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MegaCon 2017 in Orlando held an ‘Image Comics at 25’ panel Friday afternoon with Greg Rucka, Jason Aaron, Howard Chaykin, Scott Young, Gail Simone, and Cat Staggs. The creators gave their honest opinions about some of the big differences working with Image Comics as opposed to Marvel and DC.

Twenty years ago, the dream if you were a comic creator was to work at “The Big Two.” But Image Comics disrupted the industry back in 1992, and ever since has given creators options, and the good creators leverage. As a creator, you no longer have to work exclusively for Marvel or DC Comics to be succesful in the comic book industry, and you can thank Image Comics for the diversity.

Watch the video below:

Skottie Young: Mine was very simple. I was at Marvel for years and years and I said ‘Hey it’s time for me to go do this.’ And they were like ‘Yeah it seems like that.’ I still do covers at Marvel, I’ve done some novels at Disney with Marvel characters, some children’s novels. But it was just as easy as me saying like I feel like I’ve told all the stories I want to tell here and now I wanna go tell some of my own stories and they were like ‘I’ll be the first to read.’ My relationship with them has been very smooth on that front. So, I can only speak from that.

Howard Chaykin: I aged out of Marvel, they won’t give me a job.(Audience laughs) Laugh all you like, it’s true. I had my last job with them in January of 2012. I was promised work in April and it’s never came around. So I accept the fact I am too old to work at Marvel. I work at DC now and then. I’m writing some stuff for them for the new age and new revival material. Writing and drawing some other stuff. But I consider Image my primary client right now.

I teach a seminar. I taught it at Marvel for many years. I’m teaching it at DC now, and a video games company last week. Which talks directly about the idea of being a professional and putting the hobbyism aside and how to have a career and run your life. And it’s really important for me to realize I represent the remaining linkage between my generation and the one that came before mine. And there are, I have a lot of ‘nieces’ and ‘nephews’ in the context of the comic book business. People who are good friends, who are half my age who will speak well of me at my memorial.

At DC and at Marvel both, in each case where I’ve developed a book it at ended up being at Image, I thought about for first Vertigo and then Marvel. And then stopped myself dead before I did. Because the relationship in editorial is such that there’s baggage at DC Comics and there’s baggage at Marvel Comics that precludes us from doing stuff that offends and appalls. You just can’t do it. Years ago Jennete Kahn kept telling me I should have brought American Flagg! to her in 1982 and I insisted, but she argued with me, but I was right; DC would never have published the book that came out under those terms. They would have always stepped in the way. I experience it now. If I do an Anti-Semitic joke in a DC comic book I know it’s going to get cut. I do it there to get some attention. Just to remind them to pay attention. Both companies represent a corporate landscape that cannot be abridged. And that’s really what the issue is for me.

Cat Staggs: Yeah the biggest difference definitely creative control and freedom to do things that you would never be able to do. You don’t have 70 years of history on something you are working on.

Greg Rucka: But Marvel and DC, they trade on, they trade on characters that are known globally and they trade on the glitter that says ‘Hey you want a little Wonder Woman on ya?’ ‘Hey want a little Batman?’ And people will eat a lot of shit to say ‘I’m writing Batman.’ That’s the truth of it. And what Image has demonstrated, and both Marvel and DC are aware of this, is theirs is a better deal for talent to be found. So each company, in my opinion, is aware of this and is attempting to address this in different ways.

The fact of the matter is (points to audience) you’re wearing a Vertigo shirt and I’ll tell you right now the creator-ownership deal at Vertigo stinks. There’s a reason I’ve never done a book at Vertigo. Because every time they come around and say ‘you want to do something at Vertigo’ I say ‘What’s the deal?’ They say it’s the same deal as it was last time and I say ‘no thank you.’ I would like to own the rights to my thing. Alright?

You can’t blame a corporation, whose job is to make money, to try and to make money every way they can. One of the ways they’re gonna do that is ‘we’re are gonna keep those rights because if it’s a hit we’ll make a movie. And we won’t have to pay the guy who created it.’ That’s putting it really crudely. As far as I’m concerned Marvel and DC, as much as the love lines they put out, they are R&D companies now for film franchises. And since they feel we’re pretty much interchangeable on some level, on a corporate level. One of the things that you get with Image is, you know that Jason Aaron is a HUGE writer at Marvel. He doesn’t have to work at Marvel. And Marvel knows that.

Howard Chaykin: Dig it. The way it is, Marvel and DC have a commitment to convincing you, the enthusiast, that the character is the brand. We are all rent. My life is based on the fact I as talent am the brand. But for the most part, you support the companies, the corporate nation’s beliefs by responding to badly drawn superhero stories as opposed to interestingly written and drawn other material. So shape up. Image is a company of talent as brand. And that’s really what it’s about.

Gail Simone: The other thing too that I like working with Image on, something creator owned as opposed to other companies, is I’m finding that they seem to care about this property as much as we do. In terms of trying to get it put together, get it out. Get people aware, promote it in the right places not just going to the same well over and over and over again. They have people that are a little more creative about that and know how to get the word out on these books that are not like anything else out there. It’s very difficult to compare them to anything, yet, somehow they can get the word out. And I really feel it’s well taken care of with them.

Jason Aaron: I am very happy to straddle the fence between Marvel and Image right now. I’m happy I don’t have to choose. I like doing both. I’m very happy with the stuff I do at Marvel, love what I do at Image. If that changes then I’ll do something different. But right now I don’t want to be made to feel by anyone at either company that I have to choose one or the other. Because again I love working for both of them, but ultimately I don’t work for either one of them. I’m not an employee of Marvel. I’m not an employee of Image. I work for myself. Neither one of those companies…

Greg Rucka: They’re clients.

Jason Aaron: Right. They’re not gonna take care of me in my old age. That’s my job. But as long as everything’s cool I’m happy to work at both of them and I’m really happy with the stuff I’m doing.


What do you think? Do you choose creator over character? Comment below.