Image Comics

Top Cow reorganizes

Teaser for new Top Cow series Netherworld (click for preview)

It’s been a rough first month of 2011 for comics in general, with good and not-so-good news turning heads throughout the industry as the times continue to change. There’s been some adjusting locally too.

Top Cow Productions, a partner studio of Image Comics, announced during my week of computer meltdown that a reorganization has taken place. The LA-based publisher will consolidate its resources to more closely rely and coordinate with Image’s central office in Berkeley. From the press release: “Image Central will work more closely with Top Cow to coordinate production, marketing and sales efforts in much the same way it already does for the other Image partners.” Publisher Filip Sablik stressed that Top Cow would retain their editorial freedom. Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat looked into this further here and here.

While the hope is that Top Cow will be able to benefit from some of the successes Image has seen recently, such as The Walking Dead‘s continual rise in popularity thanks to the AMC TV show and new hits like Chew and Morning Glories, it doesn’t mean good times for everyone. Unfortunately some people from Top Cow were let go to eliminate new redundancies from the closer partnership, such as PR and Marketing Coordinator Christine Dinh, Director of Sales and Marketing Atom Freeman and Editor/Designer Phil Smith. Freeman, an award-winning retailer who co-owns the comics shop Brave New World Comics in Newhall, was hired as Direct Market Liason last summer and promoted to Director of Sales and Marketing this past October. No word yet on what’s next for Dinh and Smith, although at least Smith is helping with the transition. Sablik has stated that now other layoffs are planned. At Image Comics, PR and Marketing Coordinator Betsy Gomez has been replaced by Sarah deLaine.

Top Cow President Matt Hawkins bluntly told The Beat, “There’s going to be more consolidation (like Image and Top Cow) and some people won’t be around in a couple years”.

Just prior to that news, Top Cow announced they had signed artist Jeremy Haun (Detective Comics) to an exclusive contract. Haun, who has worked on Top Cow’s Alibi and Berserker, has been assigned to The Darkness with writer Phil Hester, one of Top Cow’s biggest properties. The book was a massive seller in the ’90s where it had a record-selling 11 variant covers for a single issue. Haun will also have the ability to develop new original properties. On his site, he explained that the contract goes into effect February 2011 (so, tomorrow). In explaining the reasons for his decision, after being a freelance artist for years, he said, “The major ones where working as a regular artist on a continuing series and almost more importantly, being able to develop my own concepts.” As he points out, Haun has written Narcoleptic Sunday for Oni Press and a story in Image’s award-winning Comic Book Tattoo anthology based on the music of Tori Amos, so he does have some writer chops. And more original creator-owned comics is always a good thing in my book.

Top Cow Productions started in 1992 as the studio for Image Comics co-founder and partner Marc Silvestri. Throughout the decade, they grew a line of successful fantasy comics like The Darkness, Witchblade and others guided by Silvestri’s distinct art style that defined the look of the publisher for many readers. The publisher has struggled to shake that perception over the last ten years, and have been pushing their attention to more creator-owned books such as the new thriller Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal, and the upcoming supernatural noir Netherworld by co-writers Bryan Edward Hill and Rob Levin, and artist Tony Shasteen. Hill and Levin have both worked for Top Cow in the past, last collaborating together on Broken Trinity: Pandora’s Box. MTV’s Geek News has a preview of Netherworlds.

Excessive coverage of Stan Lee receiving Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Stan Lee signs fan's Iron Man helmet on Hollywood Walk of Fame (click for more pics)

Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man and tons of other characters published by Marvel Comics, received the 2,428th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Tuesday in front of the Live Nation Building in Hollywood. I’m fairly confident saying he is the first comic book creator to be recognized by this institution. Stan’s fellow POW! Entertainment executive Gill Champion and Image Comics co-founder and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane were guest speakers.

I was kind of hoping to get away from work and shoot the ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, but the realities of life had other plans. Not that I think it’s some big crucial moment in comic book history (maybe if the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce had created a new category of comic books for the Walk, but no, Stan Lee is in the Motion Pictures category) (plus I became disillusioned some when I found out years ago that recipients pay $30K to get their Star), but still it might’ve been fun to do. I knew coming off the holidays that it would never really happen, though. Plus, when Randy Newman got his Star, there were several videos posted online, so I figured others would already have their cameras ready for someone as beloved as Stan Lee. And I was right. Videos starting hitting YouTube about an hour or two after the event.

For more slick coverage, check out the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog, the LAist‘s collection of pics (like the one above), the Washington Post, and with videos of their own: CNNHollywood Reporter, and LA station ABC-7. Also, Variety has a quick story on the after-party Tuesday night.

Some bold statements in the above links caught my eye, and I just want to touch on them briefly, because while Stan Lee deserves a lot of praise, it’s important to keep things in perspective and not get overcome with hyperbole. Phrases like “father of the super hero” and “created or co-created 90 percent of Marvel’s characters” stand out to me most. The former is pretty silly. I could see him being called the father of the modern super hero (or some such modifying term), but he did not create or co-create Superman (that would be Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster). The latter percentage seems really rounded up. I can agree with 90% of the Marvel characters most people have heard of or know about through mainstream movies and TV shows, but not of the entire library of thousands of Marvel characters. But I’m nitpicking, so enough of that. There is no doubt that Stan Lee helped rejuvenate, even revolutionize, the super-hero genre in the 1960s, and he helped build the foundation of Marvel Comics both as a company and a fictional universe. He has also done a lot as a personality/celebrity to bring comics awareness to the masses. I know plenty of people who have never read a Spider-Man comic (or any other comic) but they know of Stan Lee because he’s a character himself. So congratulations, Stan Lee! And congratulations, comics! There’s no way I could see this happening 5 or 10 years ago.

Click through for your Stan Lee Star Video Feed complete with shaky handheld and subpar audio.

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