I’ve recently had a few conversations about what kind of comics sell at Image and more specifically WHO sells at Image. I think we’ve all heard the narrative of Image -> Marvel -> Image and then you start really making some money at Image after doing some work at Marvel. So I took the Comichron sales estimates for Images titles in June and annotated them with which publisher(s) the creators are considered best known for. If they started out at Image, or only did 1 or 2 things before Image, I labelled them “homegrown.” If they only did a small amount of work for a publisher, particularly on b-list titles, I put “minor” in front of the publisher. If they did other notable work at Image, but didn’t really start there, I list it as “Image.” There may be some minor quibbles here and there, but if you’re reading this on The Beat, you’ll know who the BIG names are already and this will at least provide some context for the rest.
First, the list:
- Walking Dead 168 $2.99 Image 82,970
Robert Kirkman – homegrown/minor Marvel; Charlie Adlard – 2000 AD, minor DC/Wildstorm/Marvel
- Saga 44 $2.99 Image 43,028
Bryan K. Vaughan – Vertigo/Wildstorm/Marvel; Fiona Staples – minor Wildstorm/Vertigo, effectively homegrown
- Reborn 6 $5.99 Image 29,554
Mark Millar – Marvel/Icon/DC; Greg Capullo – Batman/Spawn/X-Force
- Paper Girls 15 $2.99 Image 26,654
Brian K. Vaughan – Vertigo/Wildstorm/Marvel; Cliff Chiang – DC/Vertigo
- Redneck 3 $3.99 Image 22,048
Donny Cates – homegrown, minor Dark Horse, soon-to-be Marvel; Lisandro Estherren – homegrown
- Crosswind 1 $3.99 Image 21,305
Gail Simone – DC/Marvel/Vertigo/Dynamite; Cat Staggs – minor DC
- Spawn 275 $2.99 Image 19,251
Todd McFarlane – Image founder/Marvel; Szymon Kudranski – Marvel/DC
- Shirtless Bear-Fighter 1 $3.99 Image 18,794
Jody LeHeup – Marvel (editor only); homegrown as writer; Sebastian Girner – Marvel (editor only), homegrown as writer; Nil Vendrell – homegrown
- I Hate Fairyland 13 $3.99 Image 17,630
Skottie Young – Marvel
- Outcast 28 $2.99 Image 17,031
Robert Kirkman – homegrown, minor Marvel; Paul Azaceta – Marvel, BOOM!
- Divided States of Hysteria 1 $3.99 Image 16,021
Howard Chaykin – First Comics; DC; Marvel
- Spawn 274 $2.99 Image 15,927
Todd McFarlane – Image founder/Marvel; Szymon Kudranski – Marvel/DC
- Bitch Planet Triple Feature 1 $3.99 Image 15,528
Anthology fronted by original creators Kelly Sue DeConnick – Marvel; Valentine De Landro – Marvel
- God Country 6 $3.99 Image 15,389
Donny Cates – homegrown, minor Dark Horse, soon-to-be Marvel; Geoff Shaw – homegrown, minor Dark Horse
- Old Guard 5 $3.99 Image 15,016
Greg Rucka – DC/Marvel/Oni; Leandro Fernández – Marvel/Wildstorm/Vertigo
- Black Monday Murders 6 $3.99 Image 14,458
Jonathan Hickman – Image homegrown -> Marvel -> back; Tomm Coker – minor Wildstorm/Vertigo/Marvel
- Black Magick 6 $3.99 Image 13,243
Greg Rucka – DC/Marvel/Oni; Nicola Scott – DC
- Kill The Minotaur 1 $3.99 Image 12,117
Chris Pasetto – homegrown; Christian Cantamessa – homegrown; Lukas Ketner (homegrown
- Invincible 137 $2.99 Image 11,856
Robert Kirkman – homegrown/minor Marvel; Ryan Ottley – homegrown
- Winnebago Graveyard 1 $3.99 Image 11,600
Steve Niles – IDW/Image/minor DC; Alison Sampson – homegrown, minor DH
- Rose 3 $3.99 Image 10,789
Meredith Finch – DC/Zenescope; Ig Guara– DC/Marvel
- Injection 13 $3.99 Image 10,723
Warren Ellis – Vertigo/Wildstorm/Marvel; Declan Shalvey – Marvel
- Royal City 4 $3.99 Image 10,544
Jeff Lemire – DC/Vertigo/Top Shelf/Marvel/Valiant
- Youngblood 2 $3.99 Image 10,315
Chad Bowers – minor Marvel; Jim Towe – homegrown
- Extremity 4 $3.99 Image 10,063
Daniel Warren Johnson – minor Dark Horse/minor DC
- Regression 2 $3.99 Image 9,701
Cullen Bunn – Oni/Marvel/DC; Danny Luckert– minor Red 5/possible homegrown candidate
- Manifest Destiny 29 $2.99 Image 9,413
Chris Dingess – homegrown; Matthew Roberts – homegrown
- Plastic 3 $3.99 Image 9,331
Doug Wagner – minor DC/12-Gauge; Daniel Hillyard – 12-Gauge
- Grrl Scouts Magic Socks 2 $3.99 Image 7,966
Jim Mahfood – Oni/Marvel… Mahfood’s always been around and doing his own thing.
- Black Cloud 3 $3.99 Image 7,092
Jason Latour – Image homegrown -> Marvel -> back; Ivan Brandon – DC/Vertigo/homegrown; Greg Hinkle – homegrown
- Green Valley 9 $3.99 Image 6,790
Max Landis – DC/TV/Movies; Giuseppe Camuncoli – Marvel/DC
- Birthright 25 $2.99 Image 6,759
Joshua Williamson – DC/homegrown/Dark Horse/minor Marvel; Andrei Bressan – DC
- Head Lopper 6 $5.99 Image 6,626
Andrew MacLean – Dark Horse/self-published
- Eternal Empire 2 $3.99 Image 6,563
Jonathan Luna – homegrown/minor Marvel; Sarah Vaughn – homegrown/minor DC
- September Mourning 1 0 $4.99 Image 6,359
Emily Lazar – homegrown/musician; Mariah McCourt – IDW (editor)/Vertigo (editor); Sumeyye Kesgin – homegrown
- Spawn 25th Anniversary Foil Encore Ed 1 $4.99 Image 6,343
Todd McFarlane – Image Founder/Marvel
- Copperhead 14 $3.99 Image 5,013
Jay Faerber – DC/Marvel/Image; Drew Moss – IDW/Oni
- Renato Jones Season Two 2 $3.99 Image 4,995
Kaare Andrews – Marvel
- Paklis 2 $5.99 Image 4,882
D.J. Bryant – homegrown; Dustin Weaver – Marvel, Dark Horse
- Cannibal 6 $3.99 Image 4,831
Brian Buccellato – DC; Jennifer Young – homegrown; Matias Bergara – BOOM!, minor DC
And then the rest of the June Image titles didn’t make the top 300, so assume those are below 4,739 for the U.S. Direct Market estimates.
Disclaimers off the bat: Sales are not necessarily an indication of quality. Many Image titles take breaks around when the trade paperbacks come out, so we’re not seeing the full creative roster. (Notably including two Image > Marvel > Image success stories in Rick Remender and Nick Spencer.) Those trade paperbacks are also a major source of income for many, if not most, Image titles and we’re not looking at those here. Just the single issue periodicals.
I’m sure you’ll draw some conclusions from the list. Here are some of mine:
- It’s a writer dominated list. Particularly up top.
- You can see how dominated the list is top through middle by writers with a Marvel pedigree. Particularly alum of A-list Marvel books. If you’re selling over 10K in June at Image, at least one of the creators probably had a good Marvel profile or a very good DC profile.
- There isn’t a huge percentage of homegrown Image creators on that last, particularly at the top. Kirkman is Kirkman and you can’t expect anyone else to match him. Donny Cates just exploded after a small amount of work elsewhere (and Marvel didn’t waste a lot of time scooping him up). You get much further down the list, you’re seeing the homegrown folks as writers who used to be editors or worked in video games or TV/film. If you’re truly starting out at Image, the June numbers say you’re probably not going to hit the top 300 sales slots at Diamond unless you’re paired with someone a bit more established.
- Women with some DC/Marvel experience are doing pretty well. It’s possible Kelly Sue does better with Bitch Planet than she’d be selling on Captain Marvel if she’d stayed over there, judging by the way Marvel’s bottom third has been performing. Gail Simone had a pretty strong launch, too.
- With the notable exception of Kelly Sue, if you weren’t a frontline Marvel title or had a really high profile at DC, you’re probably not going to see the big sales bump. The smaller profile creators with Big 2 experience are mostly falling below the 10K line, which is roughly where you start pulling in the equivalent of base page rates at DC and Marvel. You need to sell a little higher to replace premium rates. Again, that’s not factoring in tpb sales, but cash flow is cash flow.
- Just because there aren’t a lot of big name DC/Marvel artists on this chart doesn’t mean they’re not a draw. Greg Capullo and Cliff Chiang are right at the top. Gee, a top writer/artist pairing selling… how not unusual.
- Image’s gain is very frequently Marvel’s and DC’s loss.
- While the bigger names selling more isn’t exactly a shock, it does raise the question of whether it’s because those bigger names have bigger social follower counts and email lists or are better able to promote their work on their own in other ways? Image has a relatively small staff, especially when you consider the number of books they publish each month across all formats. There aren’t enough hours in the day for everyone to get a big push each month.
So it seems there’s some truth to the Marvel to Image = good sales story that’s floating around, but it depends a bit on what you were doing at Marvel.
But those are the numbers, so let the informed discussion begin.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.