For the longest time I had a slight prejudice against anything produced by Image Comics. It wasn’t because of any particular creator, character or event, but mainly because most Image creations seemed the same to me, or at least they weren’t shockingly different than most of the other comic creations out there. True, they tended to dwell on a darker breed of superhero with more muscles and less realistic proportions, but they were still your typical superhero stories. Battles were fought, villains defeated, and the status quo maintained, nothing Marvel and DC didn’t do or didn’t do better.
This had always been a source of confusion to me, because ever since Image Comics was established in the early 90’s, it set itself up so it could be different than the Big Two. It was founded by a group of artists (mostly from Marvel), who had grown tired of having no creative control or ownership over what they were making, and so decided to band together to make a publishing company where they could do things their way and on their terms. This group included big names like Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld. Image was the first major creator-owned publisher, but since most of these guys were artists and not writers, the only thing that they really did differently was their character designs. Image became big on muscles, guts, and blood and small on plot development and dialogue. In some cases, both then and now, the comics these guys created seemed to be derived from other characters they had worked on in the past. In the end the result was that in the family feud between Marvel and DC, Image became the deformed step-child that no one really wanted to talk about.
In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend in Image which has slowly garnered more and more of my attention. I’m not sure whether it’s because their superhero titles began to dip in popularity or if it was because their target audience was maturing and looking for something new, but Image has been branching out. This emergent breed of graphic fiction is unlike any of its predecessors: original, plot-based, and of genres that don’t involve tights and capes.True, other publishers have fought in this arena before, including Vertigo, Oni Press, and other smaller publishers, but for Image this is huge. In my opinion, this is a step that they should have taken from the very beginning, and now that they have I feel like I should give them the applause they deserve for delivering to us series like Chew, Proof, and countless others.
If you like superheroes, awesome; read Planet Hulk, check out Blackest Night, or even take a trip into the past and browse through the Age of Apocalypse. If you’re looking for something different, check out some of what the new Image has to offer. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Next week I’m going to start a countdown of my favorite Image titles (man, it STILL feels weird saying that), but until then, happy readings.