Over the past couple of weeks a number of rumors have surfaced stating that Beckett Comics is going out of business. The truth is while there will be some changes for the company, rumors of their death are premature. Beginning this September, Beckett will be moving their titles under the Image Comics banner. CBR News spoke with Beckett Comics President Jeff Amano to learn what's going on and what this means for their existing title.
According to Amano, the move to Image came following the sale of two of the three divisions that made up Beckett, Inc. back in January. Namely Beckett Publications (the sports and anime collectibles magazines) and beckett.com (the online collectible marketplace and price guide). The remaining company, Beckett Entertainment, is made up CEO Jim Beckett, Amano and editor Gabriel Benson.
"The three divisions shared a centralized support staff for sales, marketing, post-production, printing, inventory and shipping," Amano told CBR News Wednesday afternoon. "Therefore, it was either rebuild a smaller version of that support area or focus on content. Image Central makes a lot of sense, - we don't have to reinvent the wheel and we can spend our energies on our passion. We save time and money while gaining a strategic partner with the experience, expertise, and established brand of Image Comics. Selfishly, this will alleviate a lot of responsibilities from both Gabe's and my duties so that we can turn up the afterburners on more content."
Since the sale in January, Beckett Comics has been in a transition phase where they've been using the same support staff temporarily. With the move to Image, Beckett will segue seamlessly into their next publishing cycle.
The partnership is official as of today, with their first Image title coming this September in the form of the original graphic novel "Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai," which was recently previewed in a Free Comic Book Day publication. That's followed by TPB collections for "Ganglords of Chinatown" in October, "Fade From Grace" in November and "Kiss & Tell" in December. Where previously Beckett played the role of publisher, these titles will now be classified as Image titles with Beckett acting more like a creative studio.
"All of our titles for the rest of the year are trade paperback collections with the exception of the 'Ronin Hood' OGN," explained Amano. "We have complete creative control over these titles. Of course, I would love for Image Comics to publish our new titles in 2006, but they have no obligation to publish them. Since we're non-genre specific and not single-property oriented, it would be difficult for Image to make such a blind commitment at this stage. Let's hope they sell well, people are pleased with the content, marketing and distribution - and all will be well and take care of itself."
One title we haven't mentioned yet is the ongoing "Ballad of Sleeping Beauty." Where does that title stand? "'The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty' TPB was printed early for promotional reasons - before I even thought of the Image Central possibility - otherwise BoSB would sport an 'i' on it's packaging as well," explained Amano.
CBR News also spoke with Image Comics Executive Director Eric Stephenson who said the agreement they have with Beckett is similar to agreements they have with other studios, such as Desperado Publishing who also publish through Image. "I think the relationship is the same as we have with any creator going through Image: They package the books, we publish them," Stephenson told CBR News Wednesday evening. "Some of these titles are collections of series previously published by Beckett. We're going to be doing 'Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown,' for example. Fantastic miniseries with amazing artwork by Mike Hawthorne and Rick Remender and a story by Ivan Brandon and covers by David Mack."
As for how the deal came together, Stephenson says it was all pretty simple. "Jeff approached us about partnering up and based on the quality of the books he'd been doing over at Beckett, we decided it made sense. If you were out on Free Comic Book Day and you picked up the 'Ronin Hood' book, that should give you some idea of the type of material these guys have been putting together. We're fans of this material, and we're proud to be associated with it on a publishing level."
As for their immediate publishing plans, Image and Beckett will be focusing on collections and original graphic novels to start with. "That's not to say singles won't be coming out of this partnership at some point, but for now, the priority is do some excellent graphic novels," explained Stephenson.
Amano's the writer behind "Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai" and is joined by artist Craig Rousseau and colorist Giulia Brusco. Before we let him go, we asked Amano to tell us a bit about the book.
"'Ronin Hood' borrows very loosely from the Robin Hood legend. It starts off as if it is just a samurai-version of the popular tale, but then you start to figure out that the story is taking a very different direction. That's because it's wedded to the historic event of the 47 ronin in Japanese culture. As an American-born Japanese youth in Hawaii, like many other kids in my culture - we were told this story hundreds of times as the exemplary true-life tale of what it means to be samurai. Hopefully, the reader will receive and embrace the same sense of honor that I loved as a boy and still love today."