If today’s “Image Comics and the Genre Fiction Renaissance” panel at Comic-Con can be any guide, there are only two genres in the comic book industry: superheroes and everything else. Image are putting out a lot of ‘everything else’ these days, and genres are crossing like crazy. A panel including Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, Ed Brubaker, Ron Marz and Frank Barbiere gathered to talk genre under the watchful eye of Ron Richards.
Frank Barbiere describes his book “Five Ghosts” as “a literary pulp adventure comic.”
Ron Marz says that he works in a number of different genres. “Witchblade” is a “super-natural/noir/crime procedural,” and that “Dragon Prince” is “epic fantasy.”
“The dragons are a dead giveaway,” he adds, drawing laughs from the crowd in conference room 7AB.
Tim Seeley and Mike Norton can’t even agree which category their Image series, “Revival,” falls into. Seeley says the it’s “rural noir,” while Norton classifies it as horror. Of course, back in the 1950s with EC Comics, there wasn’t always a lot of difference between what went into “Crime SuspenStories” and “Tales from the Crypt” except that the poor saps who met with foul play in their horror comics had a habit of rising from their graves. In the crime comics, they usually stayed dead.
“Fatale” scribe Ed Brubaker, showing up late after being interviewed by MTV, quickly joined in the sub-genre smack down by calling “Fatale” a “crime/noir/alternative comic,” and then labeling his new Image series, “Velvet,” as “a Cold War espionage thing” and “feminist.”
“I’m terrible at pitching things to people,” Brubaker continues. “I even used the word ‘meta-textual’ once, but I finally got the pitch for ‘Velvet’ down, which is ‘If you like ‘Casino Royale’ and you like ‘Barbarella, then you’ll like this.”
While everyone on the panel can’t quite put their finger on which category their work falls into, they all agree that it’s way different from the 800-lb. Gorilla Grodd in the room: the long underwear books–superhero comics.
“As superhero comics become more corporate, more editorially-controlled, we want to do different things,” Marz explains. “When you work for Marvel or DC, you’re playing with their toys.”
“I’m happy DC and Mavel are doing mostly super heroes because it leaves everything open for me,” Brubaker adds.
Image Comics’ director of business development and panel moderator, Ron Richards, says that “the one comic that is severely lagging in comics these days is romance.”
“Why does science-fiction or horror take off while romance lags,” Richards asks, throwing the question to the panel.
“I’d love to do a romance comic,” Brubaker says. “I did an issue of ‘Daredevil’ that was a tribute to a John Romita romance comic from the 50s. One can argue that ‘Fatale’ is romance comic, but everyone who falls in love with her dies.”
“You can’t expect the direct-market comic stores to suddenly be a place where romance comics are going to sell because nobody’s going in there who wants that,” Brubaker continues.
“Five years ago doing a rural crime drama like we’re doing with ‘Revival’ wasn’t a great idea,” Seeley says, noting how quickly things can change in the comics industry. “Somebody’s going to come along and kick the crap out of romance comics.”
“It’s Image,” Brubaker says, “anything is possible.”
Bob Calhoun is the author of “Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor,” available from Obscuria Press on June 18th. You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.