Happy Birthday Image Comics

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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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Also by Ian Dawe:

A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe

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A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics

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A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe

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New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics

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2 Comments

  1. Although I’ve stopped following TWD, I’m still a great Image fan, their Saga run is simply amazing! I can’t stop looking at those gorgeous comics, and the story, oh dear…

  2. Yeah, Image is just the best in my book. I came into regular comics reading through Vertigo, but I’d say the top stuff has really shifted to Image. In addition to all the great series you’ve listed, my current faves would include something by Rick Remender: Deadly Class, Black Science, and Low are all great engaging storytelling (as was Tokyo Ghost). Same could be said for Brian K Vaughn and Ed Brubaker’s Image output too.

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