I Is For Image

Interesting promo video. I appreciate the sentiment, but “Everybody can come here & everybody can succeed” is… not what’s on screen…

No offense to any of the creators in it, most of whom I love, but – all white, only one woman, all but 2 made their careers at Big 2. For something about a visual medium, maybe not enough thought was put into the story the pictures in the video tell?

(The thing is, I KNOW that Image is more representative than that, & the Image Deal is more democratic than most. I’m talking specifically about that video. There are plenty of creators who aren’t superstars at Image, on plenty of books that bubble without bursting. It’s the COOLEST thing about Image.)

It is also a little irritating when the “Image origin story” is rolled out as having anything to do with the ethos at Image now. In the broadest possible sense – creators gots to get paid! – it is, but of those guys, the only person who’s attitude even remotely tallied with Image now was Jim Valentino’s, and he kept getting sidelined for the first ten or so years of their history.

Everybody else (Sam Keith the notable exception) basically built their own little closed off temples to personal greed, replicating the work they’d done on other people’s characters at Marvel, and as soon as they could building studios of other artists to draw their comics for them. Pulling in writers to work on their books when they realised they needed writers to do that for them, and then in some cases treating those writers about the same way they’d been treated anywhere else.

Paying people to write and draw stories for characters they created, giving those creators no ownership of the work they did. Acquiring characters that others had created before, and claiming sole ownership of them.

Going back to work on Marvel characters when offered a decent payday, or upping sticks completely with their imprint when DC offered a decent deal.

Basically, as an inspirational backstory, that well is well-poisoned.

It’s also notable that when referring to the creators at Image at the beginning, and the creators at Image now, the term “creators” is persistent, when actually it wasn’t ALL of the hot creators at Marvel who decamped to form Image (as suggested) – there were only artists at the formation of Image – writers like Peter David, Chris Claremont, Fabian Nicieza, who arguably had SOMETHING to do with the success of the books those guys worked on, remained.

Similarly, all but one of the people speaking for “creators” now are writers (except Erik Larsen, who’s a drawthor).

I love Image comics, and I’d love to see the dominance that Marvel and DC currently hold over the comic industry diminish. Image are putting out by far the best comics overall at the moment, and it’s refreshing to know that the creators working over there are getting a good deal. Although I suspect that the quality of the work is as much about the diversity of the work as it is about Image in particular.

But the myth-building – the glorious foundations that we are expected to believe this company is built on – is difficult to stomach. At the point when the Image founders were doing little more than recasting the Marvel bullpen, spandex and power fantasies, recreating the cultural cul-de-sac comics had put themselves in in their own image, Marvel were still trying to make a go of Epic, the home of some of the most innovative comics of the 80s, and DC were just getting started on Vertigo.

Had it not been for the amazing editorial voices at Vertigo and Dark Horse, and some still plugging away on the fringes of Marvel, at the time “Image Now” wouldn’t have/couldn’t have existed. While those people were working on getting more diverse stories and creative voices out in the world, the Image founders were merrily trying to drive the comic bus into a ditch, and a scared Marvel and DC were nervily trying to follow them.

So I guess what I’m saying is “great work at the moment, Image, but MORE DIVERSE CREATORS! SMARTER PROMO VIDEOS! LESS MYTH BUILDING!”

(Or, you know, Image could just keep on putting out most of the best comics around, and instead “Hey, comic audience! STOP PAYING ATTENTION TO HYPE AND BULLSHIT! Just buy the stuff you like! IGNORE IDEALOGUES!”)