Image Comics was a pretty fucking awesome development. Twenty years ago. Sweet Fuck!, it’s already been that long? A bunch of ruffians breaking away from the pack to creator their own (rip-offs of Batman and Spider-Man, hi Todd!) and retain all the rights to them.
The original Image line included such memorable hits as Spawn, Youngblood and WildC.A.T.S., and the 20 years hence have seen the founders become publishers and studios in and of themselves. Among them, Silvestri’s Top Cow Productions (which shares the birthday with Image), which has continued to develop stories based on Silvestri’s work like Witchblade and The Darkness, as well as new works by Mark Millar & J.G. Jones (Wanted) and Josh Fialkov & Rahsan Ekedal (Echoes). Jim Lee’s WildStorm Productions unleashed a large and influential line of titles including Gen13 and StormWatch before he sold his company to DC Comics, setting in motion a chain of events that would ultimately see Lee ascend to Co-Publisher of that company. And Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios released Youngblood #1, the first comic book to reach #1 on the sales charts that wasn’t published by Marvel or DC, and has reemerged recently with revitalizations of Liefeld’s creator-owned work (Prophet, Glory) that are among 2012′s most interesting new comics.
Crucially, Image made itself more than a boutique publisher by engaging creators from other genres and styles. Offering writers and artists what few publishers do even today — 100% ownership of all their intellectual property rights, including media rights — Image has throughout its history published material as diverse and notable as the following, and many more besides:
Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower
Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo
Elephantmen by Richard Starkings and Moritat (and others)
Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Fell by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith
Girls by the Luna Brothers
GÃ¸dland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura
Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley
Jack Staff by Paul Grist
King City by Brandon Graham
Mage by Matt Wagner
Madman by Mike Allred
Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma
Nonplayer by Nate Simpson
Orc Stain by James Stokoe
The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman
Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The PopGun anthology
Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen
Scud: The Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab
Shadowhawk by Jim Valentino
Viking by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard
Wetworks by Whilce Portacio
Additionally, perennials that got their starts at Image include Astro City by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross; Casanova by Matt Fraction, Gabriel BÃ¡ and FÃ¡bio Moon; Channel Zero by Brian Wood, Danger Girl by J. Scott Campbell, the Flight anthology series, and The Maxx by Sam Kieth.
I was thinking about Image a couple of weeks ago, and I was once again impressed at the gutsy it must have taken to pull off such a move. Then a darkness slunk into me, as a I remembered Jim Lee was essentially a boring DC character designer, even the Special Education kid Rob Liefeld is back within the mainstream, Todd McFarlene is out somewhere walking around with Mark McGuire’s baseball in his ass and…and…Okay, I’m getting bitter. Still though, the thought of what they did is outstanding, and there’s still a good amount of creator-owned titles streaming out of the Third Party.