Angry Comic Creators
Several comic artist / writers were mad that Marvel Comics only gave them modest royalties to their characters! They confronted Marvel and asked for more royalties. In short, Marvel said no. But, the comic creators weren't going to take this quietly. They rebelled by founding their own comic company! This was Image Comic (in case you didn't guess). The original line-up was Todd McFarlane (known for working on Spider-Man), Jim Lee (X-men), Rob Liefeld (X-Force), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine), Erik Larsen (The Amazing Spider-Man), Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Whilce Portacio (Uncanny X-Men). Chris Claremont helped found it, but was not an actual artist / writer.
Image Comics was founded under 2 main provision:
- The creator (not the company) own all the rights to the characters.
- Image Partners can't interfere with each other's work in any way.
The company (itself) only owned the logo and name. Due to the second rule, six Image Comic studios were founded: Extreme Studio (Rob Liefeld), Highbrow Entertainment (Erik Larsen), Shadowline (Jim Valentino), Todd McFarlane Productions (Todd McFarlane), Top Cow Productions (Marc Silvestri) and Windstorm Productions (Jim Lee).
The first Image Comic series were Rob Liefeld's Youngblood, Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, Todd McFarlane's Spawn and Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.s. The art work and eagerness of comic collectors "to get early on the next big thing" caused sells to rised in numbers only Marvel Comic, DC comics and Viliant Comics achieved, since drop in market in the 70s. The studios became similar to publishers, some studios even had their own shared universe! Some Image creators use their studios to publish the work of other independent creators. Image Comic's popularity soon rival that of DC and Marvel's, despite their tendency to fall behind schedule
Let's talk Larry
Image Comics hired Larry Marder to be the “executive director” for the publisher. He helped financially planing. He insisted that retail orders would not be solicited until the comic was complete. By the Mid-1990s, Savage Dragon and Spawn were lasting successes and so were new series like Wildstorm's Gen13, Top Cow's Darkness and Witchblade.
Several Image Comic employees felt that Liefeld was abusing his power as CEO. This caused Silvestri made Top Cow Comics into a new company, independent from Image. Liefeld resigned and Silvestri returned! Wildstorm's Cliffhanger imprint became very successful. The imprint attracted the talents of Chris Bahcalo, Joe Kelly, Kurt Busiek, and Carlos Pacheco. Jim Lee sold Wildstorm to DC comics.
Jim Valentino Era
Meanwhile, Jim Valentino, who “became less active in the company”, started to publish “indie” comics by other comic creators, most of them sold poorly. However, Valentino took over “Image Central”.
Erik Larsen Rules!
In February 2004, Erik Larsen took over as publisher (Valentino's former position). McFarlane's Spawn and toy line and Silivestri's Top Cow imprint made most of Image's money. Larsen's Savage Dragon became Image's longest running series. Jim Valentino returned to making comics with his Shadowline imprint. The company was the third largest publisher in North America until it declined to the fifth. Image reprinted several of Jack Kirby's works from Pacific Comics.
Eric Stephenson Takes Power!
Larsen quit his job as publishers and Eric Stephenson filled his shoes. Shortly after, Robert Kirk created two very successful comics: Walking Dead and Invincible. The Man of Action team used Image Comics to publish several comic titles: The Great Unknown, Soul Kiss and Bad Dog. The most recently new series is Haunt, created by Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman.