As we reported this morning , Robert Kirkman has been named as a Partner at image comics, an unprecidented move in the publisher's history. We spoke with Kirkman late this morning to talk about what this means for his work, for Image, and for his work at Marvel.
Newsarama: First off Robert, how did this get started? I have a feeling it wasn't something that you initiated?
Robert Kirkman: This came from my relationship with the current partners and publisher Eric Stephenson. They all seem to like me and they know I've got good ideas for the company and would be a strong addition to their braintrust. This isn't just a matter of "his book sells well, let's make him a partner." I'm hoping to bring much more to the table than that.
NRAMA: What was your gut reaction when you were asked?
RK: I was very flattered. This is the first time in the history of Image Comics that someone new has been brought into the fold.
NRAMA: So what does the position mean? What will your responsibilities be in addition to just creating your books?
RK: I'll be working closely with the other partners to take steps toward strengthening the Image Comics brand. I'll be working with new publisher Eric Stephenson as we hunt down exciting new talent that could use a boost from Image Comics and I'd also like to work with the talent we already have under our roof to do whatever I can to help them grow their readership and strengthen the overall Image Comics line. Don't misunderstand me, this isn't anything more than doing things like talking the Luna Brothers into doing more Ultra or begging Ennis, Palmiotti and Conner to do a sequel to The Pro, or sending Warren Ellis whiskey to entice him and Ben Templsmith to do more issues of Fell. it'll be things like that. Image Comics will always be a place where creaters of a certain caliber can do whatever they want with complete and total freedom.
NRAMA: Why did you accept the offer?
RK: With Invincible and The Walking Dead recently passing the issue 50 mark, and The Astounding Wolf-Man going strong and many, many more ideas for creator-owned series bubbling up in my head--it was starting to become clear that Image Comics is my home. It's where I enjoy working the most; it's where I'm treated the best, and all I've ever wanted out of a publisher. What this offer means to me, is nothing less than the opportunity to do my part to ensure that Image Comics will be here for future generations to come, so they can have the same freedom and opportunity I've been given.
NRAMA: We recently spoke to Eric about his new title and plans for the future...tell us about your commitment/vision for Image.
RK: Image Comics was once the leader in this industry. Image led and the other publishers followed. Image Comics can be that company again. Other companies (who will go nameless) will never be able to compete with Marvel and DC on any level; they rise and fall on the strengths of whatever license they hold this week. And with recent missteps at DC I see our two-party system slowly becoming a one party system and that scares me, quite frankly. This industry thrives on competition... that's what keeps things going, the drive to compete--to do battle if you will... and that's what I'm after.
I'm not out to crush other publishers, I don't want to sell more comics and force them to sell less. I want to make comics exciting again, readers have been lulled to sleep by a pattern. Event, follow-up to event, lead up to next event, new event. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. In the process very few new ideas are being brought to the table... it's just the same pieces getting moved around again and again and again and again. And all we're doing with that is maintaining the status quo. That will eventually get old, readers will tire of it. Let's stir the pot a little, shake things up. We need to raise the level of excitement in this industry. This tennis match of creators going back and forth from Marvel and DC is getting old. Let's change the game, bring in a new dynamic. Then we'll all sell more comics. Market share is irrelevant, lets all just sell more comics. That's what everyone wants.
Image has always been about being an alternative... for readers and creators. I want Image to to be the premier alternative. That’s my main goal.
Image currently publishes some of the best books on the market... and some that are not the best. There are changes to be made that will result in a stronger and healthier Image Comics.
The Image "I" used to make other publishers quake in their boots and it's time to bring that fear back into the world of comics. It's time to wake the sleeping giant. The first step toward this goal will be announced at the Image Comics Panel at Comic-Con, 4pm on Friday... I'd recommend being there if you can make it.
NRAMA: As the Times story pointed out, your exclusive with Marvel is up. Does this new role at Image preclude you from working with Marvel or signing on another exclusive?
RK: I've been doing other creators and the industry as a whole a disservice for the last few years. I worked at Marvel partly to help get my name out there, to gain wider recognition, but mostly because I do like the characters and there are good people at Marvel and I was having fun working there. It's always been assumed that I made my living at Marvel and did my Image books for fun. I've done nothing to dissuade that assumption, but nothing could be further from the truth. Marvel Comics has always been a fraction of my income. Aside from Ultimate X-Men and Marvel Zombies, most of my Marvel books have been outsold by my Image titles. I never worked at Marvel for the money; the money was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I had a Spider-Man itch, I had an X-Men itch, I was there to scratch it... and I did, and I've moved on. My plan is to focus solely on creator-owned work for the foreseeable future. Creator-Owned comics is where it is at. Brian K. Vaughan knows this, Warren Ellis knows this, Garth Ennis knows this and I hope, in the coming years more and more people will realize this and take the plunge.
NRAMA: That said, given that you have a larger stake in Image now, will you be scaling back on all your non-Image work?
RK: I've completed all my scripts for Marvel, Destroyer Max . Cory Walker is done, Killraven with Rob Liefeld is done. Those are slow burn projects that will be shipping well into 2009, but aside from those and a few odds and ends that haven't been announced yet, I'm currently not doing any work for any publisher other than Image and I couldn't be happier.
NRAMA: Will you expanding your Image work?
RK: Absolutely. I've been banking concepts for the last four years while I was under contract at Marvel. You'll be seeing a lot more from me eventually. That said, I'm going to be holding off on debuting anything new until maybe summer of 2009. Aside from Haunt with Todd McFarlane, that, I'm told, will be debuting soon.
NRAMA: Anything else I missed that you'd like to mention?
RK: I'm making myself available for any comic creators wanting to discuss Image Comics at Comic-Con. I've got a pretty full schedule already but if anyone would like to touch base, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try to fit you in.