Mark it on your calendar, comics fans: Wednesday, February 1 is Image Comics Day, and Portland is where the party is.
The publishing powerhouse—created on February 1, 1992 by seven comics writers who put creator-owned comics at the center of their business—celebrates its 25th birthday with signings at comic bookstores all over town.
Image Comics, which counts Invincible, The Walking Dead, and Saga among its published series, relocated to Portland from Berkley, California last year. Publisher Eric Stephenson says the seeds were planted for a Portland move back in January 2016, when he was on a work trip to the Rose City.
“I was in town and I mentioned to a couple of friends that I was thinking about going up to Seattle and checking it out with an eye towards moving up there, and they were like, ‘You know, you should really spend some more time here before you make that decision.’”
Stephenson took them at their word and began looking around this city. He liked what he found—and he wasn’t alone.
“I went back [to San Francisco] really thinking about it," he says. "And a couple of staff members who were on the trip came back and were like, ‘Hey, is there any chance of moving to Portland?’ I said, ‘Wow, you really liked it that much?’”
The answer? “‘Oh yeah, we want to move to Portland.’”
One of Image’s founders and partners, Jim Valentino, was already a Portlander. And the fact that this town has such a thriving comics scene—it’s the home base of comic titans Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and David Walker, among others—didn’t hurt.
“There are a lot of writers and artists who live in the area, and there’s really nothing like that in the Bay Area,” says Stephenson, who points out how many comics artists and writers had left the Bay since the dot-com boom of the late '90s. “I think there’s something to being able to invite people up to the office and talk about stuff in person as opposed to doing it over the phone or by email, or to meet up with people after work. Establishing a connection with people is really cool.”
The publisher found space in Northwest Portland's Montgomery Park Building, opening for business earlier this month. As part of the 25th birthday celebrations—all happening Wednesday, February 1—Floating World Comics will host a signing with Stephenson and the Image Comics creators Joe Keatinge, Sloane Leong, Leila del Duca, Emi Lenox, Brandon Graham, and Farel Dalrymple from 6–8 p.m. Southeast’s Excalibur will host Kurt Busiek, while North Mississippi’s Bridge City will have a signing with Joseph Bergin III at 5 p.m. Kelly Sue deConnick and Matt Fraction will be at Books with Pictures, while Cosmic Monkey hosts Steve Lieber at 11 a.m. and Tony Parker at noon.
Plus, keep an eye on the Image Comics website for more announcements about 25th birthday giveaways and promotions.