Image Comics is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2022. That's right, it's been 30 years since the bastion of creator-owned comics was launched by seven prominent Marvel Comics creators who had a vision to work for themselves, and to own their own comic book creations. So just what is planned for the occasion?
While the full breadth of the plans is being held back to a later date, Newsarama has confirmed several projects - and the news of one (but possibly more) long out-of-print comics coming back.
The Return of Saga (January 2022)
After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, Image Comics' de facto flagship title Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples will return on January 26, 2022. Boasting no variant covers and no "gimmicky" renumbering, the science-fantasy series will pick up right where it left off with Saga #55 - with plans for the series to run for a total of 108 issues as teased years ago.
The Official Image Comics Timeline (February 2022)(opens in new tab)
Although the actual 30th anniversary of Image Comics won't be until April 2022 (the month Youngblood #1 debuted), co-founder/vice president Jim Valentino is working on a book, The Official Image Comics Timeline, to be published in February 2022.
"I've worked diligently on this Timeline for the past year, trying to stay as true to the facts as possible, regardless where they lead," Valentino said in the book's announcement. "While I sincerely hope that fans, new and old, will enjoy this illustrated journey through the last 30 years - I also hope that this Timeline will put to rest, once and for all, the misinformation and misunderstandings of what Image is and what it has strived to be."
As part of it, Valentino will undoubtedly be sharing some never-before-seen artwork, photos, and details about Image Comics - including the unique oddity that the company was named after the 1990 advertising campaign for the photography company Canon titled 'Image is Everything,' starring tennis star Andre Agassi.
A new Witchblade series by Bennett and Kristantina
Witchblade (and Sara Pezzini) returns in spring 2022 with a new run by writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Ariel Kristantina, beginning with a special Witchblade #½.
"Witchblade is iconic. I'm utterly delighted to be bringing Sara Pezzini back to her stalwart fans and honored to have the chance to introduce her to a new generation of readers," Bennett said in the announcement. "We're going through a world of cosmos and mythos, horror and sensuality, romance, and danger - and I couldn't be happier to be working with Ariela and Marc Silvestri on making this impossible dream a reality."
The Walking Dead returns (June 2022)
The Walking Dead comic book series returns with a new series focused on the teen character Clementine, who debuted in the hit game series Telltale's The Walking Dead. Writer/artist Tillie Walden, coming off a number of successful creator-owned graphic novels for the bookstore market, is writing and drawing The Walking Dead: Clementine as a trilogy of original graphic novels.
"Starting out with a character like Clementine is both a huge responsibility and joy," Walden says in the announcement from Skybound Entertainment. "Clementine is a person who brings adventure with her everywhere she goes, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take her beyond the world of the games, to somewhere new and thrilling (like the top of a mountain!). She is a force and drawing and writing her story has been one of the best experiences in my cartooning life."
The Walking Dead: Clementine will be the flagship title of a planned YA imprint of Skybound (itself an imprint of Image) called Skybound Comet.
Rob Liefeld's Prophet returns
Riding high off news Jake Gyllenhaal will star in a live-action Prophet movie, creator Rob Liefeld has been talking openly about plans for multiple Prophet projects in 2022 in advance of the movie - and to coincide with Prophet's 30th anniversary (Prophet debuted in Youngblood #3, Image Comics' third comic book).
One of the projects is Prophet #50, adding up the numbering from the various Prophet series over the years.
Another is a re-drawn version of the original Prophet #1, with the likes of Liefeld, Dan Panosian, Philip Tan, Ed Piskor, Dan Fraga, Marat Mychaels, Jim Rugg, Tom Scioli, and Karl Altstaetter all stepping in to re-draw the portions of the original 1993 comic book.
Astro City is back
Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's hit superhero series Astro City will return in 2022, jumping from DC back to Image Comics. Part of a mega-deal for Busiek, this new era of Astro City will begin with an original graphic novella called Astro City: That Was Then...
And no worries, longtime Astro City cover artist Alex Ross and colorist Alex Sinclair are returning as well.
Jim Valentino's ShadowHawk returns
Jim Valentino's second Image Comics 30th anniversary project will see him stepping back in as a writer and cover artist for a celebration of his creator-owned character ShadowHawk. Valentino has shared the raw pencils for the primary cover to ShadowHawk 30th Anniversary Celebration #1, but hasn't disclosed who the artist(s) is or what the book will be about.
A new The Darkness run by Silvestri and Mitten
Top Cow's other flagship character, The Darkness, will be returning in mid- to late 2022 with a new series by co-creator Marc Silvestri, artist Christopher Mitten, and color artist Bryan Valenza.
"Jackie Estacado has always been one of my favorite characters. There is something immensely appealing about a hero that is not only very powerful but – certainly in Jackie’s case – very, very flawed," Silvestri tells Newsarama. "Characters that have to battle themselves just to do the right thing make for complex and compelling protagonists. I've been wanting to write about Jackie and the Darkness power he wields for a long time. That time is now and I couldn't be more thrilled."
The new run is scheduled to kick off with The Darkness ½, which was sold as part of the recent Kickstarter campaign for The Darkness Complete Collection Volume 2.
The original Cyberforce back in print after 20+ years
Cyberforce is one of Image Comics' founding titles, but unfortunately, it's been one of the hardest to find - especially the original first two years of stories, which aren't available digitally and haven't been reprinted in two decades.
But all that is changing, as Top Cow has announced Cyberforce Complete Collection Vol. 1 - a collection of the original four-issue series from 1992, Cyberforce #0, the first thirteen issues of the ongoing series launched in 1993, as well as the one-shots Cyberforce Origins: Cyblade, Cyberforce Origins: Stryker, and Cyberforce Annual #1.
There could be more classic Image Comics reprinted in 2022. We'll get into that more in a bit...
A dedicated comic convention... on a cruise ship
If that's not enough, Image Comics & Skybound Entertainment are also looking into a possible comic convention on a cruise ship in 2022. This would seemingly be different than the previous Image Expo events, and could be focused primarily on Skybound titles similar to the online Skybound Xpo events.
New comic book titles
The aforementioned Saga launched in 2012 as part of Image Comics' twentieth-anniversary celebration; no pressure, but Image launches new comic book series almost every month and the new year doesn't look any different.
As part of the aforementioned Busiek/Image deal, Busiek has several projects coming in 2022 in addition to Astro City such as Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines (with artist Carlos Pacheco), The Gods on Sunday Morning (an OGN by Anderson, Ross, and Sinclair), Free Agents (a new series with Fabian Nicieza and Stephen Mooney), and the return of Autumnlands (with Benjamin Dewey and Jordie Bellaire).
In addition to that, several of the Substack-first digital comics such as Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman's Vanish, Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren's The Black Cloak, and more are already announced to be coming to Image Comics for a print/digital release, as well as Kaptara by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod. It's not clear if these would be coming to Image in 2022, or if it'll be later, but keep tuned to Newsarama.
Possible reprints of early Image Comics projects
This also brings up the availability - or lack thereof - of the first wave of Image Comics from the founders. While the first issues of Spawn (opens in new tab), Savage Dragon (opens in new tab), and even WildCATS. (opens in new tab) and Wetworks (opens in new tab) (thanks to DC) have been made relatively available in print collections and/or digital editions, other Image Comics' launch titles such as Youngblood #1, Shadowhawk #1, and Cyber Force #1 are only available in back issue bins.
That's before mentioning other early Image Comics from the '90s.
As we mentioned earlier, the early Cyberforce issues are being collected in 2022 - but could there be more to look forward to?
We brought this up to Stephenson, who broke into comics as an assistant to Valentino back in the early '90s, about the potential for those early Image Comics becoming available again - and without going into specifics, says that some is underway.
"Some of that stuff is in the works, but if a creator is no longer associated with Image, we don't manage their back catalog," Stephenson tells Newsarama. "We don't own that stuff, the creators do, and if you look at something like…. Keith Giffen's Trencher, well, yeah, it would be cool to have a trade paperback of that stuff and it would be cool if it was available digitally, but that's Keith's call, not ours."
Boom! Studios collected the first four issues of Trencher back in 2005, but that volume is out of print and not available digitally.
As Newsarama has learned, the ability for some older comic books to be reprinted - digitally or even for a print re-release - is stymied by the simple fact that in some cases, the original art, the files, and/or the film for those original printings are no longer available. In those cases, scanning and restoring the comic from the actual comic books is the only realistic method - a time-consuming and expensive process.
That being said, Stephenson tells Newsarama that keeping classic comics available for future generations (and those of us who want to buy it in another format) is on his mind.
"Yeah, I think that's important," he says. "As we head toward our 30th anniversary next year, it's something that has come up, and hopefully, we'll get to a point where all of that material is available in some format."
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