|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Portland, Oregon|
|Key people||Todd McFarlane (President)
Jim Valentino (Vice President)
Marc Silvestri (CEO)
Robert Kirkman (COO)
Erik Larsen (CFO)
Eric Stephenson (Publisher)
|Publication types||Comic books, graphic novels|
Todd McFarlane Productions
Top Cow Productions
|Official website||Official website|
Image Comics is an American comic book publisher. It was founded in 1992 by several high-profile illustrators as a venue where comics creators could publish their material without giving up the copyrights to the characters they created, as creator-owned properties. It was immediately successful, and remains one of the largest comic book publishers in North America. Its output was originally dominated by superhero and fantasy series from the studios of the Image partners, but now includes comics in many genres by numerous independent creators. Its best-known series include Spawn, Savage Dragon, Witchblade, The Darkness, Invincible, The Walking Dead, Saga, and Chew.
In the early 1990s, comics creators Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, and Jim Valentino had dinner with Malibu Comics editor-in-chief Dave Olbrich. Malibu was a small but established publishing company sympathetic to creator-ownership, and Olbrich expressed interest in publishing comics created by them. These and several other freelance illustrators doing popular work for Marvel Comics were growing frustrated with the company's work for hire policies and practices, which they felt did not sufficiently reward the talent that produced them, as the company heavily merchandised their artwork, and compensated them with modest royalties.
According to McFarlane, he, Jim Lee and Liefeld met with Marvel president Terry Stewart and editor Tom DeFalco in late December 1991. Larsen and Silvestri, who joined the group the night before, were not present, but the group that met with Stewart indicated that they were representing them as well. Contrary to what has been reported by other sources, McFarlane says that they made no demands of Stewart or Marvel, but merely informed him that they were leaving, gave their reasons why, and cautioned Stewart to heed those reasons, lest the company suffer future exoduses. The creators had the same meeting with DC Comics the next day. After Whilce Portacio returned from his yearly trip to the Philippines, his Homage Studios colleague Lee asked him to join the group.
The seven creators announced the founding of Image Comics. This development was nicknamed the "X-odus", because several of the creators involved (Claremont, Liefeld, Lee, Silvestri, and Portacio) were famous for their work on the X-Men franchise. Marvel's stock fell $3.25/share when the news became public. Image's organizing charter had two key provisions:
- Image would not own any creator's work; the creator would.
- No Image partner would interfere – creatively or financially – with any other partner's work. Image itself would own no intellectual property except the company trademarks: its name and its logo, which was designed by writer Hank Kanalz.
Each Image partner founded his own studio, which published under the Image banner but was autonomous from any central editorial control. Claremont was not part of the partnership, and Portacio withdrew during the formative stages to deal with his sister's illness, so Image originally consisted of six studios:
- Todd McFarlane Productions, owned by Todd McFarlane
- WildStorm Productions, owned by Jim Lee
- Highbrow Entertainment, owned by Erik Larsen
- Shadowline, owned by Jim Valentino
- Top Cow Productions, owned by Marc Silvestri
- Extreme Studios, owned by Rob Liefeld
Their initial titles were produced under the Image imprint, but published through Malibu Comics, which provided administrative, production, distribution, and marketing support for the launch of them.
The first Image comic books to arrive in stores were Liefeld's Youngblood, Larsen's The Savage Dragon, McFarlane's Spawn, and Lee's WildC.A.T.s. (Youngblood and Savage Dragon were not entirely new creations, having debuted in Gary Carlson's Megaton, an independent comic book title published from 1981 to 1987.) Propelled by the artists' popularity and the eagerness of comic book collectors to get in on the "next big thing", these series sold in numbers that no publisher other than Marvel, DC, or Valiant Comics had achieved in the years since the market's decline in the 1970s. (The company experienced lesser successes with Silvestri's Cyberforce, Valentino's Shadowhawk, and Portacio's much-delayed Wetworks.) Within a few months, the Image titles' success led to Malibu having almost 10% of the North American comics market share, briefly exceeding that of industry giant DC Comics. By the beginning of 1993, Image's financial situation was secure enough to publish its titles independently, and it left Malibu.
Some of the founders' studios came to resemble separate publishers, each with several ongoing series set in a shared universe. (At first there were indications of an "Image Universe" shared by the studios, but these decreased as the studios developed their own directions.) The use of freelancers to write or illustrate series that were owned by the Image partners led to criticism that some of them had reproduced the very system they had rebelled against, but with them in charge instead of a corporation. Image partners such as Larsen and Valentino, who did not take this approach, assumed a neutral position on it, in keeping with the requirement that none of them had any say in how the others' studios were run.
Some of the Image partners used their studios to also publish new works produced by independent creators, allowing them to retain ownership and editorial control over those series, an arrangement which was then uncommon among large publishers. These included Sam Kieth (The Maxx), Dale Keown (Pitt), Jae Lee (Hellshock), and the team of Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross (Astro City). Later, some established self-published series also moved to Image, such as Jeff Smith's Bone and Colleen Doran's A Distant Soil.
The partners had little business or management experience, and many series quickly fell behind their intended publishing schedule.[note 1] Comparing them to vaporware, one reader reported that 17 of the 36 delayed items in his December 1992 order were from Image. Retailers' advance orders of newly offered issues were typically based on the sales of recent issues, but as the issues shipped weeks and even several months late, fans' interest tended to wane, leaving retailers with inventory they couldn't sell when it arrived. In response, retailers cut orders to reduce their risk. This significantly hurt the studios, which were each responsible for their own cash flow and profitability. In late 1993, the partners hired independent cartoonist Larry Marder to act as "executive director" for the publisher; Valentino quipped in interviews that Marder's job was literally to "direct the executives" (i.e. the Image partners). Marder developed better financial planning and had some success in disciplining creators to deliver their work on time, in part by insisting that retail orders for new issues would not be solicited until the books had been illustrated, usually ensuring they would be ready to ship when promised.
By the mid-1990s Image series such as Spawn and The Savage Dragon had proven themselves as lasting successes (the former frequently topping the sales charts for months in which new issues came out), while new series such as Wildstorm's Gen¹³, and Top Cow's Witchblade and The Darkness were also successful. Image had become the third-largest comics publisher in North America, exceeded only by long-established industry leaders Marvel and DC Comics.
Disagreements between partners began to develop. Several of the partners complained that Liefeld was using his position as CEO of Image to promote and perhaps even to financially support Maximum Press, a publishing company that Liefeld operated separately from Image. Silvestri withdrew Top Cow from Image in 1996 (although he retained his partnership in the company), protesting that Liefeld was recruiting artists from his studio, including the highly popular Michael Turner (Witchblade). The other five partners discussed ousting Liefeld from the company, and Liefeld resigned in September 1996, giving up his share of the company. Silvestri subsequently returned Top Cow to Image.
Wildstorm's Cliffhanger imprint, established in 1998, was a commercial success, launching high-selling creator-owned properties by Humberto Ramos, J. Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira, and others. However, Jim Lee sold Wildstorm and its characters to DC Comics in 1999, citing a desire to exchange his responsibilities as a publisher for the opportunity to do more creative work.
The founders of Image were best known for their dynamic and extravagant art, and for character-driven, thinly-plotted stories in the superhero genre. Although the company also published dissimilar works, many readers came to perceive this as the "Image style" of comics. Valentino had become less active as a creator after the company's first few years, and responded to this development in 1997 by using his position as a partner to seek out and publish a number of titles by other creators in distinctly different genres and styles, in a deliberate attempt to diversify Image's output and how it was perceived. Although most of these series—ironically dubbed the "non-line" because of their lack of commonality—did not sell well and were soon cancelled, they introduced an increasingly important business model for the company: offering other creators the same total-ownership terms the partners enjoyed, but taking a fixed fee upon publication for the company's administrative costs. This practice was later formalized as a function of "Image Central", a business unit independent of any of the studios. This focus on non-studio comics increased when Valentino took on the role of Image's publisher, assuming many of the responsibilities held by Marder until he left the company in 1999.
The company's position in the North American direct market diminished in the 2000s, challenged by Dark Horse Comics and IDW Publishing for the position of "third largest publisher" after Marvel and DC. In February 2004, Larsen replaced Valentino as publisher, largely continuing existing business practices. Larsen stepped down as publisher in July 2008 and executive director Eric Stephenson was promoted to the position. Valentino returned to operating his own studio with his Shadowline imprint.
Shortly after Stephenson's appointment, Image added a new partner. Robert Kirkman, whose black and white series The Walking Dead had emerged as a long-running and popular series, and whose Invincible became one of the longest-running series featuring a superhero created in the early 2000s, became the first partner added since its founding. In July 2010 he announced that he would create an imprint under his direction, known as Skybound.
Starting in 2009, Image began to greatly expand both the types of comics it publishes and the types of creators drawn to the publisher, beginning a period of critical acclaim. Among its award-winning series, are Chew, Morning Glories, Fatale, The Manhattan Projects, and Saga. Saga creator Brian K. Vaughan explained why he chose Image to publish that series:
I love all the other companies I've worked with, but I think Image might be the only publisher left that can still offer a contract I would consider "fully creator-owned." Saga is a really important story to me, so I wanted a guarantee of no content restrictions or other creative interference, and I needed to maintain 100% control and ownership of all non-publishing rights with the artist, including the right to never have our comic turned into a movie or television show or whatever ... [Image Publisher] Eric Stephenson was the only publisher I spoke with who was thrilled to make that deal, and co-creator Fiona Staples and I didn't have to sign exclusives or agree to work on a bunch of corporate-owned titles to get it.
Image's sales grew significantly during this period to a market share of around 10% in 2015, and an influx of Marvel- and DC-associated creators began publishing creator-owned work with them. By this time, a clear majority of titles Image published in a given month were non-studio productions. Meanwhile, McFarlane's Spawn and related titles, his McFarlane Toys line, Silvestri's Top Cow imprint, and Kirkman's various series remained a substantial segment of Image's total sales. As of 2016, McFarlane's Spawn and Larsen's Savage Dragon continue as the longest-running creator-owned titles by Image partners, with over 250 and 200 issues, respectively.
Current ongoing series
- Autumnlands by Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey (2014–)
- A Distant Soil by Colleen Doran (1996–)
- Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower (1998–)
- Birthright by Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan, and Adriano Lucas (2014–)
- Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (2014–)
- Black Magick by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott (2015-)
- Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker (2016-)
- Black Science by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera (2013–)
- Casanova by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon (2006–)
- Chrononauts by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy (2015–)
- Deadly Class by Rick Remender and Wes Craig (2014–)
- Descender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen (2015–)
- The Dying and the Dead by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim (2015–)
- Drumhellar by Riley Rossmo and Alex Link (2014–)
- Elephantmen by Richard Starkings and Moritat (2006–)
- East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta (2013–)
- The Fuse by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood (2014–)
- God Hates Astronauts by Ryan Browne (2014–)
- The Humans by Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Nelly (2015-)
- Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker (2003–)
- Jupiter's Circle by Mark Millar and Wilfredo Torres (2015–)
- Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (2016-)
- Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (2013–)
- Low by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini (2014–)
- The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra (2012–)
- Manifest Destiny by Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts (2013–)
- Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (2015–)
- The Mice Templar by Bryan J. L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming and Victor Santos (2007–)
- Moonshine by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (2016-)
- Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma (2010–)
- Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson (2014–)
- ODY-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward (2014–)
- Outcast by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta (2014–)
- Pisces by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Johnnie Christmas (2015–)
- Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and various artists (2013–)
- Reborn by Mark Millar and Greg Capullo (2016-)
- Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton (2012–)
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (2012–)
- Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen (1992–)
- Sex by Joe Casey and Peter Kowalski (2013–)
- Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (2013–)
- Sinergy by Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Oma (2014–)
- Shutter by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca (2014–)
- Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour (2014–)
- Southern Cross by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger (2015–)
- Spawn by Todd McFarlane and various writers and artists (1992–)
- Stray Bullets by David Lapham (1995–)[note 2]
- Thief of Thieves by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer, James Asmus, Andy Diggle, and Shawn Martinbrough (2012–)
- The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard (2003–)
- The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson (2014–)
- Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard (2014–)
Top Cow Productions
- Cyber Force by Marc Silvestri and various writers and artists (1993–1997, 2006, 2012–)
- Postal by Matt Hawkins (2015-)
Former notable series
- Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson (1995–1998)[note 3]
- Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn (2013–2015)
- Bomb Queen by Jimmie Robinson (2006–2012)
- C.O.W.L. by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel (2014–2015)
- ENORMOUS by Mourad Cheggour, Mehdi Cheggour and Melody M Luke, Tripp Capitan (2012–2015)
- The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (2014–2016)
- Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (2012–2014)
- Gen¹³ by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi and various writers and artists (1994–1998)[note 4]
- Gødland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli (2005–2012)
- Ghosted by Joshua Williamson, Goran Sudžuka and Miroslav Mrva (2013–2015)
- Girls by Jonathan and Joshua Luna (2005–2007)
- Kabuki by David Mack (1997–2001)[note 5]
- The Maxx by Sam Kieth (1993–1998)
- Noble Causes by Jay Faerber and various artists (2002–2009)
- Occult Crimes Taskforce by David Atchison (2006-2007)
- Proof by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo (2007–2010)
- Protectors Inc. by J. Michael Straczynski and Gordon Purcell (2013–2014)
- Sam and Twitch by Todd McFarlane, Brian Michael Bendis and various artists (1999–2004)
- Satellite Sam by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin (2013–2015)
- Shadowhawk by Jim Valentino and various writers and artists (1993–2010)
- Sheltered by Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas (2013–2015)
- Sidekick by J. Michael Straczynski and Tom Mandrake (2013–2015)
- Skullkickers by Jim Zub, Edwin Huang, and Misty Coats (2010–2015)
- Stormwatch and The Authority by Jim Lee and various writers and artists (1993–1998)
- Tech Jacket by Joe Keatinge and Khary Randolph (2014–2015)
- The Sword by Jonathan and Joshua Luna (2007–2010)
- Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender, Sean Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth (2015–2016)
- Wetworks by Whilce Portacio and Brandon Choi (1994–1998)
- WildC.A.T.s by Jim Lee and various writers and artists (1993–1998)
- Youngblood by Rob Liefeld and various writers and artists (1992–2009)
Top Cow Productions
- The Darkness by Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis, David Wohl, and various writers and artists (1996–2013)
- Witchblade by Marc Silvestri, David Wohl, Brian Haberlin, Christina Z, Michael Turner and various writers and artists (1995–2015)
- For example, WildC.A.T.s was a "monthly", but in one nine-month period only four issues appeared (#29–32: Apr '96, Jun '96, Sep '96, Jan '97).
- Stray Bullets was previously published by El Capitan Books from 1995–2005.
- More issues of this series continued to be published by DC Comics under the Wildstorm imprint. New issues of this series is currently being published by DC Comics under the Vertigo imprint.
- More issues of this series continued to be published by DC Comics after the Wildstorm imprint was acquired by DC.
- New issues of this series is currently being published by Marvel under the Icon imprint.
- "MV Creations Facing Bankruptcy, Looks To Fans For Help". CBR.com. November 24, 2004.
- "Jim Valentino: Broadening the Base and Raising the Bar". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- Johnston, Rich. "The Not Quite Secret Origin Of Image Comics". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- Reed, Patrick A. (February 1, 2016). "On This Day In 1992: The Start Of The Image Comics Revolution". Comics Alliance.
- Phillips, Patrick (April 22, 2015). "Image Comics: An Origin Story". Geek Insider.
- Khouri, Andy (July 27, 2007). "CCI: Image Comics: The Founders". CBR.com.
- Khoury, George (June 12, 2007). Image Comics: The Road to Independence. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 76. Archived at Google Books. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
- Booker, Keith M. (October 28, 2014). Stewart%2C Image Comics&f=false Comics through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. Greenwood. p. 1145. Archived at Google Books. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
- "Bye Bye Marvel; Here Comes Image: Portacio, Claremont, Liefeld, Jim Lee Join McFarlane's New Imprint at Malibu," The Comics Journal #148 (February 1992), pp. 11–12.
- "The Image Story", The Comics Journal, 2005-10-25. Retrieved on 2008-03-15.
- Erik Larsen, "Grand Larseny", printed in the back of various Image titles, February 2008
- Larsen, Erik (November 15, 2011). "The 'Ask Erik' Thread". Image Comics.
- "Whilce Portacio: The man behind the X-Men", by Cynthia de Castro, Asian Journal, December 7, 2008
- Platinum Studios: Awesome Comics Archived February 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed February 3, 2008
- Gary Carlson | Fox Cities Book Festival
- "NewsWatch: Malibu Commands 9.73% Market Share," The Comics Journal #151 (July 1992), p. 21.
- "Malibu Moves Ahead of DC in Comics Market," The Comics Journal #152 (August 1992), pp. 7–8.
- "Image Leaves Malibu, Becomes Own Publisher," The Comics Journal #155 (January 1993), p. 22.
- The Creator's Bill of Rights: A Chat with Steve Bissette
- "NewsWatch: Hulk Artist Leaves Marvel" The Comics Journal #151 (July 1992), p. 21.
- "Wizard Market Watch". Wizard (22). June 1993. pp. 134–5.
- "Letters". Computer Gaming World. March 1993. p. 104.
- Johnston, Rich. "The Not Quite Secret Origin Of Image Comics". bleedingcool.com. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "Newswatch: Larry Marder Joins Image," The Comics Journal #166 (February 1994), p. 40.
- "Chapter Three: Image Litigation, Cont.", The Comics Journal #192 (December 1996) pp. 17–19.
- "News Watch: Image, Liefeld Settle Lawsuit, if not their Differences," The Comics Journal #195 (April 1997), p. 12.
- Miller, John Jackson (2016). "Market Shares of Comics Sold to Coimic Shops". Comichron. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
- Brady, Matt (July 9, 2008). "Eric Stephenson: Talking to the New Image Publisher". Newsarama. July 9, 2008.
- Brady, Matt (July 22, 2008). "Robert Kirkman Named Image Partner". Newsarama.
- Armitage, Hugh (July 20, 2010). "Robert Kirkman launches Skybound imprint". Digital Spy.
- Hennum, Shea (March 12, 2015). "What Spawn Means to the Future of Image". Paste.
- Uzumeri, David (March 14, 2012). "'Saga': Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Bring a Stellar Sci-Fi Comic Into the World" Archived January 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. ComicsAlliance.
- Scott, Aaron (September 1, 2016). "Image Comics To Move To Portland". Oregon Public Broadcasting.
- Meylikhov, Matthew (September 16, 2013). "The Shifting Landscape of Creator-Owned Comics". Multiversity Comics.
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (August 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
- Khoury, George (June 2007).Image Comics: The Road To Independence TwoMorrows Publishing. , ISBN 1-893905-71-3 excerpts:
- "McFarlane and Khoury on 15 Years of Image Comics". Comic Book Resources. June 13, 2007
- "Marc Silvestri from Image Comics: The Road to Independence". Newsarama. June 14, 2007
- Dale Keown excerpt from Image Comics: The Road to Independence, June 14, 2007
- Image Comics at the Grand Comics Database
- Image Comics. Big Comic Book DataBase.