Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson is always quotable and evidently not afraid of being quoted, as he often tweaks other publishers in a blunt way little seen in the industry. In a new interview with CBR’s Albert Ching he talks about Image Comics’ successful 2015 while calling other developments “dull.”:
Stephenson notes that Image had its sixth year of growth and second year in a row over 10% in units market share and 9% in dollars, noting that when he took over as publisher Image was under 4%. Monstress has been one of their biggest sales surprises, with the first issue already in its third reprint. However elsewhere, he notes, 2015 was “just a pretty dull year.”
I don’t think Star Wars was much of a surprise. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and given the kind of talent involved, it would have only been surprising if those books hadn’t done well. The fact that Star Wars is bolstering Marvel to such a great degree is more interesting to me than the actual comics, though, and I think that’s one of the biggest problems with comics as a whole right now. Talking about comics and analyzing the industry has, by and large, become more interesting than a lot of the work being generated. And I know, there are going to be people out there with pitchforks saying that I’m claiming there aren’t any good comics — that is not what I’m saying. There are always good comics. There’s too much great talent in this business for there not to be good comics, but I think the genuinely exciting new work is obscured somewhat by the sheer same-as-it-ever-was of it all. It’s like the bland leading the bland, and there’s just so much out there, it’s hard to sort the good from the bad. I was talking to someone the other day who mentioned browsing new titles on comiXology and just how bland much of it was, the sameness of it all, and this was like the umpteenth person to voice that opinion to me. There’s definitely a kind of malaise that’s set in over the last year or so.
And this is only part one. In other answers, Stephenson reveals that widening their line of YA books is “something we talk about a lot here in the office.” He also dings DC’s recent sales woes.
Dropping 5 percent in units — that’s a sign there’s something wrong, and the grim reality there is that it’s going to take more than a slew of new number ones to make things better. What’s the point of advertising a line’s rebirth, when these superhero universes are reborn every few years? First, it was just a case of killing of characters and resurrecting them, now it’s whole universes, again and again and again, and it’s just leading everyone down a dead end road.
This is only part one of the interview! Look for more fighting words tomorrow!
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.