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Image Comics held a number of panels over the course of WonderCon 2016, but it may have been a panel on Saturday called “Where Creators Own Craft” that brought out the most talent. On hand was Ed Brubaker (The Fade Out), Kurtis Wiebe (Rat Queens), Tess Fowler (Rat Queens), Tom Neely (The Humans), Greg Hinkle (Airboy and The Rattler), and Malachi Ward (Island). After each creator discussed his or her book individually, they answered questions from moderator David Brothers (Image Comics Branding Manager) as well as audience members.
Malachi Ward talked about “Ancestor,” a four-part story that he co-created with Matt Sheean, that runs in the Image compilation anthology series Island. “Ancestor” began in Island #3 and is set in the near-future in which an Internet-type service is hardwired in people. He and Sheean share plotting duties with Ward doing most of the art. Greg Hinkle, who provided art on James Robinson’s Airboy, is the co-creator of the new graphic novel The Rattler with writer Jason McNamara. After losing his fiancée, the main character Stephen Thorn becomes a victim’s rights advocate but starts to become haunted by his lost love.
Tom Neely discussed the series The Humans (co-created with Keenan Marshall Keller), which just had its second volume get released. It covers a motorcycle gang made of intelligent chimps. Neely described the series, set in Bakersfield, CA in the 1970s, as “Sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, monkeys, motorcycles, mayhem.” Kurtis Wiebe, the creator and writer of Rat Queens, discussed the title that is currently up to issue #15. He said that the fantasy series Rat Queens alternates between a funny tone and subject matter that is more serious. The latest arc tends towards the latter, showing how secrets can ruin tight friendships. Fowler discussed becoming the latest artist on the series, one that she already had a deep appreciation for, as “overwhelming, crazy, awesome and fun.”
Ed Brubaker talked about the recently completed 12-part series with Sean Phillips The Fade Out, covering a murder set in 1940s Hollywood. He said that he approached The Fade Out as if it were a novel, both in story, character and structure, as opposed to his other series with Phillips such as Fatale and Criminal, which are more arc-based, ultimately culminated in a larger story. Although a difficult and unusual project, The Fade Out was, according to Brubaker, the best-selling project that he and Phillips had done together.
The panel was an interesting mix of writers (Brubaker and Wiebe) and artists (everyone else) as well as showing the wide variety of styles that Image Comics produces. There was everything from weird sci-fi (“Ancestor”) to female-led adventure-fantasy (Rat Queens) to historical noir mystery (The Fade Out) to biker monkeys (The Humans). That is quite the range of titles, and it’s only a fraction of Image’s titles. The name of the panel – “Where Creators Own Craft” – is clearly a play on Image’s mantra of creator-owned series. The books showcased at the WonderCon panel demonstrate that there is a great deal of craft and talent currently at Image Comics.