Workers at Image Comics Form Unprecedented Union

Labor organizing has arrived in the infamously exploitative comics industry.
Art from the first issue of Todd McFarlane's Spawn

As a wave of labor-rights enthusiasm continues to sweep America, the workers of Image Comics, an independent comic book publisher, have announced that they have formed a union—a first for a major comics publisher.

Image Comics was formed in 1992 by high-profile comic book creators like Jim Lee (now the publisher and chief creative officer of DC Comics) and Rob Liefeld, as a publisher that would allow creators to retain the rights to their creations, unlike larger publishers DC and Marvel. In many ways it was the culmination of a wave of creator-rights activism in which titans like Jack Kirby and Alan Moore played huge parts. Since then Image Comics has spawned huge hits like Robert Kirkman’s long-running The Walking Dead and Invincible series, Todd McFarlane's Spawn, and Brian K. Vaughn's critically acclaimed Saga.

Today, current workers at Image Comics have announced that they have formed a union, called Comic Book Workers United. On their website—where they list concrete goals relating to transparency, diversity and more—they say that they feel that this is a natural extension of Image Comics' mission to make the economics of working in this industry more equitable towards writers and artists. They say that they were inspired to take action after seeing Jim Valentino, one of the original founders of Image Comics, celebrate union accomplishments on social media.

"In the early stages of organizing, we looked to Image's founders for inspiration. Their dreams of self-determination and more equitable treatment in the industry they loved and helped make successful are also our dreams" the organizing committee writes on its website. "We are honored to grow their legacy by taking this step to give all comic book industry professionals, regardless of title, the same rights, guarantees, security, and protections which the founders sought when they broke away from the big two to start their own company."

During the month of October, a historic wave of strikes swept through America. This labor movement, dubbed Striketober, was one of the biggest labor movements in recent history. Comic book workers, who face long hours and low pay even as their creations drive a multibillion dollar industry that underwrites entire streaming services that are central to the ambitions of some of the world’s most powerful companies, now join workers in industries of every sort who are demanding to have a say in their working conditions and over what is done with the fruits of their labor. 

Comic Books Workers United and Image Comics did not immediately return requests for comment.