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Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Image Ten years On (and On) -- The debut of Image Comics ten years ago marked one of the lowest creative points in comics history, as a mostly talentless but flashy batch of comics "superstars" plus Jim Valentino (who certainly got the last laugh) left one vacuous, ethically and creatively bankrupt company to go and form their own vacuous, creatively bankrupt company with at least two partners with serious ethical failings (yes, Todd and Rob, I am glaring right at you two).

Surprisingly, many, many good things have come out of Image despite its uninspired beginnings: Powers, Fused and Bastard Samurai are always at the top of my reading stack, and other acclaimed titles regularly issue forth from Image as well. Savage Dragon has been a mostly-entertaining superhero book with a unique point of view and an impressive ten year run by creator Erik Larsen. Jim Lee's Wildstorm imprint started at Image, so without it we wouldn't have had Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Laura Depuy's The Authority, even if it was published by DC. I wonder how different things would have been if the later Millar/Quitely run had been published by Image? Astro City was originally issued forth from Image as well, before moving to DC. Hmm, do I sense a pattern here?

Image still publishes junk like Witchblade and some of the current heinous nostalgia-trend books, but I definitely depend on them for some of my favourite reads. A new news story at The Pulse outlines some of Images upcoming publishing plans, and as with the past ten years of history, it's a mixed bag.

Icons is the name for Image's new superhero line of books, and from history we know that most of these books will be mediocre at best and perhaps one or two of them will be any damned good at all. Dominion is by Keith Giffen and Claude St. Aubin, and we know that Giffen books are often fascinatingly iconoclastic, and rarely sell well in the long run; its survival is unlikely at best. Jim Krueger and Matt Smith offer up The Clockmaker. Krueger's one of the guilty parties involved in Marvel's Outhouse X series of books designed to keep Alex Ross from doing anything good, so we'll see if it's at all readable. Smith is a good artist who deserves a quality title. Venture by Jay Faerber and Jamal Igle and Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker don't excite me, mostly due to my being unfamiliar with any of the names attached. The silliest news so far is that Shadowhawk is returning. Here's a character that no one has ever made interesting, and most of the books he appeared in were quite awful. But I suppose if they keep the name and throw out everything else, something could be done with it.

Image is also planning to hop on the expensive hardcovers bandwagon, and such titles as Mister X and Torso definitely merit the format. Brian Bendis's entire Image library is promised in hardcover, and I hope that includes Powers, as an affordable HC collection is long overdue. As is the overpriced one that was solicited long ago, too, come to think of it. My big hope is that Fortune and Glory is included in the hardcover plans -- it's Bendis's best, most personal work, and also the first thing by him that I ever read.

Creatively, artistically, Image is troublesome. Any company that has moral idiot Todd McFarlane in its executive ranks will never really be able to claim any sort of high ground for long. On the other hand, they do a lot of cutting-edge and otherwise wonky stuff (Age of Bronze, say) that is way too over Bill Jemas's head to ever have a chance at the even more vacuous Marvel. So I'm happy to see they have some exciting plans for the months ahead -- and I hope that we're already seeing the ass-end of the nostalgia craze, because the idea of an Alex Ross-variant-covered Care Bears 2002 #1 is just about more than I can take.

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