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Image Comics and Its Original Big 4.

September 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Comics, Indie Black Comics, News

( When Image Comics launched in 1992, it had probably the most dangerous line-up of writers, pencilers, and inkers of any publisher’s roster at the time. Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio, Jim Valentino, and Todd McFarlane.

Besides their creativity, what made this group of founders so lethal is that they could all either write the stories or handle the penciling and inking for them. In essence, they had the same skillset as many manga artists. In manga, it’s kind of expected that a writer can draw as well while their assistants cover what is needed.

The X-odus and Forming Image Comics

These seven were working for Marvel Comics at the time, sometimes working on the same titles. Most had created characters and like before even getting into comics and aspiring to see their creations in Marvel and DC. As they went through the industry at the highest levels in the 70s and 80s, they found that creator rights weren’t a thing.

By the 1990s, they had all gained a ton of influence and pull. Before their departure, the Image Comics group had done a lot to freshen up Marvel’s characters and bring them into the 90s.

Todd McFarlane—creator of Spawn—co-developed the Venom character, created the Carnage character, added the webbing to Spider-Man’s costume, re-designed his webbing, and introduced a ton of poses for him. He had also taken the character into darker territory with violent action and somewhat downer stories.

While his art was appreciated his later Marvel writing wasn’t at the time. He’d take this approach with own creation Spawn.

Image Was So 90s

He basically flipped Spider-Man. His writer and art style—along with those of his fellow founders—defined 90s comics. Even though most of the big four core series—Spawn, The Savage Dragon, Witchblade, and The Darkness—would continue into the 2000s, the comics were very much products of 90s. However, it was the first publisher to actually reach the 90s.

“Extreme” was hot buzzword at the time. Everything was “too extreme!” or “xtreme.” The UFC was in its blood sport days, Extreme Championship Wrestling brought more blood and barbed wire to wrestling, extreme metal had it’s final Infinity Stones in black metal and death metal, Mortal Kombat and other fighting games were all the rage, and comics were going to get darker and more violent.

All of this was new following the 80s. Also new was giving creators more rights over their creations. This was a big issue with these guys and a core group of them told Marvel’s head that they were going to bounce. They also let DC know why they wouldn’t be able to get their services in the future and that they were forming their own publisher.

Over the years, several of the founders have gone back to the bigger companies. Jim Lee, who created W.I.L.D Cats and Gen 13 for Image, is currently the Publisher for DC Comics.

The Original Big 4

Today, Image Comics is known for series with great artwork and stories such as Walking Dead and Saga. It had a number of series during the 90s. Since the debut roster had all come from Marvel or DC prior, the company was still in its superhero period. The company’s big four titles at this time were Spawn, Savage Dragon, W.I.L.D Cats, and Youngblood.

This gave the company two solo hero titles and two team titles. These four tends to be the line-up that many 90s kids might have some familiarity with as all of the series had incredible action figures and all series bar and Youngblood managed to get cartoons on TV. Savage Dragon and W.I.L.D Cats had toons on the USA Network as part of the week Cartoon Express block while Spawn scored an Emmy Award-winning show on HBO.

While Spawn was the ace of the publisher, Youngblood was the first out the gate and showcased what to expect from Image Comics. Youngblood would also be one of Image’s most inconsistent series.

The Second Big 4 Series

The four series that held Image Comics up for years was flagship title Spawn, the other flagship Savage Dragon, Witchblade, and The Darkness. These four series had the most crossover success with TV shows, films, games, and cartoons.

As a matter of fact, there is supposed to be a reboot of the Spawn film with Jamie Foxx as the lead. Then again, the status of a second Spawn movie has always been in the air. We’ve gone into Spawn and Savage Dragon but the Marc Silvestri-created The Darkness and Witchblade might be new to some.

We’ll get into both in depth in upcoming articles but like Spawn, both series are dark and deal with battles with demons and angels. Also, like both of the flagship series, they are set in the underworld and involve organized crime, police corruption, and lead characters being used as tools as themes.

Of these series, even though Spawn is in my top five Western comics, The Darkness and Witchblade delivered in the art department. The coloring when it came to Marc Silvestri’s work was also incredible. Artistically, those two series were the perfect package in Image Comics.

Stay tuned as we get into major storylines and characters from this second lineup of series!

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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