Publisher Eric Stephenson kicked off Image Expo 2016 on Wednesday at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle with a bold proclamation: “Nothing is impossible.” Image Comics followed his keynote address with a massive lineup of announcements that proved why the creator-owned company is still the best-suited publisher in the business to follow through on that confident promise.
From books by relative newcomers to new projects by superstar creators, from hillbilly horror to young adult fantasy, the bold slate of twenty new comics and graphic novels delivered something for readers of all ages and persuasions. I was in attendance at the Showbox in Seattle, Washington to catch all the big reveals and exciting teases, read on to find out what Image Comics has in store for fans in 2016 and beyond.
The first creator brought to the stage was Jim Zub (Skullkickers), who announced his new Hollywood horror series, Glitterbomb. Featuring artwork from 21-year-old newcomer Djibril Morissette, Glitterbomb follows an aging actress struggling to find roles who decides to tear the whole system down. Zub said it will be unlike anything he’s written before, and that it is about what happens when people realize they don’t all get to be the star. “We’re going to tear Hollywood down piece by piece,” he said.
Leila Del Duca (Shutter) was next up with Afar, her new young adult fantasy adventure series illustrated by Kit Seaton (The Black Bull of Norway) that stars a girl who can astrally project herself to other planets. The fantasy series takes place in a number of locales, including the main characters home planet, described as resembling pre-colonial Africa, and aquatic and desert planets among many others. “Earth is even in there for a panel,” Del Duca said. Afar is set for a November release.
Writer Ivan Brandon (Drifter) introduced his new series VS, which will have art from Esad Ribic, fresh of his stint on a little book for Marvel called Secret Wars. VS takes place in a future where war is televised and commercialized, bringing the violence up close and personal to the common people. The protagonist is a formerly lauded warrior who has come to realize the public is more interested in watching him fail than win. Brandon described Ribic’s work as a synthesis of his more painterly work from earlier in his career and his more recent linework. VS wil hit stores this fall.
Brandon will also be teaming with writer Jason Latour (Spider-Gwen), artist Greg Hinkle (The Rattler) and colorist Matt Wilson (The Wicked + The Divine) for Black Cloud. “The elevator pitch is Jessica Jones meets Roger Rabbit,” Brandon said. In case that isn’t enough to sell you on it, the series is about a world where imagination is reality, and the protagonist has the idea to overthrow this world, leaving her stranded in New York City. Debuting this fall, the book’s themes deal with what it’s like to work on art and also what it’s like to work in the art world.
Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) will join artist Allison Sampson (Genesis) for their devilishly dark new horror series Winnebago Graveyard. Sampson was on stage to talk about the book, which stars a family whose Winnebago is stolen, leaving them stuck in a town full of Satanists. “There’s human sacrifice, rituals, nudity…” she said. “But careful nudity, because this a comic we want to sell.” She described it as “gross” and extreme horror.
Dropping in July from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, Horizon is a series that asks how many second chances humanity should get. Writer Brandon Thomas (Miranda Mercury) and artist Juan Gedeon (Ghost Racers) were both on stage to talk about the series, which is about a warrior from an alien race who thought they were done with war, until she finds out her world is scheduled for occupation for Earth. She joins a strikeforce headed for Earth in order to make sure we stay put.
Writer/artist Colin Lorimer will be releasing The Hunt through Jim Valentino’s Shadowline imprint this summer, which will be a dark twist on Irish folklore. The story is about when fairies—but not the kind of fairies that you’re probably thinking of—begin killing people and harvesting their souls rather than waiting for people to die to get them. “Hopefully it will scare the crap out of you,” Lorimer said.
LAKE OF FIRE
Superstar colorist Nathan Fairbairn (Multiversity) won’t just be coloring his new book Lake of Fire, he’ll be writing and lettering it too. Newcomer Matt Smith will be penciling and inking Lake of Fire, which is set in 1220 A.D. and follows a group of crusaders who stumble upon a crashed extraterrestrial craft. The genre-bending series will arrive in shops this July.
THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA
Bombastic comics legend Howard Chaykin (Satellite Sam) announced his controversial new title The Divided States of Hysteria. The series will follow CIA operative Frank Villa and his squad of killers as they hunt down the men responsible for bombing New York and setting off violence across the country. For more on this series check out my exclusive interview with Chaykin!
PRINCE OF CATS
Image will be bringing Ron Wimberly’s (Slave Punk) highly sought-after 2012 graphic novel Prince of Cats back to print this fall. Wimberly called the book as a “Shakespeare B-side,” as it is a retelling of the bard’s legendary tragedy, but focusing on Tibalt, and set in a 1980s New York City where swordfighting evolved alongside hip-hop. Wimberly said the book is heavily influenced by old samurai films.
Jen Van Meter (Death-Defying Doctor Mirage) and Rick Burchett (Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether) will be bringing the world of ballet to comics in Prima this fall. The story is set in the 1950s and follows a ballet company who acted as a front for the French Resistance during WWII, and has continued to put their unique skill sets to good use. Van Meter described it as an “adventure-espionage-romance-thriller-comedy” and it stars a pair of sisters, one who is the stage manager and the other who is the lead ballerina, or “prima.” Burchett said his art in the series is heavily influenced by period fashion art.
Joe Harris (Great Pacific) and Megan Hutchison (Will O’ the Wisp) are teaming up for the magical rock n’ roll thriller Rockstars, which follows a rock superfan who becomes privy to the hidden side of rock mythology. Described by Harris as “Almost Famous meets Supernatural,” the series will switch focus each arc to a different period in music, from the British invasion to hair metal. Rockstars will rock readers this fall.
Writer Bryan Edward Hill (Postal) said that when he looks around the world, it looks like the bad guys are winning, and so he decided to give the bad guys a name. Romulus follows a secret order of the same name that has been around since ancient Rome that employs female assassins to do their dirty work. The book stars one of those assassins who decides she’s had enough and turns on her masters. Romulus will release sometime this fall or winter.
One of the biggest surprises of Image Expo was the return of legendary Vertigo editor Karen Berger to comics with her involvement in writer Sara Kenney’s Surgeon X. Kenney is new to comics but comes from a background in science and documentary filmmaking, which she’ll be putting to good use in her new series, which tells the story of a near-future where disease has become resistant to antibiotics, and diseases thought eradicated return with a vengeance. The series centers around a morally questionable surgeon who decides to take matters into her own hands. Jon Watkiss (The Sandman) will be providing art for the series.
KILL OR BE KILLED
Ed Brubaker (The Fade Out) took the stage next to announce “the most different thing” he’s ever done with his longtime collaborator Sean Phillips (Criminal), Kill or be Killed. Brubaker’s take on vigilantes is equal parts Breaking Bad, Death Wish, and seventies Spider-Man and is said to tap into a lot of the “generational anger” Brubaker has been observing. Coming this summer, it follows a man who decides to kill “bad guys” and follows the logical progression of that line of thinking.
THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS
The other half of the Secret Wars creative team has a new Image title as well, with Jonathan Hickman’s (East of West) new economic magic title, The Black Monday Murders. Inspired by the 1987 Wall Street collapse, the series will position different financial institutions as schools of magic, ala Brakebills or Hogwarts. “I have always wanted to do a book about magic,” said Hickman, who finally found the right concept in this story. It will feature art by Tomm Coker (Undying Love) and will be heavily designed by Hickman, who said that it’s as close as he’s gotten to his own ideal presentation for a comic book. On sale this August.
SEVEN TO ETERNITY
Frequent collaborators Rick Remender (Tokyo Ghost) and Jerome Opeña (Avengers: Rage of Ultron) will come together once again for their original fantasy series Seven to Eternity. Heavily influenced by Moebius and the European fantasy tradition, the series is set in a world controlled by a tyrant who rules using only fear, and follows Adam, a knight and member of a disgraced family as he’s forced to choose whether to kill the world’s ruler or ask him for what he wants most. The creative duo promised something unlike anything readers have seen before when the book hits stores this fall.
The Eisner Award winning creative team of 100 Bullets are bringing their newest project, Moonshine, to Image. Written by Brian Azzarello (Dark Knight III) and drawn by Eduardo Risso (Spaceman), Moonshiners is about gangsters, hillbillies and werewolves during the prohibition. The story begins with the main character being sent from New York City to deep Appalachia to retrieve the best moonshine they have to offer and bring it back. Azzarello said that it was fun writing an alcoholic during prohibition, because he has to get it done quickly. The book will arrive this October, just in time for Halloween.
The new sci-fi action series from the Batgirl crew stars a woman named Domino Swift who participates in half-race, half-gladiatorial-combat competitions in order to win an in-demand narcotic called “Crush.” Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl) will write, with Cameron Stewart (Fight Club 2) on storyboards while Babs Tarr (Batgirl) draws and colors what the trio described as a mash-up of The Warriors, Akira and Mario Kart. Motor Crush will ride into stores this December.
Fletcher will also be collaborating with his childhood friend Karl Kerschl (Gotham Academy) on Isola. The story stars Rook, the captain of the royal guard who witnesses the queen’s brother magically transform her into a tiger and immediately kills him for his actions. Unfortunately, his magic is the only that can change her back, leaving the pair with no choice but to journey to the island of the dead to retrieve him. Isola will arrive in spring 2017.
Which of Image’s new books can you not wait to get your hands on? Let us know in the comments!