This week marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of one of the strongest and most creative comics publishers, Image Comics. Founded by and for comics creators, Image was established as a home for creators who wished to maintain control over their original characters and titles, and over the years it has emerged as the home of many of the strongest titles in modern comics. The Image approach — putting creators first and giving them creative freedom — mirrors the strategy of some of the most artistically successful movie studios, such as United Artists. While the label has had its ups and downs, for about the past ten years, Image has been recognized in the industry as a mark of original, quality comics titles.
In the early years, Image Comics was probably best known for Spawn, by co-founder Todd McFarlane, and the crime comic Stray Bullets by David Lapham. But the breakout hit was The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, making its debut in 2003 and now, of course, being the basis for one of the most-watched shows on network TV. Aside from those early successes, the past five years has seen a veritable avalanche of quality titles, many of which we follow here on Sequart. A short list must include Southern Bastards, Bitch Planet, Lake of Fire, Chew, Descender, Invisible Republic, Monstress, 8House, East of West, Invincible, Rasputin, ODY-C, Rat Queens and my personal favourite, Manifest Destiny. What these books all have in common is their fierce commitment to an artistic vision and lack of concern with filling a marketplace niche. No one was begging for a Lewis and Clark vs Monsters comic, but when one reads Manifest Destiny (to pick one example among many), one quickly realizes how interesting an idea that is. Something similar could be said about all of the titles just mentioned.
Of course, there are comics on labels other than Image that are well worth reading today, but for readers such as me, and others I know, who yearn for adult-oriented, non-superhero genre comics that embrace all of the storytelling possibilities of our favourite medium, Image Comics is a reliable resource. Our own Patrick Meaney directed an excellent 2014 documentary, The Image Revolution, about the rise of Image Comics, and it is currently available on DVD and would make a great way to celebrate this significant anniversary in modern comics.