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Creator / Image Comics

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Image Comics is a comic book company founded in 1992 by seven famous artists from Marvel Comics after a dispute over creator's rights. Their goal was to publish "creator-owned" comic books not controlled by a central editor, and it consisted of six studios (one person decided not to be a full partner due to familial problems at the time) that would be completely autonomous from each other.

The original titles were:

Image Comics eventually became famous for publishing '90s Anti-Hero books, very far towards the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and for a bad case of non-webcomic Schedule Slip, sometimes delivering issues as much as nine months late and still constantly happening today (though in several cases, this is done intentionally and called the "Saga model", where a series will release all the issues of an arc on time, but then take a two or three month hiatus before releasing the next arc). The absence of Executive Meddling they prided themselves on also turned out to have certain drawbacks, and none of the partners had any business experience. Still, while the '90s Anti-Hero fad lasted, the Image titles were a massive success, but now they mostly look like Dark Age disasters with an excess of sex and violence and somewhat... questionable art.

At first success was so intense that series were added, either ex-novo (like Sam Keith's The Maxx, Dale Keown's Pitt, Keith Giffen's Trencher, and Nick Manabat's Cybernary) or being "filiated" from the original ones like Freak Force, Vanguard, and the Deadly Duo (from Savage Dragon), Gen13, Stormwatch, Deathblow and Team 7 (from Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.s universe), and Glory, Prophet, and Supreme (from Youngblood), but soon after things began to fall apart.

Image Comics eventually lost two founders: Rob Liefeld was firednote , and Jim Lee sold his WildStorm Studios to DC Comics after leaving Image.note  Over the years, Image started Growing the Beard: they got a central editor to help control the schedule, and the quality of the art and maturity of the storylines started looking up somewhat. They also hired some other writers and with this they got some more diversity, with titles like Jeff Smith's Bone, Kurt Busiek's Astro City and Robert Kirkman's Invincible and The Walking Dead. Whereas the original titles had at least paid lip service to being in some kind of Image Shared Universe, these more recent titles have tended to exist as entirely independent works. Kirkman has recently been bumped up to the equivalent of founder status, forming his own studio, Skybound Entertainment. Spawn and Savage Dragon are also still published, and are better-regarded than in their heyday, whilst Image is giving a chance to many writers whose ideas would never be published by the "Big Two". Rob Liefeld even managed to make up with his ex-partners at Image, thanks to Kirkman's intervention, and managed to successfully relaunch a few of his old Extreme Studios properties, though he is still no longer a partner in the publisher. Their main competitor nowadays is Dark Horse Comics rather than Marvel and DC, as both companies tend to release similar off-the-cuff, independent works, though Image actually does remarkably well in the trade paperback market, regularly beating out the Big Two. The company has managed to distance itself from its "grim and gritty" roots, and is generally highly regarded by comic readers, particularly those seeking non-superhero, non-licensed work.

In 2013 a documentary about the foundation of Image called "The Image Revolution" was made, though it did not get an official release until 2016.

Comics published by Image Comics:

Licensed Comics

Tropes applying to Image Comics and its works include:

  • The Artifact: Superhero Long-Runners from the Dark Age like Spawn, Youngblood (Image Comics) and Savage Dragon look rather out of place today in their diverse current lineup consisting primarily of both lighter and more serious non-superhero material.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: Early 90s Image comics were the ne plus ultra of Dark Age comics. Spawn in particular had (appropriately enough) spawned many imitators.
  • Darker and Edgier: The '90s were especially notable in that they embodied The Dark Age of Comic Books - "dark, edgy" and often completely immature! Nowadays they publish books in a wide variety of tones, from properly mature storytelling like Saga or Criminal (2006), to superhero stories Bloodier and Gorier than the Big Two would allow on their mainstream lines (including popular revivals of those early series), to books for kids and young adults.
  • Double-Sided Book: It wasn't uncommon in the early days of the publishing company to see promos for upcoming series included on the flip side of existing series. company,
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: For the company as a whole, their early existence attempted to be a Shared Universe on par with the Big Two and was dominated by Nineties Anti-Heroic Superheroes. Today, while they still publish superhero comics, the company has very much diversified their lineup, and creator-owned series are completely independent of each other.
  • Genre Roulette: Since broadening their horizons and diversifying their lineup from their original superhero roots, you can find comics of virtually all genres including (but certainly not limited to) sci-fi, crime, horror, adventure, romance, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, western, and superhero.
  • Lighter and Softer: In comparison to the monotone, overly teenage "dark'n'gritty" material they were initially known for, Image now publish comedy series and series for kids alongside their "mature readers" material.
  • Long-Runners:
    • Of the eight original titles, the only ones that have managed to run continuously to this day are Spawn and Savage Dragon. Notably, the latter is still being written and drawn by Erik Larsen alone, while maintaining something close to a regular release schedule.
    • Youngblood (Image Comics) was the very first title, and while no particular run was very long (the longest being Team Youngblood at 22 issues), it's been relaunched many times by different creators with Liefeld determined to keep the series alive.
    • The Walking Dead started in 2003 and finally ended in 2019.
    • Similarly, Invincible started in 2002 and only ended in 2018, sixteen years after it debuted.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: This was their specialty and utilized it for as long as the fad lasted. Spawn himself might be the most famous, but also beloved one, during this time.
  • Protection from Editors: invoked Their main goal was to provide a place where comic book creators had full control over their own work, right up to owning it entirely. That principle is true to this day.
  • Retool: Many of the "first generation" Image series have been heavily retooled (some more than once) to fit into the modern comics scene.
  • invoked Schedule Slip: The early Image comics became notorious for this, and it's one of the few commonalities between Image's early and modern incarnations. Image's constant lateness with their half of the Deathmate crossover with Valiant Comics is often held responsible for The Great Comics Crash of 1996. Image United, intended as a tenth anniversary project between the original founders, didn't release a first issue until 2009. They managed to release two more over the next year... and then it dropped off the face of the Earth. Over a decade later, it still hasn't been finished!
  • Shared Universe: Their early superhero material was based in a shared universe to compete with Marvel and DC. Various crisis crossovers later fractured the universe so that each founder's characters were largely confined to their own independent universe, which is usually still the case today for the "first generation" Image superhero titles, even after they've been drastically retooled, like Prophet. Notably, in more recent years Invincible has done a lot of the heavy lifting for the "Image Universe", featuring crossovers with many of the other founders' characters.
  • Start My Own: The company was started by seven former Marvel Comics artists who wanted to maintain full control over their product after having dealt with Executive Meddling.
  • Superhero: While initially rooted in the genre, complete with a Shared Universe, since branching out many of their works are often not superhero-related. Instead, they encompass many different genres, and the superhero genre is just one of them.

Alternative Title(s): Image