“Experience Creativity” – Eric Stephenson of Image Comics’ ComicsPRO Speech

For those who may not be aware, the past few days there has been a gathering of comic book retailers and publishers in Dallas, Texas for the annual ComicsPRO meeting. It’s a chance for the retailers who are members of ComicsPRO (an organization for retailers) to meet with comics publishers, hear what the comics industry has coming and provide feedback.

Earlier today, Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson addressed the members of ComicsPRO during a lunch sponsored by Image Comics, where they also gave publishers a limited edition copy of Thief of Thieves #1 along with a poster of the “Experience Creativity” ads (which you can see to the right). Image was kind enough to provide us with the text of Stephenson’s speech, where he drives the points of independence and creativity during Image Comics’ 20th Anniversary as well as hints to even more projects to come from Image.

Below is the complete text of Eric Stephenson’s speech from earlier today:

Everyday when I wake up, I’m thankful that I work in comics.

I discovered comics in the backseat of my family car in 1975, when my Dad handed me an issue of the Hulk.

Almost 40 years later, I have that comic book – it was Incredible Hulk #192 – on a spinner rack at home, with about 300 other comics I bought as a young boy. Over the last year, I made kind of a mini-instalation project of finding them all and arranging them on that rack, because it’s fun to look back.

But I like looking forward more.

As an industry, we tend to look back a lot, and I think there’s certainly a place for that, because favorite characters and favorite comics are almost like comfort food. They’re warm and familiar and familiarity is an easy sell.

There’s a fine line between familiar and routine, though, and there’s a saying;

Familiarity breeds contempt.

And there’s another saying, a more positive one, predicated on that one: Change is good.

Why? Because it’s at the root of something even better and more important to all of us;


Creativity is a game changer.

Creativity changes the way we think and how we feel.

It makes us see the world in new and different ways.

But creativity doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Creativity starts with people.

The reckless spirits who can’t stand still, the fearless minds who refuse to play it safe.

At Image Comics, we believe in creative people.

For 20 years, we’ve made a home for them. A place where they can be creative – on their own terms.

Just like your stores reflect your creativity – on your own terms.

Creativity changes the world of comics.

If you need proof – just look at me. Because 20 years ago, Image didn’t exist.

But seven artists had a crazy idea and changed all that.

Erik Larsen. Jim Lee. Rob Liefeld. Todd McFarlane. While Portacio. Marc Silvestri. Jim Valentino.

They created a place where creative ownership is the rule, not the exception.

And as a testament to what they created, way back in the 20th century, books like The Walking Dead, Chew, The Pro, Invincible, Morning Glories, and so many more made us, over the last year, the number two supplier of trade paperbacks and graphic novels in the direct market.

Those books weren’t around 20 years ago.

They weren’t around even 10 years ago.

But that’s how creativity works at Image Comics: There’s something new all the time.

While everyone else is looking backwards, customers hungry for something new and vital are increasingly looking to us.

And this year? This year is our 20th anniversary. And in the first week, we gave you Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. We followed that up with Prophet by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy. And last week was Thief of Thieves by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer and Shawn Martinbrough. And next week is Glory by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell. And coming up we have two new Jonathan Hickman books – Manhattan Projects and Secret. And Bryan Hitch is teaming up with Jonathan Ross for America’s Got Powers. And Mark Millar is getting together with Frank Quitely for Jupiter’s Children. And I think you know about Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

And that’s not all. That’s not all by a long shot.

We’re committed to giving you more. More of the best new creator-owned comics, in every format you can sell, every week and every month.

We do not have the backing of Warner Bros.

We are not owned by Disney.

We are independent, like you.

And like you: We and the men and women who create our comics are all doing our damnedest to maintain that independence and control our own destinies in an increasingly corporate world.

And I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that, more than anything else, takes creativity.

But we are lean and we are wiry and we will keep moving.


Because change is good. And creativity is good.

For all of us.

This year, don’t just support Image Comics.

Support change.

Support creativity.

Experience Creativity.


  1. He needs a better writer :/

  2. Good God! I have a degree in English and that was brutal to read. And, and, and. Good message, horrible writing.

    • It’s a speech. You guys got that, right?

    • Speeches are written.
      “Support change. Support creativity. Experience Creativity.” meh.
      Typography and writing is the business Image is in. I guess I’m just being blasé about the poster and speech but one of their talented writers/artists would have created a better marketing piece.

  3. I read it as a speech and thought it was fine.

    It’s interesting to see the role Image grew into. I know it’s always been about creative ownership but it basically started as a place for big name artists to do their own versions of superheroes. Now they publish such a variety of unique ideas and they really stand out in the current market.

  4. Maybe this guy should get creative about his talking points. This is the same shit he’s been saying for awhile now.

    • It’s a) true and b) their current marketing campaign. What do you expect at a retailers conference?

    • Um.. look who you’re talking to. Why would I know what to expect from a retailers conference?

      I’m just being a goober. I don’t even know if I read the whole article. I like just pokin’ Stepheson. Not that anyone could have known that.

  5. Its amazing, that no matter HOW positive a message is when it comes to pushing comics forward, you have complainers. Some people seriously need to grow up, it was a speech.

  6. I don’t understand why people are harping on the speech. It’s not meant for fans, and it’s being presented ENTIRELY out of context.

    And the impetus for the event is to increase retailers affinity for Image Comics, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the publisher gets to deliver the company’s message and talking points.

    But I have to think that the type of retailers that would join a group like ComicsPRO and attend their annual meeting are probably the type of retailers that ALREADY support Image and independent comics.

    Is there a way for the publishers to reach out to the lousy retailers and get them to wise up?

    • People harp, because it’s what people do, especially when presented an opportunity to do it anonymously, and especially when they consider themselves an expert on the matter at hand. Let’s face it, comic book fans are certainly experts in all things comic related.

      I think Social Media is a good way to get the message to lousy retailers, but those same retailers must be willing to listen and to take action, and that’s hard to do when you’re lazy or lousy.

    • you can only try and force an independent business owner give so much of a shit, before its all on them. I looked up comics pro a while ago, and was not shocked to see that those 2 or 3 shops i used to go to and ultimately abandoned for digital were not members. Kinda feels like the ones that “get it” are part of that group.

      Feels like the ones that aren’t supporting indie books dont’ want to put in the work, to talk to their customers take the risk on something new and unproven.

  7. Yes. Yes!

    Stephenson has convinced me that creativity is good!

    • I’m guessing you’re being sarcastic, but the sad truth is that people DO need to be sold on creativity and original ideas, whether they’re retailers or fans.

  8. I loved the speech (even transcribed)..i think its really pointed and is an accurate reflection where things are right now.

    Does anyone else find it strange that the vast majority of comic book characters we all gush over each week came from our parents and grandparents generation? I love my capes and cowls as much as the next guy, but i think we’re missing out on some great new ideas happening right now. I want to make a more of an effort to try out new indie series’….and follow it longer than the first issue. With digital distribution, availability is no longer an excuse.

    • very much agreed….though not about digital (just not for me)

    • yeah, but i was saying that this time last year, you could easily say “i wanted to try it, but my shop wouldn’t order any” and you’d justifiably have no way to read that book….now you can just get it on the apps, which i think is ultimately better than nothing.

  9. Ron, are you able to post a larger file of that Experience Creativity photo? I would like that as my wallpaper.