In the 30 years since its inception, Image Comics has become the publisher to watch out for when it comes to original stories. One of Image’s flagship heroes Spawn has…well, for lack of a better term, spawned his own universe. Titles like Paper Girls and Invincible not only had acclaimed runs but also made the jump from page to television. Clearly, the Image approach is working – but where do these creators draw their inspiration from? That was the question the “Image Comics’ 30 Years In Storytelling” sought to answer.
I attended the panel on Friday, which featured a wide host of Image creators. David Walker (Bitter Root), Daniel Warren Johnson (Do A Powerbomb), Mirka Andolfo (Sweet Paprika) Kyle Strahm (Twig), and Julio Anta (Home) took the stage, with Radiant Black co-creator/writer Kyle Higgins joining shortly afterward. Walker started the panel by telling everyone that characters matter. “The characters are who you’re following – the rest will fall into place,” Anta explained the genesis of Home, which follows a boy who develops superhuman abilities after being separated from his mother – it was born out of his anger toward U.S. immigration policies. Andolfo said that she pulled from her own life while crafting Sweet Paprika, and filtered it through a fantasy story involving demons.
Other influences included movies; Higgins said that his favorite movie was Memento and it shaped the way he writes scripts, while Walker cited George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead as a major factor in shaping Bitter Root. The writers also talked about “wearing” one’s inspiration; in other words, it’s perfectly fine for a writer to wear their influences on their sleeve but they have to add their own flair to it. Johnson said this helped him push Do A Powerbomb past being a comic about wrestling, while Higgins said that Radiant Black is “Power Rangers through the eyes of a millennial.” Walker once again dispatched some sage advice, saying that the most important aspect of any story is emotional truth. And finally, the creators talked about forming bonds in the industry. Walker had a prior connection with Bitter Root artist/co-creator Sanford Greene due to their work on Power Man & Iron Fist for Marvel, while Higgins has built a network of creative and non-creative connections during his writing career.
The floor opened for a short Q&A with the creators, which led to more advice, especially concerning editing. Walker cautioned audience members not to get too attached to their words. Higgins discussed the writing process, saying that while it may take different forms for different writers it’s still a process. When a young fan asked him whether there would be a Radiant Black movie, Higgins said that he’d want it to happen if he could direct it. He also cited the joys of Radiant Black being creator-owned, meaning that he has full control over what happens with potential adaptations.
These creators have been an integral part of why Image Comics is such a major force in the comics industry, and their advice was both insightful as well as honest. If future creators were in the audience, they hopefully took these words to heart and will be looking at how to make their comics the best they can be.
Radiant Black, Bitter Root, Do A Powerbomb, Home, Twig, and Sweet Paprika are available wherever comics are sold.