Well that was a heck of a day for Image Expo. The return of the Batgirl of Burnside team with motorcycles, and of the award-winning Azzarello/Risso team with Moonshine were big, but the appearance of Karen Berger brought down Twitter, and I’m sure, the house in Seattle. Berger is a genuine comics legend, and while editing one book is just a smallish thing, just having her back on deck feels right somehow. It’s worth noting that SURGEON X, the book she’s editing, written by Sara Kenney, is funded by a grant from Society Award from Wellcome Trust; perhaps the charitable nature of the project helped lure her to the Image Expo stage.
While we reported all the news as it was happening, here’s the official list of titles, with promo art and links to the various exclusives. You’ll find more previews, more interviews, more more more, in all the links. I must give kudos to the Image staff for bringing on just about every comics-related site of note, even the Beat.
Books I’m looking forward to? All the above, plus Winnebago Graveyard — we need more Alison Sampson — and Howard Chaykin’s return to social commentary with THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA, because American Flagg! is just a documentary now, and who better to record it than the original? Also, economics with Jonathan Hickman, ballerinas with Jen van Meter and rock gods with Joe Harris and…well, I’m looking forward to all of these books, really.
Finally, the first Image Expo was rounded chided for being a stage full of white men. With this line-up they’ve mixed things up in front of the page and on it, and it’s much more interesting that way, don’t you think?
AFAR by Leila del Duca & Kit Seaton, Fall 2016
In AFAR, Boetema suddenly develops the ability to astrally project to other worlds, unintentionally possessing the bodies of people light years away. Inotu, her inquisitive brother with a pension for trouble, finds himself on the run after he’s caught eavesdropping on an illegal business deal between small town business tycoons and their cyborg bodyguard. When Boetema accidentally gets someone hurt while in another girl’s body, the siblings are forced to work together to solve the problems they’ve created on their planet and others.
“Afar begins in the middle of a post-industrial desert and ends in a bustling metropolis, with many other worlds and people thrown into the mix,” del Duca told me. “The two siblings must navigate Boetema’s new skills while finding a way to survive on their own.”
Del Duca explained that the world she and Seaton are building combines pre-colonial Central Africa with the dusty tech that Moebius (the pseudonym for artist Jean Giraud) played around with in his designs. It’s a mix of art and imagery that isn’t regularly seen in mainstream comic books.
BLACK CLOUD by Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson, Aditya Bidikar, Tom Muller, edited by Maria Ludwig. Fall 2016
Once upon a time…They built a world where dreams come true… And those dreams went to war. In BLACK CLOUD, we meet Zelda: exiled to Earth, her dreams of revolution are gone, but she still holds the key to the world she left behind. And it’s for sale.
What are the origins of the project?
Latour: I’m drawn to creating things with people I know and like. As uncomfortable as it is for me to admit this in print, Ivan is both of those things. This was a story that just kind of evolved organically between us. It’s a strange take on noir, but it’s also kind of about what working in comics and art has meant to us, done for us, and maybe even done to us.
THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS by Jonathan Hickman & Tomm Coker. Fall 2016
THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS is classic occult indoctrination where the secret schools of magic are actually clandestine banking cartels who control all of society—a hidden world where vampire Russian oligarchs, Black Popes, enchanted American aristocrats, and hitmen from the International Monetary Fund work together to keep ALL OF US in our rightful place.
Each issue contains world-expanding bonus content like maps, corporate organization charts, decoded apocrypha, and stock tips to die for.
IGN: How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Hickman: I’ve been working on it for almost two years now. I was doing some research for another project, and had to some historical reading on economics. I came across something I thought was interesting about how a lot of the first recorded words, you know, things written down — documented — were basically bank notes.
I loved the idea that money, which has no real value beyond exchanging influence, or better put, power, was the soul of all communication. Which, if you look at how people define magic: “as having the power to influence people or things by mysterious forces,” and how language is used as a summoning agent in most stories about magic, then it’s really easy to distill the source down to God Money.
THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA by Howard Chaykin, with Jesus Aburto on coloring, and Ken Bruzenak on lettering. Winter 2016
THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA is set in the aftermath of a dirty bomb that wipes New York City off the map, as what will come to be known as the Second American Civil War shatters the domestic landscape in isolated pustules of violence…and a team of five private contractors is charged with stemming this tide of rage and bringing the bombers to justice.
GLITTERBOMB by Jim Zub & Djibril Morissette-Phan & K. Michael Russell & Marshall Dillon. Summer 2016
Set in Hollywood, GLITTERBOMB is a horror story about failed fame and blood-soaked revenge. “The entertainment industry feeds on our insecurities, desires, and fears,” said Zub. “You can’t toy with those kinds of primal emotions without them biting back.”
Interview, AV Club
“Glitterbomb grew out of the onslaught of entertainment news that permeates my social media feeds day after day mixed with my own fears about fame, self respect, and failure,” says Zub. “It’s a caustic look at what celebrity culture tells us to value and the shallow nature of notoriety.”
HORIZON, by Brandon Thomas, Juan Gedeon & Frank Martin (Skybound). July 13, 2016
In HORIZON, Zhia Malen thought she’d fought her very last war, until she learned her planet was targeted for occupation…by a desperate world called Earth. The people of Earth will be told that her arrival on our planet means invasion. These are lies. This is retaliation, and Horizon explores what happens when our planet finally runs out of second chances. And when we meet an alien race just as committed to survival as we are…
“It’s set on earth in the very near-future,” says Thomas (The Fantastic Four, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury). “Earth is essentially dying and this is something that is not known by the general public. But earth has a countdown, time is running out for humanity, and there is a secret program that’s been put in place to find us another planet to colonize. Our main character in Horizon, Zhia Malen, comes from a planet that has been targeted for occupation by earth. So, she has brought a small strike team to our planet to prevent us from conquering her world. The alien invasion story is a very common one, so it occurred to me how more interesting it could actually be if earth was conquering another planet. What if we were the aggressor and how would that play out?”
THE HUNT by Colin Lorimer, Jim Campbell, and Joana Lafuente (Shadowline Comics). 2016
At her father’s deathbed, Orlaigh Roche came face to face with the age-old myth of The Slaugh; a group of soul-stealing spirits so evil that not even hell would take them. Years later, and with the belief that her father’s soul is still trapped in some form of the netherworld, she goes looking for answers—beginning a journey that leads her down a path to discover what really happens to us after we die.
Interview, 13th Dimension:
Colin: Orla Roche is a teenager who has become somewhat of an outcast due to her past history; she believes in fairies — the dangerous kind. For a long time she couldn’t tell fantasy from reality, but now she knows the difference. The Hunt is coming and its nightmare world of the restless dead will come crashing into hers. An intense story of survival, The Hunt is a supernatural horror tale that will give Irish mythology a distinctly modern twist.
The Hunt is currently planned as a five issue mini-series but I hope it sells well, and people dig it enough that it can continue into an ongoing. I have a lot planned for Orla.
I’m joined on the book by the amazing, Joana Lafuente who will be coloring the book and the esteemed Jim Campbell on letters. It’s wonderful to have two fantastic pros working with me.
ISOLA by Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl. Spring 2017
Game of Thrones meets Princess Mononoke.
ISOLA is set in a mystical land where the queen’s brother enacts a treacherous plot to transform her into a tiger. The captain of the guard, a woman of great skill, brings swift and lethal vengeance, unaware the wicked prince alone has the power to reverse the spell. The two women—one on two legs, one on four—must undertake a perilous journey halfway across the globe to the fabled island of ISOLA, gateway to the underworld, where they hope to find the spirit of the queen’s late brother and return her to human form.
Inteview, The Daily Dot
I thought I’d start by asking how you came to work on this project together. Was it something you conceived of while collaborating on Gotham Academy?
KK: It goes back so much farther than Gotham Academy! Brenden and I have known each other since we were 10 years old. We grew up sharing comics, drawing pictures and making up stories. We actually came very close to publishing a book with Image Comics back in 2000 but life got in the way and it never panned out. In a lot of ways, ISOLA is the culmination of years of collaboration.
BF: Exactly. ISOLA represents pretty much everything we’ve been working toward as friends and colleagues for so many years now. It’s always been our dream to be able to tell our own stories, on our own terms. Now, working with Image, we’re finally able to make that dream a reality.
KILL OR BE KILLED by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser. Summer 2016
KILL OR BE KILLED is the story of a troubled young man who is compelled to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret, as it slowly begins to ruin his life and the lives of his friends and loved ones. Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism, KILL OR BE KILLED is unlike anything Brubaker and Phillips have done together in their long partnership.
Interview, USA Today:
Kill or Be Killed is an examination of a vigilante like, say, the Punisher that also focuses on the ramifications of violence and how it affects the main character’s loved ones, according to Brubaker.
“It’s somebody who has no training, no desire and no burning need to go get revenge on the world, but they’re forced into this position. What happens to you?” the writer explains. “After a few times, you have to start to wonder: If you have to kill someone, why not kill someone where their death might be a huge improvement on society somehow?
LAKE OF FIRE by Nathan Fairbairn & Matt Smith. Summer 2016
In LAKE OF FIRE it is 1220 AD, and the gears of the Albigensian Crusade grind on. When an alien mining craft infested with legions of bloodthirsty predators crash-lands in the remote wilderness of the French Pyrenees, a small band of crusaders and a Cathar heretic are all that stands between God’s Kingdom and Hell on Earth.
MOONSHINE by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso, edited by Will Dennis. Fall 2016
MOONSHINE is set during the Prohibition Era, deep in the backwoods of Appalachia and tells the story of Lou Pirlo, a city-slick “torpedo” sent from New York City to negotiate a deal with the best moonshiner in West Virginia, one Hiram Holt. Lou figures it for milk run—how hard could it be to set-up moonshine shipments from a few ass-backward hillbillies? What Lou doesn’t figure on is that Holt is just as cunning as ruthless as any NYC crime boss and Lou is in way over his pin-striped head. Because not only will Holt do anything to protect his illicit booze operation, he’ll stop at nothing to protect a much darker family secret…a bloody, supernatural secret that must never see the light of day… or better still, the light of the full moon.
CBR News: Brian and Eduardo, this is the first series you’ve done with Image — how did it get here? And what are your hopes for the series?
￼Eduardo Risso: We thought it was time to make the way ourselves. As always, we’ll try to do our best so the hope is to get not only the core “Azzarello/Risso” fan, but also to a reach a broader Image Comics fan.
Brian Azzarello: We could have taken “Moonshine” anywhere; I don’t make the rules. That said, Eric [Stephenson] and I had been talking. The opportunity was there and so was the desire. Eric really made it hard not to say that Image was our home for “Moonshine.”
MOTOR CRUSH by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, & Babs Tarr. December 2016
A stylish, neon-soaked, revved up science-fiction action series.
By day, a Domino Swift competes for fame and fortune in a worldwide motorcycle racing league. By night, she cracks helmets of rival gangs in brutal, illegal bike wars on the city streets to gain possession of a rare and valuable contraband: an engine-boosting “machine narcotic” known as MOTOR CRUSH. But the origins—and ultimate purpose—of this mysterious substance are unknown, and could put her on a collision course with danger…
Interview, Comics Alliance:
“Where this started out was this crazy insane stylized concept of what we could do with a racing comic. We have, together, molded it into an actual story that fits exactly what Babs is great at doing,” said Fletcher.
The book features multiple gangs, each with their own style. Tarr added, “I love drawing badass ladies doing badass things.” This statement should surprise no one who’s seen her work on Batgirl and elsewhere. The team explained that the first discussed the concept while working on that book, and had already wanted it to be their next project.
This time around Tarr is officially a part of the writing team as well as an artist. “We’re all plotting it, I’m storyboarding it, Babs is doing the final art and colors,” explained Stewart. Stewart also said that book would be aimed at an older audience than the teen-friendly Batgirl. Tarr says she’s excited to “take total control of the art” rather than having to pass it on to someone else to finalize.
PRIMA by Jen Van Meter, Rick Burchett, Eric Newsom, edited by Jeanine Schaefer. Fall 2016
PRIMA follows Sophia Forais and Pauline French are the soloist and Managing Director of a dance company that once served as a front for a Resistance cell in France. Engaged for a long run in New York, the dancers have turned their attention and unique skills to aiding a veteran of the Romanian underground now being blackmailed by her American husband. The small operation should prove simple, but Sophia, Paulina and their colleagues will quickly learn that the war has not really ended, and the world is no less ruthless than it was when they were smuggling information and refugees during the Occupation.
Interview: Comics Alliance
Jen Van Meter: A few years back, Rick and I were sitting next to each other at Emerald City ComiCon, giving people their Lady Sabre books that they’d gotten from the Kickstarter — Lady Sabre being the comic that Rick does with Greg [Rucka], my husband. So we had a lot of time sitting at the show where we got to visit, which was very rare for us. We’ve known each other for 15 years, and we don’t actually get to hang out that much, but we were sitting there talking about comics and artistic style and the kinds of stories you can tell in a comic. I do not actually remember what started it, but I asked Rick, “Could you use mid-century illustration style to do sequential art? To do a comic?”
He was working on a commission, and about 15 minutes later, he handed the commission off to someone, and then he starts handing me little pen drawings, going “You mean like this? You mean like this? You mean like this?” It started being like passing notes in class, talking about the kind of story that would be suited to that kind of art, and what I said to him was, “What about something like a heist story?”
I had this idea about a ballerina who’s a thief, and we got really excited about it, and started talking about it. Before too long, we had a big idea, and then it just kept getting bigger. Is that a fair assessment, Rick?
PRINCE OF CATS by Ron Wimberly, with lettering by Jarred Fisher, and featuring design by Jorden Haley. Fall 2016
PRINCE OF CATS was first released from Vertigo to critical acclaim in the summer 2012. It was out of print before the following summer. After three years, it will be returning to print through Image Comics.
PRINCE OF CATS is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead meets The Warriors meets Sword of Doom. PRINCE OF CATS sets Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in an alt-universe, mid-eighties New York where dueling with live blades evolved as a cultural phenomenon alongside New York’s other street cultures; it eschews the story of the titular star-crossed lovers to follow the tragic story of Tybalt, the Prince of Cats.
It’s been almost four years since Prince of Cats was originally printed at Vertigo and three years since it went out of print. Before I get into the why you’re bringing it back into print somewhere else part, what’s the story behind it going out of print to begin with? And did the rights to the book simply revert to you after being out of print for a while?
Wimberly: Honestly, I wish I knew why it went out of print the first time. I found out when I tried to buy some copies from Forbidden Planet. I feel like it hadn’t quite been a year yet. It was out of print but mostly sold out as well. I was frustrated by the amount of people asking me where they could get it or why they couldn’t find it.
It was difficult because I didn’t understand how, given how well it seemed to perform and its critical reception, why it didn’t go back for a second printing. I’m still learning the business, so I can’t call it. I’d rather not imagine or guess as to why it was treated the way it was.
Well, I’ve been on top of getting the rights back since I found out that the book was out of print. I was lucky that Bob Mecoy, the agent I had at the time I sold the book to Vertigo, stayed on top of it. I was going mad waiting to initiate the reversion process.
ROCKSTARS by Joe Harris & Megan Hutchison. Fall 2016
ROCKSTARS follows a pair of young, rock ‘n roll investigators as they uncover a mystery involving a legendary band, dead groupies, human sacrifice and a supernatural undercurrent connecting so many famous—and even more undiscovered—secrets, myths and conspiracies peppering rock music throughout the ages.
When a pattern of unsolved ‘groupie’ murders dating back to the 1970s resumes in present-day Los Angeles, nobody makes the connection except for Jackie Mayer, a young rock nerd who not only knows everything about music history, trivia and its myriad secrets and factoids, but also harbors a mysterious, almost magical ability to ‘see’ what most people miss, and determine and divine what’s going unreported.
Joined by a music writer and aspiring investigative reporter named Dorothy Buell, and his loyal cat, Skydog, they soon uncover a vast mystery involving a legendary band’s exploits, their mercurial guitarist’s occult associations, demonic possession, and sacrifices to the dark gods of rock.
Interview, Right here at The Beat!
Lu: ROCKSTARS focuses on Jackie and Dorothy, a trivia-espousing rock nerd and an aspiring journalist, respectively. When we meet our leads, where are they coming from? As people, what are they searching for out of life? What does rock n’ roll mean to them?
Harris: Jackie’s dad worked “security” for a lot of big acts and artists over the years and, as a result, Jackie was introduced to something of the rock n’ roll lifestyle at a very young age. But his father died under mysterious circumstances while Jackie was still a kid and he’s been looking for answers ever since. His dad taught him how to search for backward messages on famous records and showed him some of the tricks as to where the secrets might lie and Jackie still sorta talks to his old man by way of visions, his dad appearing something of a conscience character watching over his son’s shoulder. He also taught him how to play a roadie card game, a riff on an already weird poker variation called “Blind Man’s Bluff” and this provides a visual for how Jackie sort of discerns things. It’s like rock n’ roll road tarot or something similar you might describe. What Jackie doesn’t know is the truth behind his dad’s demise, the full scope and breadth of the power he’s actually inherited… and just who might be interested in taking it from him.
ROMULUS by Bryan Hill & Nelson Blake II (Top Cow Productions). Fall 2016
Set in the near future, ROMULUS follows the last in a line of near-mystical martial artists wages a revolutionary war against The Order of Romulus, the ancient secret society that trained her—a global organization, hidden in plain sight, that’s controlled the world since the days of Ancient Rome.
Their plan? Cull the population with genocide and rule a New World Order. Her plan? Kill them all or die angry.
Newsarama: Bryan, what can you tell us about Romulus?
Bryan Edward Hill: It’s a violent, philosophical story about the occult forces that may control our world in secret, the various miseries they cause and our ability to resist them — focused through the journey of a young woman, once trained by the Order of Romulus, now dedicated to destroying them.
Influences for Romulus are all over the place: 1980’s era Frank Miller, Jim Starlin, James Cameron to the work￼ of Aleister Crowley, Jim Maars and Dan Brown.
And Killswitch Engage. I’m listening to a lot of Killswitch Engage.
SEVEN TO ETERNITY by Rick Remender & Jerome Opeña, colors by Matt Hollingsworth. Fall 2016
A modern fantasy series following Adam Osidis, a dying knight from a disgraced house, on a mission to rid his world of an insidious God who ensnared him in a Faustian deal.
Gharils Sulm, The God of Whispers is a Machiavellian warlord who holds sway everywhere in the world of Zhal. He’s spread an omnipresent paranoia to every corner of the kingdoms; one of his spies hides in every house, every family, every hall, spreading mistrust and fear.
Adam must choose between joining a hopeless band of magic users in their desperate bid to free their world of the evil God’s burden or give in to the The God of Whispers’ promises of salvation and safety.
Interview, Paste Magazine:
Paste: Seven to Eternity is described as a modern fantasy. How do you define fantasy? What attracted you to the genre as you see it?
Remender: There is no science in this world, simply those who can access the spirits within all energy and those who cannot. So I’m not locked down by the natural laws of our world; we’re creating a strange place with its own set of rules. This allows us to deeply develop the characters and their connection to Zhal. It’s modern simply in that it is a wholly new approach to this type of world, with few of the same tropes one comes to expect from fantasy. No dragons or wizards—new classifications, new power sets, new, new, new. “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”
SURGEON X by Sara Kenney & John Watkiss, James Devlin, & Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Karen Berger. Fall 2016
Set against the backdrop of an antibiotic apocalypse in near future London. Rosa Scott, a brilliant and obsessive surgeon becomes Surgeon X, a vigilante doctor who uses experimental surgery and black market drugs to treat patients. But as Surgeon X, Rosa soon develops a godlike-complex, deciding who will live and who will die. Ultimately, she believes that to survive in this compromised world her own warped moral code is the one she must follow—even if it endangers those closest to her.
“When I first heard this original and compelling concept, I thought it was time to get back into comics again,” said Berger. “I love that it explores the consequences of a world where the bedrock of modern medicine has crumbled, where people must adapt to a dangerous new reality, and where the lead character’s subversive nature makes us question our own sense of ethics and morality. So excited to be working alongside the fabulously multi-talented creator/writer Sara Kenney and the brilliant, masterful artist John Watkiss. Sara’s vision is frighteningly real and beautifully executed.”
The comic is informed by hundreds of conversations with scientists, physicians, historians, economists, ethicists & philosophers to create this deeply disturbing, yet authentic future world.
SURGEON X was funded by a Society Award from Wellcome Trust, an independent global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. They support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.
VS by Ivan Brandon, Esad Ribić, Ive Svorcina, Aditya Bidikar, Tom Muller, edited by Sebastian Girner. Fall 2016
VS follows the rise and fall of Satta Flynn, a wildly popular soldier in a time when War has been privatized and is a form of entertainment.
Armies financed and equipped by super-corporations. War medics that double as Pit Mechanics. Satta’s every move is LIVE on TV. And for the first time, Satta finds out what it’s like to lose.
WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD by Steve Niles & Alison Sampson, colorist Stéphane Paitreau, and letterer Clem Robins. Fall 2017
A horror-adventure story, WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD follows a family with a teenage son and what happens when their road-trip goes wrong and they find themselves stuck in a town full of satanists.
How did you start developing the concept for Winnebago Graveyard? What made this the next comics project you wanted to pursue?
Steve Niles: I began developing the story while I lived in Texas. I’ve always loved the 70’s satanic movies like Devil’s Rain and Race with the Devil and I wanted to do something in that territory. I find it very creepy.
Alison Sampson: Steve [Niles] and I had been chatting about doing something together and he gave me a choice between “monsters in space” and “satanists in Texas”. I was immediately shouting, “Satanists in Texas!” That was quite exciting. I wanted to do a story that was very narrative-driven, that had twists and turns, that was immersed in the people and set in a place I could really drill down into. I wanted to figure out what these people would be like in this place so we could build a whole world.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.