With WonderCon temporarily relocating to Anaheim in 2012 due to the Moscone remodel, Bay Area comics creators, publishers, and fans despaired of going without a major con in the region during the coming year. But Image Comics has come to the rescue. The Berkeley-based publisher of The Walking Dead, Spawn, and Madman has announced Image Expo, to be held February 24 - 26 at the Oakland Convention Center.
Taking advantage of the con vacuum as well as marking its own twentieth anniversary, Image will showcase its own creators and comics at the three-day event, featuring appearances by Image partners Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), Todd McFarlane (Spawn), and Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon) among others. In keeping with Image's founding principles, the event will spotlight creator-owned work across the industry, although so far most of the announced special guests -- who include Eric Shanower, Joe Keatinge, Fiona Staples, and Ryan Ottley -- have work published by Image.
Known as the "creator-owned" comics publisher, Image was founded by seven successful comics writers and artists who established Image as an outlet for work that would not be owned or manipulated by the corporate hive mind of The Big Two (Marvel and DC). Image Expo touts the same principles, although there's some degree of irony here, in that this is a con organized by a single publisher.
It's hard to fault Image, however, given the current marketplace. After all, this is nothing like Marvel or DC putting on its own con. The comics industry is massively dominated by these two publishers, who between then account for about 80% (or more) of the market share in a given year. Distantly trailing them are Dark Horse, Image, and IDW, who each have a market share in the low single digits -- while such well-regarded independent outfits as Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly are far behind even them.
In this cutthroat environment, who can blame Image for tooting its own hornt -- particularly when you consider that the recent wild success of The Walking Dead TV series has likely made the event feasible to begin with? At the very least, this will be a major gathering of comics creators working across a number of genres, and will perhaps be a bellwether for other comics publishers considering similar events to distinguish themselves from The Big Two and compete with the media-saturated likes of San Diego Comic Con.
We'll be following the event as additional guests and programming are announced in coming weeks.