Image Comics in the 2000s

A Note

We return, perhaps triumphantly, to the content that has made us famous? Well, famous in our circles, anyway. Okay, so it’s not strictly gaming content yet. That’s coming next week. But, it is more a more nerd oriented article. One other is coming later in the week and I’m going to edit a podcast to release this week. We will be back to gaming content with a podcast with the Gamer Bros. and some companion articles.

Introduction

I’ve already taken a trip back to Marvel in the 1990s and 2000s and also DC in the 1990s and 2000s. The one other constant in my comic collecting life has been Image. I’ve also talked about my history with them in the 1990s. All that’s left is a trip to visit Image in the 2000s. Consequently, and not surprisingly, this is that trip.

Marvel’s Civil War got me back into comics in the 2000s. DC’s Infinite Crisis expanded my knowledge of comics to previously unknown characters and stories. Images was more of a habit. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t enjoy the books. It’s just that they weren’t a driving force behind my collecting. As usual, let me explain better.

You’re saying our time meant nothing to you? Um, I, well, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’d said I’d explain better.

The Walking Dead

Today, The Walking Dead is a big deal. Sure, it’s isn’t as big of a deal as it maybe was 3 or 4 years ago, but it is still on television and my youngest wants to be a zombie for Halloween. So, it’s wormed its way into the public conscience. Back then, it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal. I found the title in a similar manner as the Infinite Crisis. As I wandered through the store looking for Marvel Civil War titles, I saw “The Walking Dead”. Huh, I thought, a comic about zombies. That seems cool.

It seemed even cooler as I read more about it. The writer, Robert Kirkman, sold it as the zombie story that happens after the credits roll in a typical zombie movie. Always on the search for something unique, that intrigued me. Sure, we all love the old school stories like Night of the Living Dead.

Though, if I’m being plainly honest, I’m pretty sure that society would return to normal, a la Shaun of the Dead instead of the post apocalyptic horror that Kirkman presents in his stories.

At least for me though, what kept the zombie genre interesting for so long were the second and third generation stories. Danny Boyle introduced the “not quite zombie” zombie apocalypse. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost gave us a love story–with zombies. Max Brooks wondered how a documentary style zombie apocalypse might look. And Robert Kirkman explored the slow destruction of all semblance of society and found that humans are actually the much bigger threat.

I stayed with The Walking Dead even after my LCS had to close up shop. While I had been buying both issues and trades, I started buying only trades online when the store closed. Eventually, I stopped buying even those. I stopped watching the show for the same reason. In an effort to constantly up the ante, they focused more on shock value than entertainment. They became what most horror becomes. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Aiden asked about AHS the other day because we’re introducing him to the genre. Christine said something and I more or less echoed her thoughts. The first season was good, the second season was okay, and the rest of them were not worth watching.

Spawn

The only other Image book that I collected at this time was Spawn. I often talk about my history of comics as beginning with Marvel Comics. While that isn’t strictly untrue, it wasn’t actually comics that served as my introduction. Instead, as I suspect it is with many people my age, I discovered comics through campy 70s and 80s television shows.

My true introduction to actual comics came in the 1990s. As a result, my first comic book love belongs to Spawn. It probably doesn’t seem like it now, but the book was groundbreaking. One, it almost single handedly kept Image viable during those lean early years. That’s not entirely what I mean.

Image seemed like such a good idea. It was sold so well that they got many industry giants to buy into it. While initially, it looked like the whole experiment might blow up in their faces, they eventually figured out who they are.

 

Many things that we take for granted in comics today originated in Spawn. Instead of newsprint, he opted for the glossy magazine type paper that allowed for sharper lines and more vibrant colors. This showcased his art in a way that made the book feel like, well, art. Gone were the days of the funny books. Instead, comics became eye catching and true collector’s items. Also, does anyone remember the CCA? G? The fact that I can’t even remember the letters even though I grew up under the tyranny of that all seeing logo shows that most younger fans probably don’t know what I’m talking about. We owe at least some of that to Uncle Todd and Image telling them to shove it.

The Verdict

The Walking Dead and Spawn. Two books that kept an entire publisher relevant for me for a few years. They’ve always been a smaller studio and creator driven. Other than those two, not much else from Image has crossed over into other pop culture like Marvel and DC. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. As DC has shown, it’s not easy to make quality comic book movies. Then again, Marvel does have a decade head start on them. Not all of those early Marvel efforts are masterpieces, either.

However, this article isn’t about Marvel or DC. So, let’s get back on track. The only reason I mention movies is that there are plans for another Spawn movie. Alas, in a couple of weeks or months, I will talk about that. For now, I will praise Image as the little studio that could.

Just chug-chug-chugging along.

They were born out of the ashes of a colossal exodus of talent from the big two. They survived on the back of Spawn and later The Walking Dead. 20 years later, they seem to have found their niche as the place for writers and artists to go to test out new ideas and work on projects that didn’t quite fill the traditional mold. Sure there are others in this space, but Image is the undisputed king.

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