by Zachary Clemente
Image Comics’ all-around rad panel host (among other talents) David Brothers hosted the first of many of the “I is for…” panels scheduled this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Following in line with their new branding which spins their lineup with succinct descriptive words that being with “I”. “Innovative”, “Irreverent”, “Interplanetary” have been banded about with this new means of breaking the bonds of genre definitions – but today’s panel (“Infinite” for those keeping score at home) was all about introspection.
A good mix of writers and illustrators joined the panel to talk their work in respect to genre definitions, their experiences at Image, the next stages of their projects, and field a good amount of questions from the audience. Since the publisher has a whole mess of creators working with them, an interesting mix is available. On the panel was Ryan Burton (Dark Engine), Nick Dragotta (East of West), Jason Latour (Southern Bastards), Richard Starkins (Elephantmen), Declan Shalvey (Injection), Tom Neely (The Humans), Stuart Moore (EGOs), and Rick Remender (Deadly Class).
The two most noticeable things about the panel was that it all of the creators on it were white and male. Considering Eric Stephenson’s points of the necessity of diversity in their creators at yesterday’s Image Expo, the panelist lineup does seem to strike an odd chord. Granted, the following Image panels scheduled throughout the rest of the week due feature non-white creators and female creators – so let’s chalk it up to scheduling.
I have to say, often panels like this can hit low points where the people participating weren’t sure where to go from the previous discussion, but give it up for Brothers – this one moved smoothly between talks; allowing all the panelists good time to talk about their own experiences and share their own stories, while the rest were able to interject casually. It felt more like watching a conversation than attending a press event, which is what I look for in a good panel.
Going up and down the table, each creator touched on the influences that shape their books and their relationships with genres such as sci-fi and western and how that informs their books. Burton commented on how he doesn’t feel that Dark Engine could be done elsewhere as he’s allowed to push the concept further – creating an intensely powerful female character in the vein of Conan or Beowulf, going as far as give her a sword made from a T-Rex’s rib.
One interesting topic broached was the age gap for most Image readers. There really isn’t much along the lines of all-ages or kid-friendly currently being published by Image – and Nick Dragotta was happy to discuss the strange interplay he has as an artist recollecting the for-kids DIY educational HowToons book and his raucous and bloody work in East of West. We also found out that East of West is set at about 60 issues, with each 15-issue installment representing approximately a year in the story’s timeline.
Jason Latour, half of the Jason-based team creating Southern Bastards talked about how the book, while not from exact experiences, is ingrained with impressions of spending childhood weekends in rural North Carolina. Otherwise, he jokingly suggested that “it’s about watching dogs poop.” When pressed about his working relationship with Jason Aaron and their southern roots, Latour explained their occasional disagreements with the example of “I’ve tried to convince him that farm animals are off-limits for sexual proclivities,” which received quite a hoot n’ holler from the audience.
Notably, many questions were directed to Remender, which isn’t too surprising considering he now has 4 titles with Image (Black Science, The Low, Deadly Class, and the recently announced Tokyo Ghost). As he had in the back of the trade release of Deadly Class, Remender delved into his past, much unpleasant, that influenced the world and emotional core of the teenage assassins book. When queried about engaging the controversy over a certain scene involving Marvel character Sam Wilson and how fan reaction plays a part in their work, Remender was quick to explain that there wasn’t a true controversy in play and that as the outrage built, he “removed himself and spent 3 days hugging his kids, while eating toast and crying.”
As the rest of the panel attempted to field the question, Latour piped in, saying that “some of the rednecks who would have a problem with Southern Bastards can’t read.” Problem solved.
Overall, it was a well-organized panel that come from a lot more thought about their lineup of talent and book on the part of the publisher that I expect of most, though perhaps a slightly more diverse cast would have played well. I’m looking forward to the rest of the Image panels, featuring different guests to discuss different topics.