In the wake of Marvel's big Avengers Vs. X-Men announcement and some pervasive DC rumors, the always forthright Publisher of Image Comics Eric Stephenson took the opportunity to distinguish his company from the Big Two by pointing out some brand new creator-owned projects readers can look forward to in 2012. Among them, new work from Jonathan Hickman, Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Fiona Staples. Included in Stephenson's blog were never-before-seen images from Hickman's The Manhattan Projects, Vaughan and Staples' Saga, and Hell Yeah by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz.In a blog post titled "A Future Apart," Stephenson characterized Marvel's recently announced Avengers Vs. X-Men is "a newer version" of the 1980s miniseries of the same name, and wrote that "by most accounts, DC is gearing up to do multiple new versions" of Watchmen. Meanwhile, he continued, "Image Comics is on a supersonic rocket ship to the future."

To help make his point, Stephenson rolled out cover artwork for a number of new creator-owned projects that will be published in 2012. Among them were previously released images from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Fatale and Robert Kirkman and Shawn Martinbrough's Thief of Thieves, but the Image Publisher also posted brand new images from some highly anticipated creator-owned releases.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga is an ongoing series set in what Vaughan told CA would be an "epic, vast sci-fi/fantasy universe," but focus mainly on the theme of family. You can read more about Saga in our interview with Vaughan.

The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

The first creator-owned ongoing series from the writer of The Nightly News and Fantastic Four/FF, The Manhattan Projects has been discussed very rarely by Jonathan Hickman. In conversation with CA's Chris Sims, the writer revealed that the series is begins with the idea that "The Manhattan Project, the atomic program, was like a cover for all the crazier, cooler experiments that were going on -- all the other Manhattan Projects, which is where the 'S' comes from. It's bad scientists -- like the Thunderbolts of science. Lots of Oppenheimer."

Hell Yeah by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz

Written by Joe Keatinge (one of the PopGun editors and writer of the upcoming Glory relaunch) and illustrated by newcomer Andre Szymanowicz, Hell Yeah is one of Image's 2012 projects that Stephenson is most proud of. In an earlier blog post, the Publisher wrote, "The initial arc telling the story of a man trying to figure out why alternate versions of himself are being murdered. It definitely qualifies as different, and thanks to the artwork by the up-and-coming Andre Szymanowicz, it looks awesome."

Whatever you think of Stephenson's remarks about the competition, it's hard to disagree that 2012 looks like it'll be an especially strong year for Image Comics ongoings.

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