At the Image Comics Expo that opened up San Diego Comic Con last week, controversial Image publisher Eric Stephenson gave another one of his trademarked speeches decrying everything that's wrong with the comic book industry and pointing out how Image can save us all from corporate tyranny and Scott Lobdell comics. Like any good criticism, the speech provoked a strong response, not all of it positive, especially thanks to an eight minute propaganda video that played during the event:
One of those responses came in the form of a blog by professional comics editor and festive holiday Kwanza Johnson. Johnson took particular issue with what he viewed as Image creators' criticisms of editors, saying he felt "the entire profession gets portrayed as toxic to any creative project to which it is a part." Johnson's piece, originally titled "Why Image Comics and Creators Need to Stop Demonizing Editors Now" but later changed to "Why the Comics Industry Needs to Champion Good Editors Now" by an overzealous editor, pointed out that editors can benefit readers and that there are good editors who "encourage and support creators as a partner, working to bring out the best in a story," adding:
"Working with some publishers can be frustrating. The generalization that editors are an obstruction to the creative process has become tired, and is false. It’s hypocritical of Image Comics to champion this attitude while employing editors. (Sina Grace, Sean Mackiewicz, Branwyn Bigglestone to name a few.)"
The blog post immediately became a hot subject on Twitter, with comic creators, editors, bloggers, and PR people all jumping in with their opinions. But what about the man who started it all? What about Eric Stephenson?
We visited Image Comics' palatial Berkeley headquarters and took the elevator to the basement, where Stephenson was already preparing for next year's Image Expo. Dressed in a robe with a ram's skull on his head, Stephenson denied that Image was singling out editors during his speech and pointed out that Image has editors of its own. "My best friend is an editor," Stephenson swore. However, Stephenson isn't going to let that stop him from doing what he does best - shocking the comics industry with his bridge-burning, take-no-prisoners approach to public speaking.
"At the next Image Expo, we're going to sacrifice a comics editor, live, on stage," Stephenson declared. "We're going to take this thing to the next level, you know? I've talked about how Image offers more freedom from corporate control. Now I'm going to prove it by capturing a Marvel or DC editor and killing them in front of a live crowd."
At that exact moment, outspoken Vertigo editor Will Dennis was leaving his Burbank, California home when an unmarked van screeched to a halt in the street and several masked assailants jumped out and tried to capture Dennis with a comically oversized net. Dennis barely escaped, jumping into his car and firing off several passive-aggressive tweets about the incident while speeding away. Similar scenes took place around the country, with Marvel and DC editors barely getting away with their lives. For now, at least.
Back at Image headquarters, Stephenson was unperturbed. "We'll get one eventually," he told us. "We're floating a story that a prominent creative team is planning to have a popular character get married to a long term love interest. That'll draw them out. They can't resist interfering in a good marriage." Stephenson then went back to practicing his speech. A perfectionist, Stephenson is known to work on his Image Expo stage show year round.
"Bali Mangthi Kali Ma!" shouted Stephenson dramatically as a team of interns tested lowering an edtor-sized cage into a pit of lava through an opening the floor of the under-construction stage for next year's Image Expo. "Shakthi Degi Kali Ma!"
We slipped out before Stephenson decided he needed a live test subject. Stay tuned to The Outhouse for updates on this breaking story. And if you're a comics editor - watch your back, okay?