The Jam Session of the Year: LIEFELD on IMAGE UNITED

Rob Liefeld on IMAGE UNITED

Image United #1 Page 2-3 Pencils

It's the jam session of the year.

And yes, it really is coming out on time.

The Image United mini-series that debuts in November will be created by six of the artists who founded the publishing company 17 years ago – Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino – along with the newest Image partner, writer Robert Kirkman.

And what is really unique about this jam session is that each artist is drawing the characters he created, meaning some of the pages will have six different artists working on them.

"It's a huge, unprecedented comic book event," Kirkman told Newsarama. "It's iconic modern characters all being drawn by their creators, which has never happened before in one series. It's the first time that this group of characters has gotten together in a long time."

The pages have been mailed all over the country, and every single one of the artists are drawing their characters onto the pages. The main players in the series will include Cyberforce, Witchblade, Youngblood, Whilce Portacio's new character Fortress, Savage Dragon, Spawn and ShadowHawk.

As he was on hand in San Diego to promote the project, Liefeld talked to Newsarama about the status of the project, which he said is right on schedule to ship in November, even sharing the pages to prove it.

Image United #1 Page 2-3 Inks

Newsarama: How is the project going since we talked when you all announced the series

Rob Liefeld: It's really coming along. We all have pages from issue #2 and Erik Larsen is breaking down issue #3 from Kirkman's script.

NRAMA: What has it been like for you to see the finished pages?

Liefeld: Incredible. It's really amazing to see all the pieces of the puzzle being assembled. It's a great experience – you send a page off and it returns with all these amazing contributions from some pretty incredible artists. There's alot of history on these pages.

NRAMA: Have there been any crazy stories or hiccups during the process?

Liefeld: There are plenty, but so far it's all been fairly amicable with the exception of a couple heated exchanges, but what else do you expect from a collection of notorious hotheads? I love that Todd McFarlane, who generally is last to receive pages, adds inks to every figure and environment. The pages are all the better for it.

NRAMA: So he even inks over stuff that's done?

Image United #1 Page 2-3 Complete

Liefeld: He tweaks everything – hair, faces, costume details, FX. He has really put a great share of effort into all the pages.

i think the best thing about the book is that everyone has stayed committed, which I'm sure was a concern early on. Would everyone give the project the attention it needed given that the pages arrive sporadically and occassionally it has to push ahead of whatever else we have on our desks.

NRAMA: Are you guys on track to start this in November? Have you been under a lot of pressure to get that done? Or has it been pretty easy?

Liefeld: It has been a fair amount of pressure, the two fastest guys, Larsen and Valentino turn their pages around so quickly that it puts plenty of pressure on you to get pages off your desk and into the hands of the next artist. Yes, the book is guaranteed to be out in November. The first issue is in its final stages, which is why we brought a preview of half the book to Comic-Con so that fans and retailers can see how the book looks and see that we are well on our way. Issue #2 pages will start leaking soon and the reality will be that people will realize that this is happening. It's real, it exits and it's on its way to a comic store near you

Image United #1 Pages 4-5 Pencils

NRAMA: Do you think you'll be able to stay on track? How often do you think the issues will come out?

Liefeld: So far, so good. Having a master layout artist direct each issue is the key. I did the first issue, Larsen handles the balance of the series. It was originally conceived as each artist would lay out an issue, but then Erik offered to do it all and everyone agreed that would be best. I believe we are signed on for 6 issues.

NRAMA: What do you think of the story now that you've been reading it? Anything you can tell us about it? 

Liefeld: It's Image comics' answer to the crossover event. No one can do a crossover like we can and have done here. It's a big storyline that brings together all the major players in the Image superhero universe for the first time in 15 years. The threat is a major figure and the many villians of the Image universe are unleashed along the way so there is plenty of chaos for the heroes to contain.

Robert Kirkman has done a great job mixing the story and the characters up, taking the story in a unique direction. Issues 4 and 5 are a real treat for everyone. Things get real interesting as the pieces get moved around. Sorry to be cryptic, but I can't spill all the beans.

Image United #1 Pages 4-5 Complete

There are new characters, like Fortress, who are introduced and the events of this series will shape the future of all the comics involved. Youngblood, Cyber Force, Spawn, Savage Dragon, Shadwohawk, will all be impacted by Image United. The long-time fans of Image Comics will be thrilled to see all these characters working together, facing common foes and building new storylines. We didn't work this well together in the '90s. The spirit of collaboration and cooperation is at an all-time high on this project.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell people about the project?

Liefeld: If you picked up Image comic books such as Youngblood, Spawn, Dragon, Shadowhawk, Cyber Force, the flagship titles, when they were released back in 1992, then this comic will bring back memories of those exciting times. It's more than nostalgia, it's the energy that comes from some pretty seminal creators working together and creating something that's never been attempted on this scale or size. Image has always been unique and this book really emphasizes how unique Image's approach can be. The creators of some of the biggest independent comic characters ever, illustrating their creations together probably for the first and last time!

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