Jim Valentino has worn many hats in his comics career. Artist. Writer. Publisher. No single position seems to fit him most comfortably; he seems equally suited for all three. But his current place in the comics industry finds him as publisher of Image Comics, a company whose "image" has refocused many times since it's humble beginnings 10 years ago. Now with Valentino at the helm, the company has changed more so, publishing a diverse set of titles while still remaining true to its origins. And that was exactly what Valentino set out to do.
"[My goal] is to create one of the most diversified publishing companies in history," Valentino told CBR News. "You may not like all of our books but I want to have at least one book in the table that you will like. A book for every taste. I want the "i" to stand not for a genre or a style, but, rather for excellence. Quality of craftsmanship in both story and art by people who really care about what they're doing and are willing to put it all on the line to get it out there. No safety nets, no guarantees. Comics from the heart done the way that the creator, and not the corporation, wanted to do it. That's my goal for Image and every day I feel I'm getting a little closer to it."
Publisher of Image Comics comes with many responsibilities and benefits, but what's his favorite?
"This is going to sound really corny, but the best part of my job is giving someone their first break," said Valentino. "I'll give you an example. I recently green lighted a new story for our Image Introduces title. Turns out, the creator got the green light just days before his 21st birthday! That's such a cool thing to have the ability to make someone else's dream come true, the way yours came true. I love that."
On the other hand, Publisher of Image Comics comes with responsibilities that no one would enjoy. What's the worst part of that job?
"Having to tell a creator who has spent months on end pouring their heart and soul into a book that the numbers are just not there to keep the book afloat. It breaks my heart every single time. I don't think I'll ever get used to it."
Fans of Valentino's work like "Shadowhawk" or "A Touch of Silver" may miss his creative side since he's taken over as Publisher of Image. "Shadowhawk" will return in the pages of the 10th anniversary book that reunites the remaining original Image creators with their original creations, but beyond that Valentino doesn't plan to return to the drawing table.
"Right now, I prefer doing what I'm doing to creating. Someday, the bug will bite me again and I'll want to create rather than do this. I see it all as being very inter-connected. It is all very much a creative exercise. One day you want to write, one day paint, the next...run a company?"
In recent months Marvel Comics has snatched up top name talent to revamp their titles and rework their line. DC Comics brought in director Kevin Smith to resurrect a dead character, both literally and figuratively. Does Image feel the same pressure, needing to go out and attract the same sort of high profile talent?
"No, not really," Valentino said. "We don't pay the big bucks the way they do for one thing. An artist truly has to have a commitment to himself and to his work to come here and I admire every single one of them that do. That aside, I don't see the need to compete on any level. They do what they do, I do what I do, the world is a very big place."
What about the perceived rivalry between the top two publishers? How does Image play into this game?
"It's mostly showmanship. Guy works for one, then goes over to the other. It makes for good copy, don't it? Image has no part in any of it. We try to maintain a positive outlook on the industry. To me, that includes our peers. I've gone on record saying what a wonderful job I think Joe's doing up there at Marvel. Anyone who knows me or my work can clearly see I am a died in the wool DC fanatic. All the rest is just silliness."
Much has been said by online columnists in the past year about what needs to be done to help improve the ailing comic industry. For Valentino, it's simple.
"More outlets to purchase what we have," said Valentino. "We have the goods. I believe that this is the greatest time in our history creatively. We have a more diverse product mix from better writers and artists than at any other time in our history. We just have to get it out there where the people can buy it."
Finally, if Jim Valentino could have any artist or writer work for Image, two names come immediately to mind.
"Two friends of mine, partly because I think they're the best, partly because I just think they're great guys and it would give me a good excuse to talk to them more often than I do...Alan Moore and Frank Miller. Guys? Anytime!"
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this article.