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Aug. 14, 2020

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I Like Comics to host signing with Image Comics leaders

Guests will include major industry names such as ‘Walking Dead’s’ Robert Kirkman, Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri

By , Columbian business reporter

Downtown Vancouver’s I Like Comics shop has seen its share of big industry events, but nothing on this scale.

The store, at 1715 Broadway, will host a comic-book signing featuring all six of the current leaders of Image Comics, the third-largest publisher of comic books and graphic novels after Marvel Comics and DC Comics. The event will be 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 10.

The lineup includes Robert Kirkman, creator of “The Walking Dead”; Erik Larsen, creator of “Savage Dragon”; Todd McFarlane, creator of “Spawn”; Marc Silvestri, creator of “Cyberforce”; Erik Stephenson, creator of “Nowhere Men” and Jim Valentino, creator of “ShadowHawk.”

“When I say this is the biggest signing event for comic books that’s ever happened in the Portland metro area, I’m not overstating it,” said I Like Comics owner Chris Simons.

Each of the six creators are household names in the comics world and beyond, known both for their own creations and for their work on major Marvel and DC titles.

Members of the lineup have made comic book signing and comic convention appearances in the past, but the December gathering will mark the first time that all six of them have appeared at the same event.

“It’s rare for the Image partners to get together, rarer still for us to make a public appearance,” said Valentino, vice president at Image Comics, in a press release. “We hope to see you all there.”

Fans who attend the three-hour event will be limited to one item per creator to sign. Signatures will be free of charge. No selfies or posed photos will be permitted, in the interest of keeping the line moving.

CGC is also prohibited — referring to an authentication process in which fans seek to have a comic book signed in the presence of a certified witness from the Comics Guaranty Company so the book can be immediately sealed for preservation with a verified signature.

Image Comics

Image Comics was founded in 1992 by a collective of former Marvel and DC creators who left the two legacy publishers and formed the new company on the guiding principle that writers and illustrators, rather than the publisher, would own the rights to the characters they create.

The company grew to become the third-largest comic book publisher, and its lineup branched out beyond the superhero stories that made up the traditional core of the industry, moving into genres including sci-fi, fantasy, romance, horror, historical fiction and humor.

In 2016, the company relocated from California to the Montgomery Park building in Northwest Portland, which helped to cement the city’s status as a major comics industry hub. (Dark Horse Comics, the industry’s fourth-largest publisher, is headquartered in Milwaukie, Ore).

Larsen, McFarlane, Valentino, Silvestri, Kirkman and Stephenson form the company’s current board of directors, and most of the group were among the original founders. Today, the company consists of five major production houses: Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline Comics, Skybound Entertainment and Image Central.

“We’re all spread out across three different states, but since we’d all agreed to meet at our offices in Portland as we approach the end of the year, we thought it would be fun to get together with Image’s local fans as well,” Stephenson said in a press release. “Thanks to Chris (Simons) and I Like Comics, we were given an opportunity to do just that.”

I Like Comics

Simons founded I Like Comics in 2010, initially as a mail-based buyer and seller of vintage comic books. The business later expanded to a physical storefront, and in 2014 it moved from its original location on Fourth Plain Boulevard to its current home on Broadway. The store now occupies two suites with a wall knocked out between them to create a combined 5,000 square feet of space, making it the largest comic book shop in the Pacific Northwest, according to Simons.

The store sells comics, graphic novels, collectible statues and fine artwork, and continues to specialize in buying and selling vintage comics. Some of the rare old comics can reach incredibly high values — last year the store sold a Spider-Man #1 issue for $125,000 — but Simons said the biggest drivers of business are the 250 new comics that arrive each week, and the customers who maintain subscription boxes and stop by each week to pick up their orders.

I Like Comics has hosted previous signing events featuring prominent guests such as comics creator Brian Michael Bendis and author Chuck Palahniuk, which have resulted in long lines that snaked their way through the entire store floor and out onto the sidewalk, but Simons said he expects the December event to easily be the biggest in the store’s history.

Simons hosted a comic convention last year at the Clark Count Events Center called I Like Comic Con, and he credits that event and past signings at the downtown store for laying the foundation that made I Like Comics a contender to host an event as big as the December signing.

For this event, Simons said he’s preparing for record crowds and long lines of comic fans from all over the Northwest, bringing their cosplay costumes, fan art and vintage comics from as far back as the 1990s to be signed by their original creators.

Simons described it as a “dream come true” when Image reached out to ask if I Like Comics would host the event, and he credits the writers and artists at the company for taking the time to make the signing happen.

“This isn’t part of their job, but they’re still here doing this,” he said. “This is just them saying ‘we really care about our fans.'”