Image Comics is a publisher passionate about comics, you can see it in their releases every week. To exhibit their passion, as well as highlight some of the exciting comics they have on the horizon, they have put together a new monthly magazine. This 64-page mag, entitled Image+, will feature all kinds of Image Comics goodies from interviews with creators, essays on the industry and even original comics.
It sounds like an awesome idea so I had a chat to Image Comics Branding Manager David Brothers and Sales & Marketing Production Designer Sasha Head to find out more about Image+ magazine and what makes it so unique.
Q: How did the magazine come about? What was the inspiration for it?
David Brothers: On a business level, the more information retailers and readers have when choosing comics, the better, and Image+ is a way to put more information out there, be it through conversation or actual comics pages. But that would just be another catalog if you do it wrong, so we spent a lot of time figuring out what it should feel like.
The design is all Sasha, and I tried to come up with an approach to content that would match how cool it looks. I looked at stuff from all over, including some ancient issues of Marvel Age. I really respect The Comics Journal and how they treated comics as real things worthy of care and attention. But we don’t really have the space to do those long, wonderful interviews they did, so I tried to take their seriousness and combine it with other things I’m impressed by. I like how the Canadian journalist Nardwuar approaches interviews (entertaining, but holistic) and Daniel Isenberg, who has a great “In The Lab” series on NahRight.com with a variety of musicians, has a good eye for subject matter. I like Eliott Wilson’s ability to approach heavy subjects with good humor, and Minya “Miss Info” Oh’s casual, friendly style. Every interview can’t just be “What’s this book about, what happens in it?” so I tried to drill down to an approach that would cover the basics, but also hopefully something the creators would find interesting or challenging, which should result in something the readers find cool.
Sasha Head: I think a lot of entertainment-based editorial can look so super cramped and a bit suffocating when delivering its content. It’s all exciting stuff and the people writing it are excited and there’s a lot to say. But I wanted to create something that invited the reader to keep turning the pages and not feel overwhelmed by columns of text and images mashed together – all while maintaining that excitement. The work we publish deserves savoring so I aimed to apply that to designing the layout.
I personally enjoy stark and simplistic design concepts. I pick up a lot of books and magazines literally because I just love the cover, or I like the table of contents, or whatever. Some publications I picked up in preparation for Image+ were LOOKLATERAL Magazine, +81, anything designed by Fonografiks, and Under the Radar. Under the Radar actually came to me via Eric Stephenson – he tossed a lot of music magazines my way. LOOKLATERAL and Under the Radar both have simple and bold typography that changes color with the subject matter – I love that idea; it’s versatile and it fits with the Image brand conceptually. The names might change, the content changes, the subject matter changes: but we’re all here for the comics. All of it has that unifying aspect. I wanted the design to reflect that just as much as the content and sought out publications that treated its content the same way.
Q: What kind of content will be featured in Image+? How does it differ from that of the content which is featured on the Image Comics website?
David: Right now, we’re including a bunch of interviews, whether about the work or the creators more directly, essays from people in the comics industry, spotlights on comic shops, and lots of comics. We can’t run complete issues, necessarily, but we’ve got PROPHET and KING CITY’s Brandon Graham giving us a little one-page comic for each issue called Comic Lovers, we’re serializing a brand-new THE WALKING DEAD story from Charlie Adlard & Robert Kirkman, and a bunch of previews for upcoming titles.
The main difference between Image+ and imagecomics.com is the angle of attack. We’ve got a podcast, The i Word, on iTunes and elsewhere that provides a close look at what a creator’s career and projects are like, but also digs into what they do outside of comics. We do art galleries and interviews that are primarily craft-focused. With the magazine, we can take a different approach. There’s no word limit online, but we have to be careful about how we use the real estate in the mag. We don’t have a great way to serialize comics online in place, so it’s important to make sure that actual comics pages have a significant presence in Image+.
Sasha: Touching on what David said, it makes a huge difference to read preview pages on actual magazine paper, as opposed to online or in small boxes next to its solicit text. The presence of actual, beautifully printed comic pages is very important to the concept of Image+. Online we have the capacity to show tons of behind-the-scenes processes- we can stretch our legs so to speak. But Image+ – and in any magazine – the content is curated and crafted carefully to create one solid and exciting product. I believe that, at the heart of comics, print is special, and holding those comic pages in your hands after waiting patiently for your next good read is in itself a positive experience. Within that context we can create something truly special with Image+ that is separate from the website.
Q: Is the magazine for the die-hard Image Comics fan or will there be plenty of those who might not be reading Image’s comics or are perhaps new to comics?
David: I think it can be for both. The thing about Image Comics is that a die-hard fan doesn’t really need to know the minutia of the company or read a lot of books to know the whole story. A die-hard fan can be someone who buys four paperbacks a year, and they know all they need to know to be “an Image fan.”
My goal with the content is to split the difference, whether you’ve typed #WicDiv into Twitter or just heard about ISLAND in passing at art school and are curious about it. Talking to interesting people about things they’re passionate about tends to move the needle for most readers, and while I do plan to get deep, it won’t be any different than getting deep in an interview in any other entertainment industry, I hope. It’ll be a mix of craft and real life material, of comics chat and getting to know people, and I think that is specific, but broad enough to interest anyone.
Sasha: Both! Definitely both. You really don’t need to be a long time reader to appreciate what’s on the horizon.
That being said I definitely designed with a broader audience in mind. We didn’t want it to look like any comic book on the stand; it’s a magazine in its own right. A couple people in the office are big zinesters and of course the majority of us are print enthusiasts in general. I aimed from the very beginning to design it as a celebration of print and editorial (as well as the comics we’re publishing!). There’s something there for every reader to appreciate.
Q: Part of the Image+ will be a serialised Walking Dead story telling the origin of Negan. How will this work and how did it come about?
David: I don’t remember exactly. I think Sasha and I were in a meeting with publisher Eric Stephenson, director of sales Corey Murphy, director of PR & marketing Kat Salazar, and our direct market sales rep Jeff Stang and we were spitballing ideas for features. I think we all knew we needed comics in there, an ongoing story to help pull things together, and we were throwing out ideas to see what stuck. Someone mentioned THE WALKING DEAD as a possibility, Eric talked to Kirkman & Adlard about it, and then it actually happened. Every issue, once you’ve made it through all the interviews, previews, and excerpts we could muster, there will be four pages of THE WALKING DEAD: Here’s Negan! waiting for you at the back of the issue, serializing the origin of the foulest mouth in the zombie apocalypse.
Sasha: I was especially interested in having a single story being told throughout all of the issues, whether that was original content to Image+ or a continuation of one of our existing books. We have Brandon Graham’s one-page comic Comic Lovers for flavor at the very beginning of the magazine, and then it all wraps up with a serialized story piece. The fact that it ended up being THE WALKING DEAD was just amazing to me. We were just as psyched as anyone else.
Q: Where can readers find Image+?
David: Comic shops! Image+ is free with the Diamond Previews catalog, but you can also buy it for two bucks by itself if you just want the magazine. The release of the magazine is tied to Previews, so you should be able to find it on shelves the last week of each month.
Sasha: And if they don’t have them for sale separately – request it!
Image+ Magazine is available from all good comic book stores on the final Wednesday of each month. Image+ #1 is available on April 27th.