This month, Sequart Publishing and Respect! Films released their fourth collaborative documentary: The Image Revolution, which focuses on telling the story of the rise of Image Comics. This film collects interviews not only from each of the founders involved, but also many other creative voices from the past and present. At nearly an hour and a half running time, the documentary brings comic fans back to 1992 – the year that shook mainstream superhero comics and irrevocably changed the way the industry and audiences viewed the field of creator-owned comics and works its way forward from there.
For older comic fans that remember this period in comic history, the documentary offers a walk down memory lane. It provides numerous clips that capture the near-hysteria that surrounded creators such as McFarlane, Lee, Liefeld, Larsen, Valentino, and Portacio – seven young, brash creators who broke with the biggest comic publishing company, risked their professional careers and families, and made comics history. For many newer readers, is a story that needs to be understood to appreciate the sheer success of Image Comics and creator-owned comic books today.
Newsarama: Why Image? Why tell the story behind the rise, fall, and return of what is arguably the biggest independent comic book publisher?
Julian Darius: I think most of us are Image fans. I've certainly followed Image since day one. I remember how new it was. I've also watched it evolve and, in many ways, grown with Image's output.
Patrick Meaney: Image is one of the most amazing stories in the history of comics. Regardless of how you feel about the work, the company or the people involved, it's really exciting to think that seven people could take on a company as huge and entrenched as Marvel and build something new on that level. The story of Image has huge personalities, and a lot of drama along the way, so it's the perfect story to tackle in a documentary.
And if you look at the past few years, all the biggest and best new comics coming out are coming from Image. The company has really matured and realized its potential, so it seemed like a perfect time to look back and see what brought us here.
Nrama: So once you decided to tell the story of Image Comics' formation, how did this project get off the ground? Did Sequart proposition Respect! or was it the other way around? How did you make the call to go to Kickstarter? How was the response to crowd-sourcing?
Darius: Sequart and Respect Films go way back, and we're always discussing possible future projects. We have a good working relationship, and I don't think we're precious about who came up with what.
As far as Kickstarter goes... movies are expensive. We're very economical, and Patrick is a pro. But it's inevitably expensive. Kickstarter's a great model that has made this kind of thing possible. The response from Kickstarter has always been overwhelmingly positive for us. We're just immensely grateful for everyone who's contributed in so many ways and the opportunities to make these films. We got into this because we love comics, and it's just a thrill to be doing this.
Meaney: For me, Kickstarter is great because you can find out if there's an audience before you make the movie, and that means you're not going to spend a couple of years on something no one wants to see. And, in the creative world we're in today, Kickstarter is the best way to find financing for a film. Without Kickstarter, I don't think we'd be able to make these films, and it's awesome that so many people have supported us.
Nrama: It's clear right away that there was a concentrated effort to hear from each of the original founders (as well as creators currently involved with Image Comics). How difficult was it to get each of these major comic book publishing personalities on board with this documentary? Anyone or anything in particular that proved challenging?
Meaney: I didn't want to do the movie if we couldn't have all the major players in the story involved and telling their side of things, and we were lucky enough to get to interview everyone we wanted to. Most people were really excited to talk about their involvement with Image and be a part of the film. The trickiest was Jim Lee, just because of his high-level position at DC, but we were able to work it out and get everybody involved.
Darius: The Image founders have been immensely kind to us with their time and encouragement, and we couldn't possibly thank them enough. It's been really heartwarming and amazing.
Nrama: Was there anyone whom you were unable to get to contribute to the documentary that you wanted to hear from?
Meaney: There were a few people we wanted to interview, but weren't, usually because they lived far away from where we were shooting. I'd have loved to talk to Greg Capullo for example, but travel schedule did not permit. We interviewed about 50 people for the film, so there is a lot covered.
Nrama: Was there any attempt to reach out to those Marvel publishers and editors (i.e. Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras, etc.) to get their input on the founders? Any interest on their part (if not, why not?)?
Meaney: We did reach out to a few people at Marvel, but nobody was interested in talking. I'd have loved to have that perspective, but I understand why they might not want to talk about it.
Nrama: Now, Alan Moore's involvement with Image was only briefly touched upon by Jim Valentino; however, he had a number of significant contributions to the company such as Liefeld's Supreme and Lee's Wild C.A.T.S.. Given his prominence in contemporary comics, was there a reason this was minimized?
Darius: I love Moore's work for Image. I'm a fan of it, and it's historically important work. The problem is that there's limited space in the film, and everything that makes it into the final version has to support the overall Image story and the overall arcs of the founders and the company.
In fact, there was a lot of stuff that we would have liked to take more time on, but that didn't make sense to do so as part of this film. For example, I'm also a big fan of Valentino's years as publisher. I remember a lot of those very indie, black-and-white books fondly. I got to ask Valentino about A Touch of Silver. Even with some of the major Image characters, such as Spawn or Witchblade, we would have liked to gotten more in about how they developed over time. We had probably dozens of conference calls, after we all saw drafts of the film, in which we'd discuss not only where we were and what was working, but also what was missing.
It's hard, because we want to keep the movie moving. Documentaries are stereotyped as being slow and boring, so it's very important to us to keep the movie flowing, layered, and punchy. We get down to the second, literally, and I didn't even have to do the actual editing -- that's all Patrick. So an awful lot gets cut, over successive drafts, because it's not necessary, or it would essentially repeat something for the purposes of the overall story.
So yes, Moore's prominent. But the point of this movie wasn't "prominent stuff Image has done," nor "stuff we like that Image has done." It was the Image story, and the needs of the film have to outweigh our own personal interests.
Meaney: Exactly. Rob [Liefeld] told us some great stories about working with Alan, but ultimately they didn't fit into the story of the film.
Nrama: When editing a film, it's understood that a lot of footage is eventually cut out for practical purposes. What were some tidbits left out that you would have liked to have included in The Image Revolution?
Darius: The ratio of what's shot versus what gets in is very high. Inevitably, there's a lot that I personally liked that doesn't make it. The Image founders, in particular, are fantastically entertaining on film. They're so dynamic.
But there's nothing I thought should go in that didn't. The important thing isn't whether I like a clip. It's got to be that it makes sense for the movie, and I feel confident that every single clip's fate was decided in the best interests of the film.
Meaney: There's nothing I wish was in the movie, but there's a lot of fun stuff that we had to delete along the way for pacing reasons. Some of the stories about the stuff they did at the studios were hilarious, but didn't quite fit. There's also some background on Todd at Marvel that was fascinating, but didn't quite make it. A lot of that good material that didn't fit is available on the DVD and ultimate download package.
Nrama: Any hints as to what future collaborations you have in store for comics fans?
Darius: We've got other movies in the works, but we've already announced a Neil Gaiman documentary. I'm a huge Gaiman fan from way back, and I got to tell him that I learned how to write in part by going over his writing and just studying how in the world he'd get these sentences to work so well, let alone to convey abstract and fantastical concepts in ways that moved me. So it has a special meaning to me. Neil's been very accommodating, and he has some of the smartest and most devoted fans in the world!
Meaney: The Gaiman doc is rolling along, we just interviewed the awesome actor Michael Sheen a couple of days ago. That will be finished sometime next year. We also just finished Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont's X-Men, which explores the roots of the X-Men mythology and the people who made it. It's available for pre-order now and will be totally finished and shipping out on DVD in January.