In a market dominated by superheroes with eons of history and established cult appeal, how do you sell a fresh new, unknown, comic property? In particular one unassociated with a pre-existing universe or intellectual property, one outside of the big two, DC and Marvel. Well Image comics may have just found the solution and are embracing the potential future of comics marketing.
Image Comics was born out of rebellion and a sudden boom in the comics market. Founded by a handful of passionate and vibrant artists who were fast becoming superstars in the medium, Todd McFarlane who was doing amazing and spectacular things on the Spider-Man serials, Jim Lee who was taking the X-Men to uncanny heights and Rob Liefield who was giving Marvel a renewed X-Factor. Rounded out by fellow superstars Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, While Portacio and Jim Valentino, Image Comics was in its conception. Soon the group would split from all publishers with the brazen youthful McFarlane delivering a ceremonious two finger salute to Marvel and DC on the behalf of all of Images founding members upon their departures.
They endeavoured and built a company based on their individual namesakes and launched themselves into the comic book stratosphere marking themselves as serious rivals to Marvel and DC. Soon launching record breaking fan favourite books that cracked the cult bubble with ease. Imbued with a simple business model, write what you want and own it! They were no longer creating brilliant, well rounded and beloved characters and stories that they would instantly lose rights, control and here-say to before the ink has even dried on the very comic they had just put them into. It was now time for creator owned properties to be creator owned.
Fast forward and Image had exploded the comic book industry and medium and continue to do so to this day. Producing unique books unhindered by legacy’s, movie tie-ins, toy sales or constant reboots and continuity alterations. Everything was fresh, new and completely original. In it’s young current 25 year run they have produced as many beloved properties as The Walking Dead, Saga, Spawn, Savage Dragon, Invincible and The Wicked + The Divine to name but a few. How though have such books become so universally popular and how do you even go about selling something completely unestablished?
Image made a name for itself in it’s formative years based on the namesake of its founders and cemented themselves in the comic book based on this. But they knew comics and loved comics and had faith in it’s titles and the creators who were bringing their properties to their doorsteps. So the snowball began to roll and comic fans found Image and fell in love with it. The world however is never going to stop hurtling forward and now they find themselves in a wider world, a world more interested and accepting of comics but also in one which shuns traditional print, has an uneasy economy and is ever opinionated. Tv shows like The Walking Dead, cinematic universes such as Marvel’s and a greater accessibility to anime and manga are only helping spread the net wider for comic marketers but how do you tailor to these new found audiences as well as those existing ones? Well Image may just have found a solution following their 2018 Image Expo, Comic Trailers.
Comic trailers aren’t anything particularly new but they’ve never held much ground with the comic book community and found even less of a grasp outside of it. Yet Image is putting a lot of faith into the marketing angle for their line of new comics this summer. The trailers are simple, consisting of a single piece of beautiful cover/poster art augmented by some subtle and not so subtle motion and sound effects and then paired with an evocative and mood setting piece of music. They are giving a grandeur and an epic-ness to their debutants as well as an instantness. The comic community has long been sold on monthly solicitations. A big long daunting list of everything to come in the stated month, consisting of a synopsis, attributors, page counts, order numbers, variant details and a lot more intricate details unwanted and meaningless to the casual observer or new reader. Outside of solicitations comics have relied heavily on word of mouth, the trading of books and eye grabbing covers while they sit on the racks at your local comic book store to find audiences anew. Yet this only bread a secluded community continuing to cater to itself, occasionally grabbing some fresh meat and those bold enough to venture into a comic store are assaulted by a vast cosmos of spandex clad heroes, edgy minimalist covers and OTT sword-wielding heroines.
Images trailers however are an attempt to break this barrier, producing something that is instantaneous, eye-popping and more importantly shareable and sociable. These trailers could go to places that others have never boldly gone before, they could reach the wider populace, the non-comic book reading community and they may just find a foothold and open up new realms to some who would never dare venture there before. Image have always been bold and rebellious, they could easily have been a dark mark in their founders history that they would rather have forgotten. Instead they have gone on to extend the big two to the big three and show no signs of slowing and these trailers are a testament to that.
Check out my favourite trailers below.