Free Comic Book Day: Image offers ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Aphrodite IX’

May 04, 2013 | 8:30 a.m.

For Free Comic Book Day, Image Comics will release a collectible issue of Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" that contains a new Tyrese-focused short story. (Image Comics)

Matt Hawkins, president of Image's Top Cow imprint, and artist Stjepan Sejic are teaming to bring back "Aphrodite IX," the dystopian-future set story of the striking assassin who doesn't remember having completed her assignments once they're completed. (Image Comics)

For Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, Image Comics is focusing on the past and the present — the publisher will revisit one of its classic titles, “Aphrodite IX,” with an eye toward rebooting its green-haired assassin, and will release a new issue of “The Walking Dead” that contains a new Tyrese-focused short story and reprints short stories featuring Michonne, the Governor and Morgan.

Robert Kirkman’s zombie comic book might be top of mind in the pop cultural consciousness thanks to the wild popularity of the AMC television series it spawned, but “Aphrodite IX” might benefit from an additional promotional push. Originally created by David Wohl and David Finch, the title debuted in 1996, but only generated six issues and one trade paperback.

Now Matt Hawkins, president of Image’s Top Cow imprint, and artist Stjepan Sejic are teaming to bring back the dystopian-future set story of the striking assassin who doesn’t remember having completed her assignments once they’re completed. After May’s first, free issue, “Aphrodite IX” will continue on a monthly schedule, with issue #2 in stores on June 12.

Image also just launched “Jupiter’s Legacy,” from Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, and the publisher recently announced that “Peter Panzerfaust,” a different look at Peter Pan and the Neverland world, is in development as a BBC television series. Elijah Wood, Summer Glau and Ron Perlman provided the voices for the motion comic that will precede it, though there’s been no word on the live-action casting.

With new books and new projects in the works, Hero Complex caught up with Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson to ask what’s in store for the remainder of 2013.

HC: What are the five upcoming titles/storylines that you are most excited about?

"Jupiter's Legacy #1" (Image Comics)

“Jupiter’s Legacy” Issue #1. (Image Comics)

ES: I’m not doing these in any particular order, but first up is “Jupiter’s Legacy” by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely because way back at the turn of the century, these two guys took the reigns of Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s groundbreaking series, “The Authority,” and didn’t just maintain the quality, but improved on it. No small feat, given the creators they were taking over for. Mark has gone on to do everything: “Ultimate X-Men,” “Civil War,” “Wanted,” “Kick-Ass,” “Nemesis,” and Frank worked with Grant Morrison on what is probably the best Superman story ever on “All-Star Superman.” Individually they’re both amazing, but there’s something really magical about the work they do together. And what I’ve seen so far is just insanely awesome.

Next would be “East of West” by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta. This is Jonathan’s second ongoing series at Image and Nick’s first work at the company. It’s different work for both of them, and in Nick’s case, specifically, career-defining stuff. Which isn’t to say Jonathan’s slacking, but you know, everything he does is just so good. Even if you loved his work on “The Manhattan Projects” or “The Nightly New” or “Fantastic Four,” this is going to blow you away, and part of that, I think, is down to the incredible visuals Nick’s coming up with for Jonathan’s concepts.

J. Michael Straczynski launched an imprint at Image called Joe’s Comics back in the ’90s, putting out “Rising Stars” and “Midnight Nation” before writing “Spider-Man” for Marvel and “Superman” for DC, along with writing Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award-nominated film, “The Changeling.” Now he’s bringing Joe’s Comics back, and the first thing out of that is a new series with artist Ben Templesmith called “Ten Grand.” Joe pitched this to me years ago and I’ve been excited about it ever since. Ben’s the perfect artist for this, and anyone who remembers Ben’s work from the Warren Ellis series “Fell” is going to be all over “Ten Grand.”

There’s also “Lazarus” by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, and really, just saying those names together should be enough for anyone familiar with their work to know this is going to be a killer series. They’re both amazing storytellers and everything I’ve seen on this to date looks even better than I could have anticipated. It’s smart, sophisticated science fiction and I think it’s going to be as big and awesome of a hit for them as “Saga” was for Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. And speaking of “Saga,” it’s not a new series, but I’m really looking forward to where Brian and Fiona are going with the third arc on the book.

HC: Who are some of the rising stars at Image?

"Peter Panzerfaust #1" (Image Comics)

“Peter Panzerfaust” Issue #1. (Image Comics)

ES: Man, there are a lot. We have a pretty good track record as far as identifying and supporting new talent – Jonathan Hickman’s first work was published here, Nick Spencer started out at Image, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, the Luna brothers – and there are constantly new faces and names at Image. On the art side, there are guys like Riley Rossmo, Tradd Moore, Tyler Jenkins and Nate Bellegarde. They all work in unique styles, but the material they’re producing is phenomenal. In terms of writers, Kurtis Wiebe is doing some great work, along with Justin Jordan, Joe Keatinge and Nathan Edmondson. Like the artists, none of them are covering the same ground – books like Wiebe’s “Peter Panzerfaust” and Jordan’s “Legend of Luther Strode” couldn’t be more different – and there’s a freshness to their work that seems to be resonating with more and more of our readers.

HC: How do you balance bringing in new talent with managing more established comic creators?

ES: The way I look at it is the established talent is awesome, but you don’t get to be a big marquee talent if no one is supporting new creativity. Image was formed by some of the biggest names in comics, but almost immediately, the company’s founders starting bringing in new talent. It’s impossible to stay vital without allowing for new voices and new visions of what comics can be. There was a period when I think our focus on new talent kind of worked at cross purposes with attracting established heavy hitters, but I think we have a good mix of both now, and I think the newer talent benefits greatly from being alongside the bigger names.

HC: “The Walking Dead” and “Wanted” are some examples of comics-to-screen titles from Image. Are there others that you’d like to see make the leap?

ES: “Chew” is currently in development over at Showtime, and I’m really hoping that actually happens, not just because it would be cool for John and Rob, but because seeing that kind of story on TV would be kind of astounding. Another book that is in development is Richard Starkings’ “Elephantmen,” a great sci-fi story set in a future version of L.A. The world Richard has developed for that book is so vivid and well-thought out and I’d love to see what looks like on film.

HC: Are you bringing in any unexpected talent from other realms — film or television or book publishing?

ES: We will definitely be adding some new names to the roster, plus one or two folks from years past may be making some interesting returns. At this point, we’re mapping out the latter half of 2013, so a lot of what’s happening over the next several months is the result of gears set in motion last year, but given the amount of attention we attracted over the course of the last year or so, I think more and more people will be anxious to see what’s next from Image and we don’t aim to disappoint.

– Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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