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UPDATE, AUG. 30, 2016:
Following up on the earlier rumour reported on Comics Beat, Newsarama reported today that they have confirmed that indeed Image Comics will be relocating to Portland later this year. Citing an unnamed source from within the publishing company, the site also reported that no major executive shake-ups are planned with the move, though it is unknown how many staff will be relocating from Berkeley to Portland.
Though Newsarama’s piece does state that Image Comics declined to officially comment on their article, the fact that they can site a source, albeit unnamed, does make the move more of a sure thing than the earlier, unsubstantiated story in Comics Beat. Stay tuned for more news on the move as it become available.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM AUG. 27, 2016:
An article by Heidi MacDonald over at the Beat is suggesting that Image Comics is getting ready to relocate their headquarters from California to Portland, OR. Currently, Image HQ is located in Berkeley, and like pretty much every inch of California, has become too expensive for people to actually live in and still enjoy luxuries, like, you know, food.
If true, the move would further cement Portland’s growing position as the hub of the American comics industry. Dark Horse and Oni Press are already located there, as is the advocacy group the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Additionally, the city is a mecca for small press publishers and is seeing more brick and mortar comic shops opening, with a 2016 OPBfm article reporting that at least three comic stores have opened in the city in 18 months.
It’s also become a town that a surprising concentration of big-name creators call home. Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Rucka, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber are just a few of the stars that hang their hat in the PDX, while countless indie creators also reside in the city. So, there’s a multitude of very good reasons why the comics industry is making a shift away from new York and California to the laid-back environs of Portlandia. And while its real estate prices are going up like any other desirable destination in the United States, there’s no arguing that it remains a cheaper place to headquarter your business than the pricier coasts.
Image declined to comment on MacDonald’s story, however, and in the piece she admits that the impetus for the article comes from “a few whispers,” not even going so far as to cite unnamed sources. So, this is basically a rumour at this point, and one that could just as easily be false as true. It’s not an implausible rumour, however, and if Image is going to move anywhere, Portland would certainly be at the top of the list.
Aside from the cost benefits, if you’re wondering why Portland has become such a hot spot for the industry, one only has to recall what made Berkeley and California the center of independent and underground comics back in the day. It wasn’t just the weather, it was also that the area had cultivated an openness towards the counter-culture and creative endeavours. If you wanted to make a weird little underground comic, or avant-garde music, or handmade driftwood sculptures, or organic spaghetti sauce, then California, and Northern California in particular, used to be the place you went.
But today, if you want to start an artisanal toast restaurant, or have a store that specializes in macrame, or stay in a hotel built in a converted elementary school, then Portland’s the place. The world’s largest used bookstore, Powell’s City of Books, is there. It’s a city that has taken the food truck craze and turned it into an art. It’s known as Beervana for the amount of micro-breweries in town, and is now beginning to be at the forefront of the distillery/bourbon craze. There is a community project that’s been going on for years involving people going around and tying little plastic horses to the antique horse-tie rings that dot the city. The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird,” and the denizens take it seriously. It’s why “Portlandia” is so funny, doubly so for anyone who’s ever been there (because the show’s way more true to life than you’d at first believe).
So, the city would be a good fit for Image, who over the last decade has positioned itself as the creator-driven, creatively-motivated alternative to the corporate super-heroics of DC or Marvel. Though this rumour remains just that, a rumour, it’s one that Image should seriously consider making fact. Portland might be a solid asset in “Keeping Image Weird”, and keeping it a distinct creative force.