Image United, the six-issue "jam session" with six of the artists who founded the publishing company 17 years ago, hits stores November 25th with a story by the newest Image partner, Robert Kirkman.
The six series artists involved in the event – Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino – made comic book history in 1992 when they and Jim Lee left Marvel Comics to start Image Comics. Founded on the idea that creators own their intellectual properties, Image started with launches of series like Youngblood, The Savage Dragon and Spawn.
Now the six founders are doing something in Image United that's pretty revolutionary – each artist will draw the characters he created, meaning sometimes one page might have six artists working on it, sending pages back and forth until they are finished.
Plus, as Newsarama previewed last week, even Jim Lee is getting involved by providing a variant cover for Image United.
When the series was announced in 2008, many fans wondered if the six artists, many of whom now administer their own studios and companies, would be able to find the time to make the project work. But a little over a year later, the first issue of Image United is finished and the series is on its way to completion.
In our next installment Image United Weekly, a series of interviews with the creative team, leading up to the release of the first issue, we turn to Whilce Portacio.
The artist has a unique position among the other artists involved in Image United because he's got a new character appearing in the comic – Fortress.
Newsarama: We've talked before about how this whole project came together. But what was your personal motivation to do this? Why did the project and the opportunity appeal to you in particular?
Whilce Portacio: I for one was starting to finalize my thoughts on a new character that I would like to publish under Image. When the guys approached me with the opportunity to launch the character through a big event, I couldn't say no. The biggest problem with launching a new character is advertising; getting the public to realize there is a new guy in town. So doing it this way was a gift.
Nrama: Looking back, the founding of Image Comics in 1992 has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people. How do you remember that time?
Portacio: We were all young guys back then, full of all the possibilities and believing in our abilities. Being young, we failed at some, but amazingly achieved most of what we hoped to accomplish. It was a time of pure artistic freedom. It was as easy as if we could think it would happen and were blessed that our audience was in full sync with us. Nothing seemed impossible; our only limit was our furtive imaginations.
For me, who ever since I was young having had an attachment to art and computers, was able to merge the two. I was part of the group tasked to figure out how to utilize Photoshop to color comics. My best memories were in the Wildstorm FX pit area and main output office, sometimes until 3:30 a.m. or so, getting a book ready to be sent to the printers. That time the studio ran 24/7 and we basically lived and breathed comics 24/7.
Nrama: With this project, do the words Image United have more than one meaning? What do they mean to you?
Portacio: After all these incident filled years gone by, we're still friends, we're still a group, and we're still doing the thing we love...comics.
Nrama: What can you tell us about this new character you're introducing?
Portacio: Fortress is introduced as the ultimate mysterious new character with almost no understanding of what he is. He fumbles through the event, eventually finding it in his heart that he is part of this new whole and gives his all to protect Image.
Nrama: What's the process been like over the last year of working on Image United?
Portacio: The process, as cumbersome as it seems and is, in its way has become a somewhat magical process. The best art happens when you let your artistic instincts go and let them take you where they will. The best part of that is the magic of not knowing what to expect and seeing it happen in front of your eyes. To see it grow from your best on that page to another's best, to another, and soon you have a magically perfect page in front of you. A page of all these different elements by different people combining to make perfect sense together.
Nrama: Have you guys hit any snafus? How did you overcome them?
Portacio: We've always been a verbal group, especially just amongst ourselves, and with the advent of modern technology, especially the internet. All communication is instantaneous through group mail. Every aspect is touched on and touched on and touched on in real time by the group wherever we all may be. In fact, gathering together all that e-mail back and forth might make an interesting insight into who Image really is. Of course, majority rules, but we've never had to, as of yet, break an impasse in that way. We discuss all ways of thinking about something and eventually agree. Some of the harder decisions have to go to the next day and that sees us coming to a consensus. I, for my part, don't feel the need to always state my views, mainly because someone else almost always has the same views, so I feel no need to repeat a view.
Nrama: Are you feeling good about your ability to get all the issues done in a timely manner?
Portacio: The best part for me is the practice it gives me to really figure out how I want Fortress to look. I've also taken a new approach to Fortress. This is the first book where I quickly pencil layout fortress and then I go directly in with the ink, basically drawing with the ink. It's exhilarating and loads of fun this way. So I attack each page as I get them.
Nrama: Do you think this experience has shaped the way your company will work in the future?
Portacio: I think this has refocused us as a whole to think more about being an interactive universe.
Nrama: If someone else was planning to do a comic the same way, what advice would you have for them?
Portacio: You've got to have fun. You've got to want to do it. It's a lot of work.