This movie just fell into my lap, literally. I happened to be walking by the circulation desk when a patron was dropping off this movie and it fell off the desk, so I caught it, took a look, and knew what my next blog post was going to be about!
I am familiar with Image Comics, as I’m a fan of The Walking Dead and Revival, and most recently Alex + Ada. But I was not aware of how Image Comics got their start in the early 1990’s. During that time I was a huge devotee of ElfQuest, and my trips to Graham Crackers consisted of me heading straight for EQ, and also browsing in the Star Trek area. I was rather oblivious to the superhero genre, so the Image line of comics was a non-issue in my world at that time.
The movie The Image Revolution is a documentary that details how seven artists who were working for Marvel decided to break away and start up their own comic book publishing house, as to have more creative control and to retain rights to what ever characters they designed. The seven men were: Todd McFarlane (Spider Man & Spawn), Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy), Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), Whilce Portacio (X-Factor), Rob Liefeld (Deadpool & The New Mutants), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine) and Jim Lee (X-Men).
All seven of the founders of Image Comics were interviewed, in addition to other professionals in the comic book industry, to share how these artists became dissatisfied at Marvel and decided to strike out on their own. All seven were extremely talented, with their art being progressive and fresh, and had become well known in comic book circles. Them leaving was covered in the national news, and Rob Liefeld was even on the Dennis Miller show (I vaguely remember this). They experienced huge success with their first issues, with the Youngblood comic flying off the shelves.
But just because you are creative and gutsy, doesn’t mean you have the business acumen to run a publishing company. There were growing pains within the company, and infighting began. Some of the artists started to move away from the drawing board and spent more time on marketing and business issues. Jealousy arose among the factions, and eventually some of the original seven left for various reasons. It took several years to balance out, after their initial success, with The Walking Dead being a boon to the struggling but now stable company.
The documentary was extremely interesting, but uneven. Some of the founders had too much interview time (Liefeld!) and there were inconsistencies in the narrative and time line, notably regarding Whilce Portacio. WP left relatively soon after founding Image, but there is no mention of that at all. I understand in a documentary only so much can be covered, but adding a few minutes to explain why he went missing would have added to the flow of the story. It would also have fit with the narrative of growing pains, and that they left out his bio at the end, to me was disrespectful and a glaring omission. The movie only clocked in at 83 minutes, so there was definitely time to flesh out more of the founder’s stories. Another add in, would have been to explain why the 1990’s was the right time to break away from the big houses of Marvel and DC.
While I DO recommend this documentary, it would be only to the niche of comic book/graphic novel book lovers. But if you are reading this blog, then I’m guessing this movie would be right up your alley…
I just can’t resist posting this site mocking some of Liefeld’s artwork– although he’s really quite talented, despite the snark of this post!