Last week talked about diversity in the comic book world, this week, we’re diving into Marvel and DC’s biggest rival: Image Comics.
For almost half a century, the comic book world was just DC and Marvel. Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, and Erik Larsen were stand out artists at Marvel because of their amazing and innovative illustrations. Unfortunately, they weren’t completely happy. Marvel and DC didn’t give artists the opportunity to branch out or grow. “The elevator doesn’t go any higher,” says Rob.
Rob wanted to do his own stuff and created The Executioner. Marvel felt threatened and freaked out. Thus the idea for Image Comics was born.
Rob, Todd and Erik were still working at Marvel when they came up with Image Comics. Jim Lee was reluctant to join but he did and got Whilce Portacio, Jim Valentino and Marc Silvestri to join too. That’s seven Marvel artists that left Marvel and banded together to create a new comic book powerhouse.
No one thought Image Comics would last, but the artists stood by their decision.
The artists were gunge ho to get started and make a name for themselves, but there was no real collaboration among the artists. They each had their own ideas and each artist acted independently. Each artist created his own brand within Image.
Youngblood kicked off their success. Then came Spawn and WildC.A.T.s, and their success grew to be second in the industry. Not everything was brilliant but the illustrations sold the books. The artistry was miles above the rest.
Sales decreased by the mid ’90s and competition among the Image artists was on the rise. The individuality wasn’t quite working anymore.
Marvel had called Jim and Rob to try to revive some of their classic comic book characters. This drew the wedge between the artists even further. The industry continued to fall causing Jim to sell his brand to DC and Rob to resign from Image Comics.
Jim Valentino tried to salvage Image by taking the lead and decided to start the company from scratch. Image scrapped the current books and explored newer genres.
In walks Robert Kirkman with his idea for Planet of the Zombies. His idea took off and became The Walking Dead. It became Image’s best selling book within the decade. He was then asked to become a partner of Image Comics.
Image Comics created an environment for creative ownership and prides themselves on publishing progressive and provocative material and that is a huge part of it’s success. Image still utilizes independent creators and spans many genres.
Happy 25th anniversary Image Comics