23 April 2012

THE DEAL

For 20 years, Image Comics has operated on one key principle:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

Regardless who comes in the door, whether they're industry giants like, say, Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson doing Happy! as their first series at Image in 2012, or newcomers like Justin Jordan and Tradd  Moore doing The Strange Talent of Luther Strode as their first series at Image in 2011, the work they do is creator-owned. They own their work, not Image, and that has been the deal as long as Image Comics has existed.

Almost since the beginning, there have been variations on this deal at the imprints established by the company's founders: Rob Liefeld started Extreme Studios, and he hired writers and artists to develop concepts he created. Jim Lee set up Homage Studios, which later became WildStorm Productions, and he also hired writers and artists to develop concepts he created. A little later on, he also launched the Homage and Cliffhanger imprints so the could invite marquee talent to create and own their their own material while staying within the WildStorm family. Marc Silvestri created Top Cow, Todd McFarlane put together his own production studio, Todd McFarlane Productions, and Jim Valentino has ShadowLine. Robert Kirkman recently set up his own Skybound Entertainment. The deals the individual partners offer vary from one studio to the next.

Only Image Central, the arm of the company the partners established as separate from their own interests, has offered 100% creative ownership as its standard deal for the duration of its existence.

Image Central dabbled in the publication of licensed properties briefly, but I think most will agree it is Image Central's dedication to creative ownership that has distinguished Image Comics as the premiere publisher of new creator-owned material over the last 20 years.

It's such a simple deal – the creator owns 100% of the work – and you don't have to be a superstar to get it, you just have to be good. It's a deal extended to everyone we publish at Image, be it a first-time writer, a fan-favorite artist, or someone in-between. As long as there are writers and artists eager to create their own characters and tell their own stories, Image Comics exists so they can do just that, secure in the knowledge that they will retain complete control over their work.

For example: When Robert Kirkman pitched The Walking Dead to Image Comics in 2003, he was offered a deal in which he would own 100% of that property. Not just the comic book rights, but the media rights. Film, television, video games, you name it – those rights were his to keep, 100%.

Robert was far from a known commodity at the time. He was a struggling writer who had self-published a modestly successful comic called Battle Pope through his own Funk-O-Tron imprint. His initial work at Image – SuperPatriotTech Jacket and Invincible – had debuted to enthusiastic reviews, but middling numbers. Zombie comics were in no way a sure thing back then and as has been recounted numerous times over the last nine years or so, Image almost passed on the book specifically because it was a zombie comic. 

Whatever the case: In 2003, when we drafted the deal for The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman was not ROBERT KIRKMAN as he is regarded in 2012.

But ROBERT KIRKMAN of 2012 has the same contract that Robert Kirkman in 2003 was offered. Because Image Comics operates on one key principal:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

You can play mix and match with various creators, both established and new, but you get the same result every time:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

Do we tweak various deals to suit the projects? Absolutely.  The details of some contracts are different from the details of others, but regardless who the contract is with or what changes are made to that contract, there's one thing that doesn't change:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

That's the deal.

The same now as it was in 1992.