Image staff unionize in historic move for the comics industry

Employees vote to form Comic Book Workers United.

The staff members of Image Comics have voted to form a union, Comic Book Workers United, “making Image Comics the FIRST unionized comic book publisher in the United States,” their website reads.

Of the 12 Image staffers who submitted ballots, seven voted yes, two voted no and three ballots were not counted due to questions around eligibility. “Although these three ballots were not opened, their challenge had no impact on our supermajority win. CBWU and the CWA continue to push for their inclusion in the democratic process,” their statement reads.

The staffers had hoped Image Comics would voluntarily recognize the union, which did not happen, leading to the vote. The CBWU is represented by the Communications Workers of America, a union that represents employees in the communications and information industries, as well as those in airlines, public service, higher education, health care and more.

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Jeff Lemire signs an exclusive deal with Image Comics

The deal will not impact the Black Hammer comics published by Dark Horse or the content on his Substack newsletter.

Jeff Lemire has signed an exclusive deal with Image Comics, his publisher for projects like Ascender, Descender, Gideon Falls, Primordial and more, for an undisclosed amount of time.

“Having worked with Image on so many projects over the last decade, I’ve come to appreciate the complete creative freedom and support that they’ve provided me,” said Lemire. “I’m excited to make Image the exclusive home for all my projects in the years to come, both solo projects that I will draw myself, and my various collaborations. Bone Orchard and Little Monsters are just the start of what I have planned this year and beyond.”

The deal does come with a couple of asterisks, though — Lemire clarified in his Substack newsletter that it will not impact the Black Hammer line of books he co-created at Dark Horse. “I have an exemption in my Image deal to finish the last few Black Hammer series as planned,” he said.

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Mail Call | Doctor Strange journeys to the ‘Nexus of Nightmares’ in April

Check out news and updates from Marvel, DC, Image, Jeff Lemire, Brian Michael Bendis and more.

Mail Call is a roundup of cool things we’ve received in our mailboxes from comics creators, publishers and more. Hit the links for more information.

Although Doctor Strange might currently be dead in the Marvel Universe, Marvel still has stories to tell about Stephen Strange’s past. April brings not only rain this year, but also Doctor Strange: Nexus of Nightmares, by Marvel veteran Ralph Macchio and artist Ibrahim Mostafa.

The one-shot will feature the Sorcerer Supreme taking on Nightmare and Baron Mordo, as they attempt to use Strange’s own nightmares against him. The one-shot comes out April 20, with a cover by Todd Nauck.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Jeremy Holt

The writer of ‘After Houdini’ discusses their two recent projects, ‘Made in Korea’ and ‘House of Slay.’

For 12 days, we’re looking back at the 2021 that was in the world of comics, with interviews, commentary and more.

Jeremy Holt is the writer behind a number of comics including the books After Houdini and Before Houdini, and the Comixology Original series Virtual Yours, but 2021 has been a big year for them. The six issue miniseries Made in Korea that Holt made with George Schall came out from Image Comics, with the collection coming out in January. It’s a stunning story, but perhaps even more than being a good story about artificial intelligence and a world where “synthetics” live amongst us, it’s notable for how Holt managed to find a new angle on the idea. Holt is open about being an adoptee and framing the story of AI as a story of adoption is incredibly obvious, but that metaphor adds insight and clarity and reframes a lot of the issues in important ways.

Last month Tapas began serializing House of Slay, which Holt made with cover artist and designer Kevin Wada, artist Too Lee, colorist Kimi Lee, and editor Alex Lu. The story features fashion designers Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Laura Kim of Oscar De La Renta, and Tina Leung and Ezra J William and turns them into superheroes. After a year with two very different high profile projects, I reached out to Holt to talk about artificial intelligence, how projects cross-pollinate, and finding their voice.

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A dream detective hunts your nightmares in ‘Slumber’

The ongoing series by Tyler Burton Smith and Vanessa Cardinali will debut from Image Comics in March.

Sweet dreams are made of this: Tyler Burton Smith and Vanessa Cardinali springs the forthcoming horror/thriller Slumber. This all-new, ongoing series will launch from Image Comics this March. 

Slumber is an exploration of the surreal world of dreams that is meant to be as weird, funny, unsettling and unpredictable as the wildest dreams that we’ve all experienced,” said Smith. “Vanessa’s artwork is the perfect marriage of these elements to bring this crazy story to life.”

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The long-awaited return of ‘Astro City’

‘Astro City: That Was Then…’ asks the question, ‘Who were the Jayhawks?’

It’s been too long since new Astro City has hit comic book shelves, but that drought will end in March. Image Comics has announced Astro City: That Was Then…, a new one-shot by the team of Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, Alex Ross, Alex Sinclair and Comicraft.

Image Comics announced the return of Astro City to their publishing line last year — along with several other Busiek projects, like the Arrowsmith sequel and a new comic called Free Agents.

The story in the one-shot will delve into Astro City’s past, specifically the late 1960s — the era of the teenage sidekick. It also sets up the forthcoming Astro City series.

“It’s also wonderful to be back in the world of Astro City,” Busiek said back in October, when the new Image deal was announced. “Alex, Brent and I have been planning this for a long time—we’re introducing a teen-hero team, The Jayhawks (and more), in the special, and setting off a mystery as important to Astro City as what happened to the Silver Agent or the story of the Broken Man. Alex has designed a cornucopia of new characters, and Brent is going to town on the artwork. It’ll be a very fun ride—and yes, longtime readers, we will get to the story of the N-Forcer, I promise!” 

Here’s the cover:

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Young + Strahm’s ‘Twig’ will debut next year

Young teases the new series about a fantastical journey.

Skottie Young and Kyle Strahm will debut a new comic at Image Comics next summer called Twig. A teaser for the comic appeared in the final issue of The Me You Love in the Dark, which came out earlier this month.

Young and Strahm will be joined by colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letterer Nate Piekos, both of whom worked with Young and artist Jorge Corona on The Me You Love in the Dark. The teaser says the comic will be about “a fantastical journey of hope, heartache and the determination to overcome insurmountable odds.”

Here’s the teaser:

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Dragotta + Goellner unlock ‘Ghost Cage’ in March

The three-issue miniseries is about a super-scientist cleaning up his ‘most monstrous secrets.’

East of West co-creator Nick Dragotta will team with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles writer Caleb Goellner for a three-issue series from Image Comics called Ghost Cage.

The duo will work with letterer/designer Rus Wooten, cover artist Frank Martin Jr. and editor David Brothers on the project. Each issue will run 44 pages with screen-toned black and white art.

“Finishing up East of West, I felt ready to start writing and drawing my own comics,” said Dragotta. “Caleb Goellner agreed to co-write with me, and we cooked up Ghost Cage. We set out to make something that feels immediate, urgent, so it’s in screen-toned black and white, hot off the drawing board. We wanted to let the story breathe, so we went with 44-page issues. And lastly, we wanted to tell a story that will make us examine the things we sacrifice on a daily basis, the bits of us that we give up to survive.”

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Free Comic Book Day 2022 Gold titles revealed

Diamond Comics Distributors has revealed the 11 gold-tiered titles you can get for free next May.

Diamond Comics Distributors has revealed the 11 “gold sponsor” titles that retailers will have available on Free Comic Book Day 2022, which is scheduled for May 7.

“This year’s lineup of titles has something for every kind of comic fan,” said Ashton Greenwood, Free Comic Book Day spokesperson. “We’re excited for FCBD to return to the first Saturday in May, and we can’t wait to celebrate the day with another incredible line up of comic book titles. We hope fans will safely visit their local comic shops to celebrate and to pick up a few of the great titles available this year.”

Free Comic Book Day returns to its traditional May date next year after a couple of years where the pandemic caused a bit of a shuffle — but what’s new, right? This past year the event was held in August, while in 2020 the date went through several changes before ultimately being cancelled — but comics were still delivered to retailers for distribution as they saw fit during the summer.

Here’s a look at the Gold Sponsor titles; the Silver titles will likely be announced soon as well. Also, there are no DC titles on the list, since they no longer use Diamond, but it’s a safe bet they’ll have free comics available in May as well.

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Soule + Browne will launch ‘Eight Billion Genies’ next year

The eight-issue miniseries will begin in May.

Ryan Browne has announced his next collaboration with writer Charles Soule: Eight Billion Genies, a story about everyone Earth getting a genie — and a wish.

“At exactly the same moment, everyone on Earth gets a genie, and one wish. What happens next? How would that be anything other than total chaos? Why would Ryan and Charles write a story about something so audacious and boundary-breaking?” Browne posted on Instagram. “Because we can, friends. Because we can. COMICS, BABY!”

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tina Horn talks ‘SfSx: Terms of Service’

The writer, journalist and podcaster returns to talk about the latest volume of her erotic science fiction series with artist G Romero-Johnson.

Journalist and podcaster Tina Horn made a splash in comics when Safe Sex (or SfSx) was released by Image Comics in 2019. Originally developed at Vertigo before the imprint shut down, the comic was masterful.

Horn was a natural at writing fiction, her use of language was powerful, and the way she melded it to a science fiction thriller plot that addressed sex and gender, fascism and politics in exciting ways. The second volume of the series has been released a graphic novel, and it is even better. SfSx: Terms of Service deals with men’s rights, incels and sex robots; it looks at desire and power, and the violence inherent in repression. Horn is so precise with her language, and here she’s been able to examine the language around and dynamics of group identity, which can be helpful and allow people to build community, or can be harmful and be used to give individuals the illusion of autonomy so that people in power can control them. 

Describing the book in purely analytical terms does it a disservice, as Horn and artist G Romero-Johnson craft a story that manages to be as thrilling as it is erotic, and a great science fiction tale that’s so day after tomorrow that calling it dystopic or cyberpunk misses just how contemporary this book is. Horn was kind enough to take time out to talk about how she worked, the genius of Swamp Thing, and rethinking what “bimbos” mean.

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Mail Call | ‘TerrorWar’ debuts from Saladin Ahmed + Dave Acosta

Check out recent news and updates from Saladin Ahmed, Top Shelf, IDW, James Tynion IV, Kyle Higgins and more.

Mail Call is a roundup of cool things we’ve received in our mailboxes recently from comics creators, publishers and more. Hit the links for more information.

Saladin Ahmed posted the first pages of TerrorWar this week, the comic he first announced when he launched the paid version of his Substack newsletter. Drawn by Dave Acosta and Jay Leisten, the comic is about a city where people’s worst fears have come to life somehow, and the terrorfighters who face them with really big guns.

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