Jim Valentino wants you to know there's a lot more to his Image Comics imprint Shadowline than meets the eye. The producer of one of Image's biggest hits in a while, "Morning Glories" by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma, also happens to produce a whole line-up of comics featuring everything from post apocalyptic mech monsters to dead guys falling in love. In other words, there's a lot of diversity at Shadowline and that's just how Valentino likes it.
His current line-up includes A.J. Lieberman's "Harvest," a comic about a former doctor pulling illegally transplanted organs out of his patients as well as three books written by Kurtis J. Wiebe: the Peter Pan-meets-WWII adventures series "Peter Panzerfaust," the tale of undead love, "Grim Leaper," and "Debris," which finds its hero trying to keep her people alive in the face of mechanical monsters ruling the world. CBR News talked with Valentino to get the lowdown on creators like Wiebe and fellow Shadowline usual suspect Riley Rossmo, what he has planned for the future and his personal expectations for submissions.
CBR News: When you're looking at potential projects, do you prefer to see finished pages or something in just the script phase?
Jim Valentino: I want to see five finished pages, beginning with page one, fully inked, lettered and colored, if it's a color book. I want to see a cover with a logo treatment (the book's logo, not the image "i") and I want to see a very brief one paragraph STORY (not plot, story) synopsis.
All of these things inform me whether or not a creator is ready for prime time. The reason I want to see the first five pages is that's where a reader is going to start. They're not going to start on page 13 where the most exciting part of the story takes place. The first rule of journalism also applies to creative writing: "don't bury your lead," reel them in with a powerful opening.
Last time we talked you said you prefer when people e-mail you proposals. Do you get many of them out of the blue? How many of those would you say actually make it to print or onto the website?
Very few get accepted -- I can't really give you an accurate percentage. That's how few there are. I devote an entire day, usually at the end of every month, to submissions. I read and evaluate them all and I respond to everyone who sends one in. I try to be encouraging, because if a piece isn't right for my line, doesn't mean it's no good.
You've done several books with Kurtis Wiebe including "Green Wake" and "Debris." What is it about his projects that keeps that relationship going?
Well, first, I think Kurtis is an absolutely brilliant writer with great ideas. That's first and foremost -- he's got the goods. Second, Kurtis is easy to work with. I like him personally and we get along very well. Again, I can't stress how important that is. Creative people have to have an ego, otherwise they wouldn't have the hutzpah to get their work out there -- what trips them up is arrogance and self-importance. Kurtis has none of that -- he has a commitment to the craft and that will always get me on anyone's side.
Speaking of Wiebe, "Peter Panzerfaust" continues to roll on. What can readers expect from that series as it continues?
Oh, no, no, no, no -- I'm not telling. I will give you a little tease, though and attach the cover to Issue #9 to this interview. I think it says it all! This is one of my favorite series -- [artist] Tyler Jenkins grows with every issue -- it's just a damn fine book that everyone should be reading. Wiebe's "Debris" is a wildly different book content wise from "Panzerfaust." Do the variety of his ideas surprise you?
Yes, and the quality. I have pretty diverse tastes and I tend to like the path less taken, as a general rule, and Kurtis continues to surprise -- "Debris" is as different from "Peter Panzerfaust" as Peter is different from "Green Wake," which is different from "Grim Leaper" and back on around again. That's the earmark of genuine talent; when a writer or an artist is able to make each project different from the next.
You've also produced several books with Riley Rossmo both as an artist, like on "Debris," and "Rebel Blood" which he co-wrote. Is it a similar situation as with Wiebe?
Again, I just think Riley is brilliant. And I'm amazed at his growth from one project to the next. Look at the art in "Proof" compared to "Cowboy Ninja Viking," "Green Wake" and "Rebel Blood." For "Debris," I asked that he go for a smoother, more assured line and look at how gorgeous it is! Those are some of the best mech-monsters I've ever seen. Also, I wanted a warmer palette and Riley brought in Owen [Gieni], who I think is just killing! I think Riley is vastly underrated and I really hope that changes -- he works his ass off, he keeps his ego in check and he just keeps getting better and better!
There's a solid line-up of books coming out right now, but what do you have in the works for the rest of this year and into 2013?
We have a great new book coming in November called "Comeback" -- this will be a five-issue series written by Ed Brisson ("Murder Book") and illustrated by Michael Walsh ("Murder Book").
We have several great projects coming in 2013 that it's still far too early to talk about, but I can give you a tease or two -- there will by a new series from Jimmie Robinson ("Bomb Queen") called "Five Weapons." I'd say think "Battle Royale" -- but, that's not quite it. Also, we're going to be doing a four volume Deluxe Oversize Definitive Hardcover presentation of Bomb Queen cleverly called the "Bomb Queen Deluxe Editions!"
January will see the debut of a new three-issue series called "Dia De Las Muertos" all I'm willing to say about this one is that every story will be illustrated by the extremely versatile Riley Rossmo and each story will be written by a different writer! More on this later!
There will be new series' by Ted McKeever ("Mondo") and Kurtis Wiebe. A very special OGN by Gabriel Hardman ("Secret Avengers") and we will be re-presenting Colleen Doran's magnum opus, "A Distant Soil" in definitive editions and, at long last, finishing this classic series with all new material! So, 2013 promises a little old a lot of new and a lot of good stuff coming. I'm excited as hell as these are some of my favorite creators and I can't wait t read these books!
You experiment with various formats and presentations like the larger Golden Age-sized "Mondo" from Ted McKeever. Has there been anything along those lines that hasn't worked out?
I would have preferred to see the "Meta4" trade in the "Golden Age" size a la "Cowboy Ninja Viking" and "Mondo" but, other than that, no. I'm a firm believer that format should service the story and the art and I love to mess around with things, so expect odd formats to continue.
There's a lot of attention on the comic industry from Hollywood with the success of the films and shows like "The Walking Dead." Has that changed how you work at Shadowline?
Not at all. I make funny books, not TV shows. Not movies. I'm a comic guy. Now, if someone comes along with an option and option money, that's great! But our first, last and only job is to make sure we have the best comic we're capable of producing. Like they used to say in some commercial, that's job one!
Do you ever worry about launching a book through Shadowline that might wind up looking too similar to another Image book?
No. I don't know that that's ever happened, nor is it likely to. Even if books are similar thematically, the approaches would be as different as the creative teams involved. I don't believe there's ever been a concern because of that. Image and all of the partner studios -- TMP, Top Cow, Skybound and Shadowline, offer such diverse books because we really do promote creativity. That doesn't mean that anything goes, as some people incorrectly assume. That means we're open to new and different ideas. We want to reach beyond the tried and true and are open to experimentation in story, genre and format. I think that makes us stand out from everyone else, including one another.
To get an idea of Shadowline's diversity, check out "Peter Panzerfaust" #6 on 9/19, "Debris" #3 on 9/26 and "Harvest" #3 on 10/3.