[Text of a speech delivered by Image Publisher Eric Stephenson at the 2012 ComicPRO retailer meeting.]
Everyday when I wake up, I’m thankful that I work in comics.
I discovered comics in the backseat of my family car in 1975, when my Dad handed me an issue of the Hulk.
Almost 40 years later, I have that comic book – it was Incredible Hulk #192 – on a spinner rack at home, with about 300 other comics I bought as a young boy. Over the last year, I made kind of a mini-instalation project of finding them all and arranging them on that rack, because it’s fun to look back.
But I like looking forward more.
As an industry, we tend to look back a lot, and I think there’s certainly a place for that, because favorite characters and favorite comics are almost like comfort food. They’re warm and familiar and familiarity is an easy sell.
There’s a fine line between familiar and routine, though, and there’s a saying;
Familiarity breeds contempt.
And there’s another saying, a more positive one, predicated on that one: Change is good.
Why? Because it’s at the root of something even better and more important to all of us;
Creativity is a game changer.
Creativity changes the way we think and how we feel.
It makes us see the world in new and different ways.
But creativity doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Creativity starts with people.
The reckless spirits who can’t stand still, the fearless minds who refuse to play it safe.
At Image Comics, we believe in creative people.
For 20 years, we’ve made a home for them. A place where they can be creative – on their own terms.
Just like your stores reflect your creativity – on your own terms.
Creativity changes the world of comics.
If you need proof – just look at me. Because 20 years ago, Image didn’t exist.
But seven artists had a crazy idea and changed all that.
Erik Larsen. Jim Lee. Rob Liefeld. Todd McFarlane. While Portacio. Marc Silvestri. Jim Valentino.
They created a place where creative ownership is the rule, not the exception.
And as a testament to what they created, way back in the 20th century, books like The Walking Dead, Chew, The Pro, Invincible, Morning Glories, and so many more made us, over the last year, the number two supplier of trade paperbacks and graphic novels in the direct market.
Those books weren’t around 20 years ago.
They weren’t around even 10 years ago.
But that’s how creativity works at Image Comics: There’s something new all the time.
While everyone else is looking backwards, customers hungry for something new and vital are increasingly looking to us.
And this year? This year is our 20th anniversary. And in the first week, we gave you Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. We followed that up with Prophet by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy. And last week was Thief of Thieves by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer and Shawn Martinbrough. And next week is Glory by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell. And coming up we have two new Jonathan Hickman books – Manhattan Projects and Secret. And Bryan Hitch is teaming up with Jonathan Ross for America’s Got Powers. And Mark Millar is getting together with Frank Quitely for Jupiter’s Children. And I think you know about Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
And that’s not all. That’s not all by a long shot.
We’re committed to giving you more. More of the best new creator-owned comics, in every format you can sell, every week and every month.
We do not have the backing of Warner Bros.
We are not owned by Disney.
We are independent, like you.
And like you: We and the men and women who create our comics are all doing our damnedest to maintain that independence and control our own destinies in an increasingly corporate world.
And I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that, more than anything else, takes creativity.
But we are lean and we are wiry and we will keep moving.
Because change is good. And creativity is good.
For all of us.
This year, don’t just support Image Comics.