photo & text by nacrowe
the story of AMERICAN comics basically revolves around two entities: publishers DC and MARVEL. that is until there was IMAGE COMICS, which was founded in 1992 by seven departing MARVEL artists including TODD MCFARLANE, ERIK LARSON, JIM LEE, ROB LIEFELD, JIM VALENTINO and MARC SILVESTRI. it was a huge risk as no previous artists were able to maintain control over their creations beforehand in the industry.
and it worked. THE IMAGE REVOLUTION (RESPECT, 2014) is the story of a company that basically blazed a path forward for writers and artists to bet on themselves at scale with the big players. now that we are nearing thirty years past the founding of IMAGE, it is absolutely heartbreaking to take in and stomach the fact that a legend like JACK KIRBY (legendary creator of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, THE X-MEN, IRON MAN, THE HULK, THOR, THE SILVER SURFER and even CAPTAIN AMERICA) was treated so badly by MARVEL that he had no claim to his creations and had to work to stay afloat until his death in his mid 70s. the industry historically is buttressed on abusing and exploiting its labor force, which it deems easily interchangeable. this is why all these artists leaving en masse was such a power move that still ripples in the industry to this day.
its funny, i recently watched the documentary CHRIS CLAREMONT'S X-MEN (review linked HERE) about the longstanding X-MEN writer who took the fledging franchise on an unprecedented and immensely successful 17-year run, only to be unceremoniously replaced by two industry scabs, JIM LEE and ROB LIEFELD. those two really come across in that film as hungry up-and-comers with no sense of history or honor for the work that preceded them, instead pandering to tired tropes of hyper-masculinity and reductive female sexuality (from a male gaze) that played to a core male audience. and was financially lucrative for MARVEL. how ironic that it was these two that a few years later decided to strike out on their own in establishing IMAGE. even more so that they both left due to the bloated organizations each built under the IMAGE brand, LEE even departing for DC ultimately. its all ego with these two, no shame and no honor. also in this film LIEFELD is seen in recent interviews making fun of MCFARLANE's cadence and vocal affectation and just comes off as some immature, narcissistic egomaniac. the dude must have no sense of self-awareness. then again, it kinda makes sense why his work played to the lowest common denominator, since he comes off very much as the living, physical embodiment of the lowest common denominator.
the real heroes are the remaining members that effectively made good on the paradigm shift in the industry with creators owning their creations by bringing in new blood like ROBERT KIRKMAN and his THE WALKING DEAD series. to date the IMAGE legacy has been one of promoting self-empowerment, whether or not such work with IMAGE or others that followed their credo.
an interesting film that i think should be viewed in conjunction with CHRIS CLAREMONT'S X-MEN (RESPECT, 2018).