When six breakaway comics artists founded Image Comics in the early 1990s, they heralded the creation of a new artist-centric publisher, in opposition to the writer-centric DC and Marvel. But now, a decade and a half later, Image is publishing a new miniseries featuring all six of their original Image characters - and the big draw is writer Robert Kirkman. Is this the dawning of a new age for Image?

Image revealed their next big project at their Comic-Con panel: Image United, a six issue limited series drawn by company founders Whilce Portacio, Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen, and Todd McFarlane. But the audience seemed less thrilled by the fact that each Image founder will lay out an issue as well as draw their own signature character, than that Robert Kirkman will be scripting. Although enthusiasm in the crowd for the project, scheduled for 2009, was strong, the majority of the questions in the crowd were for Kirkman, and many pleaded for Kirkman to include his popular character Invincible in the miniseries.


When asked if newer characters from Image's long history would be included, Erik Larsen said, "We'll be coming up with new guys, but it's going to be our guys. It would be too much work to try and figure out who else to fit in." The project is exciting, according to Larsen, because "this is really one of the things only we can do. You can't go to Marvel and get the definitive guys for a crossover-you can't get Jack Kirby, you can't get Steve Ditko-but you can get us doing our definitive takes on our definitive characters."

Despite their own joking cynicism about the possibility of Image United shipping on time—"this is crazy," deadpanned Silvestri behind flashy sunglasses, "how is this ever going to work?"—Kirkman promised this project wouldn't fall behind. "We have dates in mind that we want to hit and we're going to be working on hitting those dates."


Other news mentioned at the panel but announced previously included Whilce Portacio drawing Spawn, Darwyn Cooke writing and drawing a full issue for Madman Comics (#14), and a crime book written by Garth Ennis (crime apparently being the new zombies, what with all the announcements of crime projects here at SDCC).

Speaking of zombies, Kirkman mentioned October would be the five year anniversary of Walking Dead, and there would be several events to commemorate the event, including a 2009 calendar, the publication of the fourth volume hardcover, and a book collecting the covers to the first fifty issues. Also, "The Road to Washington," a new story arc would begin that month in the title, with the characters traveling to the nation's capital to discover what's left of the United States.


Between this and the announcement of Image United, fans of the original artists (call them Image zombies) and The Walking Dead (call them Zombie zombies) left excited, but it remains to be seen if even a galvanizing force like Kirkman can keep six creators notorious for blown deadlines and short attention spans on track.