A SAPPY STORY ABOUT IMAGE COMICS FOR THEIR 25th ANNIVERSARY:
Wow! Image is 25! It’s fucking bat shit when I think about it. Anyway I have an eternal fondness for Image as a company. They started in 1992 so to fully understand why I like them so much you kinda gotta know my mindset in 1991. I’m one of those weirdos who has always known what he wanted to do with his life: make comics! And NOT work for someone else either. I wanted to make comics about MY characters (Yes–Rodney and Dornail!). Now in 1991 magazines were practically the only way you’d get any info about comics (even those eventually died down into a single magazine–Wizard). There wasn’t an internet or webcomics. I didn’t know any other artists at all growing up. Nevermind COMIC artists. So my entire worldview of what ‘comics’ were was shaped entirely by this razor thin window view I got to see. I was aware of self publishing. Ninja Turtles and Cerberus were already a thing that was on my radar. But for the most part those always seemed like complete and total flukes. Trying to emulate that success seemed like trying to bottle lightning. I read another creator say that it would actually be easier to become an astronaut then to be a successful comic artist and it really felt that way. So you can imagine telling people this was what you wanted to do with your fucking life. They’d look at you like you were high. It just wasn’t a thing that was really feasible. What’s more, the ones who even knew what the fuck a comic was or whatever were aware of the way it was handled at Marvel and DC. Writer writes. Penciler pencils. Inker inks. Letterer letters. Editor edits. Printer prints. Everyone had their place. To say you wanted to wear ALL those hats? Well.. who did you think you were anyway? ha ha. If you were an artist back then the concensus was that you should try to paint (like.. paintings for a museum) or work for Disney. And if you wanted to make comics? Work for Marvel or DC. I guess the occasional person tried to get me to work for the newspapers in the strips section. But again… I’m a weirdo.. I have always made full page, multipage comics. Never strips. So I knew that wasn’t for me. It just seemed like an impossible dream. There weren’t comic book ‘publishers’ like with prose books. You were just completely on your own to make it happen. People wouldn’t hesitate to shit all over your unrealistic dream and in their defense, what high profile example could you point to to prove them wrong?
And then Image comics rolled into town and suddenly you couldn’t say that. These were artists, writing their own stories, working for themselves and owning their creations. Holy shit! Exactly what I was driving at all along! And they were REALLY successful. Cartoon shows. Toy lines. Spawn even became a movie! You just couldn’t say that an artist could not completely own and produce his own book. It shattered basically everything everyone tried to drill into me. And the fucking crazy part? They went on to publish OTHER artist’s work yet allowed the creators to retain their rights! Ya know–like a fucking publisher would do! Nutty stuff. Mind blowing and game changing for the time.
I still remember the reaction. People were so sure they’d fail. People attacked the writing (because surely these comics were horrible since a ‘real writer’ didn’t write them). Yet Image endured. And matured. What Image ‘is’ is constantly in flux since the books are determined purely by what is submitted to them. But the on thing that is clear is that the NOTION that an artist can do it all, own it all, and be successful has been successful.
Anyway it wasn’t too long after a young me got internet (1998!) and put my own stuff online. And of course now everything’s different. I not only personally know hundreds of cartoonists, but I am aware that there are thousands and thousands past that I’ve never met, but they are all out there kicking ass and making comics. Owning their work. Calling the shots.
I’m thankful anyway for Image. It was a turning point for comic creators I believe. Yes there were loads of self publishing endeavors out there before and after. But at least in my life that huge high profile debut really changed the notion that you HAD no other choice but to fall in line. No choice but to give up your creations to go work on Batman or Spiderman. Suddenly all those false notions died at once.
Cheers to Image comics! Here’s to another 25 years!
P.S. Besides that it’s just brought a ton of amazing comics into my life. Savage Dragon, Invincible, Walking Dead, Chew, Bomb Queen, Danger Girl, Gen 13, Wildstorm, Officer Down, The Pro, etc. etc. etc.
P.P.S. My first comics were Spawn, Youngblood, and Savage Dragon. And if you know me you know how THAT shook out! 😉