The Past, Present and Future of Skybound, X Years In

The Image imprint famous for The Walking Dead and Invincible is celebrating a big anniversary. Let’s take a look at the story behind it.

The arrival of Skybound X #1, the first issue of an anthology celebrating ten years of Skybound Entertainment — the Image Comics imprint behind the Walking Dead and Invincible empires — is upon us. This five-issue mini-series launches today, tapping into the past, present and future of the house co-founders Robert Kirkman and David Alpert built together, feting the most notable comic releases from their decade in the process.

But it’s not actually the 10th anniversary, despite the “X” of it all.

Truth be told, it’s difficult to pin down exactly when Skybound first arrived. Consult Wikipedia and you’ll find a concrete birth date, as it claims the imprint launched on December 13, 2010. Ask Shawn Kirkham, its Senior Vice President of Business Development, and he’ll label June 2010 as the beginning, with that year’s edition of San Diego Comic Con being a crucial milestone in Skybound’s story. Talk to Kirkman and you’ll get an incredulous shrug, as well as the verbal equivalent of throwing his hands up in the air.

“Look, the last 10 years for me have been a blur,” Kirkman said. “After the Walking Dead show happened, I have no capability of remembering anything.”

Whenever it actually started, the last point Kirkman made is the important one: the past ten plus years of Skybound have been incredibly busy. While they’re likely most famous to you, readers of this rather comics-oriented site, as the aforementioned imprint of giant comic (and beyond) hits like The Walking Dead and Invincible, to describe them as an imprint is like calling one of my articles “wordy:” it fits, but it doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

In reality, the comic side of Skybound is just the surface of what they do, with a footprint that includes everything from video games to TV shows and movies and even, on occasion, fine bourbons and even finer guitars. Skybound is an anomaly in the comics space, as their purview is closer to a startup version of an entertainment conglomerate than similarly sized comics publishers. In some ways they’re exactly what you think they are. In others, they’re considerably different.

With the official celebration of Skybound’s tenth anniversary arriving today – even if the actual anniversary was ten years and change 20 ago — it felt like the right time to take a better look at this imprint publisher empire multimedia company, and to explore how they went from a startup with aspirations for more to something different than even those involved could have expected.

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  1. Okay, maybe a lot of change.

  2. This was Kirkman’s self-publishing label at the time.

  3. i.e. Producers told the pair that superhero adaptations couldn’t work with more than two powered individuals, and Invincible’s cast included a number somewhat north of that.

  4. A title he lifted from research on LinkedIn, saying, “That seemed like a business-y name.”

  5. Grace, Skybound’s first employee and early Editorial Director.

  6. My words that time.

  7. I 100% agree. What would the scent even be? Sweat and blood? Rotting? That’s gross.

  8. They almost named it DARK Entertainment, an acronym built from David Alpert Robert Kirkman. They decided it didn’t fit the vibe of what they were building.

  9. Kirkham noted his role escaped the boundaries of just comics as well, with Grace designing t-shirts and even making plush dolls in the early days.

  10. These days he’s the Senior Vice President, Editor-in-Chief on the comics side.

  11. Especially with memories of Tony Moore’s long-ago-settled lawsuit related to The Walking Dead‘s rights carrying onwards for some.

  12. Worth noting quickly: beyond this, the biggest impact being an imprint of Image has on Skybound is the publisher helps a ton in turning finished comic files into finished comic books. Alpert told me Image is massive in making that happen.

  13. I did not make this up!

  14. Which, full disclosure, I wrote and voiced a selection of pieces for several years back.

  15. Mackiewicz said new titles are only shared with other departments once “they’re up on their feet,” letting them find success in one medium before taking on anything else.

  16. Save for appearances by names like Glenn and Jesus.

  17. Per Kirkham, it was Grace who started the wheels turning on it.

  18. I suggested to Mackiewicz that I’d probably be very enthusiastic about the others on that list. He agreed with that sentiment.

  19. That’s Comics Vault Live, a video series Kirkham hosts.

  20. Okay, maybe a lot of change.