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!


  1. I have to disagree with him about all the new indie titles at Comixology. I love looking through the Submit section every week. There’s always 5 or 6 books in that category that I know I have to read.

  2. Easy to poke other companies when your company is built on hundred’s of artists doing spec work to pay your salary with many of them not seeing a cent. Imagine your position if you were paying reasonable rates and you were hiring editors.

    Comparing Image to Marvel and DC is comparing apples to oranges and criticizing them is childish. Just promote and pay your creators on time, take their calls when they need you, and get your head out of your ass. I know your shit doesn’t smell of roses.

  3. Stevenson’s endless shit-talking about Marvel and DC would have more impact if it weren’t for the fact that almost every single successful creative who works for Image – or who has ever worked for them, going right back to the founders – is successful because they built up their reputation and fanbase at Marvel and/or DC first. Just about the only person Image has that they can point to and say ‘their success is all ours’ is Robert Kirkman… *maybe*. And if you want to talk about ‘bland’ and ‘same-as-it-ever-was’, my god, how long have Invincible and The Walking Dead been going? How long has it been since either book had a reason to exist beyond ‘people will still buy this’?

  4. Does Stephenson believe everything that he says? Maybe, maybe not. Clearly he understands that by taking a big jab at the Big 2 he can get people talking and maybe even have someone at the Big 2 reassess on a small scale how they do things. the more vocal he is the more likely it is going to work. It’s sort of like how rappers dis other rappers. It’s mostly for attention and get people talking about them.

    It’s also good marketing for Image who position themselves as being edgy and the major alternative to Marvel and DC, especially in an age where there’s reboot/relaunch/event/variant cover fatigue.

  5. Yeah, come on, Image. Why would you want to publish books that have three digits in their issue numbers? Because they consistently sell? You gotta Rehash/Reboot/Relaunch/Rebirth that shit to bring in some big numbers and instant cash so when no one cares about it six months later, you can do it all over again. I mean, what are trying to do…tell a story?! Idiots.

  6. I don’t agree with everything he’s said, but he really does have a point about certain things. I was reading some of the trade solicitations for Marvel and came across this little byline for the Howard the Duck, Vol. 1: Duck Hunt TPB.

    “Collecting HOWARD THE DUCK (2015B) #1-6 and UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL (2015B) #6.”

    Literally seeing that Marvel needs to add a ‘B’ to clarify WHICH Howard the Duck and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl ongoing series they launched last year makes me think maybe they need to take a step back and rethink how they roll new/relaunched series out. It appears that at least Silk, Spider-Gwen and Uncanny Avengers have also gotten the same treatment. Though it seems only UA is the only one of this group that at least has a different creative team and roster. Otherwise the credits, title and everything is superficially indistinguishable from one another.

    At least when Ed Brubaker had two #1 for Captain America years ago, they were with different artists and about a half a decade apart. Jason Aaron’s Thor has had different titles along the way (God of Thunder -> Thor -> Thors -> Mighty), which at least gives all of those various Thor #1’s some type of distinction from one another.

    For a few years I had been working on a blog focused on spotlighting comics on Marvel’s Unlimited service, though I haven’t updated it in a few years. Seeing this kind of stuff makes me feel like I should get back to working on it, since the relaunches are happening so frequently now, if for no other reason than to make a reading order for everyone else.

    It would just be nice if they left these series alone long enough for them to even attempt to form an audience.

    (Not sure what’s happening on the DC side of things, so I couldn’t even attempt to comment)

  7. Agreed with Paul. There are a lot of Image titles I enjoy, but there are also a lot of Submit indie titles that give them a run for their money — Heathen, Meteora, Exlibrium, Hex11, Past the Last Mountain, Center for Otherworld Science, Blue Hand Mojo, the Rosy Press offerings, etc. — and they cover some genres that Image is pretty light on, like romance.

  8. Suzenne! Yes, Heathen and Hex11 are two of my favorite comics of this past year! Heathen in particular is groundbreaking if you ask me. Meteora, Past the Last Mountain were also super amazing! The rest on your list, I will now have to make a bee line towards putting in my collection!

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