other panelists for the company they founded and the opportunity that it gave him. "If you guys would have wussed out and stayed at Marvel or have gone to DC, I wouldn't be here right now," said Kirkman.
"Between the curse words in the early days, that was the message," said Silvestri in regards to Image Comics' founding. "When Robert came up with Walking Dead and the success of that book, it is a testament to guys who want to step out of the box a little bit. We don't have any rules as to what you want to publish as to don't make it suck so bad."
McFarlane said that it's nice to have a big audience and we all want to get there at some point, but going out there and selling your own book and your own title, you can get a lot of more financially that just doing a book for another company with their characters. The Spawn creator used Kirkman as an example. "If money is in the equation and everybody likes that, the money doesn't come from the number of the sales, it comes from the amount you get from those sales." He said that Kirkman makes a great living because he owns his titles.
"Let's open this up to questions before Todd starts giving out my bank account numbers," said Kirkman. McFarlane took to the floor with the mic to get the questions from the audience.
A fan asked Kirkman if he noticed any influence from working on the show and working with the other writers on the show leaking over into his comics. "There's certain terminology that you use in screen writing that you don't use in comics," he said, adding that he started to notice it started to creep over a little. However, he said that after the initial few episodes, the show takes its own course, so he's moved past it because they're completely different things.
A fan asked about the Darkness video game and whether there would be a sequel or a movie based on the comic. He said that there is a movie in development, but he couldn't say anything. In regards to the video game, he started to say something but then stopped. "You know what, I can't say anything," he laughed. He said that it becomes difficult talking about those things because it can get you into trouble. However, under his breath he said, "Unofficially, yes to both."
A fan asked if McFarlane could make another Spawn movie. "Ugh," responded McFarlane about the first film. "I keep getting the same question and every year it seems to be the same. I have four studios waiting for another Spawn movie. The deal is that I write, produce, direct it. The problem is that they're saying, 'Todd, give us the script.'" McFarlane said that it's his own fault he hasn't handed one in because his business and other things coming up occupy his time and distract him—jokingly including law-suits.
"Well, Todd, stop getting sued," laughed Silvestri.
A fan asked for advice in regards to submitting pitches to the company.
Kirkman said that the submission guidelines are on the website, but added "depending on your level of expertise, those rules can be broken" and that "when you're putting together your pitch, make sure you pitch is entertaining."
"Be original," said Larsen. "Come up with something that's not out there. And keep it brief."
"That's the key—keep it brief," agreed Silvestri. "If your concept takes more than two sentences to describe, it's not a good concept. If it takes more than that, it means it's not well thought out and it's too confusing. That would be my best advice."
"If you're doing a genre, do a different twist on it," said Valentino. "Homicide—only they investigate super heroes. That's 'Powers.'" He also recommended sending in pitches as e-mails.
"Three of our hottest books—there's no costume in those," said McFarlane. "People have a tendency to think they have to do another knock off of Batman or Witchblade or Spawn."
"If you're a fan of Spider-Man the first place you're going to go for Spider-Man is Spider-Man," added Larsen. "I don't know if you can count on the Spider-Man readers wandering off and going, 'What else is exactly like Spider-Man?'"
"And Marvel's already doing like five Spider-Man books," joked Silvestri.
A fan asked about what they're doing in regards to reaching out to the female audience. "For us, I don't know about anyone else, Jackie Estacado, the Darkness is packing now," said Silvestri. "We got a bad rap early on that we were catering to male fantasies, but that's not really the case." The creator used Witchblade as an example of a very empowering female character with a large female audience. "These are all stories about wish fulfillment and empowerment anyway" adding that he thinks everyone can relate to that, which includes women.
"You don't see a lot of fat, ugly male super heroes," said Kirkman in response to the attractiveness of female characters. "I never understood, 'Oh. Witchblade. How could a girl read that?'"
"There is a natural tendency for it to be testosterone driven," said McFarlane. He added that a lot of super hero titles then to feature fighting and punching and is geared toward a male audience. However, he said that a book like "Walking Dead" has a more neutral approach to their audience and anyone can get into a book like that.
The last question of the panel went to Kirkman who talked about the differences between the upcoming "Walking Dead" show and the comic series. The writer said that the two differ in many instances, and said he is happy with that because he hopes the show brings viewers to the comics. However, he did confirm that major points, including, "the mayor, the prison story" are included in the show.