The Image Revolution Part 1 – Brief History: The Road to Revolution

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The Walking Dead (AMC). Outcast (Cinemax). Spawn (HBO). These are just a few of the successful or soon to be successful TV shows based off creator owned comic book stories. More on these later. This series of posts will focus, mainly, on the documentary film The Image Revolution from 2014. The focus of this first post is to provide a brief history before the revolution, brief synopsis of who and what that started the uprising, and will lead into the next post coming on March 17th. The second post will delve into the why, how, what happened since the revolution, and the future of Image Comics.

Right when I popped the DVD in the player and heard coming from the title screen “Yesterday is all you know and I’m tomorrow” I knew I was in for a fantastic history lesson full of innovation, passion, betrayal, success, and love. Before we get to where we are, we need to understand where we’ve been.

Brief History of the Problem with Creativity and the Big Business of Comic Books

After the first Superman came out in the late 1970’s there was a lawsuit for the millions that DC Comics made off the Superman character, of which the creators saw none of. Siegel and Shuster created Superman decades before the character became popular and at that time were paid $130. After the case, the two creators were awarded a $20,000 annual pension. Since that time, just imagine all the revenue DC Comics has raked in through the t-shirts and other promotional items that bear the Superman logo or character. DC Comics was not the only culprit in reaping the benefits of what others worked so hard for. Marvel comics did not award any rights or royalties for Jack Kirby in the 1960’s. Kirby’s designs led to some of the most popular superheroes of today: Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and Fantastic Four, the list goes on. In the 1980’s Marvel would not even give Kirby back his original art pages.

Fast forward to the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. There were a select handful of comic book artists that were superstars in the pop culture world. These individuals often worked over 12 hour days to create masterpieces of art that started a complete BOOM for comic books. Marvel owns every single character that they published as well did DC Comics. During this time Marvel, in all its corporate-ness, would recycle covers of past issues and other artwork to print on t-shirts and merchandise of the like without even giving a free sample to the artist that created it (much less any revenue)! There was no appreciation whatsoever. Nominal effort from Marvel in working with the talented, young artists could have kept the creators content and within their employ. As happens sometimes, enough becomes enough.

Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, and Whilce Portacio eventually had had enough. As creators, the superstars were driven to strive for something more than this historical status quo. Individually, these artists had made Marvel millions of dollars in comic book sales alone. On top of that, people at Marvel would tell the artists that they shouldn’t have a page layout like this or shouldn’t alter costumes like that. The culture at Marvel was changing and they did not like how popular the artists had become and how the sales were following what these specific artists were doing. In exercising the control it had over their artists, corporate Marvel was holding on too tightly and losing control.

In two weeks (March 17th) come back to Dumbbells & Dragons where we take a trip back to 1991 and explore the beginning of the revolution and examine the why, how, what happened since the revolution, and the future of Image Comics.

Below is a brief synopsis of what brought the Image Comics’ founders to the top and what they did after breaking away from Marvel and DC.

Todd McFarlanespider-man1

Claim to fame before Image:

  • Amazing Spider-Man (comic book – ever hear of Venom?)
  • Spider-Man (best-selling comic book at the time [2 million copies])
  • Incredible Hulk (comic book)
  • Detective Comics – Batman: Year Two (comic book)

Claim to fame after revolution:

  • Spawn (comic book, HBO TV series, feature film, toys, video games)
  • McFarlane Productions (high quality toys, statues, playsets)

Rob LiefeldNew_Mutants_Vol_1_98_001

Claim to fame before Image:

  • The New Mutants (comic book – ever hear of Deadpool?)
  • X-Force (best-selling comic book at the time [5 million copies] – ever hear of Cable?)

Claim to fame after revolution:

  • Youngblood (comic book – first title produced by Image)
  • Brigade (comic book)
  • Supreme (comic book)

 

Jim LeeX-Men_Vol_2_1_Variant_C

Claim to fame before Image:

  • Uncanny X-Men (comic book)
  • X-Men (best-selling comic book at the time [8.2 million copies], designs led to TV show)

Claim to fame after revolution:

  • WildC.A.T.s (comic book, TV show)
  • Wildstorm Productions (production company)

Erik LarsenLarsen_ASM

Claim to fame before Image:

  • Amazing Spider-Man (comic book – took over after McFarlane)

Claim to fame after revolution:

  • Savage Dragon (comic book, TV show)

 

 

 

Marc SilvestriSilvestri_Wolvie

Claim to fame before Image:

  • Uncanny X-Men (comic book)
  • Wolverine (comic book)

Claim to fame after revolution:

  • Cyberforce (comic book)
  • Witchblade (comic book, live action TV show, anime TV show)
  • The Darkness (comic book, video games)
  • Top Cow Productions (production company)

Valentino_Guardians_1Jim Valentino

Claim to fame before Image:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (comic book)

Claim to fame after revolution:

  • ShadowHawk (comic book)

 

 

 

Whilce PortacioPortacio_Punisher

Claim to fame before Image:

  • Punisher (comic book)
  • Uncanny X-Men (comic book)

Claim to fame after revolution:

  • Wetworks (comic book)
  • Spawn (comic book)

 

 

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