Image Expo: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on April 8, 2016.

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Image Comics announced 19 new ongoing series at their most recent Image Expo, held this week in Seattle, Washington before Emerald City Comic Con. The event showcased a lot of excellent comics talent ranging from well-known creative teams like Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart, and Brendan Fletcher of Batgirl to modern superstars like Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips to critically acclaimed craftsmen like Ron Wimberly and Nathan Fairbairn. Audience members were treated to a vast range of new concepts by this star-studded stage including science fiction, fantasy, slice-of-life, and horror stories.

This most recent Image Expo certainly lived up to the standards set by each previous event with plenty of reasons to get excited. As the Emerald City Comic Con begins and time starts to pass though, the focus shifts. The question is not “How excited are readers for these new comics?”, but “How long can this excitement last?”

The last Image Expo was held at the beginning of July 2015, approximately six months after one was held in January of the same year. There were 19 new comics announced at that event as well (along with some reprints and changes to ongoing series). It hasn’t been quite a year, but nine(+) months can feel like a very long time in the world of comics.

We at ComicBook.Com decided to check up on the series announced in July of last year to see how many had been published, when they had been published, and how many issues of each had been released. The results of that survey is directly below, followed by some analysis of the number.

Title: Axcend

Announced Creative Team: Shane Davis, Michelle Delecki, and Morry Hollowell

Initial Publication Date: October 7, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 4

Title: Black Magick

Announced Creative Team: Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

Initial Publication Date: October 28, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 5

Title: Camp Midnight

Announced Creative Team: Steven T. Seagle and Jason Adam Katzenstein

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Codename Baboushka: The Conclave of Death

Announced Creative Team: Antony Johnston, Shari Chankhamma, and Simon Bowland

Initial Publication Date: October 7, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 5

Title: Crosswind

Announced Creative Team: Gail Simone and Cat Staggs

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Cry Havoc

Announced Creative Team: Simon Spurrier, Ryan Kelly, Lee Loughridge, Matt Wilson, and Simon Bowland

Initial Publication Date: January 27, 2016

Number of Issues Published: 3

Title: Expired

Announced Creative Team: Jimmie Robinson and Richard Pace

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Faster Than Light

Announced Creative Team: Brian Haberlin

Initial Publication Date: September 9, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 5

Title: The Goddamned

Announced Creative Team: Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera, and Giulia Brusco

Initial Publication Date: November 11, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 3

Title: Hadrian’s Wall

Announced Creative Team: Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Heartless

Announced Creative Team: Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Huck

Announced Creative Team: Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque

Initial Publication Date: November 18, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 5

Title: The One%

Announced Creative Team: Kaare Kyle Andrews

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Ringside

Announced Creative Team: Joe Keatinge, Nick Barber, Simon Gough, and Ariana Maher

Initial Publication Date: November 25, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 5

Title: Slave Punk

Announced Creative Team: Ron Wimberly

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Snotgirl

Announced Creative Team: Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung, and Mickey Quinn

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Sunset Park

Announced Creative Team: Ron Wimberly

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Throwaways

Announced Creative Team: Caitlyn Kittredge and Steve Sanders

Initial Publication Date: N/A

Number of Issues Published: 0

Title: Virgil

Announced Creative Team: Steve Orlando and JD Faith

Initial Publication Date: September 9, 2015

Number of Issues Published: 1 (Original Graphic Novel)

Of the full roster of new comics series announced on July 2, 2015 only 9 of 19 have been published so far. Looking at the remaining 10 series, only 1 has been solicited (The One%). With solicitations released three months in advance and June covered, this means only 10 will have seen publication after a full calendar year or, approximately, half of those announced.

This list doesn’t take into account any of the reprints, new collections, or changes to ongoing series. Yet even a few of the reissues announced in July have yet to be solicited despite having been originally published more than a decade ago.

Looking at those that have been published, 8 of 9 were published between September and November with the last one being released in January. That means most of those actually released were ready to be solicited for ordering within 2 months of the event. This in turn suggests that they were already being produced when the announcement was made, while those still lacking any official release date may have been in a more questionable position.

Moving back even further to the previous Image Expo in January of 2015, only 15 of the 21 announced series at that event have been released to date. Only 1 of the remaining 6 has been solicited, and two more have been announced for fall of this year. That leaves a high probability that 2 years after announcing the January 2015 roster, at least 3 series (about 15%) will not have been published.

As readers it’s difficult to not respond to this with apathy, if not disappointment. The Image Expo concept has set a standard for excitement based on excellent presentation of creators and concepts. It’s no surprise that DC Comics parroted this format at WonderCon last month to announce the full launch of their DC Rebirth initiative. The problem isn’t the expo itself, but the long delays between hype and execution.

Sustaining interest in a concept without anything substantial to hold or read is almost impossible over the course of 9 or 12 or 24 months. There will always be the chance to release new marketing for a series when it finally is solicited; that undermines the purpose of making an ordeal of its initial announcement though. This also risks the chance that some readers will feel slighted by being made to wait so long after being promised a new series. Delays have negative impacts on comics sales and the gap between the initial hype and eventual release for many of these series certainly feels like a delay.

Some of the current delays being faced by previously announced series were unavoidable. We spoke with Scott Snyder about his and Jeff Lemire’s upcoming series AD: After Death, first announced in January 2015 and planned for release this fall. “We thought it was a short piece, like a novella, and we were enjoying it enough that it expanded to a full length book. Went from about 70 pages to 180 or so.” Snyder says.

Snyder also addresses his relationship with the Image team as delays pushed the planned launch of AD: After Death back. “It’s been very inspiring how unconditionally supportive and enthusiastic Image has been toward the project.” That speaks to the great profile the publisher has cultivated with both fans and creators alike. The reasons behind these delays come from a place of creative engagement, expanding a story and telling it the way Snyder and Lemire think is best. It shows that Image is ultimately interested in delivering the best possible comic books.

That raises the question of whether these comics were at a point of production where they should have been considered ready to announce. There are now set rules as to when a first issue can be solicited, ensuring that there will not be long delays between a #1 and #2. Should there be similar standards applied for inclusion in a launch event like Image Expo? We reached out to Image Comics for their response, but received no comment at this time.

The turnaround for comics like Black Magick and Huck were fast enough that both series were able to be ordered soon after announcement, have maintained good sales numbers based upon similar series, and have collected editions being prepared around the one year anniversary of their announcement. What was the model behind these series announcements and could that set a standard for others?

Nobody wants to see these series fail or watch fans lose interest in great new concepts or creators. Image Comics has led the comics market in many ways for the past five years, pushing for creator ownership and an expansion of audience and genre in the medium. Image is a leader in so many ways and it’s important that interesting new series like those announced this week and those remembered from last year aren’t lost in the shuffle. It’s time to focus on delivering great comics before delivering promises.

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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