First Impressions: Image Expo July 2015

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On Thursday Image comics held another of their one day expos showcasing their new line-up of comics and a pretty good indication of how much financial ruin I’ll soon be in. Their expo in January brought a slew of interesting titles into the mix including Kaptara, Plutonia, the the still to be released Paper Girls, the very soon to be released Island and the only just released ‘We Stand on Guard’ (which I just read, excellent stuff) being among an extremely strong lineup. This time around while there isn’t as many that stand out to me, there were a few titles that caught my interest, such as Ronald Wimberly’s ‘Sunset Park’.

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“Something’s up in Sunset Park, and it ain’t just the rent. Are Brooklyn’s gentrifiers more than just economic vampires? A cartoonist draws a macabre story from a collection of notes, journals, movies and other ephemera he finds boxed, abandoned in the studio he’s recently rented along the latest frontline in gentrification’s relentless march over Brooklyn in Sunset park”

Wimberley is a creator who I shamefully know nothing about and I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen anything of his before. However the image and pitch was enough to sell me on it. I love the promotional image with the vibrant pop-art colours, Warhol’s likeness repeated in the background along with other historical figures in the same manner as his famous Campbell’s soup can paintings. I’ll admit in the interest of full disclosure that I love anything with Andy Warhol in it. If anything It’s as much his unusual personality than his art that interests me so I’m intrigued to see how he will be used in this story that would already be interesting without his involvement.

All that has been released so far is the short description and the one image, with Wimberley on record as stating he doesn’t want to reveal anything more about the project at the moment, but it’s enough to make sure it will end up on my pull list.

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What had me the most excited however, is a comic that is already finished and out there in the world, The Private Eye. Created by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente the premise of ten issues series is a future in which the internet no longer exists after “cloud bursts”, exposing everyone’s secrets to the cold light of day. Adopting numerous secret identities and outlandish concealing clothing is seen as the norm after this event as people move to extremes to protect their identity. From what I’ve read and seen in previews, it very much taps into the zeitgeist over our current fears over the use of individuals private information and the increasingly blurred line between our public and private lives online. Previously released online on his and co-founder Marcos Martin’s own website, Panel Syndicate with a pay-what-you-want, DRM-Free model, it seems it’s now also coming to print with the help of Image. While I’m looking forward to reading the printed version, I can see how the decision to move into back onto a more traditional model of publishing might be a very divisive move for some fans. Personally I don’t see a problem in producing in both formats, but I can also see how it would irk some fans who had previously lauded the website for its innovative DRM-free policy. Especially when the website still reads;

“Sorry, we don’t currently have plans for THE PRIVATE EYE to ever appear in print. We still love paper comics, especially the retailers who sell them, but this is something different”

Thinking back, Radiohead took a similar approach for their album ‘In Rainbows’, with a physical release following months later in the form of a ‘discbox’. This contained the album on both CD and vinyl, recording sessions and a hardback book of art making it more of a desirable object than a regular album, and more of a collector’s item. Could this be the intention with The Private Eye print version? Ultimately motivations and circumstances change, even with the best intentions behind them. Is it motivated by financial difficulties? A desire to reach a much wider audience more comfortable with paper and ink? One things for sure it will at least be interesting in the next few months to see if Vaughan comments in interviews about the decision to reproduce The Private Eye as a physical comic.

Edit: Not long after writing this I did see that Vaughan has started commenting about this, with The Private Eye being released as a deluxe hardback “cloudburst edition” and is quoted as saying;

“Readers and retailers have been begging us for a physical version of this story ever since we first announced our hard-boiled parable about the future of privacy in America. So when the time came, Marcos and I knew that we had to go with Image Comics, the most creator-friendly publisher of print comics ever.”

So, that’s the answer then I guess! People just really, really want a physical copy of this story and the creators have given it to them!

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