Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Discuss: Image Comics

Doug:  It was 20 years ago today... give or take a couple of days.


humanbelly said...

Is there someone on board knowledgable enough to list off the creators in the photo? I'm sure I should know who they are, but sadly don't.

I was a pretty big Invincible follower for quite awhile there-- but it, too, turned awfully dark and became 'way less fun to read.


Edo Bosnar said...

I'm actually surprised at myself for recognizing several of these guys right off the bat - considering that I made a definitive break from comics sometime in 1990, well before Image was even formed, and that up to that point, I hadn't read anything most of these guys were working on. However, the tallest guy in the dark blue shirt in front of that painting is Marc Silvestri (the only one whose work I would have recognized at the time), the guy in the maroon shirt, shorts and backward baseball cap is the notorious Rob Liefeld, and I'm pretty sure the guy sitting in the middle with the can of soda is Jim Lee. Otherwise, I think - but I can't be sure without looking it up somewhere - the guy between Liefeld and Silvestri is Todd McFarlane. Amazing how much stuff you pick up just from years of casually reading comic blogs...
As for Image, I can't say I have much of an opinion either way: on the one had, I guess it could be said that the company was responsible for what became known as the "Image style" which apparently means flashy, "kewl" art (with gratuitous portrayals of supposedly 'sexy' but frankly rather contorted-looking women) and unsubstantial stories (kind of like comic book junk food), something to which even the big 2 fell prey eventually. If the 1990s can be described as some kind of wasteland period for mainstream comics, I guess Image bears considerable responsibility for that. On the other hand, over the years, Image was also been responsible for some really good stuff, too, like Astro City, and it often gave really talented indy creators (and Alan Moore) an opportunity to publish their work.

William said...

Starting in the back row from left to right Eric Larsen, Rob Liefield, Todd McFarlane and Marc Sylvestri.

Front row - left to right - (Don't know who the first guy is, it should be Whilce Portacio but I don't think that's him), Jim Lee and Jim Valentino.

Don't know if I spelled those all correctly, and I don't really care. Image Comics was the beginning of the end of the comic book medium as we knew it. It was more about fueling the extremely massive egos of Rob Liefield and Todd McFarlane (and company) than it was about creating good comics that people would actually want to read.

All these so-called "rebels" did with all their new found creative freedom was regurgitate out a bunch of watered down versions of the X-Men and X-Force. (Youngblood, Wildcats, Cyber Force, Wetworks, etc.) just so they could screw over Marvel for some reason. When, from what I understand, Marvel was basically giving them free reign over the most popular, most iconic characters in all of comicdom, and literally paying them millions of dollars a year to do whatever they wanted. But that wasn't good enough for these massive tools.

Now, if they had gone and done something great, created some original, quality work, and perhaps redefined the industry and actually improved things, I may feel differently. But all they did was take the same things they were already doing at Marvel over to Image, and then did them poorly.

david_b said...

I had to wikipedia this company, since I have no direct knowledge or interest here..

Still don't.

Loved the original, underlying theme of artists having more direct control and ownership by starting a grassroots company, and agreeing with Edo about the '90s..: I found nothing noteworthy about this period, except perhaps McFarlane's tenure on Spidey. Stylish art (again emulated in a lot of other titles, unfortunately..), but didn't see much by way of substance, like most '90s media (television, movies, comics).

The advent of insipid testosterone-drawn male hunks and top-heavy, curvy female heroes was clear here, and it WAS NOT a good trend.

J.A. Morris said...

Not interested, never was. I'll give them some credit as business men and I'll add that Larsen & McFarlane have some talent (though McFarlane's Marvel stuff from the 80s hasn't aged well).

I picked up a couple issues of Spawn, Shadowhawk and Savage Dragon when they first came out, didn't do much for me.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Image was formed, but I had no interest in any of the comics. I actually liked X-Men and X-Force, but when Lee and Liefeld left Marvel I didn't follow them. I remember seeing ads for Image comics and, as William said above, most of the characters looked like barely-altered versions of what they'd been doing at Marvel.

To this day, the only Image stuff I've read is Astro City (which was originally published by Image) and Walking Dead (which isn't a typical Image comic).

Mike W.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I can honestly say I have never read a single Image comic so I don't have any opinions or commentary.

This was right around the time I stopped buying new comics. The trends in the industry we just not appealing to me, so I quit.

dbutler16 said...

david_b echoes my thoughts perfectly.

humanbelly said...

The photo is so revealing. For the most part, they're a bunch of kids. . . and they were ALL "Hot Artists". . . not a credible writer in the bunch. I mean, Liefeld looks like he's 14 years old. I did not realize he was so obviously young, which completely explains the lack of depth, subtlety, artistry and sincerity in his work. Not for nothing do they refer to it as "callow youth". Bleah.

I liked Erik Larson okay on Spiderman, and Todd McFarlane was terrific when controlled by a strong writer, but Marc Silvestri's years on X-Men visually bored me to TEARS. I could never understand why he was so long at the helm of a flagship title. And I think Jim Valentino was drawing the second go-round of Guardians of the Galaxy in the early 90's, which was a rather fun book-- and his work was 'waaaaay less stylized than his buddies', here.

Man-- a group of extremely talented guys who seemed to be a too fatally in love with their own cumulative legend. I might point out that a sort-of contemporary talent of theirs, Mike Deadato, was churning out work very much along their lines, but has managed to continuously adapt and revamp his style over the years. There are pages of his from different periods that you wouldn't likely credit as being the same artist. . .


Anthony said...

I remember Image for the impact it had on my favorite series The Incredible Hulk. Though he wasn't a founding member, Dale Keown left Marvel to create a Hulk character, Pitt, for Image. This ended a great run with Peter David and Gary Frank did his best Keown imitation when he took over art chores on the book. Most recently Silvetri's inability to make deadlines and Portacio horrendous art ( at least in this book ) put the final nails ( writer Jason Aaron did his share of hammering as well ) in the coffin of the last Hulk reboot.
To be fair I believe Image was founded because the pendulum at Marvel had swung more in favor of writers. The Marvel Method was long gone. That plus huge egos helped form Image. One or two strong writers could have helped them but as mentioned above there really wasn't a writer in the bunch. Crossgen seemed to have learned from Image's mistakes while making plenty of their own.
They harvested a good crop of talent from the big 2 but their lack of jumping on points for new readers, the complete interconnectedness of their book and the huge salaries doomed them.
I totally agree with HB on Mike Deodato. I love his new style. I first noticed it on the Tigra mini. I loved his second go-round on the Incredible Hulk as well as his runs on the Dark Avengers and Secret Avengers. So much better than his earlier, almost Good Girl, style.

Karen said...

I didn't know a lot about how Image was formed until I read Sean Howe's "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" recently. Let's just say that McFarlane and Liefeld in particular don't come off looking very good. The utter disdain for actually putting together a real story, and not just a collection of images, was unreal.

Doug said...

Concerning how much money these guys made, remember -- in January 1999, after Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' single season home run record during the '98 season, Todd McFarlane bought the ball that was homer #70 (the new record at the time) as well as other significant balls hit by McGwire and Sammy Sosa for well over $3 million.


humanbelly said...

I do remember that, Doug. Geeze, if any further proof were needed for the utter lack of grown-up-ness inherent in that crowd. . .

Even now, I still find myself thinking that he HAD to have been going out on an a precarious financial limb to make that kind of (jarringly dumb) vanity-acquisition. I have trouble seeing how even Marvel's business model could sustain salaries like that for its top-tier talent. Did any book sell enough to turn a profit while sustaining that kind of dough for its artist?


William said...


When the Image guys were at Marvel the books they worked on did pull in some impressive numbers. It was the height of the speculator craze and Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #1, Jim Lee's X-Men #1 and Rob Liefeld's X-Force #1 each sold in the millions of copies (yes I said millions), and by that time Marvel artists were earning royalties, so all those guys were raking in more money than they could spend. Then they got cocky.

They (and by "they" I mean mostly Liefeld and McFarlane) one day just decided that Marvel was somehow screwing them over (even though they weren't), and then those two convinced Jim Lee and the others that they were getting screwed as well, so they all banded together and left without really any warning, leaving Marvel with a sudden (and huge) creator vacuum that they had to scramble to fill. An executive at Marvel was quoted as saying something to the effect that he still doesn't know to this day why the Image guys did what they did, the way that they did it.

That unexpected talent exodus from the biggest comic publisher in the world had a big negative effect on the industry as whole, and it has never fully recovered to this day.

Nice job fellas. Way to go.

Garett said...

I like Lee and Silvestri's art in their Image years, and the Wildcats and Cyber Force stories were ok for the first while. I liked the exuberant energy they brought to the art.

Larsen's Savage Dragon was great fun, and he was the artist most influenced by Kirby. I followed it for the first 35 issues. Hyperactive storytelling, with new characters appearing all the time, but you can tell Larsen's having a ball. At one point Savage Dragon meets...God!

McFarlane--I like some Spawn pages, but could never get into the story. Liefeld had energy but not much else for me. Although I think he's getting a bad rap these days--didn't he create Deadpool, Cable, and other characters? I've read some Deadpool stories since then, and he's a fun character.

For newer Image, Walking Dead is a fantastic series. I read the Compendium of the first 50 issues, and loved it! I'm not a horror fan usually, but great writing and mood. Danger Girl by J. Scott Campbell is a very fun series, like James Bond, and Campbell's cartoony sexy art is a delight.

Another winner is Hawaiian Dick, about a private eye in Hawaii in the '50s. The first TPB is the best. Interesting art, good story and great colors.

I actually think we could use a jolt of Image in modern comics. The writers have taken over, but it's dreary writing. The art is competently done, but so careful and generic. Well let's say we need a shot of Kirby/Lee in modern comics!

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, yes - a shot (or jolt) of something akin to Lee/Kirby would be nice. Or really, a shot of that genuine Bronze Age spirit, in which writers & artists were willing to experiment but still managed to produce fun stories (like Starlin, Gerber, Englehart...)

humanbelly said...

Great, helpful overview, William-- thanks much.

Boy, what a lesson on the follies of "Me-First/Get-Mine"-ism, eh? And look at the collateral damage it causes. Of all things, it reminds me most of the wreckage that both Terrel Owens and Chad Johnson ("OchoCinquo") left in their wake in the NFL for so many years. . .

One has to wonder what kind of long-term financial security these artists set up for themselves--- if any. Most of them are still working in the industry, right? Pretty sure we've been seeing those names bouncing around.


Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I wasn't too facinated with the work of Image. Spawn,looked like a combination of Dr. Strange and the skull image of the Punisher. The visuals, while exciting, didn't make for good comics. The writing was not there. The maturity was not there. If the company still exists, it can't be the same as it was before. I have to wonder if any of these guys saved any of their millions to retire? Are any of them drawing comics anymore? I know Silvestri has Top Cow. Lifield comes off as very arrogant without the talent to back his claims. It's funny, all their work looks exactly the same as it did over twenty years ago. I just wish they brought something else to comics other than flash and taking advantage of fans.

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