I already wrote articles for Marvel and DC in the 1990s. Well then you might think, that’s it. You’re all done. Oh, you silly person. You have clearly forgotten the indy comic book scene. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. You need to establish your mainstream cred first before you branch off into the lesser known aspects of a culture. To be honest, you probably didn’t say any of that. But, as long as we are being honest, I didn’t even know of any comic companies other than Marvel and DC until I got introduced to Image Comics.
I got introduced to Image when Image introduced themselves to the world. Yep, I was there from the beginning. I knew nothing about the story of disgruntled Marvel and DC talent leaving the companies to start their own company. I just walked into the comic book store and saw these shiny new books. Sure, they were more expensive than the Marvel and DC books, but, shiny.
Which of these shiny new books did I buy? Initially, all of them. Every single one. That’s not an exaggeration. Understanding that the number 1 is a very special number in comic books, I got every first issue of the Image comics that came out. For some books, those were the only issues that I bought. Others, I kept buying in hopes that they’d grow on me. Not many did. There were only a few that I collected on a regular basis.
Image Comics in the 1990s
First was Pitt. I like Dale Keown’s art and I collected the book mostly for that. Chris and I have talked a few times about the book and I mentioned how it was one of the Image titles that I kept collecting and even replaced in my collection a few years ago. More recently, I had to admit to him that I’ve only ever read the first issue. Shame! Shame the nerd!
The second book that I collected regularly (and continue to collect to this day) is Spawn. There seems to be a lot of hatred for Todd McFarlane in the community, but Chris and I both agree that he is one of the artists who helped to usher in the modern era of comic book art. Like many of the early Image books, his writing isn’t as strong as the art, but the Spawn story is fun enough for me to keep reading. Also, as he has grown, he’s been more willing to give up writing duties to more established writers and that has helped.
Finally, we come to probably my favorite comic book ever created. I had never heard of Sam Kieth before his work at Image, but I have become a life long fan. In fact, I recently also became a fan of John Layman as a result of Sam Kieth doing the art for his mini series Eleanor and the Egret. This all started with a comic book about a homeless man’s delusions of being a hero. The Maxx was unlike anything that I’d ever read in a comic book before. Considering the current comic book environment, it was just ahead of its time.
Image Comics in TV and Movies
We’ve already established that unlike Marvel and DC, I discovered Image through the comic books. However, it did not take long for popular culture to catch up and put the independent guys on televisions and movie screens. In some ways, these movies and TV shows helped to usher in a more modern era in much the same way that Image Comics pushed the comic book industry. Chief among the ones that I remember are the Spawn and Maxx animated series and the Spawn movie.
HBO commissioned the Spawn cartoon, allowing for all of the dirty bits to be included. While it has been too long for me to remember specifics, I do remember that I enjoyed the cartoon very much at the time. A quick search confirms that assessment. The show won an Emmy at the time. Not to be outdone, Hollywood hitched their wagon to the Spawn money train and released a movie. Again, I don’t remember specifics, but I don’t remember it being very good. It wasn’t bad, either, just one of those forgettable movies from my childhood. One thing that it did was show that comic book movies could be successful. We are a bit spoiled today, but there was a time when all comic book movies were as bad as current DC movies. (*cheap shot*)
Finally, I want to talk about The Maxx animated series. This one was on MTV during the first wave of people complaining, “Remember when MTV showed music videos?” The cartoon was just as weird and wonderful as the comic book. Additionally, it was part of an animation revolution that reverberates today.
I haven’t gone back to revisit these comic books as I have with some of the other entertainment that I enjoyed in my teenage years to see if they hold up. When I read The Stand again (well, I listened to the audiobook) a few months ago, I made the comment to Kevin that the story is so multilayered that I’ve been able to find a new way to enjoy the book; once as a teenager, once as a twenty something, and finally as a 42 year old father. The exact same can’t be said for The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or the Dragonlance novels that I’ve reread, but I do still enjoy them both just as much as then.
I even picked up my old 2099 books in anticipation of recording the podcast with Chris tomorrow. While not as entertaining as some of the others, it’s still been a fun trip down memory lane. Reading them has made me think about reading Spawn and maybe even The Maxx with new eyes. Part of me is afraid that it will ruin the memory as Chris and I will discuss happened with him and the 2099 series when he read it recently.