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All-New, All-Original

Comics, FYI
All-New, All-Original
By Graeme McMillan • Issue #30 • View online
IDW’s next generation has arrived, and Image Comics’ birthday party is missing an important guest.

One of my first takeaways from the announcement that IDW is launching no less than nine new titles this year as part of its new Originals line was that Scott Snyder is one busy man these days. 
The line, which will feature work from the likes of G. Willow Wilson, Cavan Scott, Liana Kangas, and Molly Murakami, launches in July with Dark Spaces: Wildfire, a new mini by Snyder and artist Hayden Sherman which seems to be a heist story starring a bunch of Californian firefighters; this makes IDW the third publisher Snyder will be publishing original work through simultaneously, with Image* and Comixology Originals** being the others. (Technically, you could add Dark Horse to that list; that company is releasing print editions of his Comixology books.) That’s saying nothing of his Substack output, which is less centered around comics per se as much as it is teaching about comics creating and comics theory. Still; Snyder has a lot of irons in the fire right now.
Nonetheless, it only makes sense that he’s present in the IDW Originals line-up, and further, that he’s writing the launch book. It’s a line put together by former Vertigo executive editor Mark Doyle – someone who’s brief time in charge of that imprint is due for some reappraisal, I think; the ill-fated 2018 relaunch of the line was done in by a number of factors outside of his control, but featured some great work, even if a couple of the titles wouldn’t even be published by DC in the end*** – and one of Doyle’s biggest editorial hits was arguably shepherding Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire into existence, way back in 2010. Snyder and Doyle have a history together, so of course they’re working together again.
The Originals line feels like a big swing for IDW, coming at a time when the publisher needs one; announcing no less than nine new creator-owned series**** as part of a new imprint would be a big move from any publisher, but coming from a publisher that last made headlines at the start of the year for losing the Transformers and G.I. JOE comic book licenses, it feels particularly bold, as if the company is making a statement about its future priorities and a renewed dedication to original content in addition to maintaining existing intellectual property.
It’s an interesting line-up of new titles, as well, without an obvious throughline in terms of genre or tone: while Dark Spaces: Wildfire and Crashing appear, from their loglines, relatively grounded in reality, projects like Dead Seas, The Sin Bin, or the marvelously-named Golgotha Motor Mountain feature more fantastical elements such as ghosts, monsters, and cosmic alien horrors hunting “two meth-cooking brothers,” respectively. There are crime books, medical dramas, science-fiction, and what looks like a time travel book about an attempt to unmake the United States of America. This is, in other words, a pretty varied list, and from a line-up of creators that goes from established names to relative newcomers.
It’s also, according to the publisher, only the beginning: the official announcement mentioned a further slate including a series by 12 Years A Slave’s John Ridley – because, I guess, writing Batman and Black Panther wasn’t keeping him busy enough these days – in addition to graphic novels aimed at young adult and middle grade audiences. 
The last line in Thursday’s announcement helps explain one reason why IDW is investing so heavily in new material: “In addition to publishing plans, IDW will be developing these properties for film, television, and other entertainment mediums.” The success of previous IDW adaptations – Netflix’s Locke & Key, Syfy’s Wynnona Earp, the latter of which was arguably far more successful as a TV show than as a comic – shouldn’t be overlooked in considering the health of IDW as an overall entity; if its new publishing slate acts as much as R&D for future transmedia properties as it does a line of comic books, then who’s to begrudge IDW for being upfront about it ahead of time?
Dark Spaces: Wildfire launches in July. I expect we’ll be hearing more from Doyle about the new Originals line in the lead-up to the book’s debut.
* Image publishes Nocterra, his dystopian book with Tony Daniel, as well as Undiscovered Country, the book he co-writes with Charles Soule, with art by Giuseppe Camuncoli.
** Snyder made headlines last year when he signed an eight book deal with Comixology, which includes Clear with Francis Manapul, as well as We Have Demons with Greg Capullo. 
*** Tina Horn’s SFSX ended up at Image, while Mark Russell and Richard Pace’s Second Coming would prove to be an early hit at AHOY Comics. Of the titles that did make it to print briefly as part of Doyle’s relaunched “DC Vertigo,” as the line was rebranded, I really dug both High Level and Goddess Mode; neither made it past six issues. 
**** It wasn’t mentioned in the announcement, but I checked with IDW; all of the titles are definitely creator-owned.
I’m not entirely sure of the timing because I’ve seen two different dates given as the official release day, but this weekend marks the official 30th anniversary of Image Comics, with its first release – Youngblood #1 – hitting store shelves either April 15 or April 16, 1992. If there was an anniversary release in this week’s Image offerings, it was probably the first issue of anthology title Image! But, I have to admit, I’m a little saddened that there wasn’t an anniversary issue of Youngblood put out to mark the occasion, as well.
I know that the rights situation to Youngblood is complicated, to say the least*, but it feels particularly strange for the actual title that launched the publisher all those years ago to be entirely absent from the 30th anniversary celebrations. For that matter, aside from a reprint of Prophet #1 a couple of months back – a title he presumably still owns the rights to – Rob Liefeld has been curiously absent from the Image Comics anniversary, which feels particularly egregious considering the whole thing was basically his idea. 
Perhaps I’m jumping the gun, of course; maybe the 12th and final issue of Image! will be an all-Liefeld special, featuring Rob and assorted creators on new stories of the many characters he’s created for Image over the past three decades – remember when Glory and Prophet were part of an unofficial Liefeld revival under other creators’ hands, a decade or so ago? – but I wouldn’t bet on it.
In a strange way, the lack of both Liefeld and Youngblood underscore the strengths and failures of Image Comics’ central philosophy; the company doesn’t own anything, which means that its history is, to some degree, malleable and whim to the decisions of those who do own the material** – but, in an industry where the creators are traditionally unable to control what happens to the work they create, it’s a rare (and good!) thing for a publisher to claim absolutely no rights over material it’s putting out into the marketplace.
Happy Birthday, then, Image Comics, even if I’m not entirely sure if it’s today or tomorrow. May your next 30 years be as contradictory, surprising, and successful as your first… and if we could get some more information about unionizing efforts over there any time soon, that would be great, too.
What, we’re not supposed to ask for presents when it’s other people celebrating birthdays? Is that a thing now?
* Rob Liefeld apparently hasn’t held the rights to the property since the late 1990s, and his relationship with those who do own the rights collapsed a few years back. You can find out more here, but be warned: you might end up very curious about why no-one has done anything with the property in the last few years, considering.
** Also absent from any 30th anniversary celebrations would be any of the Wildstorm material, which has been owned by DC since 1999. Even more than the absence of WildC.A.T.s or Stormwatch, I can’t help but feel as if Gen13 is a title that should be a core part of any retrospective of Image’s 1990s existence. Remember when it had 13 variant covers for an issue, and that seemed like a big deal? Such happy, halcyon days…
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Graeme McMillan

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