You may have heard on Nerd Lunch that I set out a goal of reading the original flagship titles of Image Comics’ 1992 launch. I remember collecting comics at the time, but I mostly ignored the Image Comics onslaught because as a comic reader, I wasn’t a fan of most of those guys. Todd McFarlane I knew from Spider-Man and Venom, and I liked him, but Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld I knew from X-Men and X-Force and I was NOT a fan. Back then, Lee and Liefeld had very similar art styles that I hated. Lee has since evolved into one of my favorite artists but Liefeld has not evolved AT ALL and continues to be an atrocious artist. Again, if you listen to the podcast, you may have heard me mention Liefeld a few times.
Regardless, I was waxing nostalgic about that 1992 Image comics launch and regretting that I never really gave those first 6 or 7 titles a chance, especially now that I am a big fan of Jim Lee. So, I thought I’d revisit those launch titles today with fresh eyes and see if they still hold up.
So, let’s go in the order I read them.
Spawn (creator: Todd MacFarlane) – Released in May 1992. This is the big launch release of Image. It wasn’t first, that award goes to Liefeld’s Youngblood, which I’ll get to, but this title personifies the early days of Image Comics. And I’ve never read it. I think I even own the first issue from when I bought it off the comic rack, but I never read it. Looking over the run of the series the first 20 issues features mostly McFarlane with fill-ins by Greg Capullo on art as well as Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Erik Larsen, Dave Sims and Frank Miller on writing duties whenever Todd had to drop off to do a crossover. So I thought those 20 issues was a good indicator of the series as a whole. So that’s what I read, and, for the most part, I liked it. The story is a little disjointed and all over the place, but Spawn as a concept is pretty cool and it keeps a lot of the mystery of the character alive by not revealing too much all at once. And McFarlane’s art style is CRAZY. It’s a very splash page heavy aesthetic with ridiculous amounts of cape porn. I thought Batman artists like to draw capes, but McFarlane is not only on a different level, he’s playing a completely different game. Amazing. I’d recommend this, the art definitely elevates this, but the story isn’t that bad either.
WildC.A.T.S. (creators: Jim Lee and Brandon Choi) – Of all the titles I was planning to read, this was the one I was most excited about. Like I mentioned, Jim Lee is currently one of my favorite artists. He won me over with Batman: Hush and his work on the New 52 Justice League. Since these early Image days Lee has evolved into an amazing artist. Traveling back in time to 1992 to read the first 13 issues of this title, I remember why I stopped reading X-Men. This book is pretty much garbage. The art is confusing and jumbled. There are WAY too many characters and WAY too many characters are too similar to each other as well as WAY too similar to Wolverine. By my count there are at least three overt Wolverine analogs in this book. And holy sh*t, Lee, stop putting SO MUCH F**KING DIALOG ON THE PAGE. Check out this splash page (click to make BIGGER).
This is the problem with the entire comic. Too many characters, too much backstory, too much goddam dialog. It was a monumental chore reading through the first 13 issues. I’m glad that’s over. I also acquired a later run of WildC.A.T.S. which featured a redesign by Alan Moore who wrote about 14 issues of the title in the late 90s. However, I’m going to wait a little bit to read those. I’m WildC.A.T.’ed out. Plus, I HATE typing that stupid title with the periods every. single. time.
The Savage Dragon (Creator: Erik Larsen) – This was the title I was most excited about trying after WildC.A.T.S. (HATE. Typing. That. Name.). I’ve never read Larsen’s Dragon comic but I’ve always wanted to start. This was the perfect opportunity. It was tough to ferret out where I should begin. Apparently it started as a four issue mini-series, and then began as a regular title, starting over again at #1. Once I figured that out, I was able to grab the Baptism of Fire collection with that first mini-series and then also grab the first 6 issues of the regular title. I also bought a standalone issue #0 from 2009 which featured the never before revealed origin of Savage Dragon that was only printed in one of Image Comics’ anniversary collections. And it holds up. This is a pretty fun, creative book. Larsen has a lot of fun with the characters and introduces interesting villains and side characters you actually want to read about. There are even some awesome guest stars like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in issue #2. All in all, a pretty great book that I would love to continue reading from this point forward. And it’s amazing to me that Erik Larsen has written and drawn the majority of this book since the very beginning. Keep on keepin’ on, Erik.