Boston Comic Con had its fair share of impressive guest speakers, from Scott Snyder at the DC panel to Mark Waid at the Marvel panel, but without a doubt the most interesting panel at this year’s convention was the Image Comics panel.
Topics ranged from how artists are paid at Image, where to find an artist if you’re a writer, and a whole slew of topics that brought the audience into fits of laughter. The guests were (from left) Ming Doyle (Mara), Tim Seeley (Revival, Hack/Slash), Mike Norton (Revival, Battle Pug) and Nick Pitarra (Manhattan Projects).
The panel opened with the moderator asking about why they write for Image. Seeley talked about why Image was such a great publisher to work for and talked about how important it is for the creators to own the characters they create. The word “rockstar” came up because in a lot of ways, writing and drawing for Image allows you to break the mold and take chances.
Speaking of the creators of Image, Seeley said, “Those guys came out with the idea of, screw the big companies, we’re going to be our own guys, and it always appealed to me because it was kind of punk rock.” He made an interesting point about how Image originally was about not working for the “Big 2” but they ended up creating books “that are kind of like Marvel and DC but with bigger capes and bigger guns.” Essentially put, Seeley said the origin of Image was in the right place, but it wasn’t yet as diverse and ground breaking as it is today. “When it first came out it wasn’t utilized to its fullest extent, but I think it’s being utilized to its fullest extent now.”
Nick Pitarra describes his own work as “mashed potatoes.”
Doyle added to Image reaching new heights when she described the creation process which “…is entirely self guided. You can do whatever you want, on your own time, and that can be very dangerous for a lot of people. There’s no editor standing above you cracking that whip telling you about the deadline and this is how to do it.”
A person in the audience asked about how the creators get paid. “Image doesn’t pay you until the book comes out,” said Seeley, “and then they might pay you a lot,” Doyle quipped. It turns out it’s all based on sales so artists don’t get a check up front. Seeley explained it takes three months for Image to collect money from the retailers. “Then they send checks for the profits, and each team of creators is responsible for dolling out their own money.”
Ming added, “It’s actually pretty good, because Image covers actual production and shipping cost to get it to the retailers.” The ping pong explanation continues, “Image takes a flat fee of $2,500. That covers your ad, the production…after about 10,000 copies you’re roughly making about a dollar a book,” Seeley said.
Doyle’s popular Mara, written by Brian Wood.
It wasn’t all business though, as the question of favorite books they work on came up. Seeley went with Revival, Doyle went with Mara, Norton went with Battle Pug and Pitarra chose, you guessed it, Manhattan Projects. He did however say the most promising work was the email he received from Marvel asking him if he’d like to work on something for them. “The instant I got that I thought about all the Eisners I was going to win.”
One of the funniest moments of the panel came when Seeley and Norton talked about an idea they kicked around called X-Bros. The concept was about a Ferris Bueller-type character who doesn’t have powers, but also doesn’t need to go to class because the teachers are always off fighting the bad guys. You could tell they’ve both had a ton of fun hashing out the silly plot by the energy with which they expressed the idea. Seeley started rattling off “and he always like, had keggers and like…” Norton quickly added, “they were drinking Doop!” Seeley continued, “and like how, you gotta invite Ice Man to your party to keep your keg cool and all these stupid ideas, but yeah, we went on for two hours for this stupid idea. This will never happen. We should just do this at Image!”
Needless to say, the concept earned a round of applause. One might think sharing a hilarious idea such as this to an audience of over 100 would be dangerous, but Seeley later expressed his thoughts on ideas and how they aren’t worth anything until you do something with them.
Mike Norton’s Battle Pug
The X-Bros idea sprouted after the panelists were asked what hero they’d like to write or draw from the “Big 2.” Pitarra talked about his love of The Tick, which allowed Seeley to tell the audience that was the only comic his father would read with him (that earned an “aww” from the audience). Doyle quipped she’s got a great 50 Shades of Gray Gambit story. Norton then retorted, “I have a Batman and Robin story…50 Shades of Grayson.”
- Pitarra revealed he just tries to draw like Frank Quitely.
- Seeley and Norton work in a studio together and the idea from Revival sprouted from a “farm noir” concept. This brought one of the biggest laughs to the crowd.
- There aren’t really any censors at Image unless, “you do something completely horrible and offensive, then you get in trouble,” Seeley said.
- Seeley likes to pluck artists from deviantART and even follows artists over time to see when they have developed enough to be ready for one of his books.
- Manhattan Projects is created Marvel style between Pitarra and writer Jonathan Hickman.
- Designing a letter column takes Seeley as long to put together as writing a story. Of course, everyone agreed with social media they are all running letter columns everyday.
- Mara was Doyle’s first opportunity to draw a superhero comic and it lead to publishers seeking her out for superhero work.
- Doyle: one benefit of working for Image is that the creator can choose at any moment how the comic will look and even change the page count if need be.
- Norton admitted before he joined Image doing his own work terrified him and he was okay with drawing Spider-Man everyday. That is, until he tried out his own story.
- Doyle told the audience Image still has a submission process for budding comic writers and artists unlike Marvel and DC these days.
- Seeley said if you are a writer who can’t draw and you ask someone to draw you need to give them partial ownership of the title.