Image Expo: IMAGE FOUNDERS (And Kirkman) on 20th Anniversary
IMAGE UNITED Weekly: Todd McFarlane
One of the main motivations behind this past weekend’s Image Expo was to celebrate the company’s two decades of existence. Six of the men who started it all — Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, While Portacio, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino — plus current partner Robert Kirkman got together Saturday afternoon for the “Twenty Years of Independence: The Image Comics 20th Anniversary Panel.”
“We're a collective, and the reason Image worked is because it was a collective,” he said.
Even though fellow co-founder and current DC co-publisher Jim Lee — who departed Image in 1998 after selling his WildStorm imprint to DC Comics — wasn’t in attendance, he figured into much of the dialogue among the panel. McFarlane called Lee the "prototypical face" of Marvel previous to Image's inception.
“I knew if we could get Jim Lee, he would be the lynchpin,” McFarlane said, stating that Liefeld, Larsen and himself had reputations at Marvel at the time for being “bad boys.” “If we could get the golden boy — and it's true, I'm not saying that in a bad way, I'm saying that in a positive way — if we could get him, it would send the message, ‘Wow, anybody can leave.’’
Much of the discussion centered on the creative freedom enjoyed at Image by the founders and many subsequent creators in the past 20 years.
McFarlane, Liefeld, Larsen, Silvestri, Portacio and Valentino were major names in the world of work-for-hire comics when they left the big publisher to form Image in 1992. Though Kirkman, writer of The Walking Dead and Invincible, wasn’t working in comic books at the time, he credited the venue they gave to creator-owned comics as an inspiration.
“This is kind of a big deal for me, because I was 13 or 14 when all this stuff started,” said Kirkman. “I wouldn't be doing that if it wasn't for these guys here. My kids are getting fat because of you guys.”
Liefeld said Kirkman was effectively the founders' collective "kid," and McFarlane applauded Kirkman’s “ballsy move” of leaving Marvel in 2008 to focus solely on creator-owned work.
The founders also shared their memories on the risk involved in the initial move. Though Marvel had just launched a new Spider-Man title to showcase McFarlane’s work, and did something similar with the X-Men for Jim Lee, Silvestri said it wasn’t quite as dangerous a move as one might think.
"Months and months in, we were still getting phone calls [to come back]," said Silvestri, who stated that Image's founding had a "ripple effect on all of entertainment." "It was always our choice to say no."
“We hadn't built an infrastructure yet, so we hired Malibu Comics as our infrastructure,” Valentino said of the long-defunct company that originally served as publisher-of-record for Image. “Image was never an imprint of Malibu, Malibu worked for us.”
McFarlane made the connection between that kind of attitude and what he sees as a reluctance on the part of potential creators who don’t want to make the initial financial investment it takes to self-publish a comic book.
“They're going to let a thousand bucks stop them from potentially making a million."McFarlane also gave credit to the current generation of Image creators for continuing the legacy of the founders. “Today, Spawn could go away, and Image Comics would be very fine, thank you,” he said. “We could all get hit by a bus, and Image is going to survive regardless. We've now created enough offspring that are carrying the flag for us that it's going to work.” Kirkman expressed his thoughts that in the current climate of the comic book industry, Image is more viable and relevant than ever.
And as for the latest update on Image United?
“I've seen a ton of pages for #4 and #5,” Kirkman said. “Everybody is hard at work at it, and it will eventually wrap up. It's just a matter of getting it all done.”
“When they pitched it to me,” McFarlane added, “I said, ‘It’s going to be f*cked.’”Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!