Eric Stephenson interview

Eric Stephenson is the Executive Director of Image Comics. He's also the man behind Four-Letter Worlds, a new anthology featuring stories by some of the hottest creators around. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash contacted Stephenson to find out more about the book.

Westfield: Tell us about the genesis of Four-Letter Worlds. Where did the concept come from?

Eric Stephenson: I actually got the idea from a song by a band called Echobelly. For the longest time I thought there was a line in the chorus of a song off their album On that said "this is a four-letter world." When I eventually checked the lyrics, I realized it was actually just "this is a four-letter word," but my original interpretation stuck with me and I began thinking it would make a good idea for a series. I started to think about how love, hate, fear and fate all weigh heavily on everyone's lives, regardless of what each word or idea means on an individual level, and decided it would be neat to do stories written about each subject from different point of view. I was originally going to write all the stories myself and then cajole a variety of artists into drawing them, but after some further thought, I decided it would make more sense to line up 16 entirely different creators/creative teams to make the project seem as varied as possible.

Westfield: How did you decide which creators to ask to be involved?

Stephenson:For the most part, I wanted to get in people whose work I enjoyed. There are some people I couldn't get for a variety of reasons, but I'm still very proud to have assembled such a fine group of creators.

Westfield: How did you function as editor? Was it simply a matter of getting the right creators, or did you act as a sounding board or make story suggestions? Or was it a combination of things?

Stephenson:Well, at Image we pride ourselves on mucking about with creators' work as little as possible. With this particular project, the editorial job comes down to lining up the creators, letting them know the perimeters of the stories and then making sure they get the work in on something approaching a decent schedule. Once everything is finally in, I'll oversee the project right up until publication. I have made some story suggestions here and there, but only when I felt it was absolutely necessary. Everyone involved is a consummate pro, however, so it's not like there was a lot of editorial hand-holding going on. I basically just had to convince everyone to jump on board and then sit back and wait for some fantastic work to pour in!

Westfield: Is there anything you can tell us about the stories in the book?

Stephenson:They run the gamut, really. Robert Kirkman is doing a story about a woman who kills people for a living. Jim Mahfood turned in a fantastic story called Lust that is pretty hilarious. Jamie S. Rich and Andi Watson did a great story for the section of the book dealing with fate that may or may not be a glimpse into the esteemed Mr. Rich's past. I'm doing a story about divorce... and oddly enough it isn't about my ex-wife. B. Clay Moore did a story about an old Sam Cooke record and a lost love. There are all kinds of stories in here, really - I don't think there's ever been a book quite like this.

Westfield: If this does well, would you like to do more anthologies like this in the future?

Stephenson:Maybe. Flight did really well for us. We sold out of the first printing in something like two months and the book just moved like wildfire at Comic-Con International in San Diego. We're doing another Flight book later in 2005 and we plan to continue doing those as long as there's an audience for 'em. Likewise, if 4LW goes over well, we'll probably want to do more. We also have a couple projects in the works with British musicians Belle & Sebastian and Stephen Duffy. We've approached both B&S and Duffy about adapting some of their songs for comics and they're into the idea, so that's going to be happening at some point over the next year or so.