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Comic book creators sometimes have a difficult choice in their careers: they can try to go to Marvel or DC and work on properties that they’ve loved for their whole lives, though with a great deal of oversight and sometimes interference. Or they can try to create their own properties, on which they retain ownership rights, hoping that the series become successful. Writer Ed Brubaker has managed to do both, and his creative relationship with Sean Phillips has yielded great work. Image Comics rewarded the pair with an unusual 5-year unrestricted deal, news that was announced at Image Expo last week.
Brubaker and Phillips have a very popular book for Image with Fatale and have also collaborated on Incognito, Sleeper, and the Criminal series (which includes Coward and Lawless) for different publishers. Now they will have freedom to do any series they want for the next five years. Image’s press release quotes Brubaker saying “It’s like have an overall deal with a studio, except that we get to greenlight our own projects.”
The movie studio analogy seems appropriate because the first new project between Brubaker and Phillips under the new deal is set in the old, studio system Hollywood world. The Fade Out will be a crime story set in the 1940s in Hollywood, involving the murder of a movie actress. The series will begin in summer 2014, following the wrap up of Fatale with issue #24.
Even Brubaker’s and Phillips’ previous project may see new light. Both Coward and Sleeper are currently under development as film adaptations. Although Image Comics has been a destination for creator-owned properties since its inception, this is the first time I can remember a creator (or creators) being given the keys to do whatever they want. The team at Image have reason to trust Brubaker and Phillips, since the duo’s projects have been sold well and been praised by fans and critics. Now they know that the team’s work will have the Image imprint on it for at least the next five years.