It's been a year of changes for Image Comics. It began earlier this year in February when Image co-founder Erik Larsen was brought in as the company's new publisher. While the Image offices were located in Orange, CA, about 30 miles south-east of Los Angeles, Larsen made his home in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay area region, in the northern section of California. At the time there were no immediate plans for either Larsen to move south, nor for Image to move their offices closer to their new publisher.
CBR News has learned that Image Comics will be moving their central offices this November from their 13-year location in Orange, California to Berkeley, California, just outside San Francisco. CBR News caught up with Image Comics Executive Director Eric Stephenson to learn more details about the pending move.
"Honestly, I think the move was inevitable," Stephenson told CBR News Thursday evening. "When Erik first took over, it was with the understanding the whole operation might be moving to the Bay Area at some point, and the truth of the matter is, running things out of two offices just isn't particularly convenient for anyone. There are a lot of things that can be done faster and more efficiently if we're in the same office as the publisher. In addition to that, the end of our lease on this space was coming up, so it's not like we were going to stay here indefinitely."
San Francisco is known for many things, whether it be the cable cars, the majestic views of the bay or the Golden Gate Bridge. The city also lays claim to some of the most expensive real estate in the world, but Stephenson tells us that the post Dot Com Boom days of San Francisco have made doing business in the region far more affordable and that the move will actually save the publisher money.
"Something people tend to forget about the Bay Area is that, in terms of commercial real estate, it never quite recovered from the Dot Com Crash," explained Stephenson. "There are lots of vacancies in the area and that's proved to be in our favor for this move. Having done business in Orange County for the better part of 13 years, I can assure you Image has never saved one dime here."
Larsen, who's spent the last 8 months as publisher working out of his home office, will now join his fellow Image staffers in their new offices in Berkeley.
"What this move is going to do is allow Erik to be more hands-on, which is something we both feel is fairly necessary at this point. The whole office will operate much more efficiently, because there won't be any lag time between, say, sending artwork to Erik for review and then awaiting a response. Erik is only a phone call away right now, but that's really no substitute for being able to walk down the hall and go over things in person."
Stephenson said with regards to the staff that works in the Image offices, it will go mostly unchanged.
"The staffing situation will remain more or less the same, but in any situation like this, some employees are more wary of the move than others," said Stephenson. "Not everyone is gung-ho about picking up and moving three hundred or so miles away, especially if they have families to consider."
The Bay Area boasts an active comics community. A great number of comics creators call the region home including publisher AiT/Planet Lar and just about an hour south, Slave Labor Graphics calls San Jose home. The city also hosts two comics convention, WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo, where earlier this year Larsen discovered the "Flight" anthology, which saw print in July. With Image now a short drive from the city, the publisher sees an increased presence happening at both conventions.
"Well, we won't technically be in San Francisco, but we will be near enough to make our presence known at both shows," said Stephenson. "In the past few years, we've maintained a fairly low profile at WonderCon, but I see that changing in 2005. As for APE, we've attended as spectators the past couple years -- myself in 2003, Erik in 2004 -- and I think we'll probably be increasing our support for that show as well."
Stephenson told CBR News that Berkeley wasn't their first choice for a new location, but it worked out for the best.
"We were considering a space in San Francisco as well, but the owner of this place threw in free Birkenstocks for everyone so, you know, we had to jump on that," joked Stephenson.